God Loves Women

A blog sharing my love of God, the love He has for women and my frustration that the Church often doesn't realise this

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Book Review: The Emotionally Destructive Marriage

Posted by God Loves Women on October 28, 2013 at 12:10 PM Comments comments (0)

The wonderful Leslie Vernick asked me if I would be willing to read and review her new book “The Emotionally Destructive Marriage”. If you would like to buy the book, you can do so here.

 

For anyone who isn’t familiar with the author, Leslie Vernick is a licensed clinical social worker and relationship coach who has been working supporting people for over thirty years. She’s written several books and does much public speaking and media work, mainly across the US. I met Leslie a few years ago in Canada and have much respect for her and the work she does.  You can find out more about her from her website and follow her on twitter.

 

Overall I found the book to be tremendously helpful and a really practical resource for many women trying to cope in the midst of a destructive marriage. It is written from a conservative evangelical position and is the first book about domestic abuse I have read from that perspective that I would feel able to recommend. For those coming from a less conservative faith context, or those who hold a feminist viewpoint, this book may not be your cup of tea. However if you know women from the conservative Christian community who are suffering abuse, this would be an ideal book to encourage them to read.

 

Leslie uses real life examples from her counselling practice alongside a wide range of Biblical texts, exploring both specific verses and wider themes across Scripture. She does this well and with much thought, however as her Biblical approach sits within a conservative understanding of Scripture it may not be helpful for those with a more liberal hermeneutic.

 

I think for a lot of women, this book is a powerful tool in empowering them and giving them the knowledge they need to move their lives forward. Leslie’s advice is very wise and helpful for women in many situations, however for those with high risk perpetrators who may be experiencing high levels of control, the solutions within the book are unlikely to be helpful. Personally, I found Leslie’s approach to women being able to change their situation really challenging. On the one hand, I truly believe women need to be empowered and enabled to make their own choices, but many women I have worked with are so controlled, and have so little power, that asserting themselves could put them at serious risk. I am still mulling over the ideas proposed by Leslie and trying to decide whether the issues are in my own preconceptions, or within the book itself, but regardless of this, I feel that for many women whose partners are not high risk offenders, the book will be an invaluable resource.  In fact, I have since lent the book to a Christian woman who is currently seperated from her abusive husband, and she had told me the book is amazing and is really making a difference to her.  She has told me "I can't put it down, it's amazing!"

 

With my feminist head on (if that is such a thing...) I found some of the language and lack of a wider critique of society and culture unhelpful, but as the intended audience is not a feminist one, I think the author has pitched the content just right. I am so grateful to Leslie for writing a book that I can recommend to women experiencing abuse who say to me “I don’t want this but God/the Church/my Pastor says I can’t leave” and pray that God would use the book and Leslie’s wisdom to impact many women, men and churches.

My Failure at Creating Awards

Posted by God Loves Women on October 5, 2013 at 4:00 AM Comments comments (1)

Yesterday I tried to be subversive and hilarious and to celebrate some of the many people I love on twitter by creating an alternative award to the Christian New Media Awards (#CNMAC13).  The “Unofficial Twitter Christian Awards” (UTCA) became a thing after I began tw-ranting (I have just made up that word.  See, it merges the words “Twitter” and “ranting”, but isn’t actually very easy to say… ) about how one of the shortlisted nominations for best blogger was someone who has written very unhelpfully about headship and submission among other things.  I thought creating awards that were for people I loved and appreciated on Twitter would be a positive way of challenging some of this.  My two rules were that people couldn’t nominate Christian celebrities or themselves.  I guess deep down I knew I was being antagonistic, but the idea of awarding people for being great tweeters overrode any reservations I should have maybe listened to (also Mr GLW had suggested I wait, but I rode straight over his reservations too.  *sigh*).


 

I posted news of UTCA on twitter and was greeted by a few retweets and some thank yous from those I had nominated.  As people commented, I realised there were others I hadn’t added and began adding them.  Then someone I really love and think is ace began asking why they hadn’t been included, and another person challenged me for using the term “Christian celebrity” and the way it othered people who were well known.  Then I was challenged for attacking the awards based on theological differences, this person began asking me if only egalitarians should be shortlisted for awards.


