By / Aug 6

The Senate Armed Services Committee included in its version of the annual defense policy bill a provision that would require women to register with the Selective Service System. All 13 Democrats on the committee voted in favor of the provision, as did eight of the 13 Republicans.

Currently, only “male persons” are required to register with Selective Service within 30 days of their 18th birthday. In order for the Selective Service to be authorized to register women, Congress would have to pass the provision or similar legislation amending the current law.

What is the military draft?

A military draft is a form of conscription in which persons are required to serve in a nation’s military. In ​​the United States, the military draft is officially known as the selective service, and is administered by the Selective Service System.

The Selective Service System is an independent agency within the executive branch of the federal government that is responsible for registering potential draftees and administering the conscription process. The director of Selective Service is appointed by the president of the United States, and the agency is separate from the Department of Defense. Congress authorized the creation of the system and outlined its function in the Military Selective Service Act.

When was the draft used?

The draft has been implemented by the federal government in four conflicts: the Civil War; World War I; World War II; and the Cold War (including the Korean and Vietnam Wars). The draft was also used to fill vacancies in the armed forces from 1940 until 1973, both during times of war and times of peace. The last draft call was on Dec. 7, 1972, and the authority to induct expired on June 30, 1973. The date of the last drawing for the lottery was on March 12, 1975, just prior to the end of the Vietnam War. 

Registration with the Selective Service System was suspended on April 1, 1975, and registrant processing was suspended on Jan. 27, 1976. Registration was resumed in July 1980.

Why aren’t women required to register for the draft?

When draft registration was reimplemented in 1980, President Jimmy Carter asked that women be included. Congress rejected that proposal, saying, “The principle that women should not intentionally and routinely engage in combat is fundamental, and enjoys wide support among our people.”

The next year, a legal challenge to the law was presented in the case of Rostker v. Goldberg. Writing for the the majority, Supreme Court Justice William Rehnquist wrote:

[t]he existence of the combat restrictions clearly indicates the basis for Congress’ decision to exempt women from registration. The purpose of registration was to prepare for a draft of combat troops. Since women are excluded from combat, Congress concluded that they would not be needed in the event of a draft, and therefore decided not to register them.”

The law was challenged again in 1992, 1994, and 1998, but rejected each time because the exclusion of women from combat roles remained in place. However, the Defense Department lifted all sex-based restrictions on military service in 2016, which removed the primary legal justification for excluding women.

The Supreme Court recently declined to take up a case challenging the constitutionality of the all-male draft, citing their expectation that Congress would soon directly resolve the issue.

Do transgender individuals have to register for the draft?

Self-identification with a particular gender is currently irrelevant to the military draft. Selective Service bases the registration requirement on gender assigned at birth and not on gender identity or on gender reassignment.

For example, transgender men — biological females who identify as male — do not have to register for the draft. In contrast, transgender women — individuals who are born male and identify as female — are still required to register. 

Why shouldn’t women be included in the draft?

The primary argument against drafting women is that they should not be forced to serve as combatants since it goes against the creational design of God.

“Throughout history, most men and women—and even children—have recognized the wisdom of not sending our mothers, daughters, and sisters to the battlefield,” notes Joe Carter. “The pattern in the Bible is that when combat is necessary it is men, not women, who bear the responsibility to participate in warfare (Gen. 14:14; Num. 31:3, 21, 49; Deut. 20:5–9,13–14; Josh. 1:14–18, 6:3, 7, 9; 8:3; 10:7; 1 Sam. 16:18; 18:5; 2 Sam. 11:1; 17:8; 23:8–39; Ps. 45:3–5; Song 3:7–8; Isa. 42:13).”

Andrew Walker also notes that military conscription of women makes the thwarting of nature mandatory. “Women are nurturers; not warriors,” says Walker. “That women are delicate, and possess, on average, a smaller frame than men indicate their aptness for less rugged activities, not hand to hand combat. That women cannot comparably handle the physical strain of soldiering isn’t to deny their intrinsic worth and dignity, but to actually esteem it as something different, but equal to a man’s.”

“The Apostle Paul tells his Corinthians listeners to ‘act like men,’” adds Walker, “which assumes that if men are to act like men, there’s a standard for which manliness is measured (1 Corinthians 16:13). This is why in the Bible, the same Bible which provided America with a rich moral ethos, it is considered cowardly, shameful, and embarrassing for men to allow women to engage in a sphere that men are best suited for (Judges 4:9).”

