After personally encountering pastors and leaders like this my entire life and recently hearing from a friend who is going through the same thing, I am pleased to share a guest post from someone who is concerned with the way complementarian theology treats women and is working to change the objectification that so often surrounds women within the church. Please listen as Sacramento, CA church planter, Sam Greenlee, M.Div. shares his heart on this subject…
Here’s a thought experiment for men like this:
Imagine if you are a delicious piece of cake. Wait. Instead of that, imagine that you are actually a human woman, made in the image of God and co-heir of the reign of God, but you’re treated more like an object. You are treated more like a piece of cake: something to be desired, consumed, and discarded.
What does this look and feel like? Well, imagine that a large portion of the people you encounter in daily life see you as an object for their own sexual gratification and power fantasies. Some of these people harass you when you simply pass them by on the street. Others roll down their windows and shout obscenities at you as they drive by.
Some will grow angry with you for ignoring or rejecting them. Some will be so angry that they will threaten violence, and you never know if one of them might actually follow through on their words.
Some of them will act like your friend, but then you will discover that they are angry that you put them in the “friend zone”. They will then demonize you for believing their deceptive practice of acting like a friend when actually what they wanted was sexual intercourse.
Many will hold to beliefs that you are disqualified from doing the very things they believe they can and should do. Very often, these things have to do with making important decisions and being able to lead or teach others. Often they will claim that God backs them up on this and will call you misled, sinful, or even demon-possessed for questioning them.
They will generally make more money than you for doing the same job. They will also promote people who act and look like they do much faster than they will promote people like you. In the workplace, some of them will destroy your professional standing and relationships by commenting on how you look or dress or by making insulting jokes about you or even directly indicating that they want you to satisfy their appetites.
When you raise any concerns about the bad behavior of some of them online, they will viciously attack you with their words. Some will anonymously threaten violence and murder against you. If you were to mention this to the police, they would say there is nothing they can do about it.
To top it all off, some will blame you for having all this happen to you in the first place. They would say that, at some point, if you could just cover yourself up enough so that no one remembers that you are a human woman, they would not feel compelled to treat you like a toy or garbage or any other object to be used.
Now that you’ve imagined all of this, I need you to realize something. This isn’t pretend. This is reality. It is happening every day, all around us. All around us, men who call themselves Christians are nonchalantly choosing to castigate women simply for having bodies that are female.
You know what I think would actually be helpful in helping teenage boys in youth group learn to handle their new sexual appetite and propensity toward sinful lust? I think we should teach them how to truly love women as neighbors–to love each woman as Jesus commanded his followers to love each person.
“Lust” isn’t ultimately about sexuality, it’s about viewing another human being as an object for one’s own selfish use. It’s about dehumanizing another person and seeing them only as a prop in our own story.
It’s the same root sin that leads to all sorts of oppression and abuse of other people, not just women. The best way to uproot this sin is to learn how to really love people: to know them on a personal level, as a real human being whose life goes on outside of your own, as a whole and complete person with a history and a present and a future, to know them as a precious soul whom God loves.
And of course, that also means learning to seek what is best for them, to prioritize their welfare as equal to your own. When a young man learns to genuinely care about a young woman, it bursts the bubble that allows him to think of her as merely an object to be used for his own enjoyment.