 

And it was then that I wanted to get really tw-ranty.  I wanted type in capital letters (which is what shouting on Twitter looks like) that the shortlisted blog was more “the straw that broke the camel’s back” than the main issue.  I wanted to tell this person that I took issue with the awards because:


a) How on earth can they really celebrate achievement when they are set up for people to nominate THEMSELVES?!?!

b) Is it even okay for Christians to get awards?

c) It seems a far cry from the carpenter turned rabbi thousands of years ago who, when two of his followers clamoured to have the highest places of honour next to him, he told all his followers,

 

“You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them.  Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave- just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”


 

But I didn’t say that, I continued to tweet with that person about headship and submission.  Mainly because that person has been shortlisted for an award, and I thought it was probably unkind to wee on his proverbial bonfire (the fact I just wrote that phrase in a blog delights me, and would probably also please eight year old Smaller GLW too).  In fact, that was why I hadn’t mentioned my concerns about the whole premise of award ceremonies at all, because so many are really pleased that they are being celebrated for their hard work and effort, and to tw-rant about seems unfair and unkind.


 

However, within less than two hours I discovered that by celebrating some wonderful people, I had inadvertently hurt some others.  I have spent my whole life attempting to be inclusive; to invite everyone, especially those who have less power.  For a long time I was one of those with less power.  Then yesterday I discovered that I have more power than I think, and I had acted in a way that was exclusive.  I may have felt angry with #CNMAC13 for creating a worthy/unworthy dichotomy and seeming to champion people whose message is of concern, but in seeking to challenge that, I used the same methods.  And for that I am truly sorry.  If you read my list and felt sad you were not on it, please know that I love you and it is not a reflection of you, but more a reflection of me.  And for those on the list, I love you all too!!


 

I spoke with someone on Twitter who defended #CNMAC13.  He talked of how the Pope and Archbishop are elevated and celebrated and used the phrase “good and faithful servant”.  He pointed out how we honour church leaders and explained that celebrating people is a good thing.  I understand this may be the reasoning behind #CNMAC13, but it is not the Way I see Jesus giving us throughout His life.  Being a good and faithful servant was not about people celebrating us, but about God communicating His pleasure at how we’ve used the talents He gave us well.  Our reward is described as being given additional responsibility.


 

I think so often awards are attractive because they affirm us and enable us to feel valued and assure us that we matter.  Similarly, if we are not honoured, or feel excluded from such awards, we may feel hurt and disappointed.  A few months ago I was told by someone that I was a “nobody”.  At first I felt indignant; “I am a ‘somebody’…!”  Then I felt deeply fearful, “Maybe I am a ‘nobody’…”  As I reflected on how this person’s words had impacted me, I realised that they had touched the core of my soul.  I discovered the revelation that if I am fully rooted and found in Jesus, being called a ‘nobody’ shouldn’t impact me anymore than being called a ‘somebody’.  Though people’s unkind words may be hurtful, and their compliments may feel good, nothing should be able to impact the core of my being, if I am found in Christ.  This is why it’s so important that we learn to die to ourselves, to the need to be heard, the need to feel validated, and that we are raised we God’s identity, knowing we are children of the Most High and that we are beloved of God.  


 

I had thought about describing this whole award creating experience as some sort of profound prophetic act which was well orchestrated and thought out, however that would be a lie.  As with all the things God does, it’s usually out of our own weakness and failing that God works.  And in that place where we are brought yet again to our knees as our complicity in the system is made visible, God teaches us and purifies us, and we continue along the Way with Him.  I don’t think there will be an end to Christian award ceremonies anytime soon, but with all my heart I believe the Kingdom of God is about striving for a right use of power, seeking to prefer the other’s needs above my own and always treat others as I would like to be treated.

My very own UTCA

Posted by God Loves Women on October 4, 2013 at 5:00 PM Comments comments (1)

Today the shortlist for the Christian New Media Awards was announced.  Within it is a nomination for this blog  I tweeted CNMAC to complain, and they said:


“We don't put people in or out based on whether we agree with their theology. Sorry that's not one you like.”