By / Jun 9

When we encounter abuse and grapple with the evil it perpetrates, many people often wonder, “Why doesn’t she just leave?” Sometimes the question comes with the judgment “It’s her fault if she doesn’t” The question is better framed as “Why is she choosing to stay?” There are 4 reasons why I have seen women remain in abusive marriages. As we consider each, I will suggest things Christians can do to support victims.

1. Victims can struggle to see the severity of the abuse or the danger they are in. 

This is very common since oppressors use a cloud of confusion, blame-shifting, and manipulative tactics to maintain control. The result is that victims believe the abuse is their fault, isn’t that bad, or doubt their own memories. Or sometimes, victims wrongly attribute their husband’s behavior to stress, alcohol, problems at work, unemployment, or other factors. Discerning the presence of abuse is hard for everyone- harder for those living amidst it.1Men can be victims of domestic abuse. Male victims will have an even harder time seeing the abuse and getting others to recognize it. Hence, they will face even greater barriers to getting help.

Victims need our help to understand both the dynamics of abuse and the specifics of how they are playing out in their marriage. Here are a few ideas on how to patiently and gently share these critical insights. 

  • You might help a victim track incidents of abuse by keeping a log or encouraging her to journal. 
  • Lead her to see that the abuse always serves a purpose for her spouse- like when he flashes anger, he gets his way. 
  • Show her where scripture calls abusive behaviors sinful and speaks to how oppression violates God’s design for marriage.
  • Complete a safety assessment with her to discern her level of danger.2https://www.dangerassessment.org/uploads/pdf/DAEnglish2010.pdf

It can take months, even years, for her to see what you see, so continue to find creative ways to guide her to make an accurate assessment of her situation. 

2. The victim lacks family, community, and church support

They have likely floated the idea of leaving to their trusted circle or have heard teachings frowning upon divorce. The result is that many victims fear that if they separate from their spouse, their faith community or friends and family will judge them. Not only is it difficult for victims to lose friends and familial relationships, but the disapproval of others often results in paralyzing shame. Sometimes victims already find themselves alone since abusers work to isolate their victims. Being devoid of community means she will not have the support she needs to meet future challenges like single motherhood, income loss, divorce, and healing from trauma. Or worse, suppose her faith community has imprinted on her heart that seeking a divorce is sinful. In that case, she will fear that leaving means even God will not come to her aid.  

This is where faithful friends and church leadership can step in. They can help her search God’s word for what it says about his hate of oppression, his promises to rescue his people from oppressors, examples of godly people (David, Abigail, Paul, and Jesus) fleeing danger or teaching on when divorce is biblical. 

Not only is the church equipped to help her answer her spiritual questions they are also able to bless her with the needed resources and personal support. Diaconal funds are one way a church can help. But they can also provide things like babysitting, prayer support, intentional friendships, or needed guidance with surprises like car repairs. When churches lovingly participate in the rescue of a victim, it showcases the Lord’s heart for her. It also puts it on display for her children and other victims who are similarly wrestling with staying or leaving. 

3. Leaving is the most dangerous time for a woman

Victims instinctively know that if their abuser senses he is losing control, there is the potential for him to go to extremes, which can even mean killing her. In one study, researchers interviewed men who murdered their wives. It found that threats of separation or the act of separation were the precipitating event. Moreover, victims might not just fear for themselves. Many abusers have threatened to kill themselves, the children, or a beloved pet if she leaves. Find out what she is afraid of by asking her directly what she thinks will happen if she goes. You can help connect her to a Domestic Violence expert or shelter.3Contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline for assistance in making connections (www.thehotline.org). You can also find a safety plan in my book, Is It Abuse? They can develop a plan to remain safe both while she remains in the home and if she flees abuse. When there is the potential for danger, leaving can mean going into hiding or taking months to plan. All of this is daunting; hence some women choose not to take risks and remain with their abuser. If she decides to stay, continue to care for her, keep reviewing her safety plan and remind her you are willing to help if there is a day she wants to make the choice to flee. 

4. Leaving abuse is extremely difficult and costly. 

Usually, victims agonize and pray over what to do for weeks, if not months and years. Fleeing abuse brings victims new and intensified challenges with their income, children, stability, and other relationships. So, after thinking over the potential costs to them and their children, they choose to stay. Here are a few reasons why:

  • Financial challenges (Their abuser might control the finances, provide the only income, or have destroyed her credit.)
  • Many women fear leaving their children alone with an abuser as joint custody is usually awarded. Additionally, they may fear of losing custody or anticipation parental alienation
  • The belief that two-parent households are best for children
  • They feel that the good times outweigh the bad times. 
  • They have nowhere to go or lack resources. 
  • The effects of trauma on a victim (depression, anxiety, PTSD) might be overwhelming.
  • They have hope that their spouse will change.
  • They believe that divorce is not an option.
  • Fear of not being believed or that the justice system will not rule in their favor

Seek to understand why a victim is choosing to stay. It is easy to think, “I would never put up with that!” or “I’d be out of there.” But until you live under the crushing terrorizing reality of abuse, you really do not know what you would do. Every choice comes at a steep cost. In some cases, you might be able to help ease the suffering, for instance by helping her find a job or housing. If a victim chooses to stay based upon her convictions or children, she will continue to need your support. 

