Homogenized Religion, Inc. – Where Are The Women?

A friend who heads up a Contemporary Christian Record Label tweeted this Saturday: “@RandyElrod You may have seen this article. Couldn’t help but think about your book Sex, Lies & Religion.”

Upon reading the very intriguing Christianity Today article, I was thankful I had included (and thoroughly researched) Chapter 6 in my book, “The Lie About Sexual Equality.”

Here are the startling facts:

  • – Of Billboard’s top ten Christian artists of the past decade zero were female.
  • – Out of a full ten years of songs, 48 of the top 50 Christian songs (96 percent) were performed by males.

A Fear of Sensuality?

Jenny Simmons, the female lead singer for Addison Road has a theory: Worship music is hugely popular today, and most worship leaders are men. Simmons thinks many listeners see female worship leaders as some sort of threat.

“I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had people come up to me after a performance and say, ‘I was very, very uncomfortable having a female onstage when we worshiped. I’ve never seen that before.’

“There is a fear of sensuality and sexuality within the church,” Simmons continues. “We don’t know how to handle it. I don’t think there is any way to extricate what is raw and passionate about creating music and being on stage. At least for me, there’s a huge vulnerability being up there.”

Simmons notes that many secular female artists use their sexuality onstage, and fears that passion about music in a Christian female performer might be misinterpreted. She also notes a double standard when it comes to fashion. “I’m a very modest dresser, but I hear people all the time say, ‘That’s an inappropriate outfit.'” She wonders how often people complain to male artists about their attire?

A program director at a large Christian radio station thinks that the implied role of artist as spiritual leader creates a gender difference. He suggests that women want to be spiritually led by men, so they are more receptive to male artists.

Another popular female artist takes the thought a step further. “I have been on tour with some of CCM’s most sought-after bachelors, and there is a lot of pent-up longing out there,” she notes, speaking of females in concert and radio audiences. “The single, tender-hearted songwriter boy represents something that is very hard to find.”

Sex, Lies & Religion: The Lie About Sexual Inequality

“When it comes to promoting full equality of the sexes, religion has a decidedly mixed reputation. Organized religion’s treatment of women throughout the ages has been little different than secular culture. In general, religious women have derived their identity through males and are most often prized for their reproductive capabilities.

A study of Mary, the mother of Jesus, reveals a figure that has been socially and sexually constructed (primarily by men) in such a way that her traditional titles of handmaid of the Lord, virgin, and mother have come to be controlling images in the Christian feminine ideal.

Granted, I understand religion is only one of the vehicles of sexual inequality. The true origin of inequality is sin. The sad reality is that at some levels of consciousness, most religions and men view women as objects to be repressed and controlled. Unfortunately, its not just religion.

The media have played a particularly insidious role in promoting sexual inequality. The general conclusion of myriad studies is that the media often focus on the body and appearance as the most important components of sexual distinction. Throughout U.S. culture, and particularly in mainstream media, women and girls are depicted in a sexualizing manner.

The lyrics of many recent popular songs sexually objectify women or refer to them in highly degrading ways, or both. Some examples include the following:

“So blow me bitch I don’t rock for cancer/I rock for the cash and the topless dancers.” (Kid Rock, 1998)
“Don’tcha wish your girlfriend was hot like me?” (Pussycat Dolls, 2005)
“That’s the way you like to f*** . . . rough sex make it hurt, in the garden all in the dirt.” (Ludacris, 2000)
“I tell the hos all the time, Bitch get in my car.” (50 Cent, 2005)
“Ho shake your ass.” (Ying Yang Twins, 2003)

Both religious objectification and sexual objectification of women seem to be two threads in the same strand. That strand leads back to the three major Western religions—Christianity, Islam, and Judaism. As the thread unravels, there seems to be a direct correlation: The more conservative the sect or branch, the less equality for women.

These threads of objectification have turned women into a religious thing. Remember that one may define “thing” as one dimensional, incapable of independent thought, autonomous decision-making and self-sufficiency. Religious objectification is a consequence of the need for alpha male leadership to demonize and marginalize women to solidify the controlling power of the religious hierarchy.

Now, that’s a lot of fancy words to say basically that the preachers and other religious heads got together and said, “Let’s eliminate the competition (read: women) by convincing everyone that women are inferior, subservient and useful only for beauty, labor, and reproduction.” The post-modern version of this imperative is “keep all women in their place by grouping them with other sexualized women in Bible Study cliques, as makers and teachers of children, and as pretty singers since they have nothing of value to offer religious male leadership who have been appointed as God’s intermediaries.”

When women are seen exclusively as sexualized beings rather than multi-dimensional persons with many interests, talents, and identities, men have difficulty relating to them on any other than surface level. This dramatically limits the opportunities men have to interact spiritually and intellectually with women, to create with them, to work together for higher causes (e.g., leadership), or to enjoy their company as equals. It also promotes unhealthy sexual relationships.

Only by understanding the unity and diversity of the sexes do we begin to fathom male and female distinctions and the mystery inherent in sexual equality and communion. Dr. Louis Markos describes this paradox of unity and diversity as, “a fittedness of the sexes; both are distinct, both are equally created in the image of God, and yet both belong together.”

There is danger in viewing a human being as a thing, rather than the miraculous interrelation of body and soul that God originally created. Unfortunately, it is the female sex that has suffered the majority of harm from sexual, self, and religious inequality.

Thoughts?



