Scot McKnight shared an observation yesterday from historian David Hempton about the evangelical awakening, an 18th-century movement that formed the basis for modern evangelicalism in the U.S. and the U.K.
One of the prominent features Hempton noted about this awakening is that “… most surveys have shown that the majority of the rank-and-file was female. … One does not have to burrow very deeply into the archives of Evangelical awakenings to detect the ubiquitous influence of ‘pious women’ over siblings, husbands, children, parents and friends..."
This observation stood in great contrast to Slacktivist's post, also from yesterday, about People Who Don't Listen to Women, specifically John Piper and the U.S. Catholic bishops:
[O]ne big problem with not listening to women is that there are several billion of them not to listen to. If you choose to ignore them, they may return the favor, but only for so long as you’re not actively harming them. Once your ignorance leads to harm, they’re likely to remind you, forcefully, that they do in fact exist and that they don’t in fact have to take your abuse.
A long history of not listening won’t be easy to overcome. And much of what the bishops are about to hear will be silence. The silence of empty pews. The silence of the empty spaces left behind by the women who used to belong to their churches.
Those women will leave because they’ve been told one too many times that they’re not wanted there. They’re listening, and they hear exactly what the bishops are telling them.
I agree - evangelicals and Catholics who marginalize women may soon find emptier pews. But I would extend this even further. Just as women revitalized the church in the 18th century, people of color in the U.S. and the global south are the next wave of Christianity. Those who see no value in listening to minorities (and soon-to-be majorities) will be...left behind.
Our nation is moving rapidly towards racial, ethnic, and cultural diversity, and American Christianity is bearing witness to these dramatic changes. Workplaces, congregations, conferences, and readerships are all changing to reflect this reality, but Christian leaders are lagging behind in attaining the cultural intelligence they need in order to navigate through this multi-cultural reality.
The old guard would prefer not only white women to remain silent, but also women and men of color. The whiteness of many movements who in fact speak out against the likes of Piper and the U.S. Catholic bishops demonstrates that a low "cultural IQ," as Cho calls it, is pervasive in many wings of the church. I couldn't help but think of Andrew Walls' The Missionary Movement in Christian History, where he writes:
The exponential growth of the Christian faith in the African continent in the past century or so seems to me to raise the question whether this massive encounter with a new body of thought and network of relationships may not be as determinative of the future shape of Christianity as was the encounter with the Greek world. (xviii)
Perhaps if we only read, interact with, and agree to learn from North American and Western European men, we're missing out on an influential and historical movement, and may soon find that our myopic behavior translates into empty pews. Walls later discusses the difference between reading the Bible in Zulu in South Africa versus reading it in a "comfortable bourgeois congregation [who] meets in some Western suburbia" (15). It makes me wonder if we would gain another perspective in our debates here in the global North about biblicism or gender roles, for example.
Walls points out that "[t]heology in the Third World will be, as theology at all creative times has always been, about doing things, about things that deeply affect the lives of numbers of people" (10).
Guardians of patriarchy and a white status quo, as well as those who work to keep women of faith from having access to health care: your theology deeply affects the lives of all women and of all people of color. You may be winning the "culture war" now, but a church that continually marginalizes people based on their gender and race, either implicitly or explicitly, de facto or intentionally, will struggle to see another "great awakening."