Strong Women Do Not Make Men Weak
“Let me tell you something: If children are in charge, we’re in trouble. If women are in charge, we’re in trouble,” John MacArthur claimed in a November 8, 2019 sermon titled “Does the Bible Permit a Woman to Preach?”.
He continued: “When women take over a culture, men become weak. When men become weak, they can be conquered, when all the men have been slaughtered, you [women] can sit there with all your jewelry and junk. You’ve been conquered because you overpowered your protector.”
Wrong on All Points
No, John MacArthur. Just a billion times no. Not only is this nonsense both Biblically and logically (if your “weak” women can overpower their male protectors, presumably they would be utterly useless as protection against other actual men), but the data that has been slowly trickling in for years repeatedly contradicts the idea that women are poor leaders. (see “Research: Women Score Higher Than Men in Most Leadership Skills” by Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman, Harvard Business Review, 6/25/19)
A Personal Perspective
Perhaps, John MacArthur, you would like to hear how this teaching plays out in actual life. For me personally, I believed in your style of patriarchal theology for many years. What this looked like for me was other people consistently taking credit for my work when it supported their positions or telling me no, I couldn’t do this or that when it contradicted their positions (and then getting pretty unpleasant about it if/when I did it anyway).
See, the thing is, I do not go with the flow. If the flow is sweeping people under and drowning them, I will have things to say about that. I will work incredibly hard not only to protect and serve people who are being hurt but also to remove from power people who are stomping on other people, to encourage everyone else around to do better, and to help whoever wants tools or education find what they need.
This is essentially leadership. Now that I’ve left patriarchy church culture and am happily ensconced in a church that happily encourages every member to serve wherever they are called regardless of their genitalia, this is throwing me more and more often into recognized leadership positions not only in church where I can actually make a difference on issues of domestic abuse but also in personal areas such as our family’s business and finances and other household endeavors.
Your position and the position of so many others in the evangelical church is that I should not be doing any of that work solely because I am a woman. My doing this work is a curse on the entire world. (remember: “If women are in charge; we’re in trouble.” see also: rampant, out-of-context misuse of Isaiah 3:12 from multiple sources.)
I should not be running our family’s business because that is the husband’s job and I’m usurping. Does it matter that I’m better at the business side than my husband is? Does it matter that my handling the part that I am good at frees him up to do the photography that he is so good at without having to stress out about the rest?
Maybe you would just call me the secretary or say I’m “helping out” with the family business. This actually happens pretty often when we meet people who aren’t used to either thinking of women as capable or giving women credit for the actual work they do (very aggravating!), but re-classifying my work as something you consider less important is essentially a way of reclassifying me as less important through the medium of language.
Words matter. That’s why I don’t call myself our business’s secretary. I am not the secretary. I do all of the executive functions of the business as well as the Business Manager job. I like it and I’m good at it. Our company, and by extension our family, benefits from me doing the job I do just as it benefits from my husband doing the job he excels at. My work functions mean I am the decision-maker and final say on almost all work-related issues instead of my husband. Do I then sin? (see: Deborah, Judges 4-5)
I have spoken with several pastors including my own over the last few years about domestic abuse, sat down with them one-on-one to go over statistics and best practices, given them support materials, and connected them with other people who can help them when they need it.
This is a completely underserved issue in the church, and the ones who have wanted to get together to discuss this stuff have been encouraged. It’s benefitted them as well as the members of their own congregations. Am I sinning because as a woman, I am teaching not only men but pastors? (see: Huldah, 2 Kings 22:8-20; Priscilla, Acts 18:24-28)
I am on the worship team at our church and help lead worship once a month. Am I sinning by pointing people to Christ and announcing his presence during the service? Isn’t that the entire point of the service? (see: Miriam, Ex. 15:19-22; Phoebe, Rom. 16:1-3, the chosen lady of John 2)
When I look around, I can see that the work I am doing is a blessing to my husband, my family, my church, and the greater body of Christ. It’s work I am well-equipped to do, that I am good at, and that I feel very much called to do.
An Eternal Perspective
When I stand before the throne after my race is done and God looks at me, I am going to have to explain why I did or did not use the gifts and talents that He built into me. Not you, not some other pastor, not some guy who tells me that my available range of service to Christ has been determined to be on a narrow, arbitrary list due to the double-X chromosomes I was born with instead of the XY like his. Me. I alone am responsible for my behavior.
If I tell Him I buried my talent in the ground because someone else told me to, I can only assume his reaction will be the same as the reaction was to the unfaithful servant in Matthew 25. No, thank you.
By the same coin, I can’t help but wonder what your answer is going to be when God asks, “Why did you discourage the women I sent to be your co-laborers from using their capabilities? Why did you spurn my messengers?”
When I Was Complementarian
I used to be complementarian, and ten years ago none of these questions would have even crossed my mind. My personal journey began from digging into issues and dynamics of abuse and then spread out from there.
When I was a complementarian, I just thought that all women who were interested in positions of authority were power-hungry usurpers who were probably responsible for all of society’s ills because that’s the attitude that was conveyed in teaching, book suggestions, and casual conversation. This is essentially the crux of your sermon.
At that time most of the women I knew were not engaged in positions of authority. No positions were open to women in the church, and I puzzled over the enigmatic women who held authority positions elsewhere. How did they get away with that?
Obviously, I don’t think any of that anymore, and virtually my entire life is consistent with what I believe now (which feels very nice; so much better than piles of cognitive dissonance).
Representatives of Christ
I puzzle over how you can think that the callous, dismissive things you’ve said and continue to say about women are consistent with or in any way represent Christ and his open posture toward women of all ranks.
You appear to have closed off your heart and mind to the point where most of what you think about us women is “You are not like us men.”
Once you decide that about virtually any group of people, you give yourself permission to behave however you want towards them. Their hurts, loves, joys, griefs, abilities, and opinions are irrelevant because they are now “other.”
So, the reason I’ve taken the time to write down my own personal story is very simple. When we share who we are, others can see it. There will always be those who dismiss what they don’t understand or who have decided what they’ve decided and are unlikely to revise their opinion regardless of alternative information, but so too are there always people who find value in hearing the experiences of others and let those stories inform their own assessment of how the world works and how they would like to help make it work better. If you are one of those people, then what I have written today is for you. God be with you on your journey.
If by some miracle you, John MacArthur, are reading this, then this too is for you. May your heart soften toward your sisters in the Lord. May your preaching be filled with the grace you claim. May we work side-by-side to build the body of Christ and live together in peace. Amen.