103 Responses to “Homogenized Religion, Inc. – Where Are The Women?”

  1. Could it be one of the biggest issues in this area is not women and their sexuality but men and their inability to healthily embrace their own sexuality? It is always easier to project the internal failures outward – and Christians seem to use scripture to justify such failures. The quote “‘I was very, very uncomfortable having a female onstage when we worshiped..” though a valid feeling, tends to be more a way of saying, “I don’t approve.” And I would add, (if they were honest,) “I am not comfortable with my own sexuality so I am going to make you the problem and never engage what is REALLY going on.”

    If men would let the One who created them get into their business and engage who they are as men, then the real “Leadership” will come with being free enough to let women be who THEY are in the eyes of the One.

    • @kendall, to be fair, I think it is both men and women that need to check their sexuality and sensuality at their quiet time with God. He will guide if we ask. What we were doesn’t need to be legislated or legalistically charted out with do’s and don’ts…. when we do that we remove our need for a personal relationship with God.

      Get dressed, and stop to ask God to check it out.

      Sing a song on stage, and stop to ask God to give feedback.

      We have ONE to please. I guarantee if He is pleased our clothing, worship style, image, etc. will never be in question.

      There will always be complainers. “Thank you for your input. I will take it before God.” is the best response and walk away. But be honest, and check it with the Lord. Sometimes we are surprised at what God says.

      “If men would let the One who created them get into their business and engage who they are as men, then the real “Leadership” will come with being free enough to let women be who THEY are in the eyes of the One.”

      I so agree, but it is not all on men. Women need to do the same!
      .-= Lindy Abbott´s last blog ..Obama-gate – "Executive Privilege" keeps His Birth Certificate in safe =-.

  2. Randy Elrod June 7, 2010 at 08:35

    Well said, Kendall and that must be a part of the problem, don’t you think?
    .-= Randy Elrod´s last blog ..Homogenized Religion, Inc. =-.

  3. We have such a screwed up idea of ‘what’ God is…we can’t get the idea out of our head that God is ‘male’. Yet in the beginning God created them ‘male’ AND ‘female’…in His image. We have always thought/taught this in fleshly physical terms…but God doesn’t not have a physical body of flesh, He is Spiritual. So…It is our “masculinity” and “femininity” that we are made in His image, not our physical bodies.

    If we can realize this, we see women in a whole new light. We understand how they are made in God’s image and bare His glory through their femininity and beauty.

    But is is a scary place for most men to go since we are so ingrained to believe that God is a man. We can’t comprehend that God is/can be feminine.

    We think on such ‘human’ terms…
    .-= Rocco´s last blog ..The Prodigal… =-.

    • @Rocco, Exactly. In my book, I drew much information about the point you are so effectively making from Pope John Paul’s epic writings “Theology of the Body.” He makes this point in a compelling manner. Thanks, Rocco.

  4. in my experience working with men in various context – boys to old guys – it seems t be THE problem.
    .-= kendall´s last blog ..Shining up the Old Places =-.

  5. My daughter has experienced this scrutiny within churches when she leads worship. Not only is she female, but she is young. There have been churches where she has filled in for a worship pastor on a given number of weeks. Certain members of the congregation would not attend if they knew she was going to be leading worship. They obviously did not agree with a female leading them. Fortunately, she doesn’t let this discourage her. She has been called by God to be a worship leader and she is walking faithfully in this. I’m proud of her. I pray that Truth will be revealed and hearts changed so that we’ll begin to see a difference in the way female leadership is viewed.

    Thank you, Randy, for stepping up and bringing light to a difficult/controversial topic.
    .-= Melissa´s last blog ..feb20_2010 =-.

    • @Melissa, Thanks, Melissa. Those people would have certinly missed out in the Bible as countless women such as Deborah, Rahab, Miriam, Ruth and so many more led effectively and with God’s blessing.

      Sad how far we have ventured as religious people from scripture.

  6. Randy, you must have read my notes for a blog post I was considering doing. My husband and I talk about this all the time. As a woman in ministry leadership, my role and authority was always debated – and yes, demonized (love that btw) – until I headed into missions. Nobody cares if you’re a woman and you’re a missionary. They’ll even applaud you for it and give you money.

    I could say sooo many things here but I will just say that my experience supports your comments. For some reason the church is terrified of women. More so than Satan himself I believe. And I think it boils down to male pride for the most part. My husband said once, “Why would the ones in control want to give up that power?”. And so an elaborate set design has been constructed to keep women out and to make sure that we are made to feel extreme spiritual guilt when we don’t “color within the lines”.

    As a woman who has dealt with prejudice over and over within the church, I want to thank you for speaking out. I hate to admit this but for this to change, men will have to address this issue. Because it’s not us against them. It’s not male against female. This is not a football game. We are supposed to be all on the same team!!!!! And God’s greatest desire is for us to be ONE, not for us to compete and dominate over one another. The inability to work with women at all levels not only deeply hurts women, it hurts men, and it cripples the work of the Kingdom.

    I’m going to blog about this also! I’m ready to speak out!

  7. Don’t let any of those folks find out about Miriam being the first person to lead worship for the nation of Israel after they crossed the Red Sea. I’d hate for the Bible to get in the way of bad theology. (sarcasm) Tell your daughter to keep going for it!
    .-= adam herod´s last blog ..encourage an Iranian church leader =-.

  8. sorry…I mean to say @Melissa. :-)
    .-= adam herod´s last blog ..encourage an Iranian church leader =-.