While these are the four main challenges that impact a women’s decision to stay, they are not exhaustive. But they help us see that any step a woman takes to address her abuse will, at least temporarily, make her and her children’s lives more difficult. The very act of sharing her story with you is a tremendous act of courage. It signals progress is being made as evil is brought into the light. This allows you to connect a victim in her anguish to God regardless of whether she stays or goes. 

I know how hard it is when walking with a victim to fear for her. Pray, and patiently persist with a victim until God grants her clarity. Seek to extend her the same patience that God has extended to you (Ex 34:6, 1Tim 1:16), but also entrust her to God. He is always on the move rescuing his people from oppression (Ps 9:9; 72:4; 103:6; 147:7-9).  

  • 1
    Men can be victims of domestic abuse. Male victims will have an even harder time seeing the abuse and getting others to recognize it. Hence, they will face even greater barriers to getting help.
  • 2
    https://www.dangerassessment.org/uploads/pdf/DAEnglish2010.pdf
  • 3
    Contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline for assistance in making connections (www.thehotline.org). You can also find a safety plan in my book, Is It Abuse?
By / Nov 12

Every person is created in the image of God. The ERLC affirms the biological differences between male and female reflected in God’s creation. God’s design was intended for human good and flourishing (Gen. 1:27). The ERLC upholds the Southern Baptist Convention’s position on gender identity stated in its summary of faith, the Baptist Faith and Message which says “Man is the special creation of God, made in His own image. He created them male and female as the crowning work of His creation. The gift of gender is thus part of the goodness of God’s creation.”

Allowing biological males to participate in female sports is unfair to women and girls. Athletic competition clearly demonstrates the physiological differences between male and female. Biological males possess distinct physical advantages over biological females, which give them an unfair athletic advantage. These biological differences are the purpose of sports, separated by sex. Opening up sports to males hinders females the opportunity to compete and thrive in athletics.

Title IX prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex. Allowing biological men to compete against women and girls disrupts the intent of  Title IX civil rights law. Schools that allow biological males to participate in female sports programs are discriminating against biological females. In order to protect the integrity of women’s sports, only biological females should be allowed to compete.

The ERLC calls on Congress to pass the Protection of Women and Girls in Sports Act of 2021. The Act would clarify that it is a Title IX violation for schools that receive federal education funds to permit biological males to participate in female sports. Congress should protect women and girls by ensuring they are given a fair opportunity to compete in athletics. 

By / Nov 3

The right to vote is at the heart of our nation’s grand pursuit of a more perfect Union. Though restricted at the founding, this right was secured more fully through the dedicated advocacy of suffragettes and civil rights activists. In 2020, we celebrate the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment which secured the right to vote for women.

“The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex. . . . Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.”Amendment XIX, Constitution of the United States of America

On this episode of Capitol Conversations on Election Day 2020, Chelsea Paterson Sobolik commemorates this centennial with interviews covering the history, the role of faith, and the meaning of the Women’s Suffrage movement. The conversations with a historian, a seminarian, and a lawyer also highlight inspirational role models and why it’s important for women to be engaged in the public square.

This episode is sponsored by The Good Book Company, publisher of The Christmas We Didn’t Expect by David Matthis. Find out more about this book at thegoodbook.com

Guest Biography

Andrea Turpin is an Associate Professor of History at Baylor University. She is the author of A New Moral Vision: Gender, Religion, and the Changing Purposes of American Higher Education, 1837-1917. Dr. Turpin received an A.B. at Princeton University, an M.A. at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, and a Ph.D. at the University of Notre Dame. 

Missie Branch is the Assistant Dean of Students to Women and Director of Graduate Life at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary (SEBTS). Years ago, Missie and her husband, Duce, co-planted a church in Philadelphia, PA where she served as a pastor’s wife, a children’s ministry director, and a women’s ministry leader. Missie and Duce have four children.

