Not Allowed

1 Comment » Written on June 17th, 2013     
Filed under: Testimonies and Stories
By Rev. Gricel Medina (OWS)
CBGE Chairperson

not allowedEntitlement comes in many forms. It is often so ingrained that we can be so oblivious to its offensive odor. Jesus went through various forms of discrimination, so why are we so surprised in the church when issues of race and gender come up? The reality is that when people are excluded from the table of decision by omission it is a form of discrimination. Ignorance does not exonerate us. I have encountered people who are deliriously mesmerized with self importance. They hold on for dear life to positions and advocate for the exclusion of others out of fear.

Making the mistake of not including others because of gender, race or any personal bias from the mission of the church, can be costly. Unfortunately, I have experienced the pain of listening to sermons that are eloquent, yet carelessly use language that is gender and/or racially disrespectful.

It is so sad to see some in the church who have become so desensitized to these issues. I had a young person ask me why we were still talking about this (by the way I am young too…they were college age).  Just because you don’t see it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. The flip side is with all the overdosing of social media sites could it be that we choose to close our eyes to issues of race and gender? Can’t we see that women are still portrayed as trophies for men? Little girls are often indoctrinated at very young ages to focus on physical appearance. Billions of dollars are pumped into the ‘tween girl market to produce outfits that are often provocative. Many people are spinning recklessly and often unconsciously with all this media frenzy. Are we needing to put on the brakes with this stuff?

We all can use a dose of reality checks. They make us grow in awareness.  I am indelibly grateful for the courage some have taken to speak truth in love. I am also aware that it takes great humility to receive it without being defensive. The pain of being excluded runs deeper than we realize. Dealing with race and gender issues are sensitive topics. Some just do not get it!  We talk about the aspect of reconciliation at the exclusion of justice. It is exhausting work that takes much prayer. Often it becomes harder when people hide behind unwritten and unspoken laws.

Living life as a minority has made me painfully aware of those unwritten laws that widen the gaps instead of create bridges. Many women are excluded by language and barriers within the church that limit them in many ways (even economically).  Some are included by crude jokes that are seriously inappropriate.  We live in a world of many colors and a variety of experiences. If you live long enough you will come to the realization that life is more than black and white.

In my opinion, the church needs to be much more reflective on how we live out the Great Commission.  We need to become more intentional at inviting diverse voices to sit at the table. We need to open the conversation and not be afraid to have those honest moments of self-awareness. Jesus reached out to those who the world considered insignificant. He used men and women who were invisible and of little worth to the religious elite. Isn’t that interesting? We wonder why we are still blind to issues of inequality when we never ask the tough questions and hear honest answers, when we give our congregations visual pictures (every Sunday) on our platforms of inequality.

Young male pastors are especially vulnerable. The insatiable quest for innovation is getting some in a lot of trouble. Many are recycling gender bias from very prejudicial angles. They say they are cutting edge but I often wonder if it is the smoking mirror effect to disguise their carnality and lack of biblical substance. Don’t get mad. Just being honest.

not allowed 2There are so many ways we can be exclusive and not even realize it.  I have been on boards that were predominately white and it has been awkward sometimes when the issues of diversity or gender equality have come up… Why you ask? The reality is that diversity only happens when you invite others (who are not like you) to not just sit at the table but actively participate.  That goes the same for women not just men … by the way ethnic groups can be just as exclusive. (A subject we will probe in another article.) It is important also that we respectfully invite and allow others to educate us on these issues. We also need to be receptive. We need to advocate and educate.

We need to candidly have authentic conversation about the unwritten laws. Laws that exclude, divide and omit others are very harmful. Why do we keep recycling the same people and bias issues?  Could it be that the church has become resistant to change? We must not hide behind masks to justify our own prejudices. Red, yellow, black and white…. We are all precious in HIS sight.

What is your unwritten law? Is your language exclusive? Are your actions offending those who are different than you? No one wants to feel like a token… Ethnic women and men want to be heard and respected. Don’t assume you know how we feel. You may never fully understand. Privilege can sometimes make us numb to the real justice issues.

Listen attentively….Ask questions and don’t interrupt when others answer… and please do not assume you know what people are going to say or how they feel…

Stereotyping is still prevalent among the church.  I have had church members ignorantly express to me after a service how much they love Mexican food (which I love by the way)…the only thing wrong with this picture is that I am not Mexican. Assumptions. We judge by what we assume. Very offensive.