  9. Really want to mess with the guys? Remind them that they re the BRIDE of Christ. My dear sweet husband has trouble reconciling this with his love of watching football, fishing side. Just for practical application, I lead worship (bass player) with a female worship leader. Most of the complaints we get are about volume when she rocks the Flower Daisy Fender Stratocaster but we also hear at times that the songs are designed for female pitch, and it is difficult for some of the men to sing that high.

    • @shari, I think I’m secure enough to be happy to be a bride of Christ. I hope so anyway.

      I think female worship leaders at churches are slowly becoming more accepted. I wonder how many female pastors there are?

      Rock on!! Shari.
      .-= Randy Elrod´s last blog ..Homogenized Religion, Inc. =-.

  10. This is really thought provoking article. I’ve been pondering this very subject a lot lately. But what did Paul mean when he said women should be silent in church? Because I know that Paul didn’t mean they to just shut up and never tal at church, but I want to know what his point was. Also, God made us (man and women) in his image a living soul with a free will and an abillity to love God and love others. But it’s pretty clear that he made women out of man. Any thoughts?

    • @Jebi, I speak to this in detail in my book. Chapter 6. Not trying just to sell you, but it would take a lot of time to say in this comment what I worked on for 2 years in the book. If you have the chance, pick up a copy and I think it will adress all of your very insightful questions.

      Thanks, Jebi!

  11. Well, there’s a touchy subject for you! I find it difficult to know where to stand simply because each side presents such valid arguments. May I speak to Jebi? I often wondered if what Paul spoke about women being silent was literal or allegorical. Upon some further personal study, I discovered (and feel free to disagree) that Paul told women to be quiet while in the temple, during times of teaching, because historically and culturally speaking, they were not educated in the same way men were; they simply didn’t know as much. For them to have offered opinions in ways and on subjects that that had not been instructed in, could have proved detrimental. Obviously, in today’s society, women are as educated and knowledgable as they choose to be, the same way men are.

    The subject of leading worship and whose better suited and/or less distracting is a toss up to me. Like the friend you quoted Randy, “The single, tender-hearted songwriter boy represents something that is very hard to find,” and thus is extremely desirable. I will be honest and say that a man leading worship can derail my heart for praise very quickly. Why? Because he loves Jesus and is pretty to look at. It’s a Catch22 if you ask me.

    I think that, at the end of the day, it’s not a matter of who is leading worship, what they’re wearing or even how talented they are. What matters most and thus will determine true worship, is the heart of the worshipper, regardless of who they’re looking at.

  12. Hmmmmm…… this is interesting. If i look at the music in my iTunes, most of it is male. Looking at my bookshelf, most of the authors that I read are also men.

    I was reading on a blog earlier today and stumbled on this video about the Bechdel test, to assess if a film has quality roles for women. The requirements?

    1. Are there 2 or more women who have names?
    2. Do they talk to each other?
    Do they talk to each other about something other than men?

    Then the video listed (quickly) those that failed the test. Wow.

    Here’s the short youtube video URL. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bLF6sAAMb4s&feature=player_embedded

  13. Perhaps the issue is more basic than we care to admit. The subjugation of women is not just a Christian issue. It is practiced by all monotheistic religions. It appears it may be a systemic issue, just like the dehumanization of “infidels” and “nonbelievers.”

  14. Thanks for tackling this frustratingly complicated subject. I’ve spent a lot of time in my 15 years in the Christian music business thinking about why the disparity exists to this extreme and I still scratch my head wondering where the solution lies. Yes, it is an issue of unbalanced views of sexuality. ( I could tell you some hilarious stories of complaints I’ve heard about female artists over the years. Based on those alone, I will agree with the other commenter that most of it comes down to Christian men’s sexuality issues.) Yes, it is also an issue of where women’s voices belong in ministry and in the worship world in particular I think that issue is to be expected given the differing doctrinal views of women’s roles in church.

    I think it’s also an issue of the church being behind the change. I remember reading an article in a mainstream music magazine in the 80s talking about the rising # of female artists coming onto the scene then an it talked about old school radio programming rules. For example, they wouldn’t play back to back songs from females. I’m sure they were programming for the research results they were getting. I’m also sure the research showed a preference toward the programming they were used to. Vicious cycle. Thankfully, that is no longer a question on mainstream radio. There was an onslaught of female fronted music in the 90s and now the younger generations would laugh at antiquated rules like that.

    But I think there’s something beyond that, too. There is a lack of female songwriters in our community and they aren’t seen by the broader community so that can’t totally be a sexuality issue. Some of the problem is there are fewer women out there doing it to chose from. Even still I’ve sense an an unspoken view that it’s possible to have too many women writers. I haven’t gotten a clear answer on this one but it seems that there is a fear there would be redundancy in their points of view. (Don’t get me started. )

    I’m glad you are posing the questions. I will say, there are a lot of smart, talented female artists out there right now that I am super excited to see on the scene. And I hear less of the ridiculous comments so I hope we’re heading in the right direction.

    • @Anne Mabry, Anne. Thanks for your very helpful comments. I didn’t know all that you pointed out. It is a vicious cycle, indeed.

      Here’s to hoping the Audrey Assad’s, Jenny Simmons can stand on the shoulders of Amy Grant & Margaret Becker.

      The list is amazingly short when you try to name women in Christian music with longevity.