I know I won’t agree with the theology of all the nominations, but theology which promotes the sort of headship and submission that this blogger does has enabled perpetrators of domestic abuse to continue hurting their wives and prevented many women experiencing abuse from seeking help.  If this blogger wants to write blogs about it, that’s one thing, but when the Christian New Media Awards want to promote the blog and perhaps give her an award for it, that’s quite another.


After tweeting a bit about it, someone suggested that I should make my own shortlist.  At first I didn’t think I’d have time, but the more I’ve thought about it, the more I felt it would be good to do it.  I think there are some wonderful people who use twitter in an amazing way, and I wanted to honour them.

 

So welcome to my UTCA’s (Unofficial Twitter Christian Awards).  I thought that anyone else who would like to nominate tweeters can do.  If you would like to, please tweet me your nominations (@God_loves_women).  The only rules are you cannot nominate yourself and you can’t nominate Christian celebrities.  If you have further ideas of categories, please do tweet me those too.

 

There are lots of people I love who I haven’t give an award to.  I still love you, and you’re amazing too.


Funny Tweeter

Vicky Walker (@vicky_walker)


Go to theological big brains

Steve Holmes (@SteveRHolmes)

Alastair Roberts (@zugzwanged)

Eddie Arthur (@kouya)


Friendly tweeters

Sarah Crane (@secraney)

Heather Stanley (@hstanley_)


Amazing legendary tweeter

Helen Austin (@fragmentz)


Encouraging tweeters

Matthew Currey (@mattcurrey)

Ruth Roberts (@ruth_roberts)


Fem-tastic Feminist tweeters

Hannah Mudge (@boudledidge)

Jennifer Parnham (@JenniferParnham)

Jendella (@jendella)

Ruth Wells (@ruthmw)

Diane Martin (@teenybash48 )


Man-tastic Feminist tweeters

Mark Hewerdine (@markrhewerdine)

David Bunce (@davidbunce)

Dave Warnock (@dave42w)


Tweeters who speak God’s truth but don’t identify as Christian

Nimko Ali (@nimkoali)

Louise Pennington (@lestewpot)

Female Strength and Patriarchy: A Poem by my mum!

Posted by God Loves Women on September 1, 2013 at 10:50 AM Comments comments (0)

My mum wrote this poem about patriarchy and I thought it was great and asked her if I could put it up here.  She said yes, do enjoy it!


Patriarchy, why are you so afraid of strong women,

Women with the heart to challenge you in the arena

Of words, or anywhere that your physical strength

Is of no significance?  Why do you need to control

Women?  Are they such a threat to you?

We are all, male and female, prey

To the patriarchs, they believe we must

Bow before their scathing, belittling

Words and deeds, their domination – No!

We will not be cowed into submission

Nor preyed upon by those who seek

Us out like missiles, homing in on us.

Our shield shall be the truth

That no woman or man owns another.

The spectrum of human nature is wide

For human beings no trait is purely male,

None solely female either.  Forget

What has been passed down to you,

Start afresh, embrace equality for all.

Men and women cannot be owned by anyone

They are free.  All women can be strong women

But not all realise their power yet, we who know

Our strength, must build up our unknowing sisters

With words of encouragement, and knowledge

Of the true reality of patriarchy, which tries to

Imprison women in the cage of a manufactured

And false femininity.  Wake up sisters, from the dream

Be the women you were meant to be,

And you men who are awake to the fake superiority

That you have been fed from birth and ancestry,

Arise and join your sisters, help to free

Your brothers from patriarchy and false masculinity.

Patriarchs will not concede easily but injustice will not

Win the day, it will fail as long as we stay strong.

Justice will always triumph in the end and

Our words will remain long after we are gone.

 

 

Dear Marilyn

Posted by God Loves Women on June 6, 2013 at 8:05 PM Comments comments (0)

Dear Marilyn,

 

(I don’t actually know if your name is Marilyn, but I wanted to give you a name, because you’re a person and you matter).

 

I met you on the train tonight.  You sat down next to me and then your partner made you move so he could sit next to you.  I could see him being unkind to you and making you cry.  I saw you try to stand up to him and the way he made you shrink.  I could see him become worse and I saw that other man, Kevin (I’m going to call him Kevin, even though I’m not sure what his real name was…) watch what was going on and stand up and get ready to intervene.  And I got ready to intervene too.