Remember what appears to be defensiveness arises when others fail to listen. To add insult to injury we can rudely interrupt others and assume we know the answers. We even use stats and charts to validate our knowledge of issues we can never fully understand.  For some color does matter.

Inappropriate humor is also insulting. Sarcastic remarks are just not funny. Be very careful with trying to do stand up comedy on issues of gender and ethnicity. You would be surprised at who is listening and taking notes.

The world is needing us as the church to get it together. You can say it but how you are living it out is what people are looking at. Our actions speak volumes. What we do on the playing field of life will ultimately determine if we truly make a significant difference in the area of biblical gender equality and racial reconciliation.

You may not realize it but we are all being observed by others everyday. Neighbors, family members, friends and foes all observe our actions. Most of all God is watching. He sees the motives and intents of our hearts. Even those we hide from ourselves.

My husband and I are avid baseball fans. We recently saw the movie 42 about the life of Jackie Robinson. If you have not seen it… GO! Great film. For those who don’t know baseball history… Mr. Robinson broke the color barrier in baseball at great personal sacrifice. The movie showed some of the taunting which was often relentless and brutally cruel. It was excruciatingly painful to watch a movie that only showed a sliver of what Mr. Robinson had to go through even by fellow teammates.  Every day posed a different challenge for Mr. Robinson and his family. It took great tenacity to stay the course.  What an example to us all. However, it was not without a price.

Thankfully we have come a long way from those days. Or have we? Today I would like to speak to those who are breaking barriers of gender and ethnicity… The price may be higher than you think. Some will not like it. Some will fight it. Some will be relentless in their opposition. Make a commitment to stay in it. Press on. Remember there are always others who are behind you following the path you are pioneering.

There will be times you will wonder if it is worth it. There will be times you will want to quit. There will be times you will be tempted to go down to their low level.  Stay strong. Take the higher ground. Keep dreaming big. God has a plan and it includes you. Don’t let the unwritten laws of others disqualify you from staying in the race. When God opens the door it is our choice to go through. God never promises us a pain free experience.

not allowed 3I am inspired by those who have broken barriers at great personal sacrifice. Barriers in education, race, color and gender bias. It is those stories that compel many of us to keep going even when the way gets tough. In my early years of ministry I attended a conference and personally heard the late Pastor John Osteen say, (and I paraphrase) “if I walked a mile for every time I wanted to quit ministry, I would be in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.” It has stuck with me. I must admit that my journey has had it’s share of hardship.  As I have listened to other men and women on the journey I realized I was not alone in my struggles.  I have also walked alongside my colleagues who have gone through personal hardships and challenges. We all have stories to tell. We need to keep telling them. It encourages others to stay in the race.

However, for those breaking barriers it is often brutal. Even at times relentless. Spiritual Warfare is not something many evangelicals talk about.  Honestly, we need to talk about the behind the scenes struggles..they are a very real part of the story.

Take time today to pray for others who may be breaking barriers. Take time to encourage…to thank and to be supportive. Open doors for others. You may need someone to open one for you.

God may ask us to take different routes to the same destination. It is unfortunate that some seem determined to be stumbling blocks to fellow brothers or sisters in Christ.  We will all be tested in one way or another. Unfortunately, there are those who would put others through obstacle courses due to unwritten laws. Their intent (although ignorant)  is because they doubt some will succeed.  Just because it has never been done does not mean it cannot be done.  Just because it has always been done a certain way does not mean it needs to stay that way. Have you ever considered that God may have other plans?

I pray we all deal with the unwritten laws in our own hearts and allow the Holy Spirit to examine us. Ask yourself where you have posted signs that say, NOT ALLOWED.

It may be time for us as the church to get our hearts checked by the Great Physician. Have you made your appointment?

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One Response to “Not Allowed”

Curious about your use of the term “unwritten laws” about mid way through your post. While I do agree that many people hold onto unwritten laws of some sort, isn’t a large part of the problem of not allowing women in ministry or leadership due to the fact that the Bible (rightly or wrongly interpreted) does have some ACTUAL written passages that speak against women preaching or even speaking in the church and that women are to submit to men, etc?  Certainly our openness or closedness to various interpretations are due to how firmly we choose to hold onto our own biases.  Perhaps I may even be misinterpreting your use of the terms “unwritten laws?”  But many out there would say that there IS written law to support their viewpoint.  How do we move beyond those viewpoints?

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