  15. I do believe that Women are absolutely often undervalued and treated as sex objects, especially in secular culture. I don’t get how secularism supposedly is the liberation of everything that is feminine, yet constantly objectifies women as solely sexual beings. To be a powerful woman, it seems, you have to flaunt your sexuality. That does not sound like equality to me. Do we do that with men? NO, some of the most powerful men out there are the ugliest! :-)

    Women are SOOO much more than sexual beings. Women are absolutely created equal to men. But, here’s the thing, equality does not equal sameness. Men and women are different. There’s no denying it. We are not the same! You can see it from birth, not only in physical attributes, but in attitudes as well, and there’s a reason for that. God created us to be different, not the same. He created men and women as different beings to fill different roles.

    We post-modern people tend to think of as equality is sameness. But God did not create men and women the same, He created us differently, to fulfill different purposes. EQUAL purposes, but not SAME purposes.

    I’m not saying that women shouldn’t be leaders in the church, or that men shouldn’t be homemakers. What I am saying is that we are created differently, to function in different ways to make up one whole picture, so that men and women working together portray a beautiful picture of our God.

    I think there is beautiful freedom in accepting who we were made by God to be, functioning in our roles, and painting that picture of our Lord, who died to make us ALL equal, all races, all sexes, all classes, all cultures.

    God doesn’t want a “gray race” of people (Alexander the great wanted to create a gray race, a blend of all people, as he thought that was the only way to create a truly equal society was getting rid of individual cultures and creating one new culture) He wants the beautiful tapestry of our different skin colors, and our cultural heritages, and our sexes, and our tastes in music and art and food. God wants individual, different people, functioning together as one body, under one head, Jesus Christ.

    • @matterhorn,

      On that note though, I think female worship leaders are great. Some of my favorite worship leaders are women, and I love when they visit our church and share with us.

      As I was saying before, we are different, men and women. And I think it’s great to experience both men and women leading worship. It’s experiencing both the masculine and the feminine side of the body of Christ.

    • @matterhorn, Well said. I hope my last two paragraphs made your point as well. Thanks so much for joining the conversation!

    • @matterhorn, bottom line here is men need to be more accountable to God and each other to stop watching and exposing their son to sexually filled crap movies. Sexual scenes are inappropriate notl only for teens but our spouses. The Christian film market is making great headway in curbing this crap but let’s face it … how many times does a guy need to see waterboy (and most Adam Sandler movies) or the Will Ferris movies that go over the line, or the sexuality of SNL.

      Men have a responsibility to take the lead and teach their sons and boys under their care about how to appropriately value women and what they watch is a major influence.
      .-= Lindy Abbott´s last blog ..Obama-gate – "Executive Privilege" keeps His Birth Certificate in safe =-.

      • @Lindy Abbott, I am thinking you are an unhappy lady. This comment wasn’t called for in context with Matterhorn’s comment. He has written a very thoughtful and beautiful post praising women and you are trashing him. A gentle reminder to please stay in context.

  16. Reading this makes me glad about two things: 1. God judges the heart… 2. He gives us lots of grace. I dress as modest as possible when I lead worship at my church, but I wouldn’t be surprised (only saddened) if I found out I distracted somebody somewhere, male or female – simply because Satan will try anything he can to keep true worshippers from worshipping in spirit and truth. Lord, help us us to please you, the only One who should be the subject, focus and object of our worship. Looking forward to heaven…
    .-= Cheryl´s last blog ..Overly Eager for Heaven? =-.

  17. Okay, I’ve been back and forth and read it several times. I’ve suffered a lot because of this. I was good for only one thing. And it was only about my body. I can’t tell you how that has hurt me. I wanted to be accepted and valued for WHO I was and not how I looked like! It’s not only adults. At school boys do the same they can’t help it if their brother, father and/or grandfather did it. It’s also girls or women who let it happen. If a mother teaches her daughter differently and becomes secure it would make a difference too. After I accepted Jesus in my life people started to tell me where my place was and also my place in marriage. I wasn’t married and I’m still single, thank God! I couldn’t believe the God I met was like that! I asked a woman if it was true. It was her husband who showed me through the Bible how men and women should treat each other and that they are equal to each other. But I also always thought it had to do with control and power. That men wanted to control women. I’m not sure if I’m right. Actually I didn’t want to write this down I only wanted to write that I’m glad you know what the truth is and the men on this blog too. It’s healing my heart. I didn’t know it was still there, the hurt. My heart was already hurt, then I read Spence Smith blog and I got emotional and now this. I guess I needed this.

    I already wanted to order your book when I saw the title a while ago but it’s not possible to purchase it here yet. Will let you know when I have it.

  18. Hey, I see there is a Twitter username added. I’m not on Twitter anymore for a while. Someone advised me not to use my own name. I’m not there anymore. Now I checked the username and someone else is using it. Just to let you know that person is NOT ME. My real name is Ani.

    • @Ani, Okay, thanks. And thanks for your wonderful post. God did indeed create both man and woman equal!! He loves everyone the same. Women should not submit to control nor fear in religion or by their husbands.

      Thanks, Ani

  19. As I was reading through the comments I started to apply this context in my own life. Not only am I female but I am divorced. I had been permitted to teach singles but at one point I had been totally silenced. I am a speaker and a teacher who no longer speaks or teaches. Many see divorce as unpardonable sin and there for I can’t serve. I am a female so I am told I can only teach women.
    .-= Carol Asher´s last blog ..I’m inspired…. are you? =-.

    • @Carol Asher, Carol, Our pastor Pete Wilson http://withoutwax.tv pointed out beautifully this past Sunday in his message about the Prodigal Son that there are no second class Christians.

      What the prodigal son did was considered as bad or worse than divorce in Biblical times-yet his full rights were restored.

