I’m often amazed, amused, and at times even taken aback by what the internet does for us. It is remarkable to have such endless and uncensored access to news (and non-news) and opinions, and even more remarkable to be able to respond back to it all in the ever-present “comment” section following each article. Usually, a quick read through comments left by other readers is at least as interesting as the article itself, and even the most innocuous topic can become a hotbed in the virtual discussion that follows.
Now, I do know that you can’t believe everything you read online–and I believe this includes “comments,” where the excuse of anonymity allows people to be more aggressive, more angry than they might dare to express IRL (“in real life”). But I also have a hunch that, at times, behind the internet-induced bravado, there may be kernels of hard truth among the “comment”-ary.
Last week an article about women in ministry made the rounds, shared in the statuses of Facebook friends, sent from email inbox to inbox. As good journalism should (at least the way I was taught it!) it included quotes from people on both sides of the argument; I thought it was basically straightforward story, the arguments that have been the arguments for years, nothing-new-to-see-here.
Then I read the comment section.
I expected to find some ire in the comments… but I expected it to fall along the lines of the typical debate for and against the role of women as preachers and church leaders. Instead, I was surprised to find a great deal of anger at the church itself.
What really struck me were comments along this line (and there were many): Sure–let women preach. As long as they meet the qualifications of being power-hungry and only interested in money, then they are perfectly suited for the job.
After I got over my initial **OUCH** response, and after I admitted a grudging appreciation for the commenters’ sense of equality, I couldn’t stop thinking about what so many internet-anonymous posters were really saying: that while they could believe in the leadership of women, what they couldn’t believe in was the church.
I can’t begin to reflect on the reasons for such anger. I know every person–including each one of us–has a story, and has experiences of churches, of pastors, of religion and even of God-self that have brought us to our current understandings and feelings, for better and/or for worse, deserved or not.
But I continue to wonder how we all–women and men, vocational pastors and laypeople alike, have a gargantuan job before us: to be the kinds of ministers and Christians who represent a God whose deep love is humanity, not domination; whose activity is full of grace, not greed; and whose church is peopled with humility, not hypocrisy.
It is a job we must all do together–women and men, pastors and laypeople. We need to give the church a new voice, and it occurred to me that women may be in a unique position to do just that, by proclaiming the love of God in feminine terms, with feminine sensibilities, and in, literally, a feminine voice. We are called not to a ministry-marketplace-competition, nor to an angry demanding of equal rights to power, but rather to serve in partnership so we can more fully witness on behalf of the God in whose Image we all are made.
It is a response we owe to The One who gifted and called us. It is also a mission we owe to a world that has been injured, angered, torn apart by those who seek control and wealth in the name of God, and by means of the church. Their positions can be powerful, their pockets stuffed with bills, their speeches booming, but it is for us to communicate to a world that has been deafened by their noise. It is for us to speak a new word, in a new voice, so that all may hear.
Nikki Finkelstein-Blair is an ordained Baptist minister, at-home mom, and military spouse living in San Antonio, Texas. She blogs at www.onefaithfulstep.blogspot.com.