I have a reoccurring dream: while I am confronting a man (a stranger to me), my voice goes mute and I struggle to get even a grunting sound out. My sleep has been interrupted with me struggling to speak or breathe while trying to claw my way out of that dream. Recently I realized the man in my dreams is a symbol of patriarchy. My dreams are me confronting the critical sexist church man I have known my whole life, while flailing mute and defenseless in his presence.
He Was Trying To “Elder Me”
I do not know why I attract them, but I do: the critical sexist church man. As the church man he believes it is within his rights and authority to ELDER me. I need eldered, People. And often it would seem. All the eldering. And he makes sure I know he is or has been a church elder and/or some other title I might find impressive to convince me he is on good footing for “instructing my life.”
“I have it on good authority… you are completely wrong in your thinking, dress, attitudes, and behavior. I am here to help you set everything straight.” [Cue the superhero music]
The thing is – I never gave or give him consent. I have never asked this specific type of man for help or guidance. If I require assistance or a change in attitude I go to the people who have clue what they are talking about when it comes to my life.
I can see a critical, sexist church man coming from a mile away, but he makes his attempts at “eldering me” anyways. As a writer who has written in the past from a Christian perspective, they find me and seem convinced I need to be instructed in all the ways I am wrong. And if I happen to link to a writer friend I love they will also follow that link, read her stuff, and mansplain her to death too.
Or they physically stalk you.
I have had them drive by my house first the front street and then the back street to see if I am home. They have driven from a state away to stand on my front porch and insist on being heard, offering false narratives through mail slots – while unbeknownst to them I am with my people visiting family hours and hours away.
They monitor my online presence and words, where I write, how I comment and believe they have a right to instruct me from behind the scenes if they are displeased with how I am representing… them.
The whole reason they are approaching me does not have anything to do with me, but everything to do with themselves. Something they see in me appears to be threatening something they need to believe as true about themselves. So slam the woman.
What is it about critical sexist church men that makes them believe they need to instruct women? And why should we care?
A Critical Sexist Church Man
When I was a teenager teaching a Wednesday night church group of young girls – one of the father’s of a student made it perfectly clear I had no right to be there. We were on notice. Even though I had earned a reputation as a safe place for kids, I had taught larger classes of children for my summer work, and no one else including that father – stood up to help me teach. For him and people just like him, I wasn’t good enough. I was too young, too immature, and had no place to be there in his “HUMBLE” opinion. (I might have just laughed out loud writing that last sentence)
And as a church man he had the right to speak right into my young heart with critical, spirit-breaking words of rebuke. He had a RIGHT to me.
I have been navigating critical sexist church men who believe they have a right to me my whole entire life.
It did not matter to him that many of those young girls came to know God in a way they had never experienced before that year. We laughed and cried together. It was safe place for us. All he saw was what he needed to be true of me and us – what he gathered from ONE SINGLE VISIT to that classroom when he hadn’t been there at all the rest of the year.
He couldn’t see beyond his churched lens of patriarchy. A lens which made him believe he had a right to the churched people around him any way he thought necessary. He believed he had a right to me.
How to Navigate Critical Sexist Church Men
This is what they do. This is how they navigate the world around them. They speak filth and condemnation right into the hearts of the women, young people, and children around them:
- What are you doing here?
- Who said you could do that?
- Who do you think you are?
- You are too young.
- You do not have enough experience.
- What do you think you are wearing?
- You have no right to speak, teach, lead, sing, etc
I have learned the best way to silence the critical sexist church man is to not engage him at all. I have learned he is “always right” so there is no point disputing him or trying to make him see your point of view. His point of view is the only one which is valid. He will swirl his agenda wide all under the guise of “spiritual gifts and encouraging others,” when really he is after more power, more information, and more leverage.
He is like a sin gatherer – gathering to himself all the details and scoops.
To your face and to the watching audience he is always on his game. He looks the part of the good, noble, humble Christian leader man. He plays this part for you well, but behind the scenes he is raping your daughters and wives with his eyes, his hands, and his words, mocking you behind your efforts and failures, whispering naughty, filthy, shaming words to your wives and young daughters and sons when you are NOT paying attention.
