This article has been edited to more clearly reflect an overarching problem instead of a personal attack on an individual. [Edits by Kristin Wileman]
The American church has far to go before we can say we’ve achieved equality within our community. I was reminded of this in a chapel service recently when little respect was displayed in the areas of gender, race and mental health.
So often we forget that the pulpit is a place of power and persuasion. Words that are stated from the platform carry meaning even when they are presented in a joking matter.
Statements that demean people are not okay. Ever. Words are not meaningless. Words shape culture.
Current and future pastors, please don’t let these things be jokes that are used on the platform.
- Gender — Please don’t make jokes about the lacking qualities of men or women.
Jokes of belittling men will continue to permeate the minds of men and make the beautiful blessing of parenthood “woman’s work.” I desperately want to parent someday, and I plan on being thoroughly present in the lives of my children. Disparaging men isn’t how equality can be achieved in the church. Feminism is not a movement to bring down men, but to bring women to an equal level.
- Relationship status — Please understand that jokes about singleness can make people feel invalid as individuals; something that is quite unbiblical.
Recently, an individual was interviewed during chapel. His first question to a student was regarding her love life. My reaction was one of tiredness and frustration with the same-old equation of a person’s worth being tied to a relationship status. I don’t want to wait until I’m married to begin being a useful member of the Kingdom of God. I want to start now.
- Your “hot” wife — Please keep the intimacy in your marriage to yourself.
Allusions of preachers’ honeymoons have recently become commonplace. I believe this is highly unnecessary and can objectify a spouse in a demeaning way. These occasions become stale and can even be stumbling blocks to those dealing with sexual issues.
- Race — Please don’t make wide cultural assumptions.
I once heard a white pastor say he is black on the inside. Immediately was disappointed and hurt. There is more to race than what is skin deep. It also doesn’t make it okay to say racial slurs just because you have a friend who is an ethnic minority. Again, words shape culture.
- Mental health — Please don’t discredit our pain.
Many times the way we discuss mental health causes more harm than good. I’ve heard it said that depression medications should not be part of an authentic Christian’s life or that medications are hindrances instead of steps to healing. I was recently saved from death by the introduction of depression and anxiety medication, so it is difficult to hear crude remarks about those already hurting so badly.
The church can do better, but we must takes steps toward change. In all situations, may this be our mantra: “People will fail you, organizations will guard their territory, but God is faithful.”