Palmer Williams is a Founding Partner of The Peacefield Group where she specializes in legal and policy analysis related to international human rights, sanctity of life, non-profit operations and government affairs. She earned her Juris Doctor from Vanderbilt Law School and her B.A. in Political Science and Community Development from Vanderbilt University. Palmer and her husband, Joseph, have two sons, Jack and Henry, and live in Nashville, TN.

Resources from the Conversation

By / Aug 18

“The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex. . . . Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.”

-Amendment XIX, Constitution of the United States of America

Exactly 100 years ago today, on Aug. 18, 1920, America took a leap toward realizing its exceptional ideals when the Tennessee House of Representatives was the 36th state to vote to ratify the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, granting women the right to vote.

The fight for women’s suffrage—for the imago Dei to be recognized and affirmed in half the population of the country founded on the principles of a democratic republic and popular sovereignty—was not a linear one. It took centuries of hard-fought cultural and political battles to achieve. 

The long road to Aug. 18, 1920

In 1776, when the Declaration of Independence was signed and the source of our natural rights was declared to come from our Creator, a radical shift occurred in human history. A government was created and founded upon the inherent dignity and equality of all human beings.  

Or at least that’s what the preamble famously proclaims. 

Yet, in reality, we know that the majority of people living in the colonies were not actually included in this language. Women, the poor, Native Americans, and African Americans were all excluded from this experiment of self-governance because they were all denied the right to vote. 

A simplistic version of American history would make it easy to believe that the fight for women’s suffrage would not begin until after President Jackson expanded the right to vote to poorer white males and the Civil War and Reconstruction expanded the right to vote to African American males. Then, everyone decided it was time to fight for women to have the right to vote.

But the story is much more complex, and more like a Texas two-step, with one step forward, two steps back. Women did have the right to vote in some colonies until state constitutions were adopted after 1776 that denied voting rights to women. The battle for suffrage was an often bitter and heartbreaking one on the long road to Aug. 18, 1920.

The deciding vote in Tennessee

It all culminated in downtown Nashville a couple of blocks from where the offices of the ERLC sit today. After decades of women and men fighting for women to have the right to vote, it all came down to a vote at the Tennessee State Legislature, where the House of Representatives was deadlocked. Hope seemed lost.

Suffragettes wore yellow roses, and their opponents wore red roses. The Hermitage Hotel, a few blocks from the Capitol, was the epicenter of out-of-town activists. Rumors still swirl today, a century later, about backroom deals and bribes. And the fate of every woman in America rested in the hands of 99 men.

The deciding vote was a 24-year-old representative from McMinn County, Tennessee, named Harry Burn. Originally planning on supporting the amendment, he began to vote against motions to bring it to a vote when he received misleading telegrams pressuring him to vote against it due to opposition by his constituents. However, a letter from his mother, Febb Burn, ultimately changed his mind, and the course of history:

“Dear Son, . . . Hurrah and vote for Suffrage and don’t keep them in doubt. I noticed Chandlers’ speech, it was very bitter. I’ve been waiting to see how you stood but have not seen anything yet. . . . Don’t forget to be a good boy and help Mrs. ‘Thomas Catt’ [National American Woman Suffrage Association president] with her ‘Rats.’ Is she the one that put rat in ratification, Ha! No more from mama this time. With lots of love, Mama.” 

On this the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, may we pray for the eyes to see the mission field the Lord has placed us in, the humility to submit ourselves to his wisdom in navigating the precarious waters of contemporary culture and politics, and the courage to don our own proverbial yellow roses to fight for justice and equality for our fellow image-bearers.

And so Harry Burn changed his vote. The Tennessee House of Representatives passed the ratification of the 19th Amendment by a vote of 50-49. Tennessee became the 36th state to ratify it, satisfying the constitutional requirement for ratification and giving women the right to vote.

It’s tempting to believe history changed in that moment with that one mother-son relationship. But the fight for suffrage had begun centuries earlier. Generations of women had fought and seemingly failed in their lifetimes. But God was using their advocacy to plant seeds that would be harvested years later.

Learning from Febb Burn

In 2020, our nation continues to grapple with our past and how it will affect our future. But like the yellow-rose clad suffragettes, we must remember it’s the small, faithful action of many that bend the arc of history toward justice. We can learn something from Febb Burn, who realized her relationship with her son allowed her the opportunity to make a difference, to be persuasive, and to speak truth to those in power. 

As Christians, we are called to faithful lives marked by acting justly, seeking mercy, and walking humbly (Micah 6:8).  As representatives of Jesus, we are required to advocate for what’s right and to do so in the right ways.