If I have to engage him I only give him the information necessary no more and no less. I disengage as quickly and quietly as possible. If he insists on being heard, he speaks over me, he loudly voices his opinion, he shames my efforts, tries to silence my voice, or condemn my spirit – then I LOUDLY PROTEST. I tell him to shut up. I make sure I violently protest. And I walk away.
More Than Church Men
I was in the post office one morning and the man behind the counter decided he needed to instruct me. Apparently I did not know the proper way to address a package. Meanwhile I’ve been doing this my whole life, and I had placed the address directly over the spots instructed on those fancy shmancy post office priority boxes. According to him I was wrong. As he berated me publicly – he met the wrath of a woman who was learning to apologize less and call out shit more. I leaned in across the counter and said, “You are going to need to shut up now. You are pissing me off.” He stepped back a bit, looked me in the eyes, handed me my receipt, but did not say another word.
I felt sorry for him afterwards only because he had come up against a woman finding her NO and her voice and her right to be on this planet. I am not afraid of ME anymore.
Women, we have spent too long allowing it. Allowing ourselves to be muted, silenced, shut down, and apologizing for everything.
While there is not anything wrong with us.
There is certain breed of critical, sexist, entitled church men and men in our culture who are condescendingly ignorant, unkind, and uninformed. Throw in a few token scripture references and they are the god damn experts on all things female, women’s bodies, and Biblical authority.
Everywhere you turn they are making their Biblical authority clear by marking all over the good furniture and drapes.
Not All, But Enough
NOW mind you this is not all churched men or even all men. My hubby, my father – these men are good and kind, compassionate, learning and willing to listen. For all the bad apples there are a host of amazing apples we are blessed to call brother, father, lover, and friend. I am honored to have known many mighty men.
But I have had to navigate the critical, sexist, entitled church man too often. He is right about everything, he doesn’t listen to anyone or anything, he takes in only that which confirms his bias and maintains his footing. The women and children around him need to be handled with a “heavy hand. ”
Patriarchy has taught him after-all that it is within his rights as a father, brother, husband, and church man – to do exactly the things he is doing among us.
Just a Note: Let’s Get Real About Their “Apologies”
And he is rarely going to apologize for it. If they do say, “I am sorry” they offer FALSE APOLOGIES WITH THE WORDS, “BUT, HOWEVER, IF YOU HAD ONLY” attached as they transition into blaming and projecting.
Here’s a fucking hint: if the apology you offer has the words “But, however, if you had only, or YOU are misunderstanding and being manipulated” – THAT IS NOT AN APOLOGY. That is called, “victim blaming and gaslighting and denial.”
That is called, “YOU AREN’T SORRY. NOTHING HAS CHANGED. YOU ARE STILL NOT GETTING IT.”
These wise warriors of the faith instruct often and without apology while we are left apologizing and seething and trying to figure out why we are so mad.
You have a reason to be angry. Your anger is valid. What hurts you is significant. Your hurt matters.
Instead of blaming yourself for being so “unforgiving, bitter, and bitchy” … Let’s learn HOW to Smash the patriarchy.
Tomorrow I will be discussing “How Conservative Christian Women Can Support a Man Like Donald Trump.”
This is part 11 in a series: Confronting My Church Wounds – a series on shifting faith. You can find the rest of the series below:
- Coming Undone
- Pit of Despair
- Healing Takes Time
- The Act of Seeing
- Mean Church Girls
- You are NOT Good Enough
- A Year of Silence
- Evangelicals and the “Gay Agenda”
- I Felt Duped
We have a Facebook Group for those experiencing their own faith shift, church breakup, unfundie awakening, political crisis, feminist journey… Here at Conversations From the Front Porch
Experiencing your own faith shift? Consider this book from Kathy Escobar (affiliate link) Faith Shift: Finding Your Way Forward When Everything You Believe Is Coming Apart