Yesterday I’d been going through some new blogs, and I found this post by Roianna over on her blog, “Froianna.” She mentioned how on several occasions she met parking lot preachers, and how they didn’t really care for her indifference to what they were saying. It struck me because the things she mentioned going through her head were things I’ve never had to worry about in my own encounters with people selling their faith. I’m a big white guy, so I have the option of just saying no thanks or even something more colorful to get my point across. And it will be respected.
She – and many women like her – don’t have that luxury.
Part of this comes from church culture. Although women have legal rights, socially churches still are able to keep women out of key leadership roles. Part tradition and part adherence to select Bible verses, many fundagelical churches don’t have women in actual leadership roles. Instead, they’re given auxiliary (read: supporting) roles.
If that wasn’t enough, other church teachings and institutions reinforce the idea that women shouldn’t have healthy boundaries for themselves. Chief among them is the purity myth, which places value in sexual abstinence. Really it’s a gilded cage, which convinces everyone that women are simply waiting to get married, and in return they get some important control over home life. Until they get the privilege of obeying their husbands, they have to obey their fathers and mothers. Somehow, they can’t stand up for their own interests during this time – you need a properly authorized man around to do it.
Lest I forget, some churches still promote the idea that child rearing is solely the domain of women. So, women get to be responsible for young humans while not being fully autonomous. Such a proposition would make any reasonable person feel vulnerable. Too many women probably feel this vulnerability even without having to worry about the safety of their kids.
Some other people don’t have the luxury of saying, “No.”
Kids get to be around Christian social pressures at school and during the summer. I didn’t feel such pressures growing up since I was getting raised in fundagelical subculture, but I realize now how I was subtly reinforcing the dominance of one religion in public. Little things like talking about what happened at church to discussing Christian student groups really lets other kids know they are more socially accepted if they join in them. Fortunately, I had enough stuff to do at church that I didn’t partake in schools, which in the long run probably helped me stay away from the deeper end of the religious pool.
This kind of flies in the face of the alleged persecution Christians claim they have to endure in daily life. The worst thing that happens to them is that they get asked to knock it off around kids, with a lawsuit to reinforce the request if they don’t knock it off. Despite this, you will see churches devoting a lot of time to encouraging children to bring friends to Vacation Bible School, youth events, and other church functions. There, they can learn about how Jesus loves them (without necessarily having to learn about how they’re going to get tortured for eternity if they say no).
It really is still a luxury to say no.
The authority churches confer on (straight) men is staggering. I can be an atheist to complete strangers; I can joke about how I’ve sold my soul to Satan and not have to worry about getting holy water thrown at me. There’s no other authority I have to appeal to in order to tell someone to leave me alone. To me, I can do what I please within certain limitations. The only thing I really have to worry about is dealing with a group of preachers.
Sadly, the luxury I have can’t be extended to other people who might need it. It doesn’t do anything to tell people of faith that everyone needs to be respected when they say, “No.” The whole point is to push boundaries, and this is something that Christians here in the States are going to fight to keep. Otherwise, faith becomes truly voluntary, and they can’t force people to stay in the pews on Sunday.
Until religious people realize it’s not okay to be creepy to people, this will continue to be an unfair luxury that should belong to everyone.