Equal but Different?! Mark Discoll, Pornography, and Co-Ed Friendship

A few years back I was pumping gas at my car on the way home from a meeting. As I waited for gas to fill the tank, I opened up a link on my phone to a popular Christian blogger’s post.

I was trying to find something to take my mind off a coffee date I had just had with a woman who had been sexually assaulted. Her story was like many others I had heard from my Christian sisters. A young girl raped by a man who was surprised she considered it rape. Rape? She wanted it. He knew she wanted it. How could she not want him? Her “no” was a “please.” Her lifeless body that resulted from the drug he slipped in her drink was her permission.

“Boys will be boys” is what many would say, but the driving force behind that violent act was this man’s view of women. He saw this woman as a sexual object he could use for his pleasure and purpose.

I remember still replaying our conversation in my mind while the link loaded on my phone. It was another story of a pastor who had an affair and lost his ministry as a result. I read along listening to good warnings by the blogging author when I came to a sentence that stopped me…

The author mentioned, to avoid sexual sin, that if his very own secretary was on the side of the road in a broken down vehicle he would drive past her, go to the church, pick up another person, and go back to help.

I couldn’t believe it. Do Christian men really view women this way? Are we really nothing more then sexual objects to the point that you can’t be alone with us without being “tempted” to seduce us? Are women really so sexualized that they can’t receive godly encouragement from a man without being tempted to seduce them?

While infidelity is much different than sexual assault, the attitude that the pastor held about woman had some similar connections to the young man who raped the girl. Both scenarios fit into a broader culture that objectifies, sexualizes, and dehumanizes women.

Instituting a “don’t be friends” or “don’t be alone with women” policy will not fix the problem of how men and women relate to one another. The problem here is a broken view of sexuality. Women, even women in the church, are viewed as sexual objects to be used for man’s pleasure and purposes. It is why women use their sexuality to gain power and why men exploit it for their pleasure.

There has been much ink spilled on “biblical manhood and womanhood” but what is getting lost in the discussion is not that women are acting masculine or men are acting feminine. The problem is that women are considered nothing more than sexual objects created for the pleasure and purposes of men. We are far from men’s equal.

Its time to practice what we preach.

One of the most often repeated phrases I hear in complementarian argument is: “equal, but different.”

But are women really considered equal to men, even in our differences? This is a clever way to sum up the argument of complementariansim, but I don’t see this really playing out practically.

I think it is time to put that statement to the test.

If complementarians really believe women are equal but different then the stream of Christian community I swim in needs to speak more boldly on issues related to women and gender. If they don’t, not only do they contribute to the brokenness of sexuality in our culture, but a generation from now they will find educated passionate young people struggle to find a place in a community of Christians 80 years behind their times when it comes to gender.

We can stay true to our convictions on how we believe Scripture speaks to gender roles without resembling a 1920s approach to femininity. It’s time we start being known for how we equip, empower, and champion women.

Here are three ways I think the current culture of whatever you want to label the group I’m talking about (A29/TGC/ Reformed) could improve and really live out the “equal” part of their argument:

1) Stop promoting men in your tribe that are sexists just because their ministry is growing

Why did millions of Christians give leaders like Mark Driscoll a “pass” for being horrifically sexist. Because they are in theological alignment with us? Because they are in our “tribe”? Because they make us laugh in sermons? Because something they said convicted and challenged us?

Its ironic and sad that what really amped up the criticism of Mark Driscoll was plagiarism and not his sexism. I guess that speaks to what this stream of Christianity finds most valuable.

Mark Driscoll annoyed me. What saddened and frustrated me was the decade of near silence that came from the rest of the A29/TGC world on how his beliefs about gender are directly tied to a culture that subjugates women and objectifies them.

2) Stop looking at porn

I read this recently in Orphan Justice:

“In 2012 there were 20.9 million people forced into sex labor worldwide, 26% children…. In 2007 slave traders brought in more money then Starbucks, Google, and Nike combined”

Those above statistics are the consequences of our culture’s objectification of women. When you look at pornography, you are more likely then not watching the tormenting sexual abuse of a child trafficked. What if it was your daughter? Pornography is more then sexual sin against just your own body.

It’s sexual assault against a vulnerable child.

Leave it to the enemy to trick Christians into thinking that their sinful habits are only hurting themselves or their households.

The reality is pornography is far from a private sin. It is public. You turn your computer on and give the funds necessary for 20.9 million people, many of which are children, to be sexually trafficked. You are funding a public sexual slave trade.

You are unable to view women as your equal while you participate in the public sexual slave trade that is the pornography industry. As long as our naked bodies are purchased through your bandwidth for whatever your imagination wants to do with them, we cannot be your equals. You will have power over us and you will enjoy that power. It will inform your attitude about us. It will inform your wives’ and daughters’ attitudes about themselves. It is a sin that brings out the ugliness of manhood in a time when the world needs Christian men to be showing Christ’s beauty.