On this the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, may we pray for the eyes to see the mission field the Lord has placed us in, the humility to submit ourselves to his wisdom in navigating the precarious waters of contemporary culture and politics, and the courage to don our own proverbial yellow roses to fight for justice and equality for our fellow image-bearers.

By / Jun 24

Last week there was a considerable amount of conversation generated after multiple screenshots of comments posted in a Facebook group began to circulate on the internet. The name of the group is not important, but both the content in question and the makeup of its members is. In the screenshots, very critical comments were captured about Aimee Byrd, the author of Recovering from Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. And judging only from the handful I looked at, the comments were obviously intended to mock and belittle. Moreover, they were mostly posted by men. 

That men would take to social media to openly mock and ridicule a woman is disturbing, but worse still is the reality that a large number of the members of the Facebook group in which it was posted are pastors and ministers. To be fair, many people are members of discussion groups on Facebook and elsewhere that they never even visit. And some of these groups have such active participation that even those who engage more frequently can’t possibly be held responsible for the content or comments featured in every post.

But with those caveats aside, the issue is bigger than a small number of men attacking a woman on the internet. Consider for a moment, why some would object to Byrd’s work. In her books and other writings, Byrd questions a lot of established norms. Though she remains substantially aligned with more conservative positions on the roles of men and women in the church, her work has challenged practices that (she believes) wrongly portray Scripture’s teaching in this area and stifle the ability of women to utilize the gifts God has blessed them with. And in making her case and criticizing the status quo—specifically among conservative Reformed evangelicals—she has also criticized things this group holds in esteem. 

Byrd, for instance, has been a vocal critic of the Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW), which is perhaps the main exponent of complementarian theology. But more than criticizing the organization, she has leveled specific criticisms at the theology undergirding portions of CBMW’s approach to gender roles and has at certain points questioned the orthodoxy of theologians like John Piper and Wayne Grudem.

Markers of fear and immaturity

Anytime a person questions an established norm they can expect pushback. And it’s generally true that the more significant the object of one’s criticism is, the more intense the pushback will be. When it comes to Byrd’s work, I have found myself challenged by her criticisms but largely in step with those she criticizes. But honestly, I wasn’t surprised by the kinds of mean and misogynistic comments that were leveled toward her, not because those kinds of things are acceptable, but because they are easily explained. In this case, the personal attacks that were leveled at Byrd can be explained, at least in part, by the same reasons that similar attacks are often wielded against other women in conservative theological circles.

Belittling, demeaning, or in this case, making a public spectacle of one’s ideological opponent is more than some kind of cathartic exercise. The truth is that all of us are more fragile than we like to pretend. And when we feel attacked, the natural response is to seek to protect ourselves. Often, when we turn to insult rather than engage someone who questions our beliefs, it’s about reassuring ourselves that we have taken up the right cause. Mocking an opponent instead of engaging their ideas is a way of saying to ourselves and those we agree with, “Look at them. They couldn’t possibly be right. Right?” 

That kind of behavior is a marker of fear and immaturity. It’s a way to stay safe in the retreat position. Besides, if you never actually engage someone you disagree with, you’ll never lose. Not only that, but sometimes we’re threatened by more than a person’s ideas. Sometimes it’s their popularity we find intimidating. We’re concerned too many people are coming under their influence, so we take every opportunity to tear them down in hopes that others would be too ashamed to be associated with such a controversial person or group.

No pass for disobedience

But whether one is surprised or not by this behavior, the point is that none of this conduct is becoming of a Christian. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus taught those gathered before him to treat others as they desire to be treated (Matt. 7:12). We know those words as the golden rule. And for most of us, they have grown familiar, as though it were Christianity 101. But what is so interesting to me is that many of us tend to act as though the longer we’ve been in the faith, the less important these “elementary” teachings are. In reality, this could not be further from the truth. A believer never gets a pass for disobedience, no matter how many theology books one has read or acts of service one has rendered.

Byrd deserves an apology. And she’s not the only one. No matter how embattled a person or group may feel, if they claim to be followers of Jesus, there is never just cause to treat another person with anything less than the dignity and respect every image-bearer deserves. If anything, this standard is raised even higher when it comes to our brothers and sisters in Christ  (1 John 3:14). And certainly this kind of charity and respectful engagement should be modeled by those in Christian leadership, especially if one believes (as I do) that God reserves specific pastoral and leadership functions for men. Believing this means men are called not only to protect women, but to show honor to them as well. And in this case men failed in spectacular fashion.

