When Seth MacFarlane did his song “We Saw Your Boobs” about Oscar winners and female actresses who no matter how accomplished are reduced to their boobs I thought to myself that though that song would never have been sung in a church it too closely echoed a sentiment among too many churches about women in ministry.
When I read this article Hey John Piper Is my femininity showing? it echoed sadness and frustrations I’ve had for years about how women are often viewed in the church. It reminded me of the question once asked to me by a pastor when I invited him to help me with my preaching. Wearing a then trendy poncho he asked “did you choose that outfit to cover your womanly figure?” He wasn’t asking because he was a concerned pastor worried about me being ashamed of being a woman, he was asking because I happen to be a preacher with boobs.
We saw your boobs- the unspoken sentiment behind all the difficult decisions a woman preacher puts into deciding what to wear to preach in and thought in the back of your mind as you step onto the platform- “will I be seen as nothing more than my body? Will the people listening to me deliver the word of God that I’ve prayed over, studied, and worked hard at reduce me to what I’m wearing or how God has shaped me?” On one end of the spectrum we’ve got someone like John Piper who at times needs to even put down a Bible commentary written by a woman lest thoughts pop into his head about her physically being a woman. Even in an imagination while reading a Bible commentary “we saw your boobs.”
On the other end of the spectrum we’ve got another pastor Mark Driscoll who preaches about sex and describes his “smokin’ hot wife.” First I have to say- mad props to Driscoll for quoting Ricky Bobby from Talledega Nights in a sermon. But that’s about all I’ll give him props for. Recently I also read I’m Sick of Hearing About Your Smoking Hot Wife a response by blogger Mary Demuth about how this attitude though intended to celebrate a healthy and vibrant sex life in marriage it ends up doing the opposite. It ends up objectifying the wife for being nothing more than “smoking hot.” For Mary an abuse survivor the idea of being smoking hot brings up painful memories of how she was objectified and abused as a young girl. Shouldn’t church be a safe place for the many women like Mary who have been raped, abused, ogled or recipients of lewd comments because they are a woman? Even in church while trying to encourage others to have awesome sex with their wives everyone in the congregation is now thinking about Driscoll’s wife Grace’s boobs. Once again “we saw your boobs” this time because your husband is preaching about how smoking hot you are and that presumably includes your lovely lady lumps as Fergie so eloquently sung about. Amazingly Grace herself is an abuse survivor! And yes, I cited an Atheist blog just to underscore how ludicrous this also seems to a person outside the Christian community.
On either end of the spectrum both of these views point to the same messed up, broken view of gender and women in the Christian community. We saw your boobs and we’re going to freak out because you have them and not allow women to preach or look at you directly in the eye. We saw your boobs and hey! they’re smokin’ hot so instead of talking about how you’re a hardworking, resourceful woman like the one described in Proverbs 31 in the Bible we’ll talk about the body that God gave you.
And that is the point my friends; God gave women their bodies. God gave me this body with hazel eyes like my mother, sister and grandmother, genes that are predisposed to diabetes, and yes, I also have boobs. And those boobs served both of my babies well because I was able to nurse them and help them grow into strong children. Yes, I know there are dudes that read my blog but I’m taking a risk to bring up a painful and unspoken area of brokenness so pervasive in the Christian culture. You might think about boobs reading this post but for God’s sake pray and work through any feelings of lust, fear or indifference that comes out. We need you to understand how messed up this is to pray, repent and begin to see that God thought about boobs too. He saw them when he formed me because he created me to look like this. And that’s not bad, shameful, dirty or sinful or meant to be reduced to being smokin’ hot.
If I seem a passionately irked about this issue It’s because I’ve had to suffer both of these attitudes in trying to be obedient to be the preaching evangelist God has called me to be. I’ve had men ogle me because of what I chose to wear when I preached. I’ve had men refuse to look at me when I preach. I’ve had men (and women) make comments about what is modest/fashionable/permissible to wear when I preach. And you know what I’ve concluded? God saw my boobs. And he was pleased because he made me in his image and has the right view of men and women- as his beloved children. Not only did he see my boobs, God saw the brain that he gave me that will earn a Masters Degree from Wheaton this month. God saw my heart that yearns for people to know his love. He saw my ridiculous humor that inspired me to post this self-portrait on facebook last week because like me I knew friends needed a laugh when the news of the Boston bombing was unfolding.
He saw my love of color, art and form and my delight at channeling my creativity into coming up with an aesthetically pleasing outfit to wear when I’m at the playground with my children or when I’m preaching before thousands of people. The conversation about the role of women in the church isn’t simply about who is staying most true to scripture and theology about gender. Lurking behind those vehement conversations and arguments is the unspoken question- “how do men and women relate to one another as embodied beings?” How do we do this to the glory of God and honor the people he has made us to be?” It has got to move beyond legalistic rules and outward objectification.