3) Be friends with us & do ministry with us

I have read too many stories of advice on why Christian men and women cannot be friends with each other. The reason why men and women can’t be friends is because of the inability for men and women to relate to each other biblically.

This is why there are stories of pastors leaving their secretary on the side of the road in a broken down car.

It is biblical for men and women to have friendship. Instead of creating rules and regulations to keep men and women at a distance from one another, teach them to relate biblically to one another.

Scripture calls us to relate to one another as brothers and sisters.

Would you be tempted to hook up with your biological sister because you spent too much time talking to her after church? Would you be tempted to seduce your biological brother because he stopped to help you when your car was broken down on the side of the road? If we truly related to each other in biblical terms, there would be no safer place in the world to have co-ed friendships then the church. But because women are sexual objects… there is fear.

If you cannot have a friendship with a member of the opposite sex without thinking sexual thoughts then repent. Repent of your broken view of gender and sexuality. Repent and ask Jesus to biblically inform your view of gender and teach you how to be a brother or a sister.

Conclusion

I can honestly say that I have approached the gender debate with cynicism and at times a chip on my shoulder, but I am thankful for a marriage and a Christian community where I have been able to work through all this and can practice: “equal, but different” in every sense of the word. I am thankful to participate in a church community where women’s intelligence, spiritual gifting, and strengths are not an assault to men’s ability to lead and serve. I pray and hope to see Christians on the cutting edge of influencing our culture to stop objectifying women and instead to value the deep worth in women. 

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About dennaepierre

I am the executive director of The Surge Network and am the founder and president of Foster Care Initiatives (www.fostercareinitiatives.org). Most of my foster care/adoption related blogging has been moved to that site. This is my personal blog that I use to reflect on aspects of theology, culture, and our day-to-day life that includes being married to the pastor of Roosevelt Community Church, having a house full of kiddos (biological, adopted, and foster teens), and living in downtown Phoenix.
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4 Responses to Equal but Different?! Mark Discoll, Pornography, and Co-Ed Friendship

  1. I love reading your point of view however, my husband and I have chosen not to be alone with people of the opposite sex if we can help it. There are times it has happened and it hasn’t been a big deal but we don’t want to leave room for anyone to assume any wrongdoing. I hope more people respond I would love to read different opinions.

    • dennaepierre says:

      Thanks LeeAnah. I just wrote part two to this post that gives some more insight on this. I think every couple has to work it out and do what they feel comfortable with. I think if you are in the workforce, you have to interact and be alone with the opposite sex. There are wise and unwise ways to do it. And if we can do it in the workforce, then why not in the church? If anything, the church should be a safer place to do it. but you have to use wisdom (let me know your thoughts on post two) 🙂

  2. brooksimage says:

    Dennae,

    I appreciate your though-provoking article. It stimulates me to think about how my “tribal” theology influences me and those around me. I would like to briefly interact with three of the points that you raised.

    First, you said, if I understand you correctly, our “brand” of theology (meaning Acts 29 Network and The Gospel Coalition) has a tendency to promote leaders whose views are sexist. I can buy that. Some might disagree. I I agree that we shouldn’t “promote,” “idolize,” or “excuse” leaders who promote sexist viewpoints. This is a sore spot for our brand of evangelicalism which has been highlighted by others (e.g. Ben Corey in one of his articles on Patheos.com says that evangelicalism has a penchant for treating women poorly to say it mildly). It’s definitely worth considering how our tendency to promote and elevate leaders whose theology is in line with our general historic tenets skews our evaluation of their view of women.

    Second, pornography DOES NOT promote healthy views of women. I appreciate the way you framed how looking at pornography fuels the sex trade. John so and so might think viewing pornography is harmless, but he wouldn’t want his twelve year-old daughter, Jennifer, abused in such a way. Actions have consequences. John shouldn’t view pornography in the privacy of his bedroom because, as you said, “it’s sexual assault against an innocent child.” I can’t speak for the women, but, I can for men. Let’s stop looking at porn guys. It does not help us view women positively.

    Third, the writer (whom I’ve met before) said, concerning women, “be friends with us and do ministry with us.” I like where she’s going with this. I like how she deconstructed the pastor’s illustration. Would the Good Samaritan have passed by if the person assaulted on the way to Jericho was a female? Jesus quoted Isaiah as saying that we worship God in vain when we teach as doctrines the commandments of men (Matt 15:9).
    The idea that men and women should be comfortable around one another and serve in ministry together shouldn’t seem so far-fetched. Boundaries are wise, but don’t necessarily need to be taken to the extreme. I would like to see more dialogue on this one. Can men and women be friends without one person liking the other and so on? It’s an interesting question that will continue to get debated.

    Keep using your voice Dennae. I respect your clear, strong voice. I look forward to reading more in the future. Peace.

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