taking the words of Jesus seriously

According to Google, when searching for “good Christian woman,” the top article link describes her as:

  1.  Married
  2. Defined by her husband (remember, she’s married)
  3. White (see the images)
  4. Young (see the images)
  5. Defined by men (a man wrote the article)
  6. Modestly dressed
  7. Limited and under a time crunch (“you only get one chance in life to build a biblical marriage”)
  8. Not ugly (when explaining why she must be truthful, the opposite of honest is described as “ugly”)
  9. Gentle
  10. Quiet (clearly, she can’t even write her own article)

And don’t forget, she also …

  1. Cleans the home
  2. Serves others
  3. Saves money
  4. Works hard
  5. Has a good reputation (much like the women of the Bible and companions of Jesus … oh wait!)

I don’t know about you, but that seems like a lengthy — and quite frankly, boring — list. And given that some of the other top Google Image searches for “good Christian woman” show a woman being beaten by a man and another woman with duct tape over her mouth, well you’d think we’d rather give up the idea altogether.

This is what it means to be a woman of God? This is what it means to be a Christian?!?

And the churches empty out. And Sunday mornings become yoga time. Grocery shopping time. Soccer time. Me time.

And those who remain often accept, sometimes cautiously, the roles set out for them in popular Christian culture: Women, be silent!

A few courageous women witness in the name of Jesus. Mostly though, women in the church hear this same message: Be Beautiful. Be Fruitful. Be Silent.

It is that silence that has crippled the American church.

That silence that saw an evangelical movement, known for its morality, embrace a candidate for president who bragged about grabbing women in the “pussy” (his word, not mine).

That silence that enables a culture of sexual abuse within evangelical churches.

The need for women to speak up is not primarily a need within progressive Christian culture, but within conservative evangelicalism itself. Evangelical Christian women are — I would argue — the most potentially powerful voices in our culture and in our churches today.

READ: The Power & Privilege of White Women

And here I must emphasize. We women must speak for each other and not tear each other down. It begins, I believe, not with throwing out old cultural archetypes — not by iconoclasm — but instead by rewriting, redefining those archetypes with real women, rather than a man’s idea of a “good Christian woman.”

Progressive Christians have spent much time talking about freedom and liberation while ignoring the objectification and oppression of women in churches across the United States.

It’s time to end the silence: as conservatives and liberals and those in between. It’s time to offer another perspective for all of you — all of us — wondering what it means to be a woman of God, to be a Christian woman. And we’d like to hear something besides the limiting, boring, and ungracious list above.

So maybe it starts here. Another option for being a Good Christian Woman — without being defined by my beauty, my children, my husband, or my race — from a woman herself…

Hi, my name is Angela. I’m a Good Christian Woman. Not the one you’re thinking about…

The one you read about in the article from a conservative, male pastor that said I dressed modestly and had a photo of a 16-year-old girl carrying books. Not that one.

The one who’s always kind and patient and makes a mean casserole (though I do make a mean casserole). Not that one.

The one who seemed so perfect, yet lived behind a veil of secrecy and lies. Who hid beneath a perfect veneer she thought she had to create. Not that one.

The one who never sinned. The one who was a virgin. The one who never drank. The one who still wears a purity ring. Not that one.

The one who made you feel ashamed. Not that one.

As I was writing this, I was thinking about all those good Christian women I know. Their hopes, their dreams, their passion, their love. Their shortcomings, their humility, their humor, their brilliance.

So when I say “not that one,” I’m not talking about you, or me, or about any real Christian woman.

That woman doesn’t exist: she’s an impossible, undesirable stereotype set up by men to keep us from threatening their role at the top of the ash heap of modern society.

Even those of us who do our best to meet the list of requirements above (I can play the Good Christian Woman game with the best of them — and most of my life looks pretty conservative and traditional: I’ve got the husband, the kids, the house, the camera-ready smiles), we all fall short — not because we sin but because THAT’S NOT WHAT GOD INTENDS.

God didn’t create you to live a life of competition: to be the best, most silent, most obedient wife you could be. To always be happy, always smiling, always patient, always kind, always quiet, always gentle. God wants you to shine and sing and shout. God wants you to set the world on fire.

God’s dream for you is the opposite of silence, just as Jesus chose to reveal himself first to the woman at the well so she could share the gospel with the Samaritan people, and later as Jesus first revealed his resurrected self to the women at the tomb.

Women are messengers from God. Women are prophets. Women are preachers.

Women’s silence threatens the church and the world.

When women witness, people see God.

This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine.
This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine.
This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine.
Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.

Hide it under a bushel – NO!
I’m gonna let it shine.

I think about this song and all those little girls singing loud and proud at VBS who will later learn to be ashamed of their periods, ashamed of their breasts, ashamed of their intelligence, ashamed of their muscles, ashamed of their smarts, ashamed of their voices. And I think of the ways that so many of them — so many of us — are silenced by those who claim to speak for God.

I’ve spent plenty of my life worrying I don’t measure up: as a girl, as a woman, as a writer, as a pastor, as a wife, as a mom (that one is a doozy). I’m over it. I’m a good Christian woman, because I love Jesus and I love people.

So I don’t write this against evangelical women — or men (!) — except for against those who’d silence the powerful women in their midst.

I write this as one of you.

As a good Christian woman: created and loved by God beyond measure. A woman who loves my husband, loves my sons, loves my church, loves my God.

So let’s talk about what it means — what it really means — to be a “good Christian woman” in 2017 America.

May the Holy Spirit guide us.

This article originally appeared in Angela’s new blog

About The Author


Angela Denker is a Lutheran pastor and veteran journalist. She's written for many publications, including Sports Illustrated, The Washington Post, and Sojourners. She is the author of "Red State Christians: Understanding the Voters Who Elected Donald Trump" (Fortress Press).

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