      Just as yours should be – to teach- and to speak. Divorce does not make you a second-class Christian.

      In God’s sight-you are as holy as your “Pastor” whose sins everyone just doesn’t know about.

      Both of you – and all of us – are forgiven if we have asked for forgiveness. Period.

  20. “There is a fear of sensuality and sexuality within the church,” Simmons continues.

    I read this comment and was surprised. I don’t think there is a fear of sensuality and sexuality in church – I fully believe most church – especially large churches of which I am a member of one – don’t teach their women appropriate modesty as they are coming up in youth. This is the point of entry into expression of clothing. It doesn’t need to be preached from men, it needs to be tenderly pointed out by moms, grandmothers, aunts, female teachers and older female friends in a loving tactful way.

    So much raw sensuality and sexuality is prevailing in our current culture, without teaching, acceptance of a lower, inappropriate standard is natural. I totally believe the Holy Spirit is the best teacher and He does so in each area as timing is perfect for the individual, but parents also have a huge responsibility to teach their daughters.

    Walk through any girls clothing store, over half the items don’t belong on any young lady that is beautifully loved by God. Women/girls are so wanting to be beautiful, but if they are not taught how beautiful they are to God, they may chose what the culture holds up as beauty.

    At age 8-10, I had to work closely with my daughter helping her to see that anime Japanese comic books had very seductive outfits and ways of sitting/standing/posing.

    I hated to have to tell my daughter what garters and hose up to the thigh with tiny skirts and plunging necklines meant… that the sweet little character looked like she was dressed to work on lower broad. Or that a girl sitting with a tiny skirt with her legs broadly open was inviting, and sexual. I can think of a lot more conversations I would rather have with my sweet daughter.

    What a way to spoil a comic book and be forced to inform her about sexuality in clothing when she was not ready for or interested. I hated to spoil her innocence but at the same time I didn’t want her to think dressing these ways were appropriate.

    It became more and more a problem that had to be dealt with because middle school girls are crazed with anime books, and many draw their own copying the racy clothing styles. I upset the parents of my daughter’s friend because they saw nothing wrong with the pictures and were upset that I was pointing out the inappropriateness. They felt like I was insinuating that they were poor parents because they allowed their two girls to be fully enveloped with this media.

    My sweet innocent daughter bawled many tears when I limited her exposure to the very simplest anime books. The world of cosplay is wild.

    I had to hold ground and repeatedly explain to her broken heart why the material was inappropriate. The hard line and work in these years has paid off. She is a creative, stylish, individualistic dresser that is modest!

    My daughter dresses very fashionable – she loves dressing with a very different style than most – she has a feminine flare that is totally non-seductive/suggestive and tasteful and covering. So there is a modest standard – a few basic rules, but beyond this each should be able to enjoy developing their beauty (inside and out) and delight in expressing their personality in clothing, and every other aspect of life.

    • @Lindy Abbott, As kindly as I can say it. You are exactly making the point that you say is not needed.

      • @Randy Elrod, Randy, I highly respect you and am not taken back by your comment. Thank you for your kindness. Now can you help me (I must be thick headed) understand how it is a fear of sexuality and sensuality. To a degree, I understand how it could be called a fear, but I believe it is not a fear but a de-sensitization and lack of Biblical moral teaching not so much preached from the pulpit because my children in youth had been hit over the head again, and again on this topic, but where the rubber hits the road is not what we say – it is what we do and model.

        There is no fear of sexuality or sensuality in women wearing dresses that look like nighties or men watching TV, movies or porn. There is a flaunting of sexuality and sensuality not a fear and due to poor private Biblical studying for God to transform us from the inside out on His time table we wait to be fed from the pulpit. A once or twice sermon a year that hits this topic is not likely to transform the mindset of the church.

        If we feared sexuality and sensuality we would be more modest, careful and overall sensitive to our visual, verbal and behavioral actions in mixed company.

        Is it your experience that people fear to address the topic of sexuality and sensuality because over the past 20 years in very different churches it has not at all been my experience…apathy yes, fear no.
        .-= Lindy Abbott´s last blog ..Obama-gate – "Executive Privilege" keeps His Birth Certificate in safe =-.

        • @Lindy Abbott, Lindy, thanks. I guess I feel it’s a historical fact. We can’t just use our finite experience, no matter how long our lives in contemporary church are. Read Augustine, Martin Luther, the Stoics, the Epicureans, and more recently Fuerbach, Schmenann & especially the magnificent writings of Pope John Paul II.

          If we embraced God’s gift of sexuality and sensuality that he granted us in His original plan-instead of fear and repression- many of these issues you so perceptively name would be healed.

          My book in context really addresses this issue as a whole. It may be worth a read considering your interest. You will not agree with it all, but when approached with an open mind, can really help explore a new aspect of God’s truth versus religious rules and regulations.

          Thanks again!

  21. No one can derail my worship for God, because I sing to Him alone and ignore anyone else around whether on stage or sitting in the pew next to me. I am consumed by my passion to express to God all the love in me to Him.

    I have never once seen a worship leader – male or female that dressed inappropriately but I have seen many who draw all the attention and glory to them by their words, actions, and way of leading.

    It is not a matter of clothes …. wear a T-shirt and jeans or a nice evening outfit… but make certain the heart of worship is to God and Him alone. Anything else is vomit to the Spirit!
    .-= Lindy Abbott´s last blog ..Obama-gate – "Executive Privilege" keeps His Birth Certificate in safe =-.

