This weekend, the nation witnessed a momentous occasion. Hundreds of thousands of women gathered in cities all across the United States and the world to peacefully assemble and march for women’s rights.
I spent some time reading the signs women carried at the march. While I recognize that there are some signs that Christians cannot agree, there are others that we need to notice. A little African American girl’s sign said, “I am a woman….we are important. We are beautiful. We love children. We are queens, respect us, cherish us, value us.” Another states, “Feminism is the radical notion that women are people.” Yet another, in front of a gold Star of David, said, “My great-grandmother didn’t escape Warsaw for this!” Probably one of the most chilling signs I saw was this: an elderly Japanese woman carrying a sign that said, “Locked up by US Prez 1942-1946. Never again.”
From where I stand as a female missiologist (someone who studies the science of missions), this weekend was important. While I in no way want to minimize the big button issues present like abortion, I also believe that if we ever want to reach this generation, we need to pay attention to other things that were said and done.
This event, this march, is a window into our current culture.
In missiological training, we talk about contextualizing the gospel. To do so, we spend countless hours asking the questions like, “What do these people fear?” so that we can figure out how to present the gospel in a way that speaks to them. And interestingly enough, we just had hundreds of thousands of women who raised signs and answered that question for us.
Look back at the signs I quoted. Do you hear their fears? Can you see that these are real people with real fears? They are afraid that they won’t be viewed as people anymore. That they will be objectified due to their gender. That they will be limited. That they will be marginalized. That they will be hated for their skin color. That they will be oppressed. That they will not be welcomed. That they won’t be loved. That they won’t be respected or valued.
And to be honest, we live in a broken world where these fears are possible.
But, we also live in a world where this is not the end of the story. We have a Savior who came to set the world right. And one day, he will come again. He will wipe away every tear from every eye (Rev. 21:4). There will be no fear. No hatred. No discrimination due to gender. Christ opens the doors to everyone, regardless of their gender.
One of the issues in America today, is that Christians don’t know how to share those truths with those women who marched in a way that makes sense to them.
First, we don’t know these women. I’m just as guilty as the next when it comes to this point. One thing that truly grieved my heart is that there were 17,000 women who marched in Raleigh and, as far as I know, I do not know a single one of them. How can I build relationships with those I have never met? How can I weep with them if I have not earned their trust? How can I share the old, old story with people who don’t even know I exist? The first step in reaching women in our society is to meet them. We have to cross into their culture and get to know them, not as projects, but as people.
Secondly, we don’t think about how the gospel answers today’s fears. We often learn a single memorized gospel presentation. While that is a great starting place, we cannot be content to stay there. What does the gospel mean today to women in America? To be honest, this answer changes. The gospel doesn’t change, but the way it moves in a person’s life is changed by the person’s cultural context.
Let’s revisit some of those fears:
1. I don’t want to be objectified due to my gender-
The gospel affirms the value of every person, regardless of their gender. All people are created in the image of God and God has a plan for all people (Gen. 1:27)No person is less human than another.
2. I will be oppressed-
Donald McGavran gives a beautiful description of the gospel for those who are oppressed. He states, “The highly valuable gifts of the Christian religion are: God the Father almighty who hates injustice, God the Son who died for each member of the masses, the Bible, and an ethical perspective that requires justice for all, thus endowing every human being with infinite value” (Donald McGavran, Understanding Church Growth, 206). We also have the Holy Spirit, who brings comfort in oppression. We have a God who never leaves us or forsakes us (Deut. 31:6, Matt. 28:20)
3. I will be forgotten or unloved–
We have a God who loves us. He has written our names on His hand (Isa. 49:16). We are his beloved that he loved so much that he pursued us, even as we were unfaithful to him.
4. I have to save the world-
While this one is a bit more implicit in the signs, I think it is there. We women have a tendency to think that we are the saviors. But the gospel frees us from this pressure. We don’t save the world. We serve a Savior who does that. We work towards justice and equality because we give glimpses of a coming kingdom where all will be set right. But we change the world through Christ’s power, not our own.
We are scared to engage these women because we recognize how difficult the journey will be. Deep down inside, we know that people are messy. They don’t fit into our boxes. They often don’t share our values. We might not agree with their opinions or their lifestyles and we know they won’t agree with ours. So, we either never meet them or we give them superficial access to our lives. But the truth is, if we as the church are going to see this generation won for Christ, we need women who will stand up and march.
March to the broken-hearted. March to the oppressed. March to those who are different than us. But we don’t march empty-handed. We march with our feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace, with an invitation to know the One who can calm all fears, with hands open and ready to embrace those who are hurting, and with lives willing to work to transform our culture for the sake of our King.