 

And suddenly Kevin was asking your partner if he “was alright mate?” and your partner was telling him to “f*ck off and not get involved.” I stood up and asked you if you were okay.  You said you weren’t and that you were scared and wanted to get away.  I asked you to come and stand with me, but even though you wanted to, your partner wouldn’t let you.  I asked if you wanted me to call the police and you said you did, then your partner was calling me a “f*cking………” and I was ringing the police and stopping the train and your partner was whispering and suddenly you wanted me to stop phoning the police and tried to sort everything out.  I know you were being brave.  I know you were trying to protect yourself and me by calming him down.  I know you were trying your best to make everything okay again.

 

Then we all got off the train and Kevin was really kind to me and didn’t leave until the police arrived.  And your partner was shouting at me, and you were trying to calm him down and telling the police that “it was just talking”.  And I saw your black eye under your make up and I saw how he hurts you.

 

Then the police said you didn’t want to do anything about your partner and I went on a different train home to you and then that was it.

 

Well Marilyn I wanted to tell you that you are really really brave.  That I know you were trying your best to make everything okay.  I’m sorry that when you got home he probably hurt you a lot, and says it’s your fault.  But Marilyn, it’s not your fault.  It’s his fault.  He chose to hurt you and that is not okay.  I know I couldn’t stop him and that the police didn’t arrest him, and that he’s done this to you before.

 

I know you might think I’m a nosy stranger, getting involved in your business and making things worse.  But please, please, please, know that I tried to help because you are so so important.  That you are valuable and worth so much.  Kevin and I didn’t get involved to make your life difficult, we stood up and spoke out to show you what your partner was doing is wrong.  And maybe nobody has ever shown you that before.

 

I know we will probably never see each other again, but I wanted to write to you and tell you that you matter, you’re important and anytime you need me to, I’ll stand up for you again.

 

Love Natalie x

 

 

Seven reasons you should read Vicky Walker's book

Posted by God Loves Women on February 17, 2013 at 5:25 PM Comments comments (0)

Vicky Walker is a wonderful friend of mine and she has written a really good book called "Do I have to be good all the time?" about being a single woman in the Church and I felt I should share with you all why you should read it...


1.    It is very funny and made me laugh out loud on the train.


2.    It is very profound; her chapter on grace had me almost in tears on the train. (I read a lot on the train).


3.    She manages to say really powerful things about how women interact with one another and within church, without being as ranty as I would be.


4.    She is a woman with a wonderful heart and a lot of wisdom.


5.    She let me stay at her house and gave me grapes she had frozen and, although that offer may not be open to everyone who reads her book, it shows she is a very nice person.


6.    She is writing about stuff that is really important, but is doing it to reach regular normal people, not super spiritual academic types (probably why I like it so much).


7.    To feel encouraged that nobody really gets it right that much of the time.


You can get the book here and find out more about Vicky here.

From everyone who has been given much...

Posted by God Loves Women on January 19, 2013 at 7:00 PM Comments comments (0)

Over the last couple of days I have followed Sarah Moon’s (@SarahNMoon) tweets with interest.  She spoke out about her feelings regarding the Emerging Church (if you’re not familiar with this term you can find out more across at Wikipedia).  Sarah shared her problems with the fact the movement is heavily male (to clarify, the men in it are not overweight, but rather, there are mostly men leading within it).  She listed the names of some men she felt contributed to this and within moments one of these men (who has a rather large following, both on twitter and off) tweeted her to object to being called sexist, even though Sarah’s original tweets were not addressed to him with an @ thingy (if you’re not a tweeter, this bit will make little sense to you... )

 


What ensued was Sarah sharing her frustrations with the emerging church man’s refusal to listen to her concerns and the man telling others not to “feed the trolls” and complaining about Sarah’s accusation of sexism.  Then other people began engaging on either side of the situation tweeting their thoughts and feelings.

 


Anyway, this situation got me thinking about sexism, power, privilege and the different facets of the church.  This man with all his power and followers felt the need to call Sarah out publically for her accusation, without thinking about how this may have intimidated her, and refusing to listen to her concerns or frustrations.