  22. Your post is timely as I’m finishing up my book. I have some things to pray about because, as far as I know, there are not too many women writing serious books about the Bible. I hope that gender bias will not get in the way of people finding a new perspective of the Bible and of them gaining understanding of God’s absolute love.
    .-= patriciazell´s last blog ..#45 THE RETURN OF CHRIST: THE CAST, PART THREE =-.

  23. Great post.

    A bit of a “joking-but-not-quite” sidebar for you:

    Most worship leaders are male. Most church attendees are female.

    Wonder if we had more female worship leaders, if the percentages of male/female attendees would shift a bit ;)
    .-= Danny Bixby´s last blog ..God is "for" everybody =-.

    • @Danny Bixby, Hmmmm. You may have hit a more serious note than you thought.

      • @Randy Elrod, Sadly, probably so. That’s the “but-not-quite” part. ;)

        • @Danny Bixby, It’s an intriguing proposition. But most men are so insecure and hung up about their own sexual dysfunctions – that I wonder if the attendance ratio would shift.

          I cannot believe how many guys and pastors get bent out of shape when a dance team at church wears a sheer outergarment-even though they have far more clothes underneath than even the most conservative American beach – and most malls.

          Strange indeed.

  24. As a female worship leader, I have been somewhat surprised at the comments that I have gotten on clothing. I wore jeans for a couple of Sundays after being asked by leadership to “dress down” a bit… and we got complaints. I dressed nicer… and we got complaints. I have learned that people will find something to complain about no matter the situation. I try to dress modestly and feminine, and leave it at that.

    As for the key, I seem to be the only one that wants to place things a little higher – with the exception of the one male singer in our band. Many times the songs are pitched a bit low for him as well as me to make the alto-range singers happy. Ironically, it’s not going too high that makes it difficult for the men, it’s going too low. Go figure.

    Having grown up in a somewhat legalistic yet charismatic denomination, I have struggled with the “role of women in the church” since stepping up into a leadership role. It seems that most people view women as acceptable for teaching children and other YOUNGER women. As a women’s bible study leader in her early 30’s, I’m younger than all but 2 of the women in our entire church. They have had to learn to deal with being taught by a younger women. And believe me when I tell you that women take it MUCH harder to be taught by someone younger than just about any man I have encountered.

    Thank you for shining the light in this area. What saddens me the most about this post, however, is the fact that if a woman had written it, well, it would largely have been ignored – or worse, labeled as written by “one of *those* women.” We are not allowed to shed light in this area without ridicule, so again, I say THANK YOU!
    .-= Jennifer´s last blog ..Memorial Weekend 2010 Setlist =-.

  25. As a woman who grew up exposed to many different denominations and now an active member of a more conservative denomination, this struck close to home for me. On top of that, as a survivor of child abuse, both physical and sexual, my entire identity as a woman was damaged even as it was being formed. And, because that wasn’t damaging enough, I’ve also had to face the struggles of infertility, losing my uterus an one ovary to endometriosis before I was 32 before ever conceiving.
    Mother’s Day, which is framed in the modern church as praise for the Godly mother who raised us and the Godly mothers we are, is intensely painful for me… I did not have the first, and I have been denied the second. And because many churches so limit the “acceptable” roles that women are permitted to play within the church, within the Body of Christ, I am left feeling excluded and broken in too many occasions, too many sermons, too many situations in one of the places where I should be safest, where we should be receiving healing.
    I’ve volunteered at my church in the past, working in the office, and there was an occasion where an evening class realized they did not have a teacher. My husband and I had taken the church’s class to be “permitted” to teach, and while we scrambled looking for a teacher, I offered to fill in. I was told that I would not be well received: it was a class of senior adults, and they would have a problem with a female speaker.
    I’m allowed to sing in the choir. I’m allowed to participate in the praise band. I’m allowed to be part of talent shows, to be on the drama team, or even to teach/facilitate women’s classes, or even teach classes that I am uniquely qualified to teach that aren’t necessarily spiritual in nature (I was permitted to teach a French class for those who were going on a trip to France. The class fell apart about the time the trip fell apart).
    I can appreciate the value of my husband as a covering over me. He serves as a great help for me, and has been marvelous in speaking for me in situations where I didn’t have the courage to speak for myself (for instance, when I couldn’t speak against my mother, he could intervene. It gave me the courage to eventually speak up myself). But he also sees that when Paul speaks of submission, it is only after instructing all Christians to submit to one another. That this isn’t about inequality or mastery, but about a sacrificial love and a demonstration of respect for your partner.
    I’m just tired of the attitudes I encounter in churches that leave me with the impression that I only have worth to accompany men or to birth their babies or raise someone else’s. God created me. He knows the plans and the purposes He has for me, and it’s not anyone’s place to tell me that it can’t possibly be what I am clearly gifted and called to do. To interfere or thwart the calling of God on someone’s life isn’t just shameful, it’s sinful. Get thee behind us, Satan. We’ve got a calling to answer.

    • @Heather Jackson, Your post brought tears to my eyes. Thanks for your very honest and very true perspective.

      That is one of the reasons I wroye my book. Unless both the man AND woman can approach sexuality as equals, it totally denigrates God’s original plan.

      Man and Woman he created them, scripture says.

      So this original plan must be lived out in church leadership as well.

      thanks so much, Heather.

  26. Thanks. So well said. I hear ya about sharing the load between both genders, but at the end of the day I can only speak to the male half.