Aimee Byrd is not my enemy. She is my sister in Christ, and the cruel treatment she’s been subjected to is wicked and inexcusable. Those with the courage to put forward ideas and offer constructive, if critical, feedback will help make the church stronger. Man or woman, those who would speak and act in good faith, even when it dissents from the status quo, deserve to have their voices heard and their words taken seriously. They don’t deserve to become a punchline, and certainly do not deserved to be mocked or ridiculed on the basis of their sex or appearence.

Seeing this play out on the internet ought to give each of us pause. The sinful desire to mock or shame our opponents is not limited to men or to those with certain theological beliefs. It runs through all of us. We are broken, sinful, and fragile people. We want not only to protect ourselves, but for people to think well of us. But if we are a part of the family of God, we are called to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us (Matt. 5:44) and turn the other cheek when we are wronged or mistreated (Matt. 5:39). And if we can do those things, surely we can love and bear with one another even in the midst of disagreement.

By / Jan 7

What resources would you recommend to women who desire to learn theology in the midst of everyday life?

By / Dec 17

Katie McCoy shares how pastors and leaders can better utilize women's giftings throughout the church. 

By / Aug 13

The portrayal of women in the Gospels—particularly in Luke’s Gospel—is stunningly countercultural. Luke constantly pairs men with women, and when he compares the two, it is almost always in the woman’s favor. Before Jesus’s birth, two people are visited by the angel Gabriel and told they are going to become parents. One is Zachariah, who becomes John the Baptist’s father. The other is Jesus’s mother, Mary. Both ask Gabriel how this can be. But while Zachariah is punished with months of dumbness for his unbelief, Mary is only commended. The prominent role of women in Luke continues as Mary and her cousin Elizabeth prophesy over Jesus in the womb, and as a prophet (Simeon) and a prophetess (Anna) prophesy over the infant Jesus. 

The adult Jesus consistently weaves women into his preaching. In his first sermon, he enrages his audience with two Old Testament examples of God’s love reaching beyond the Jews: one is a woman, the other is a man (Luke 4:25–27). In Luke 15, the female-oriented parable of the lost coin is nestled between the male-oriented parables of the lost sheep and the lost (or prodigal) son. In Luke 18, the female-oriented prayer parable of the persistent widow is paired with the male-oriented prayer parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector. Even as he approaches crucifixion, Jesus stops to address female mourners (Luke 23:27–31). In a male-dominated culture, his attention to women throughout his preaching is remarkable. 

This male-and-female thread works its way through Luke’s healing accounts. First, Jesus heals a man with an unclean spirit (Luke 4:33– 35). Then he heals Simon’s mother-in-law (Luke 4:38–9). In chapter 7, Jesus heals a centurion’s servant and then raises a widow’s son, out of compassion for the grieving mother. In chapter 8, Jesus heals a man with a demon, then a bleeding woman, and then a synagogue ruler’s daughter. Jesus’s last healing in Luke is of a woman with a disabling spirit. She praises God. When the male synagogue ruler objects, Jesus calls him a hypocrite and reminds him of the woman’s status as a “daughter of Abraham” (Luke 13:16–17). 

Jesus’s elevation of women as moral examples is yet more striking. In Luke 7, he is dining at Simon the Pharisee’s house, when a “sinful woman” (likely a prostitute) disrupts the party. She weeps on Jesus’s feet, wipes them with her hair, and anoints him with ointment. Simon is appalled: surely if Jesus were a prophet, he would know this woman is utterly unworthy of touching him! But Jesus turns the contrast on its head and holds this woman up as an example to shame Simon. In cultural terms, Simon has every advantage. He is a man; she is a woman. He is religiously admired; she is despised. He’s hosting a dinner party; she is a weeping, prostrate embarrassment. But according to Jesus, she surpasses Simon on every count (Luke 7:36–50). Jesus elevates another low-status woman as a moral example in Luke 21, when he commends the poor widow for her gift of two small copper coins. In Jesus’s eyes, this offering exceeds the much larger gifts the rich are putting in the offering box (Luke 21:1–4). 

Jesus’s valuing of women might seem to be compromised by his choice of twelve male apostles, mirroring the twelve tribes of Israel. But Luke emphasizes the women who followed Jesus too: “The twelve were with him, and also some women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, and Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod’s household manager, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for him out of their means” (Luke 8:1–3 mg.). Like Jesus’s male disciples, these women were in for the long haul (see Luke 23:49, 56). They were there at the beginning of Jesus’s ministry and at the end. But can these women legitimately be called disciples? 

