Introducing AWH

The doctrines and practices of traditionalist Christianity oppress women, sexual and gender minorities, and other marginalized groups.  This blog exists to create awareness of this oppression, and to give voice to those who have endured and survived it.

I’m one of the survivors.  I grew up in fundamentalist pentecostal and evangelical churches, and spent my teen and young adult years attending a Sovereign Grace Ministries (SGM) church with my family.  The churches I was raised in were all conservative on issues of gender and sexuality, but it was in SGM that I was first introduced to complementarian theology, which teaches that men and women have distinct and complementary God-ordained gender roles, which call for women to submit to male authority in the family and in the church.

Under these teachings, I experienced emotional abuse and controlling, manipulative behavior from people who wanted to assert their authority over me.  A more subtle, but equally damaging effect of these teachings was that I learned to devalue myself and women in general, and to stifle my opinions and feelings.  I became complicit in my own marginalization.  Countless women and LGBTQI people who grew up in traditionalist Christian communities have had similar, often more traumatic experiences as a result of these teachings.

I decided to start this blog because I noticed that, while there are a number of blogs and books out there that bring attention to issues of gender and sexuality in traditionalist Christian communities, most are written either by people who are still in these communities or very similar ones, or by people who have never been part of these communities.  Many of the blogs by evangelical Christians speaking out against patriarchy in the church still support homophobia, transphobia, and heteronormativity.  Meanwhile, non-evangelical feminist and progressive critics of religious patriarchy are often puzzled by evangelical beliefs, or don’t take them seriously.

As I read more about Christian patriarchy, I was frustrated by the lack of resources that balanced a feminist and progressive perspective on Christian patriarchy with understanding and empathy for people who grew up in patriarchal communities.  I wanted resources that situated Christian patriarchy in the broader context of gender and sexual discrimination, but also addressed why these beliefs can be appealing, and recognized that it’s a long and often arduous process to work to root out these beliefs from one’s life, and to learn to think about gender and sexuality in more humane and loving ways.

I’m sure there are some resources like this out there somewhere, but I have yet to find one.  My goal is to make Are Women Human? this kind of resource for people of all genders and sexualities who have been wounded by the church.

5 Comments

  1. I’m so excited to see where this blog and its discussions go. Thank you for bringing a much needed progressive perspective to this topic! You are absolutely right regarding the currently woeful lack of resources. I look forward to hearing more of your story, and sharing more of my own.

    • Max – Thanks for the comment and welcome to the blog! I’m really excited to see where AWH goes, too. I hope it becomes a place where people feel comfortable sharing their stories . . .

  2. Grace,

    I am very much looking forward to read more on this blog and to engage in interesting discussions and exchanges of ideas. I also grew up on a Christian community, Catholic to be precise, and I am always baffled by the fact that it seems to have gain a silent reputation as one of the “light” Christianities (or one where more progressive people can find room to grow and talk), in spite of the fact that being Roman Catholicism is, I believe, one of the most classist, racist, and heteronormative Christianities (the fact that they do it in a particularly paternalistic way, or in a seemingly carrying way actually reinforces their conservative position). As a gay man, that marked me in many ways, and I have dedicated many years of study to Catholic theology and history. I will be very happy to partake on your blog!

    • Hi Mark, thanks for the comment and welcome to the blog!

      I think you raise an interesting point about Catholicism, which does have a very different reputation in the US than evangelical Christianity. I think part of that is because there’s a lot more political and ideological diversity among Catholic laity, and to some degree even the clergy, than among white conservative evangelicals; and also it has to do in part with the Church’s work on certain social justice issues. But I think you’re right that in many ways the Church hierarchy’s record on class, race, gender, and sexuality is dismal. I have a number of progressive friends who remain Catholic, and it’s a question for me how they work out being in a church with such a regressive leadership. I think most of them would say that the leadership doesn’t represent what true Catholicism is, which I can accept, but in terms of who has real power . . . that’s not quite satisfactory.

      I hope you weigh in lots with your perspective as someone who was raised Catholic! My knowledge of the Catholic Church is mostly academic, not the kind of organic knowledge that comes from having grown up in a faith.

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