 


Of course being accused of sexism is hurtful and may even seem like a form of defamation; a strong response may feel the right thing to do.  However, when someone challenges us, should we respond with indignation, or listen to what they have shared, and consider it?

 


My thinking led me to working through how we respond to criticism.  So often when we are called on our behaviour our immediate response is to assume the person criticising us is wrong, and we feel indignant, “how could they say this about me?  I’m a good person!”

 


Then on the other side of this, when we attempt to call out others on their behaviour, we feel guilty for inconveniencing them the with truth, and think that perhaps we are really wrong for challenging them, and maybe it’s all just in our head anyway…

 


What occurred to me was that our individualistic culture, coupled with the warped teaching on grace and forgiveness that so many Christians have heard, we have a situation where it’s almost impossible to call out people and be sure they will hear us.

 


We’re taught to be gracious and listen and love others as ourselves; to turn the other cheek and be peacemakers.  But the times Jesus called the Pharisees “a brood of vipers” and the way he allowed the rich young ruler to walk away, and the way He called Peter “satan”, are often missed out in our understanding of what being a peacemaker looks like.

 


For those of us on the receiving end of criticism, we naturally shut down from hearing things which we don’t think we are like, especially it’s about sexism or furtherance of oppression.  We all like to imagine that we’re wonderful people (regardless of all that Christian stuff about us all being sinners, none of us actually wants someone to point out the ways we are sinning... ) 

 


But this is not the Gospel.  Not for any of us.  Jesus’ teachings were about showing us the state of our hearts.  He was about subverting power structures and showing each of us how to give up our power and be willing to die for Him, so that then we could truly live for Him.

 


To believe that we are not sexist, or racist or homophobic is to underestimate the very power structures that seek to keep oppression in place.  As a white, able bodied woman, born and living in the UK and married to a white man, denying the privilege and power this gives me would be to walk blindly through life.  Yes, I have also been on the receiving end of inequality and oppression and continue to live within a society which discriminates against women, but that in no way invalidates the privilege and power I hold.



So what next?   Do we just assume every critical thing someone says to us is true?  Do we live in a place of perpetual self hatred?  Clearly not, but we can live out the teachings of Jesus:

 


Repenting: Looking deep into our heart.  Recognising the amount of power and privilege each of us has.  Living each day, being willing to be broken by the state of the world and our contribution to it.  Not living in a place of guilt, but dying to ourselves daily, and picking up our cross, the cross of privilege and power, owning the ways we have added to oppression and choosing to be followers of the Way.

 


Discipleship: Not some sort of let’s talk about our feelings blah blah blah…  But a willingness to live in vulnerability to others calling us out.   I’m not talking about accepting abuse or bullying, but if we want to live in a truly anti-oppressive way we must be willing to repent, day by day, and then to listen and acknowledge the potential that someone’s criticisms of us may have validity.  

 


Fighting the Powers: This is a spiritual battle, and the powers of racism, patriarchy, homophobia, and other evils are very much in the Church; not only are they in the Church, they are upheld, perpetuated and perpetrated by Christians.  The devil is in the Church and we must fight him with all we can.  Not by using arguments of grace to shut people up, but by following Jesus’ model of a love that is strong and true.

 


And as Jesus said, “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.”   Let us never forget that, in any of our interactions, either on, or offline.

At last, the truth!

Posted by God Loves Women on November 26, 2012 at 5:20 PM Comments comments (1)

I clicked on this link provided by the wonderful Rev. Pam Smith just now and found Susie Leafe, a female member of the General Synod, sharing on 4OD about how women should not be Bishops.


 

She suggests that “women look to men for some of the most important decisions of their lives” and “what we [women] tend to do is what happened in the Garden of Eden: Adam stood back and did nothing; Eve made a bit of a bad decision and the world got into a bit of trouble.”


 

I’m really glad that Susie has explained this.  I mean I had been wondering why all the single women across the UK have been wandering around the streets of their towns and cities, disoriented and lost.  Only the other day I past at least 15 of these poor souls, lost and without guidance.  If only they had a man to help them make their decisions!  Perhaps they would be able to have a life that included a job, a home, a social life!  But alas, it is not to be, they are condemned to a life of disoriented wandering.