    The funny thing I find, is that God is far more pleased with things than I am. We are far more restrictive and afraid of the freedom he offers, not mention he thinks more highly of us than we ever would dare to…;)

    I could make some rant about how the church is failing in this, blah, blah, blah…
    .-= kendall´s last blog ..Shining up the Old Places =-.

  27. I have a couple of reactions to the article and responses. Lots of sociology and culture discussion here about how we think it oughta be. A couple of references to scripture but no scripture used. Us unwashed and unlearned masses read what the scriptures say, but must wait for someone smart to put it in cultural context and explain the nuances of original languages so we can understand what God’s word really meant to saying is so confusing. Thank God that the core of the Gospel understandable to people like me, Christian.media facilitators who push the buttons and produce the music and programs that give voice to the preachers and singers. Male and female. Let’s not forget to point out whats right with the faith. Did you by chance watch the MTV Movie Awards? There is a whole lot more wrong with our culture than not enough women singing or leading worship. Thanks for letting me vent. You made me think!

    • @Radiobarry, Thinking is a good thing. One of my mantras—and one of the last paragraphs of my book—I don’t want you to agree with me–i just want you to think. Christians do not think for themselves.

      Thanks for joining the conversation. Incidentally, I have loads of scripture in the book itself.

  28. Yikes… Two things to note after reading my own post. 1) Type into a Blackberry. 2) My fatther came to Christ through the minstry of a lady evangelst almost 50 years ago.That encounter changed the course of generations.3) I shouldn’t try to mix it up with the big boys.

  29. Randy,

    Again a wonderful post, In thinking about female’s in CCM and thought, does it have anything to do with fact that the most Christian radio stations is that the programing managers are males. Could it isolated to America. Here is a list of some of my favorite worship leaders. Cindy Cruz Ratcliff of Lakewood Church, Darlene Z of Hill song. You could also look at it this way, is this glass ceiling that churches have setup? Women have been used of God in more ways then we give them credit. The bottom line is that we should worship God in spirit and truth not the one who leads.

    Ted

  30. Randy, I’ve thought about your post all day and went and drug out “Community 101” by Dr. Gilbert Bilezikian to read once again. He also wrote “Beyond Sex Roles” which you may have looked at in your research. He is one of the foremost conservative egalitarians in the world and his arguments all revolve around the Biblical ideals of unity and community. If you’ve not read them I’d encourage you to do so. And if you EVER have the honor to meet him in person, then sit down and learn from him. I got to spend one morning with him at his home and was so incredibly blessed by his wisdom and heart for true community in the Body of Christ – a unity that is not possible as long as we focus on gender roles ( a rather narrow definition for the fullness of any person wouldn’t you say??), authority and power. I loved your chapter on this as well, Randy.
    .-= Jan Owen´s last blog ..We all Need to Be Needed =-.

  31. Hi Randy.

    For years I have been trying to work out why I listen to mostly male artists /male fronted bands. I still don’t have a conclusive answer at this point. However, one reason that I am aware of is that the range of female CCM vocalists is not broad. At all. And I don’t always want to be listening to ballads. Also, my personal vocal range is on the higher end of the spectrum – there are even fewer femal CCM artists in the same range…so I’ll listen to a tenor instead, so I can sing along. (Kari Jobe, Mia Fieldes & Brooke Fraser are the exceptions here for me).

    One thing that annoys me (as a female who sings in the worship team), why is it seeminlgly more ok for a male artist to be overweight than a female? There is an intense pressure on the female to “look right” – to fit to the mould laid out by society, but for a guy the rules are different? This seems to happen in church too; I’m not huge, but I’m not slim either. But I continue to see people with the right “image” be promoted when I know that they shouldn’t be.

    • Randy Elrod June 8, 2010 at 06:49

      @Paula, Paula, you raise two very important points. @spencesmith & I were just talking. Very few female artists with wide ranges. Why is that? Labels? I don’t know.

      Two- what you are bringing up here is a sensitive subject that proves a double standard and one of my points in the post. Women are to look at. Sad but true.

      Thanks for joining the conversation from “down under”.

      • @Randy Elrod, On a whim, I looked at our current top 30 AC chart (Christian), and out of the 30, there are 7 females. I only know about 3 of the artists. http://therockacrossaustralia.com/top30.shtml

        It would be interesting to do a report similar to the billboard one you’ve referenced here, but honestly I don’t think we’d have the data available. (Especially when you consider that the entire music industry in Australia is the size of CCM in the States…)

        I wonder if culture/social “norm” also has a part to play? For example, it’s quite common here (especially in pentecostal churches) to have female worship leaders and/or pastors. I’d be curious to see if this is reflected in the male/female ratio in our charts?
        .-= Paula´s last blog ..PaulaBoardman: what have I done to attract all these spam accounts?! =-.

    • @Paula, @Paula, I have experienced this too. Men can also be any age. I was recently referred to as “that middle aged woman worship leader”. It was not a compliment.
      .-= Jan Owen´s last blog ..We all Need to Be Needed =-.

  32. Excellent discussion of the issue. Our discomfort with women is part of so many things and so deep seated and entangled that it is difficult to unwind all the threads. We can not longer tell the difference between healthy and unhealthy forms of intimacy and everything is coated with a veneer of sex.
    .-= Orual Undone´s last blog ..Christian music, female artists, and sex bombs =-.