Jesus answers that question for us in Luke 10 when we first meet two of Jesus’s female friends: Mary and Martha. Martha is playing a traditionally female role, serving her guests, while her sister Mary is assuming a traditionally male role, sitting at Jesus’s feet with the other disciples. Martha asks Jesus to correct this, to tell Mary to get up and help with the serving. But Jesus affirms Mary: “Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:42). 

Luke’s final comparison surrounds Jesus’s resurrection. In Luke 24, some of his female disciples visit the tomb to anoint his body. There, they encounter angels who announce the resurrection. The women report this to the apostles, who don’t believe them. Peter runs to the tomb to check the facts. But even then, they are not convinced. When two male disciples meet Jesus on the road to Emmaus, they recount the women’s tale but do not seem to have absorbed it. Jesus rebukes them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken!” (Luke 24:25). 

Luke is not the only Gospel to elevate women. In a moving account in John, Jesus shocks his disciples by crossing ethnic, religious, gender, and moral boundaries to talk with a sexually compromised Samaritan woman, who becomes an evangelist to her people (John 4:1–30). Later, Jesus saves a woman caught in adultery from being stoned, forcing her male accusers to acknowledge that they are not morally superior to her (John 8:7). Then, in John 11, we see Jesus’s tender interaction with Martha and Mary after the death of their brother, Lazarus. Jesus speaks some of his most famous recorded words to comfort Martha, and then cries with her and her sister before miraculously raising Lazarus from the dead.8 In Matthew 9, Jesus commends the faith of a woman suffering from unrelenting menstrual bleeding who touched him to be healed. In Matthew 19 he protects women from unwarranted divorce, which would in many cases leave them destitute. 

Jesus’s valuing of women is unmistakable. In a culture in which women were devalued and often exploited, it underscores their equal status before God and his desire for personal relationship with them. 

Content taken from Confronting Christianity by Rebecca McLaughlin, ©2019. Used by permission of Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, Il 60187, www.crossway.org.

By / Aug 5

“Christian women are the most persecuted group in the world.” 

The first time I heard that statistic, I was sitting safely at church in Washington, D.C. David Curry, the president of Open Doors USA, came to speak about the plight of persecuted believers around the world. As he shared their stories, my heart was deeply grieved as I learned about how women and girls are doubly persecuted for their faith and their gender.

The founder of Open Doors USA, “Brother Andrew” earned the nickname “God’s Smuggler,” for his work smuggling Bibles into countries where it was illegal to own a Bible. One of the most notable stories was early in his ministry, where he successfully smuggled Bibles across the border into communist Romania. This small Eastern European country was my birthplace. I was born a little over a year after communism fell, but my time in Romania was brief, as I was adopted into an American family. I didn’t grow up under religious persecution, but I have friends in Romania who have shared vivid stories of their time under communism and the persecution the country faced for decades.

Religious persecution isn’t a thing of the past, ceasing when communism ended. Christians are heavily persecuted in many areas of the world. One in nine Christians will experience high levels of persecution, and gender-specific discrimination and persecution is rampant throughout the world.

The United Nations estimates that approximately 200 million girls are missing from the world due to sex-selective abortions, abandonment, or intentional murder. In addition to the millions of females that are missing, women and girls are routinely abused and mistreated, physically and sexually.

The definition of “gender discrimination” is simple, but the issue is complex.

India

An area of the world that’s of particular concern is the country of India. Approximately 239,000 girls under the age of five die in India each year due to neglect, simply because they are girls. Over the past decade, 2.4 million girls have lost their chance at life, either being abandoned, or murdered, because their families didn’t want another female. If a girl does manage to survive, Indian girls routinely receive less education, have poorer nutrition, and receive less medical attention than boys. The plight of Indian women is heartbreaking; one-third of women are illiterate, there are no laws preventing spousal rape, young women become child brides, and sex-selective abortion and female infanticide are common practices.

An Indian woman, interviewed for a documentary titled “It’s a Girl,” tells how she murdered eight of her children, because they were born female. After she gave birth, she tells about how she’d strangle her daughters after they were born.

Many families feel like they have no choice but to kill their daughters. In their minds, they justify quickly killing the child, instead of allowing her to grow up in extreme poverty, or having to come up with the money for a dowry.

Another horrible practice in India is dowry deaths. A “dowry death” is the murder or suicide of a married woman becaue of a dispute over her. Last year, an estimated 87,000 women were killed in dowry deaths around the world, and 50,000 of those women were killed by their spouse or family members. Women commit suicide, or are murdered by their husbands or in-laws for not meeting dowry demands. In India, it’s also more difficult for “ugly and handicapped girls” to get married, because the groom’s family would demand larger dowries. This practice is technically illegal in India, but is rarely prosecuted. Dowry deaths make the home one of the most dangerous places for women to be in the world.

