For Brown Girls Who Considered Leaving the Church When the Sexism was Too Much

Kimberly Peeler-Ringer

lightstock_329212_medium_andrewpeters

Subscribe to the Junia Project Blog

Get content on biblical equality straight to your inbox. And get our free guide: 5 Pillars of Biblical Equality

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.
Brown Girls and Sexism Slider

Since dismantling patriarchy is one of my approaches to reading the Scriptures, I want to talk first about what it is and why I position myself against it.

Patriarchy, in its simplest terms, is the privileging of maleness.

Patriarchy is also a system that functions much like racism in that there are institutional and embedded structures that oppress women through social, political, and economic practices.

The United States reflects a culture that values maleness.

A recent study in The Washington Post reports that white men make up about 31% of the entire population of the United States, yet are 65% of all elected officials. In other words, white men occupy more than half of the seats of power in this country. That breaks down to white men having eight times the political power nonwhite women do. Another study reports that 83% of this country’s elected prosecutors are white males. Only 1% of U.S. prosecutors are women of color. The lawmakers and law enforcers of this country are primarily white males.

Like the country we live in, the Bible reflects a culture that privileges maleness.

An example of this is the woman caught in adultery in John 7:53-8:11:

Then each of them went home, while Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him and he sat down and began to teach them. The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery; and making her stand before all of them, they said to him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery. Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” They said this to test him, so that they might have some charge to bring against him.

Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” And once again he bent down and wrote on the ground. When they heard it, they went away, one by one, beginning with the elders; and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus straightened up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, sir.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go your way, and from now on do not sin again.” (NRSV)

The act of adultery requires at least two persons, right? But whomever it was that she was committing adultery with was apparently let off with a warning since it was only she who was brought before Jesus. Maleness is also privileged in many of the genealogy references in the Bible, such as Genesis 6:10 that tells us Noah had three sons, again, presumably, all by himself, since their mother(s) is not mentioned.

A lot of Black women occupy pews in churches that privilege maleness.

Some even teach and uphold certain cultural norms from an ancient culture that some argue relegate women to “second class” status. Like the decision makers in American law and order are primarily white males, many churches have men in the positions of power despite the fact that women are the overwhelming majority group of many congregations.

Let’s break that down even further: single Black women are a large percentage of black church membership. But I have not encountered many single Black female Christians who were happy and content with the so-called “singles’ ministries” of the churches they attend. The lack of attention to this large segment of the church renders them invisible. Add to that the erasing effect stereotypes have upon Black female humanity and I think it becomes clear why some brown girls have considered leaving the church when the sexism got to be too much.

I do not believe God is sexist.

I do not believe that men have something in common with God that women do not. I believe Jesus practiced a discipleship of equals. And we can choose to read the Bible in ways that recover the oft-silenced voice of the Feminine Divine. Here is an example of that.

The fifteenth chapter of Luke begins with Jesus at odds with religious leaders and he uses a trilogy of parables to show them and us that God values everybody. All three of these teachings focus on various states of lostness: a lost sheep, a lost coin, and a lost son. In all three parables, the person who lost something is a representation of God’s diligence: God as the shepherd who will drop all to find the one lost sheep, God as the father filled with compassion who rushes to greet his lost son upon his return home, and…

God as the woman who lit a lamp and swept her home until she found her lost coin.

Clearly, religion, the Bible, and culture mutually influence each other, because we often skip right over this image of God as female. Resisting patriarchy and making a different choice about the lens through which we view the Scriptures empowers us to reshape how we think about ourselves.

God is a brown girl too, after all.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Originally published on The Churched Feminist blog.

Kimberly Peeler-Ringer

Women and the Bible

Revisiting the Woman at the Well in John 4

Gail Wallace

The story of Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well is told in chapter…

Personal Stories, Women and the Church

Those Who Protect a Woman’s Call

Sarah Sparks-Franklin

Thank God for those who protect a woman’s call! “I’m not sure I can continue…

General

Awaiting the Refugee King: A Christmas Reflection

Christiana Rice

This Christmas, I’m pondering the grittier, truer side of the nativity narrative through the lens

Subscribe for our free guide

5 Pillars of Biblical Equality

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

7 Comments

  • I was just thinking about that parable the other day. Too many people lose the fact that the woman represents God’s actions, just as the shepherd going after the one and leaving the 99 does.

  • …”brown girls have considered leaving the church when the sexism got to be too much…” well us pink girls are walking with you!…

  • I absolutely love this piece! Very thought provoking. In addition to me being pro-choice and an ally to LGBTQAI communities, I’ve often struggled with finding my voice in the Black church. I sometimes find that even though some Black churches have female leadership, it’s often the men who are most prominent. I’ll definitely be sharing this piece. Thank you for writing it.

  • My husband has often commented on the fact that feminism itself is traditionally the realm of the middle class white woman, and has neglected the dual oppression of non-white women. Oppression has many faces and so many of them are so deeply ingrained as to almost be invisible (certainly to those holding the privilege). That is why I was inwardly cheering as I read this post. I’m neither American nor black, but because of my experiences of abuse I have long identified with the struggle of the oppressed, and have read a lot, especially about slavery. It is not an exaggeration to say that slavery, and the transatlantic slave trade, were a form of holocaust, nor that the ramifications of slavery are still in effect today. Anyway, I’m veering off-topic, but I will add this: we – the global body of Christ – need more voices like yours. I reckon I can hear even the angels clapping lol! Thank you for an excellent post.

Comments are closed.

Scroll to Top