I hope my daughters don’t grow up in the same church I did.
Don’t get me wrong, I feel very fortunate to have spent so much of my childhood and teen years inside the walls of a church. The life lessons I learned in youth group gave me moral standing and a deep sense of self worth that I still believe in today. The christian community throughout grade school and now college has given me a second family and has shown me examples of God’s love over and over again. However, this doesn’t mean there’s not room for improvement.
I hope my daughters are never told they should desire a man to be the leader in the relationship.
I hope my daughters are never told they should desire a man.
I hope my daughters are never told that they need to be modest in order to keep their male friends from stumbling, rather than to dress modestly because they should want to honor themselves.
I hope my daughters are never told that sexuality is dirty or shameful.
I hope my daughters are never told that they can’t hold a certain position in the church due to their gender, because God uses women in other ways (aka you’re supposed to be the Sunday school teacher, not the pastor)
I can remember adults that I trusted and respected in my church telling me every single one of these things. As a young woman who has struggled, and still continues to struggle with what I believe and why, each one of these statements has given me grief. I understand that every adult who told me these things had good intentions. They were telling me ideas and interpretations of scripture that had been passed down for generations. However, as a girl who has always found herself unapologetically independent, strong willed, and a little bit loud, I felt shame for being who God made me.
I remember my junior year of high school I listened to an entire series of sermons on healthy christian relationships. I was told that if I wanted to be in an exemplary Christ-like relationship, the man had to be the leader of the house not only spiritually, but also financially and emotionally. I’ve read countless Christian articles that have said for a healthy relationship, the woman must always submit to the man because that is “God’s will” (as if that’s not a perfect recipe for normalizing abuse). As a a girl who has never been one to back down on her beliefs, the thought of always being submissive to my husband made me shudder, but then the realization that I didn’t want that made me feel like a sinner. I felt shamed for wanting to be a mutual leader of the household, rather than a passive moderator.
I can’t tell you how may times I’ve watched the church guilt trip girls into purity, or over sensationalize virginity. (News flash: whether you choose to believe it or not, virginity is a social construct that has been used to promote the patriarchy forever. And that is a fact. Not an opinion.) Even worse, I can’t begin to recount how many times I was told I needed to save sex for my wedding night, but I shouldn’t expect my future husband to be a virgin because that’s just unrealistic. I remember in an all girls small group the the leader highly discouraged any of us from performing oral sex, even within the context of marriage, because that’s not what God created sex to be, as if the Bible has definite set of rules on what sex can and can’t be.
My sophomore year of high school I wanted to be a pastor, and I was really proud of it. At the time I was sure that was God’s calling in my life. One Sunday, I delivered the sermon in church and an older woman came up to me afterwords to express how impressed she was with my public speaking skills. She asked what I wanted to do when I grew up, and I proudly grinned and told her I wanted to be a methodist pastor. She gave me a sorry smile, and told me about how her father made a great pastor, but that I couldn’t hold that position in a church because it wasn’t biblical. I was left confused as to why God would make me such a good speaker, but also make a girl.
My experience is why I want a better church for my future children.
I pray my daughters grow up in a church that encourages girls to pursue roles of leadership.
I pray my daughters grow up in a church that honors purity, but reminds girls that they are not sexual objects for their future husbands. That expressing sexuality is natural and healthy.
I pray that my daughters grow up in a church where it’s ok to be a stay at home mom, it’s ok to be a working breadwinning mom, it’s ok to be a single mom, and it’s ok to not be a mom at all.
I pray my daughters do not feel objectified or over sexualized by being told that boys can’t control themselves when girls wear short shorts.
I pray that my daughter does not believe that traditional gender roles are not a requirement for a healthy God honoring relationship.
I pray that my daughters grow up in a church that doesn’t view marriage as an accomplishment. That whether single or in a relationship, they are exactly how they are supposed to be, and that Jesus completes them better than any other man ever could.
In Jesus name, amen.