Dear Church: How will you respond to #YesAllWomen?

Did you miss the twitter-storm Sunday? The #YesAllWomen hashtag started trending after 22-year-old Elliott Rodger killed 6 in California last Friday and left 13 injured. His eerie video on youtube, announcing his "Day of Retribution," railed against women for not giving him sex and affection. He called himself "The supreme gentleman" and said, "If I can't have you girls, I will destroy you" and "I will slaughter you like animals."

Heaven knows how it started, exactly, but Rodger's horrendous behavior began to give women the courage to speak out against sexism on twitter. I tweeted several times myself, and it felt so freeing to speak into what is often silence re: the fear and treatment all women have experienced. And, oh the pain across the page. Many women spoke up; some shared that even posting this way made them fearful re: employment opportunities and misjudgments. Some were hoping men would understand that this wasn't about all men; it is about all women fearing some men. 

While reading the posts, memories flashed through my mind. How a man grabbed my friend's butt in a pizza joint during high school, the way I never open my front door to an unknown man, the insulting interaction a friend and I endured in Nashville a week ago when a vendor started catcalling at us in full view of a group of people. I remember her turning her head toward me and saying, "What was that?" I just shook my head, chagrined. Because being treated like an object becomes normal for a woman at some point. It seemed that no one else around was bothered by it. Worse, it often feels like we teach women this behavior should be a compliment to us; men find you attractive.

Here are some samples:

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So how bad is the problem? The Center for Disease Control reports nearly one in five women report being raped. These are the ones who report it. The National Council on Domestic Violence reports that one in four women have been or will be abused by their significant other. These are the notable acts; there are a million throwaway comments, actions and slurs that happen each day—so ubiquitous as to become background noise.

And dear Church, what are we to do in the face of such atrocities? Who will stand up for girls and women around the world? Who will make the case that every female is created in the very image of God with intellect, authority to represent her Creator, and the right to be treated as whole and worthy in every relationship?

The truth is the #YesAllWomen hashtag made me feel a level of relief that so many women were able to express their fear and perceptions of the way women are mistreated. The next moment, I wanted to start pounding on the floor.

Church, wake up! Church, become aware! Church, rise up! Did Jesus come to set the captives free? And what is he expecting of the ones he commissioned to spread the gospel in word and deed?  Here is one pastor's response:

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We have to start by acknowledging the problem. The problem is us. When we refuse to speak up on behalf of women, we are the problem. Here's a question for us: what can we do to begin to address the violence and mistreatment of women in our own congregations? (Remember, 1 in 4 are or have been abused by their significant other. Nearly 1 in 5 women report being raped.)

Last week, I talked with a radio host during an interview titled, "The Strong Role of Women in God's Kingdom." We were talking about how men and women submit to one another in marriage. She stopped the conversation to make this point: Pastors, when a woman comes to you and tells you she is being abused by her husband, stop telling her to go back and submit more!

Truth be told, I am feeling fear in even raising this issue, in even calling us to account. But I cannot stay silent. More than ever, I believe that as we go about Reclaiming Eve through the power of the gospel, we should also be Reclaiming Adam. Painting a vision for a strong partnership, a sharing of life and leadership, a team designed to spread God's love and justice to the world.

Perhaps if we start painting that dynamic vision—and especially addressing how the mistreatment of women violates the intention of her Creator and grieves the heart of God—we will begin down a road of reconciliation and hope.

And finally: what if the Church started leading the way culturally in decrying injustice against women and raising them up as image-bearers of God for his good purposes? A girl can hope and pray. And I will.

Other links: #CallingAllMen: It's Time to Make #YesAllWomen Safer by Jeremiah Gibbs How the Church Can (and Must) Do Better on Abuse and Divorce by Suzanne Burden Does Danger Lurk in the Woman Sitting Next to You? by Suzanne Burden

On Reclaiming Eve: “This is a watershed book that should have been written many years ago. But it is here today!  It is God’s call today to His Church for men and women in bringing the Kingdom of God on Earth as it is in Heaven. This book is an ‘Unleashing Moment’ for the Church of the 21stCentury.” -Jo Anne Lyon, 
General Superintendent, 
The Wesleyan Church

Your turn: How might churches holistically respond to the injustice of mistreatment against women?