I originally wrote this post on July 10th; it is remarkable how much has changed in the world in such a short amount of time. Of course, one gift from having written this weeks ago is that we get to see how unusual the responses my family and I received after participating in the Women’s March are compared to the recent march and subsequent reactions from many Christians to Charlottesville. I have chosen not to insert additional or updated comments, though a capable reader will see the irony throughout.
As we reenter the conversation on gender, let us not forget that engaged justice is needed in so many places; and instead of feeling overwhelmed, may we feel empowered and encouraged that we are called for such a time as this.
The Women’s March
It was a cold, rainy morning in D.C. on January 21st. When we woke up, Heather and I debated if we really wanted to get the kids out in that kind of weather. Besides the weather, though, we knew that emotions were still high in the city and we honestly wondered if it was safe to venture into the crowds. After weighing things, we ultimately decided that something important was happening that day and we were supposed to be a part.
The thing is, many events had caused us to realize that this world we thought was moving forward toward including more people––people who were historically denied dignity and a voice––was in fact moving backward. Our city, filled with diversity and life, was hurting and needing something to rally behind. The march was a space to come together and hopefully begin the healing process while simultaneously declaring that discriminatory rhetoric and acts are wrong and must stop.
Now, the Women’s March was not perfect, so hopefully you’re not expecting me to defend it from every attacked levied against it. It is true that the march was disproportionately white and did not speak for all women. On that note, there were featured speakers who also did not speak for the entire march or the purpose behind it.
All of that is completely true; anyone who accepts the march wholesale has chosen to simply ignore many negative aspects.
That being said, I was shocked to see how negative many (but definitely not all!) Christians were about the march and my family’s participation.
DISDAIN AND WOMEN’S RIGHTS
There were three interrelated complaints I saw and heard following the march, which seem to represent a particular brand of Christianity.
1. “I can’t believe you participated in that hate-fest…”
First, Christians (Pentecostals?) are notorious for condemning things based on periphery knowledge. After I posted on Facebook about how we went to the Women’s March as a family, people rebuked us for participating.
Again, with essentially no actual knowledge about the march, Christians went out of their way to attack the entire event, purpose, and the participants. That was, in all honesty, really disappointing and embarrassing to witness (and yes, I’m using “witness” in the Christian sense; everything Christians post on social media is a “witness,” whether it’s intended to be or not, of their faith in Jesus).
2. “Things seem equal to me…”
Second, I’ve got bad news for those detractors: women are unfairly treated in the U.S. (and many/most places around the world). It was amazing to read comments on Facebook from both men and women who claimed things like, “things seem equal to me,” or “I (a woman commenting) like how things are now.” What was most surprising about these comments is that they were, again, all coming from Christians, at least on my Facebook feed. The assertion these commenters were making is that since they feel a certain way, it must be true for everyone. Sure, there are all those statistics out there proving how unfair things are for women, but “I” don’t think any change is needed. Christianity, a tradition credited to a guy bent on helping others, is often sadly the quickest to dismiss people who are oppressed, neglected, unrepresented, and disenfranchised.
Those two points aside, a third comment repeatedly came up, and it is closely associated with my first point:
3. “So you’re a proponent of violent protests?!”
Aw, yes, the straw man approach. Yes, my wife and I participated with our three darling young children because we are big-time supporters of violence. We didn’t even know what the march was about; we just woke up that morning and asked each other our standard family questions: (1) where can we be violent today?, (2) which weapon will each of us wield?, and (3) did everyone make sure to potty before leaving for the violence?
These comments lobbed at our family for peacefully marching for women’s rights were mostly communicated through aggressive and hateful language, I assume to prove how Christian and full of love they were.
Of course, besides that little problem of the Women’s March not being violent at all, the sanctified and holy rebukes showered down on us for “protesting,” the ungodliest of all acts (!), were almost exclusively from one source: Protestant Christians. That’s right, Protestants, which Pentecostals are. One more time:
Oh history, how you have failed me!!! In protest of the Catholic Church, many events culminated in Martin Luther’s almost mythical “95 Theses” against the prevailing Christian tradition (there were, of course, other dominant Christian traditions in the “non-Western” world, though).
These three things come together to form one point that is sadly obvious:
Christians are more often known for what we oppose than what we support.
Yet, in a world where 50% of its population is being oppressed for being non-male, we complain and condemn efforts to change it. Where’d our conviction go about setting the captives free? Is the Spirit we claim no longer invested in freedom? How is it possible that a march for the marginalized is not overrun by Pentecostal Christians?
Maybe some Christians oppose the Democratic party, and perhaps the Women’s March seemed to be aligned too closely with it. But, if our faith and Christian mandate to rally behind and alongside the oppressed is secondary to our political leanings, then we are wretched indeed.
Up next in the series: Systemic Oppression and Sexual Assault (two in one day!)
Note from the Editorial Team: Engaged Pentecostalism is a community that values open dialogue and respectful engagement from different perspectives. The views expressed above are the author's own and do not reflect those of every part of the community.