Ladies, let’s talk about racial stereotyping and consider how our sisters of color are impacted by this in the church. By racial stereotyping, I’m referring to the act of ascribing certain qualities to a person based solely on that person’s ethnicity. These assumptions influence what we believe about a person’s character. What we believe about a person’s character can determine the amount of value or “worth” we ascribe to an individual. Before we examine how much worth we assign to others, let’s begin with how much worth we assign ourselves.
Worth. Where is it formed? The standard Christian answer is that our worth comes from Jesus, our Creator and Savior. We claim this victory, but sadly, most Christian women do not share in this triumph with Christian men. Let me explain. Women as a whole face discrimination in the church. Our own convoluted theology condemns us, much less the judgement of others. We learn early on that our bodies are sexual, and that it is our responsibility to cover up our bodies in order to protect our brothers from the sin of lust. We are taught that our very gender is sinful, since we are the daughters of Eve, the original temptress. Many women in the church wear shame disguised as modesty. We are ashamed of our bodies. We are ashamed of our personalities. We are ashamed to make eye contact with the opposite sex. We are made to believe that women need the spiritual “covering” of a man. We learn that we are the weaker sex, yet we are expected to be the guardians of our brothers’ eyes, minds, and hearts. And we erroneously believe that all this is God’s design. In reality, the design of women by God Almighty does not include everlasting captivity, oppression, or condemnation. Why should we accept it any longer? Jesus’ atonement was sufficient for women as well as men. So why should we believe that we are intrinsically sinful or inferior, and how can we justify seeing other women, especially women of color, that way?
Recently, I encountered the testimony of a woman of color who had been promoted to a leadership position in her church. She developed a thriving ministry, and under her leadership, others were serving and flourishing as well. She had finally been recognized after years of service, and her heart was full. However, her ministry position was stripped from her, along with her dignity, when rumors about her began to circulate unchecked. Rumors that painted a false picture of her based on racial stereotypes. Gossip borne out of racial stereotyping damaged this woman’s character and her ministry!
This story demonstrated to me the importance of women in the church standing together in solidarity, and particularly, white women interceding for women of color. What I’m referring to is privilege, not pity. We must exercise our privilege by boldly confronting the racial stereotyping propagated through gossip, and insist that racism has no place in the church, or anywhere else! We must assert our collective worth, remind other ladies of theirs, and insist that others recognize it!
All women must seek out ways to elevate each other. Let’s be supportive of ambitious women, be inspired by their ambition, and then follow their lead. Let’s nurture the gifts, talents, and confidence of other women. If your friend has a talent, praise her for it, and not just in her presence only! Contribute to her good reputation. Praise her to those who notice her talent, to those who haven’t, and especially to those who criticize her, who would intentionally seek to obscure the ways she’s being used by God! No more shrinking back! When individual women are bold and successful, we all benefit.
In light of our collective self-worth, we must protect and defend one another. All races, classes, and genders are one in Christ, as the apostle Paul states in Galatians 3:28. We must appropriate that truth, and reject anything less. We stand upon God’s unwavering love for us. It’s a love that supersedes tradition, and subverts class-isms and racism. Jesus’ life and death testifies to that. Let’s be who God has created us to be, and make room for others to be who they are created to be, and reject the lies the enemy whispers into our ears, minds, and hearts about one another.
Women: you are worthy, and your voice matters! White women: educate yourselves about longstanding stereotypes of women of color, and use your privilege to boldly confront and reject such racial stereotyping. All women belong in the church, and we must not allow our function be impeded by any degree of racism and sexism. Resolutely and in solidarity with our sisters of color, let us change the trajectory of the church and make it truly welcoming for all women!
– Jennifer Grieco
Jennifer Grieco’s passion for women’s equality with men in the church opened her eyes to racial discrimination. She longs for the end of unjust suffering within the Christian community. She is a firm believer in ‘rejoicing with those who rejoice, and weeping with those who weep,’ and loves to empower women to live jubilant lives, free from shame. She and her husband live near Dallas, Texas with their two children.