China

The country with the most notable population of girls missing is China. The two most populous nations on earth, India and China, eliminate more girls each year than the number of girls that are born in the United States. Prospective parents prefer sons above daughters, and Chinese girls are routinely aborted, abandoned, or end up in orphanages. In 1979, the Chinese government instituted the “One Child Policy.” Under that restrictive policy, families that had more than one child were at risk of having their wages reduced, or losing social services.

In parts of the world, particularly in China and India, some of the deadliest words are “It’s a girl.” Sex-selective abortion affects girls disproportionately, and in many places, it’s legal to abort a child if they happen to be the unfavorable gender: female. The term “gendercide” describes this practice. In China, the men outnumber the women by 33 million, and in India, a girl is aborted every minute.

Other Forms of Gender Persecution

Another form of gender persecution is female genital mutilation, which is a removal of some or all of the female genitalia for nonmedical reasons. The humiliating procedure is most often performed on girls between birth and 15 years old. It’s estimated that more than 200 million girls and women have been subject to this cruel process. The traumatic event, often including being physically restrained while the procedure takes place, will emotionally affect women for the rest of their lives.

An issue that’s received attention over the past few years is the issue of human trafficking. According to the International Labour Organization, there are an estimated 40.3 million victims of human trafficking globally, and 75 percent are women and girls.

The issues highlighted so far are just a few of dozens of examples where women and girls are discriminated against, and persecuted because of their gender.

Christian women and persecution

Let’s zoom in a little further, and talk about the plight that Christian women face around the world. Women are already discriminated against because they are women, but when they are found to be Christians, the suffering and persecution against them increases. Christian women are doubly persecuted. 

Christian persecution is growing globally. In 2019, an estimated 245 million Christians will experience high levels of persecution because of their faith. This is a 14 percent increase from last year. One of the trends from the Open Doors USA annual “World Watch List” report is that women are an increasing target. It’s important that we recognize how vulnerable our sisters are around the world, especially in the parts of the world where women already face such strong gender discrimination. In Nigeria, the terrorist group Boko Haram captured a 15-year-old woman, killed her father, and then repeatedly raped her because she refused to renounce her faith. Sadly, her story is common in countries with high levels of persecution. 

The Bible on gender discrimination

As Christians, we uphold the truth that all people are created in the image of God—both male and female. Scripture is clear that men and women should be treated with the same levels of dignity and respect. Nowhere in the Bible do we see that one sex is superior to the other. Instead, we see our Savior upholding the dignity of women during his ministry on earth.

Women in ancient culture were vulnerable and mistreated. In a patriarchal society, the prayers of Jewish men included a prayer of thanksgiving, “Praised be God that he has not created me a woman.” Some Jewish writers taught that women should never leave the home, except to go to the synagogue.

Jesus’ treatment of women was countercultural. In one of the most remarkable stories in the Gospels, we see Jesus tenderly interact with the woman at the well. Not only was he speaking with a woman in public, she was also a Samaritan. Cultural protocol dictated that Samaritans and Jews didn’t interact, much less a Jewish man interacting with a Samaritan woman. Scripture doesn’t name the woman, but it doesn’t have to, because Jesus did something more important. The Samaritan woman came to the well in the middle of the day, when she thought no one would notice her drawing water. She was an outcast of society, shamed for her promiscuous behavior, yet in her conversation with Jesus, he treats her with kindness and interacts with her honestly. He doesn’t shy away from addressing her sin, but offers her living water.

What can we do?

So, how can we follow Jesus’ lead? 

Pray. Our first and most important action should be to pray for our persecuted sisters across the world. Our prayers deeply matter, and we can be a part of actively advocating for our sisters around the world through our prayers. 

  • Pray that persecution against women and girls would cease. 
  • Pray that the Lord would change the hearts of those doing the persecuting,
  • Pray for healing for girls and women who have experienced discrimination.
  • Pray that cultures would begin to value women.

Christians should help reimagine a world where it would be unthinkable that any woman is persecuted because of her sex. We should help raise awareness on this issue and speak on behalf of our sisters around the world. 

A practical step is to prayerfully consider whether the Lord is leading your family to adopt. There are thousands of girls that are eligible for adoption in countries such as India and China. If your family isn’t called to adopt, perhaps you can help financially support another family who is called to adopt. 

The statistics in this article are hard to comprehend, and heartbreaking. But may they propel us to our knees and into action for our vulnerable sisters around the world. 

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