  33. Vicky Silvers June 8, 2010 at 10:57

    I am an editor for Christian.com which is a social network dedicated to the christian community. As I look through your web site I feel a collaboration is at hand. I would be inclined to acknowledge your website offering it to our users as I’m sure our Christian reformed audience would benefit from what your site has to offer. I look forward to your thoughts or questions regarding the matter.

    Vicky Silvers
    vicky.silvers@gmail.com

  34. I just want to add something because people write about women dress appropriate or not appropriate. I don’t know what’s appropriate in your country. I’ve never showed any cleavage and always wore jeans and a shirt or sweater. I’ve found out you don’t need to dress inappropriate to get the attention they will look anyway, they have a kind of a radar, if you get my drift. I’ve worked with Italian men (joy to the world) and there I heard about sex and women constantly. I’m a pretty open person and my manager was too so I felt free to ask him if men think about sex all the time and he said yes. I told him I was fed up with men looking at me from my breasts to my legs while I’m telling them about my projects of the office. I told him I would wear two wide sweaters and wide jeans. He told me it wouldn’t matter because man have eyes like x-ray they see everything. The thing is men look. Looking is no sin. They can’t walk with their eyes closed! I really don’t know about men that much. I don’t know what happens if they keep looking and start maybe to fantasize. A colleague told me about his fantasies, I told him in the warehouse were all men he could go there and talk with them about his fantasies I didn’t needed to know. One day he was gone for over 15 minutes. I asked where he was because there were many phonecalls for him. He said he was at the warehouse. He needed to share it I guess. I didn’t mind as long he didn’t share them with me. I don’t know if you agree but it worked for him and it worked for me.

  35. If you really want a crazy visual in light of this article, try this one: I am the worship leader at our church (and a woman), and I continued to lead worship pregnant- all the way up to the birth of both of my sons. I didn’t get any comments from anyone about it, but I have to tell you, that I was the one feeling awkward. I am always aware of being a woman up there leading men- both the men on our worship team and also the men in the congregation. Being pregnant and leading really challenged my security and calling. No one ever made a comment to me or to the pastor (that I’m aware of). Maybe living in L.A. and worshiping in a non-denominational church helps this to be more of a non-issue.

  36. Thanks Adam! I am grateful for the encouraging people in her life.
    .-= Melissa´s last blog ..feb20_2010 =-.

  37. Uhm … no – Danny hit the nail on the head.

    CCM is a business. Like it or not, a business needs to profit to continue.

    CCM recognizes its market is overwhelmingly *feminine.*

    Hence, the majority of CCM’s headliners are male.

    SOOooo … who is really being “objectified” by whom, then?

    (just a thought … unfortunately, “follow the dollar” kicks in on this issue, too)

    • @Glenn, Glenn, everyone recognizes it is a struggling, failing business. The current model is not working. So, something need to change. This is only a part.

  38. I agree with only a few things that have been said in the blog and replied to. People (Christians and non alike) tend to think that just because a woman or man is in Christian music that it means they are perfect and so when lets say a female lead singer in a Christian band or even if it’s only one woman (i.e. Rebecca St. James) wears something different that offends some people they get criticized badly. Therefore people then end up thinking badly of that female afterwards. NO ONE IS PERFECT! In the words of Natalie Grant… “There’s no such thing as perfect people, there’s no such thing as a perfect life….” So my point is that it’s not really a matter of sexuality/sensuality it’s a matter of Christians putting other Christians (music artists etc) on too high of a pedestal until they mess up.

  39. Lisa Pearl Black June 10, 2010 at 16:09

    I believe that the emotion that stems from a woman for the Father can be sensual. The Lord
    shows us that in the “Song of Solomon”. My dream has been exactly that,weirdly.

  40. I have 2 female worship leader interns with me this summer. I feel such a responsibility to come alongside them and give them opportunity to lead and use their knowledge, creativity, and skills in our safe environment here at my church where they are not going to be criticized for being a woman and leading worship. You would not be surprised to hear the things that I feel that I am having to “undo” in their minds as women about their role in leading worship in church. We have to mentor (as I know you already do, Randy) this next generation so they will not submit to the inequality that we have created in church. We have to help them understand how important and necessary their feminine perspective, leadership, and influence IS to leading the next generation behind them. The church is the last frontier, in some respects. I have hope it can happen!

  41. I have read this entire conversation. Thank you, Randy, for being willing to put this topic out there. I hesitated to comment because I don’t know a lot about Christian music or worship leaders. I am surprised to learn that so few are female. Just FYI, as a consumer of worship and Christian music, I have not given much thought to whether the ones I like are female or male. I like the ones who are familiar with the terrain of the heart and are honest. I love to be lead by both. If I am thinking about what they are wearing or measuring them up in appearance, I think I am the one in sin.

    The topic touches my heart deeply. I wonder about how in my own heart I fear sensuality and my sexuality. How that impedes me as a wife and mother. How that impedes me as a worshiper in spirit and truth. So much talk about what we wear, but what is in the heart? Where is the love to speak in kindness to a young woman about her heart and why she feels the need to dress provocatively? Or to address someone who is labeling a “middle-aged worship leader” in kindness and firmness?

    I get a lot of external messages as a woman on my role as a wife, on dressing modestly, on teaching my sons what to look at with their eyes. But what about what is inside? How do we wrestle with how God created us as sensual and sexual beings – and in His Own Image? What are the parameters of these two incredible and powerful gifts? Sensuality and sexuality. How do we not engage in the shame that permeates the Christian culture? How do we stay off our soapboxes and look at our own souls?

    I am grateful for the discussion and to hear what all of you think. It has enlarged my own thinking.

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