 

I don’t just say this as a married woman, I say it as someone who was a single mum, yes I know, you’re wondering how I coped!  Well clearly I didn’t, in fact what Susie shared has really helped me to make sense of what happened when I no longer had a man to guide me.  I just stood in the street, with my children for two years and didn’t move.  I mean, how would I have?  Without the guidance of one of these males?  Truly it was impossible!  


 

I’m just grateful a man did eventually find me and tell me I should get married to him (clearly without him telling me to do it, I would never have known it was a good thing to do, being a mere woman).


 

I especially like how she describes what Eve did as a “bit of a bad decision” and got the world into “a bit of trouble”.  It really helps me to make sense of why everything I’ve ever done until I was married to a man had failed, but now I see clearly.  That is what God made me like.  Destined to fail, without a man to guide me…


 

Thank you Susie, for clearing up why my entire life only make sense if I am led by a man.  However Susie, I came across a verse the other day and I wonder if you could clear up what they mean, in light of your insight?


 

“Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned” (Romans 5:12)


I’m clearly reading this wrong Susie, but it seems to be suggesting Adam brought sin into the world, obviously this can’t be correct, I’d appreciate your thoughts…

Please don't undermine the broken hearted

Posted by God Loves Women on November 21, 2012 at 5:40 AM Comments comments (0)

Yesterday was a heartbreaking one for many. Although I am not in an Anglican Church, I deeply feel the pain of women being yet again declared lesser. Throughout the discussions both before the vote and afterwards, one of the things I have found most sad was people saying, “never mind Women Bishops, what about the killing and atrocities in Gaza?” and “chill out everyone, it’s only the legislation that didn’t go through”.


And in those words, in those statements broken hearted people are undermined and the fight to see equality in all places is ignored. I am passionate about seeing women and men able to fulfil their calling, not as an isolated cause, not because I don’t see the full reality of suffering out there, not because I’m some poncy white person who doesn’t have anything better to do (I mean I am a white person, but I like to imagine I’m not poncy... ) I am passionate about seeing equality because the more unequal a society is, the more violence against women there is.


There is a direct correlation between there not being an equal number of men and women in positions of authority and the amount of violence against women in society.


“What?!” I hear you cry, “This cannot be so, clearly Mrs GLW, you are being overly dramatic.”


I am not being over dramatic. The foundations of violence against women are that of the ownership of women by men, and the entitlement of men over women. Wherever we see this dynamic worked out, we see violence against women in many forms. Whether it be FGM, rape, domestic abuse, bride burning, forced marriage, female infanticide, or the many other forms of abuse and oppression, it is primarily about ownership of women and entitlement over women.


Hear me correctly; I’m not saying all those against Women Bishops are directly abusive. I’m not saying they are all sexist people. But by apposing the full equality, in opportunity as well as in value of women and men, is to contribute to a patriarchal power structure, to contribute to the ownership of women and entitlement over women. I do not say this with any malice, or to be offensive, but as the reality that it is.


Then I hear people saying “there are much more important things than whether women get to be bishops” or see tweets that suggest we should “chill out” it breaks my heart. I constantly meet women from the Church who have been raped, abused and degraded, I met a woman this weekend who had looked down the barrel of her husband’s gun as he told her that she was about to die. This vote was about women like her, women like me, women across the world and throughout the UK who have or are experiencing abuse.


I’m not saying that having Women Bishops in and of itself will stop violence against women singlehandedly, but it will contribute. Just as the “Say no to page 3” campaign will and the legal system working well will and the charities working to support women continuing to be funded will, it takes all of us to do all we can if we are to see it ended.


Please don’t undermine people’s pain by saying there are more important battles, or that we should chill out, because this is part of a much bigger battle and every loss means there will continue to be women staring down the barrel of guns, being told they are about to die by the person who is supposed to love them the most.

Abuse, faith and secular culture: Friend or Foe?

Posted by God Loves Women on October 25, 2012 at 3:00 PM Comments comments (0)

I was speaking at this conference today and thought it would be good to make my talk available to everybody!!!


You can read it here.


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