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Coffee and Culture: Is Christianity Sexist?

Jessica Henry
Student Writer

christianitysexistStudents gathered in the South Side Café Thursday night for coffee and conversation about a recent hot topic in America. The event, hosted by the SAB, featured a panel of four, including a Messiah professor, two staff members and one student. This event was the first of a series that will provide students with an opportunity to engage with different aspects of American culture and how they relate to Christianity.

Abigail McBride, cultural engagement executive and vice president for SAB, introduced the event by saying the night would be about questioning some of the ways that Christianity describes maleness and femaleness. She recalled how, in her Bible and theology classes, God is almost always referred to as “He” and how that made her uncomfortable.

To start the discussion, theology professor Dr. Richard Crane clarified that to have the conversation, everyone first had to decide what is meant by the term “Christianity.”

Crane stated, “In reality, Christianity is what happens in communities of Christian believers in their interactions about Scripture.” He noted that there are sometimes vast differences between groups. He used the example of a Roman Catholic parish in 13th century France and a Pentecostal community in Brazil to illustrate his point.

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Students and faculty discuss how sexism relates to the culture of Christianity on Wednesday night in South Side Cafe. Photo courtesy of Jessica Henry.

Crane then made the judgment that “for the most part, Christianity has been sexist in that it has privileged men over women.”

However, he expressed hope that God can transcend humans’ hierarchical structures: “I think there are ways to read the story of Jesus as rushing towards this incredible affirmation of the full humanity of everybody,” Crane said.

Counselor and Program Director for Educational Programs, 6th Day Sexuality, & Male Character Development, Michael Blount weighed in on the gendered expectations that he has witnessed in Christian culture. He talked about the expectation that exists for wives to stay home with their kids while husbands go to work in order to earn money for the family. “In church culture in North America, you fully arrive as a couple when the woman can be at home with the children,” Blount said. “This creates depression, anxiety, and friction in marriages.”

“In church culture in North America, you fully arrive as a couple when the woman can be at home with the children,” Blount said. “This creates depression, anxiety and friction in marriages.”

On the other hand, Blount mentioned the pressure that exists for men to be successful by providing for their family. “Men are very sensitive to failure because of the pressure society puts on them,” Blount stated.

Leslie Giboyeaux, a senior biblical and religious studies and ethnic and area studies double major, added her thoughts to the panel by discussing her research of feminist theology. She talked about how her view of God’s power changed from needing to refer to God as ‘He’ to viewing God as having complete authority. “While it is a fun exercise to refer to God as ‘She,’ I don’t think it will fix sexism,” Giboyeaux said.

McBride concluded the night by encouraging audience members to look out for information about the next event in the series, “Lemonade and Culture,” during which participants will view and discuss Beyoncé’s Lemonade album. Be sure to watch out for this event towards the end of October!

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