The Toxic Church Culture that Causes Sexual Harassment – #MeToo

by Katarina Viola Hedman.

A couple of years ago I was at a Christian conference. The speaker was a completely ordinary charismatic with a dramatic voice, a suit, some extra pounds and was – of course – a man. Nothing out of the ordinary. This man even made attempts at being funny. And judging by the reaction of the room, he succeeded. Only I couldn’t laugh.

Majority of his jokes were about women. About how little men understand these strange creatures and how awful mothers-in-law are, and so on. Again, no different than what we are exposed to daily. Not just in church. He delivered joke after joke as if the service was his personal little comedy gig. Like men often do.

Today my feed is flooded with #metoo and men trying to be gallant. But the cause of sexual harassment isn’t that some poor bloke has had a drink too many. It doesn’t even start with a porn addiction or other tangible ways of displaying a poor view of women. It starts here. With jokes, like those that one pastor filled his message with and the crowd happily and uncritically laughed at.

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Photo: Mihai Surdu, Unsplash.com

Church, we must come to terms with the fact that #metoo is happening in the church and that it’s a structural problem, not simply tragic incidents in “the world”. The culture of belittling and ridiculing women is thriving in church, even in Scandinavia! Although few are opposed to female leadership it is evident that laughing at the expense of women isn’t controversial. I wish the church would be at the forefront of equality instead of backing a culture that is so clearly opposite of Christlike.

Jesus didn’t make jokes at the expense of women, yet men who claim to be his followers do – often without even noticing. And that is helping to build the culture where women are mere objects, existing only to please men. Objectifying leads to dehumanizing, which is what’s causing sexual harassment to happen in the first place. This is far from kingdom culture. I have yet to see a church where women aren’t objectified.

So men, before you try acting like the good guy and pretend to be the savior of all women, examine your heart. Do you laugh at women’s expense? Do you really care for women, other than the ones that you’re related to or married to?

Remember that the women you’ll never marry or be a father to are also humans. Don’t be like that pastor and stop whining.

Change the culture instead.

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Photo: Rebekka Teigen

Katarina Viola Hedman is a student of history in Uppsala, Sweden, and belongs to an intentional Christian community connected to the Jerusalem Project.

ska%cc%88rmavbild-2017-01-06-kl-21-17-02Pentecostals & Charismatics for Peace & Justice is a multicultural, gender inclusive, and ecumenical organization that promotes peace, justice, and reconciliation work among Pentecostal and Charismatic Christians around the world. If you like what we do, please join our Facebook forum, and sign up for our newsletter!

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8 thoughts on “The Toxic Church Culture that Causes Sexual Harassment – #MeToo”

  1. Very well stated. It feels heavy and burdensome the idea that men for the most part still treat women as second class citizens. It takes time to overcome the set in stone ideas that have pledged us for such a long time; but like other moments the more exposure the faster the change. Keep presenting questions, keep putting the truth out there and folks we begin to notice. Ugly attitude are not Godly attitudes.

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  2. Other than telling to many jokes and using church as a comedy gig, the article does not really point out anything the preacher did wrong. How is this article supposed to illustrate that women are objectified in churches and that it is a big problem? Is it necessarily wrong to make a joke about men not understanding women, if it communicates a true point?

    This is my first time reading the blog. Without details how is the reader supposed to know this was a problem, not just the author being sensitive and looking for a problem?

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    1. Hi! This text was originally something I posted on my facebook wall, it wasn’t written to be a blog post. My point was that this pastors joking and the lack of criticism by most of the audience is one symptom (out of many) of the structure that objectify and ridicule women in church, contrasting the view many christians tend to have of the church. To some joking inappropriately might seem like a petty thing, I see it as the tip of the iceberg.

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      1. I agree. I love my church but I don’t always agree with it. I love my pastor and thankful he is younger and is more respectful especially to his lovely wife. I appreciate them and I am grateful for their light and compassion. However, that being said some of the older folks are still hanging on to ideas that do not serve them or the church well. Church should draw you to Christ, not make you want to run the other way. God is the essence of love and we should always be open to allowing HIM to flow through us to everyone HE puts in our path; no matter what gender. Blessings

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      2. It simple truth. It wasn’t armed at being offense, just stating we need small changes as the church to catch of to accommodate the entire body.

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  3. without the specifics of the jokes its really hard to say whether women are been objectified as the writer says.

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