Is Beth Moore really deconstructing? The world may never know.
It was once said that white evangelical women are the foot soldiers of patriarchy. They put in the work, let me tell you. They write bible studies and Christian self-help books, they go on tour and preach to millions of women and teenage girls all over the world. They spend their lives as missionaries, Sunday school teachers, homeschoolers, children’s pastors and casserole makers. They keep the prayer chain going and deliver the home-cooked meals to new mothers. They defer to their husband’s (or father’s, if they’re single) advice and wisdom on most major life choices. They are sure to dress modestly lest they cause their brother in Christ to stumble.
Often times they are quite fond of of their cages. And that’s exactly the way white evangelical men want it. That is what keeps them comfortable in their seat of power, on the throne of straight white Christendom. But what happens when one of those foot soldiers realizes the cage has been unlocked the whole time? (as Glennon Doyle so eloquently puts it in her book Untamed.) And what if that particular soldier happens to have nearly one million Twitter followers and millions of books sold over the course of decades?
Well, buckle up kids, we’re about to find out.
It’s been less than a month since the southern baptist belle herself, Beth Moore, announced her departure from Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), and now she’s taken to Twitter to lament her decades long encouragement and complicity in complimentarianism. For anyone who doesn’t know, in short: complimentarianism is a Christian doctrine that claims women should not be allowed to preach from the pulpit to anyone other than women and children. It also includes the belief that men are the head of their household, spiritually and otherwise. Meaning women are to submit to their husbands in all things. This is all based on scripture mostly found in the New Testament, that’s been taken completely out of cultural context and applied to the modern American Christian family structure. Bottom line here is it’s toxic, it’s abusive, and it only benefits straight white Christian men.
Now it’s one thing to stand up and say, hey I believe women can preach to men and be equal to their husbands within the context of Christianity. Sure that’s all well and good. But when you’ve had a microphone in your hand for several decades, and the mostly undivided attention of millions of white Christian women? You can’t just stand up and say you changed your mind on this one thing, while ignoring the other toxic theology that is actually killing people. You can’t stop at “oops, guess I was wrong, sorry about that” and hope everyone will forget about gay and trans youth dying in the streets, being traumatized by conversion therapy, all at the hands of theology you still will not denounce.
Dear reader, you may be wondering what these things have to do with one another. Let me explain.
Feminism in and of itself, only helps straight white women. In the hierarchy of privilege, straight white women are merely one notch below straight white men. If Beth continues to stand for the bare minimum, her followers will see it is ok to only stand for the bare minimum. But if Beth stands up and says, not only are white women equal to men, but so are all women of color and indigenous women and gay women and trans women and non-binary friends and… see where I’m going with this? Your feminism does no good unless it is intersectional. And if your theology tells you that ALL of humanity is made in God’s image, how do you justify excluding the least of these?
A lot of Beth’s white Christian fandom are pleading with the rest of us, “give her grace! give her time! she’ll come around!”
No. I don’t have to give her time. Queer Christians who know they’re complete in Christ just as they are, they don’t have to give her more time. Trans youth who are loosing their rights to exist more and more by the minute, they don’t have to give her more time. People are dying now. People have been living in anguish for decades at the hands of American evangelical theology. Now’s not the time to hem and haw over what Paul meant when he said [insert really annoying thing here] or if the word “homosexual” really wasn’t in the bible before 1946 (spoiler alert, it really wasn’t). Now is the time to look around at the most vulnerable among us and ask yourself: is it possible that humanity has evolved in the past 2,000 years, and perhaps we shouldn’t rely on biblical translation from primarily straight white men of European decent? Especially when the stories in the bible have never been, and will never be, about white people at all.
Do I hope she’ll cross that hurdle eventually? Of course I do. But not so that evangelical Christianity can be redeemed. There’s no redemption there, only reparations to be made. If she does get there, my hope is that her influence will spread like a ripple effect throughout American Christianity, chipping away at the old guard dogs of theocracy. Little by little the mighty will fall. And on the other side? Perhaps a country, and a world, with less hate and a lot more empathy.
We can only hope.