Recently, I found myself in physical pain. Whenever I am in any kind of physical pain, I wonder about the connection between my emotional well-being and my physical ailments. I use a book that lists various types of physical ailments and the possible emotional issues associated with those ailments. I looked up my pain, and the suggested emotional issue was anger so then anger became my prayer focus.
At first, I resisted accepting anger as the issue because I didn't feel angry. However, upon reflection, I began identifying various aspects of my present life that were sources of frustration and anger. I prayed and asked God, in what areas of my life am I angry? What am I angry about? And then I waited and listened. One thing He revealed was my anger about the oppression of women in the church.
In the book "The Language of Emotions," Karla McLaren explores the complicated nature of anger. She says that the message of anger is “protection and restoration”. She also says whenever we find ourselves angry, we should ask two questions:
1. What needs to be protected?
2. What needs to be restored?
This reminded me of the time when Jesus flipped tables in the temple in Matthew 21:12-17, he was angry because they had turned the house of prayer into a marketplace.
What needed to be protected? The House of prayer,
What needed to be restored? The sanctity of the temple.
What we learn from this is that sometimes anger is necessary. However, we must realize that Jesus flipped tables, not the people. He had a righteous anger. His anger was justified.
Malcolm X said that "the black woman, is the most disrespected, unprotected, neglected person in America." As I pondered those words, I knew that anyone who is disrespected, unprotected, and neglected needs a safe place to go, and I believe the church should be that safe place. However, some churches are not safe. This breaks my heart and makes me angry.
During my reflection on my anger about the oppression of women in the church, I had a vision of the women who were freed from slavery. I can only imagine how much joy they had in their hearts to drop the weight of the chains of slavery; no longer having a master who denied their dignity and their inherent worth, only to walk through the doors of a church and have chains be put on them again……shhhhhh….can you hear the chains clanking around their hands, their feet, their necks?
Unbeknownst to them, they had found themselves with a another type of plantation with a Pastor who had learned how to cherry-pick a few scriptures to keep them from exercising their freedom and preventing them from being the full manifestation of God’s power and love. They looked at the other women who were there before they arrived to get some cues; surely they feel the weight of the chains, but those women were focused on obeying the man of God.
They think they are in the House of Prayer, but it’s a just another plantation. They are to be seen but not heard; they are to work but not worship. Their new master was concerned about them giving 10% but had no concern about them giving their 100% as the masterpiece that they were created to be.
And so they started to follow everyone else and they began to take direction from the man of God instead of the voice of God and this led them to doubting and misinterpreting the movement of the Spirit within themselves. They thought they were obeying the Spirit by remaining silent but they were quenching the Spirit. They did not yield to being the full expression of Galatians 5:1, which says, it is for freedom that Christ has set us free, stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. They were still enslaved.
The plantation was stealing their joy and sapping their strength. Where were the conductors who could put them on the train to freedom?
They had heard a voice and the voice said, "You are blessed and highly favored; when you deliver what's inside of you, it will be great." How can she say yes, the man of God will not give her permission to say yes to God's request of her, because he doesn't even believe that she can hear the voice of God. She’s a woman.
Then one of the women begins to wonder if she’s the conductor, perhaps she’s Moses, the liberator and so she makes a bold move and goes to the man of God and says, “Let my sisters go, give us our inheritance.” and because she attempted to live into her liberation, to free herself and the other women, she is deemed a Jezebel, rebellious, a troublemaker and full of pride; and these are the metaphorical ropes that are tied around her neck.
There was strange fruit when she was on the other plantation, but there was also strange fruit on this plantation. Every Sunday and every week, a woman was H.U.N.G, her progress was being hindered; her confidence was undermined, and her voice was being neglected, which resulted in generational trauma because of her oppression.
Women were dying mental, emotional, spiritual, and even physical deaths, never having experienced the freedom and the joy of being the full demonstration of God’s love and power. And these hangings were not only condoned by the men in the church. There were women who participated through their silence and sometimes through their verbal condemnation. They were not getting directives from the Master; they were getting directions from the man of God and they couldn’t tell the difference.
I discovered through this vision that my anger, in this instance, is a righteous one, similar to Jesus flipping tables. In my time of reflection I discerned that God is inviting me to flip some tables in the church. I need to:
Promote the FREEDOM of women to express themselves, and encourage, inspire and even train them in how to make choices and pursure their own spiritual journey's without oppression.
I need to work towards the LIBERATION of women from patriarchal systems and traditional gender roles that may restrict their potential and limit their involvement within the church. I am praying about how to take action regarding this.
I will always encourage an INCLUSIVE environment where I have influence, where women are welcomed, valued, respected, heard and are given the opportunities to participate, lead and contribute. I need to hold space for women to be an expression of God's love and power. I will not allow women to buy into the scarcity mindset where some believe just having one [black] woman in an influential position is enough.
I will emPOWER women to reclaim their power within the church, inspiring and equipping them to have an active voice, make decisions and challenge oppressive structures that may exist.
I want to note here that, as I reflected, I discovered that I am not harboring any unforgiveness towards those who are oppressing women in the church. I know this because when we are in unforgiveness we penalize the person for their offense. I have not attempted to penalize any man or woman who has contributed to my oppression or the oppression of women in the church. Anger does not always include unforgiveness. This anger I have about the oppression of women in the church is not about unforgiveness it's about injustice.
After reflecting on this vision, I ask the questions:
What needs to be protected? Women in the church.
What needs to be restored? The Truth of Galatians 3:28: There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to promise.
Because we as women have received our inheritance of emancipation through Christ’s work on the cross, we, as women should be emancipated in the church. Let my sisters go!
I will conclude with the words of Sister Thea Bowman, an African American Franciscan Nun and a gifted teacher who aimed to break down racial and cultural barriers. In one of her addresses to the US Bishops at the Conference of Catholic Bishops in 1989, “ she sang words that resonated with me as it relates to how I sometimes feel about the church. “Sometimes I feel like a motherless child, sometimes I feel like a motherless child, sometimes I feel like a motherless child a long way from home.”
Sister Thea Bowman spoke boldly to the Catholic Bishops encouraging them and admonishing them to tear down the racial and cultural barriers within the Catholic Church. I long for a church like Sister Thea Bowman described, using both her words and mine,
I want to “come to my church fully functioning, [where I can] bring myself, my black self, my female self, all that I am all that I hope to become, [where I can] bring my whole history, my traditions, my experience, [my education], my culture, my African American song and dance and gesture and movement, teaching and preaching and healing and responsibility and gifts.”
May it be so for us all and not just for a few.
How will you respond to the message in this blog?