Methinks Bayly Looks Askance, And Sees Wrongly

I’ll end this installment on women in ecclesiastical leadership — which assumes leadership and equality in the home and in society — by responding to Wilson ally and uber-patriarch Tim Bayly’s assertion that men who “let” women lead in church are actually showing them contempt.

This concerns Bayly, it seems. He believes that the Bible prohibits women in the pastorate or eldership, and he clearly believes that the Bible also prohibits showing contempt for women. Finally, something in the recurring gender wars in the Church that we agree on — that is, contempt for women is a bad thing. I guess I should feel . . . well, happier. More secure. Gratified, maybe, that Bayly is looking out for me. It’s a nasty world out there for women; having him in our corner would seem to be a good thing.

But the contempt he showed evangelicals such as myself at last year’s Kirk-organized Sexual Orthodoxy conference, wherein he obscenely assigned bloodguilt for abortion to egalitarians, makes me wonder about the depth of his understanding of our position, given that every Biblical egalitarian I know hates the killing of unborn children as much as I do. In fact, so offensive was his verdict that I had to conclude that his grasp of the debate is poisoned by the macho pomposity born of privilege, not a careful reasoning nurtured by humility. And that, coupled with his odd understanding of what truly constitutes contempt for women, doesn’t make me feel safe, or valued, or protected, or advocated for.

Not by a long shot.

It makes me feel as though my brother hasn’t a clue what his sisters — and women throughout the world — actually endure, and furthermore expresses concern for us only when it bolsters his theological arguments. And while I’m confident that Bayly also finds rape, mutilation, murder, discrimination, and intimidation to be sinful — maybe even more so than the spectacle of women preaching — his comparative silence on real threats to women speaks volumes. But Bayly, like most white, male pastors, leads a relatively comfortable, secure life. Compared to my sisters around the world, so do I. Still, I think I have some things to remind him of, things that might help him refine his definition of “contempt” and expressions of it directed at women. All of these things are experienced every day by women, including his Christian sisters; a few of them have even been experienced by me. Consider:

– Every day, women are raped by strangers who see them as easy targets for their rage. And every day, even more are raped by men they know, very often family members, who believe they own their sexuality, their bodies, and their very lives. Patriarchy certainly doesn’t argue against that, especially when Christian daughters are brought up to believe that they are “owned” by their fathers.

– Every day, faithful, monogamous women die of AIDS contracted after being forced to have sex with their philandering, reckless husbands. And every day, mothers bury their AIDS-stricken children, infected as well by fathers who believe their manhood is threatened by monogamy — or condoms.

– Every day, and as often in “Christian” homes as in non-Christian homes, a woman is battered by her husband. The unbelieving attackers have gotten the message from a patriarchal society that “their” women are appropriate targets of physical and emotional violence; the believing ones, sadly, have learned from the Church that patriarchy, rather than being a horrible result of the Fall, is how God intended male-female relationships to be. The pathology of patriarchy only ends with domestic violence. It doesn’t start there.

– Every day, in Africa and Middle Eastern countries, girls as young as nine are held down by family members while their clitorises are carved out, under the guise, in patriarchal cultures, of ensuring sexual obedience and subjugation and in reality consigning victims to lifetimes of barren sexuality, disease, and dysfunction.

– Every day, women walking down a busy city street, or hiking along rural paths, or strolling to their cars in a dimly-lit parking lot must make a quick assessment of any man who approaches her. She knows that while not all men are rapists, those that are prove to be only after the act. They don’t announce their intention, but the uncertainty requires that a woman consider the possibility that any male coming near her has violence on his mind.

– Every day, a woman brave enough to face an attacker in court has her sexual history laid bare for all the world to judge; she is considered complicit in her attack if she’s ever misbehaved, while the rapist can count on a men’s club of favoritism from a judicial system primed to view women as seductresses and men their helpless victims. Because of this, only about 10 percent of rapes are ever reported.

– Every day, a woman who works hard, plays by the rules, and gives her all to her job and her family finds that she will earn about two-thirds of what men with similar experience and skills earn, and she will generally be asked to understand that “family wage” jobs ought to be reserved for men, who, as “heads of the household,” have children to support. The children suffering because of wage inequality and its effects on their mothers evidently aren’t entitled to support. Or concern.

– Every day, young women from homes teeming with sexual abuse will make their way to the streets, where they will sell their bodies to men, enduring not only the degradation of prostitution, but usually the violence of the male pimps who steal her wages as well. Sadly, she will come to believe that a Church screeching for “Biblical sexual morality” and fighting to strengthen the grip of patriarchy has nothing to offer her. Worse, she’ll believe that it doesn’t particularly care to convince her otherwise.

– Every day, a woman will conclude with a heavy heart that killing her unborn child will solve the problem of a crisis or unplanned pregnancy, usually because the man who got her pregnant will have convinced her that “it” is the problem. No woman I know who has had an abortion had hers while the father-to-be promised his love, support, and care for her and their baby, and no woman I know has ever made the decision to abort with anything less than fear, worry, and despair unlike anything I’ve ever known.

– Every day, women languish in jail, ostensibly because of drug charges or property crimes that, in a majority of cases, stemmed from having become involved with the wrong kind of man who forced her to do the wrong thing for all of the wrong reasons. It’s not a stretch to suggest that bad men, rather than bad acts, are the greatest contributing factor to a woman’s imprisonment.

This is the reality of those true threats to women’s health and well-being. If Mr. Bayly is truly concerned about the welfare of his sisters, perhaps he ought to consider that stripping them of their God-given, Spirit-breathed position in the Church of the Lord Jesus is simply a tidier, less hideous-looking, but no less harmful act against them — and after repenting of his co-opting of women’s suffering to support his dubious theology, he might then seek to alleviate the REAL threats to each and every woman he so evidently wishes to “protect.”

One Response to “Methinks Bayly Looks Askance, And Sees Wrongly”

  1. Ashwin says:

    You have been reduced to grasping as straws. What is your point? That the “patriarchy” is responsible for female circumcision in Africa? Or for the poor condition of women in Islamic societies?

    The point is that women in Mr. Wilson’s community DO NOT suffer these things. They seem quite fulfilled and productive (in the arts and in business) and generally happy.

    Don’t blame Mr. Wilson for what happens in other places where he has no influence. And certainly don’t blame him for unbeliever’s abuse of themselves and their women.

    If you want to pastor a church go ahead and do it. Show us how it is done. There are plenty of churches with women ministers. I have been to some. They stink bad.

    Don’t blame Mr. Wilson for not wanting any.

Leave a Reply