Growing up in the church, I was inspired to serve the Lord with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength. When I was a teenager, I responded enthusiastically to the messages I heard in youth group—visions of the impact God can make on the world with the life on one courageous Christian; calls to discipleship; challenges to think biblically and boldly about ethical and moral dilemmas that are easier to avoid. I signed up for outreach opportunities, service projects, and leadership training.
When I became an adult, I realized the church must have been talking to the boys in the youth group. Because joining the ranks of grown women meant I stopped hearing those challenges, stopped having church-sponsored opportunities to reach out to others, do something difficult in the power of Christ, and ask myself tough questions about what it means to follow Jesus in this brilliant and terrifying world. I received a new set of messages from the church.
This is how the church challenges women: Attend the Christmas tea. Keep quiet. Being a mother is your highest calling. The best way to serve your neighbors is to indulge in shopping for fair trade items you don't need. Enjoy spa day, frequently. Be modest. Be sexy in a Christian way. Lose weight by praying and eating foods grown in ancient Palestine. Breastfeed or else. Your greatest accomplishment is being weak enough to be rescued and protected. Stay in the background. Spend all your time with other Christian women. You're too busy; let us make life easier for you.1