50 Christian Women
Wow, that is some title, huh? But don’t worry, there is nothing scandalous here. It is a paraphrase of the cover story of the October edition of Christianity Today that selected 50 Christian women who are making an impact in the world. The women chosen are active in various fields, some overtly “Christian”, some not. You can read the article here. While they are all seen as notable and worthy to be called to our attention the authors deliberately ignored differences that so often divide Christians, focusing rather on what the women were doing.
That choice, not unexpectedly, has set off significant controversy. No sooner had the ink dried, or rather the article been posted online, then the arguments started. Self-appointed guardians of the Christian gates scrutinized and began to question the list. That woman isn’t even a Christian! That other woman has her theology all wrong! That woman over there doesn’t respect the leadership of men in the church! And on and on.
Now, to be fair, I don’t think that misogyny is at work here. I am quite sure that CT could have published an article citing 50 Christian men, or 50 Christian minorities, or 50 Christian left-handers and gotten the same reaction. There seems to be this desire in certain quarters to assume they are responsible for the church remaining “pure and undefiled.” Whole “ministries” are dedicated to pointing out the mistakes and flaws in other Christians. When I hear of such things it makes me yearn for Sunday evenings in Sri Lanka.
When we served on the mission field our favorite time of month was the first Sunday night of every month. It was the night that Expatriate Christian Fellowship met. Each month Christians from other countries, most often missionaries but also Christians at work there for one reason or another, met for a time of fellowship.
In a land where the overwhelming majority of people did not know Christ; where working and living conditions were often hard; where terror and violence made the safety we take for granted a thing to be guarded, it was good to get together with others who were going through similar experiences. What was beautiful about it was that doctrinal differences were left at the door or, at times, brought up only in a kidding way. We could jokingly offer the Adventist some coffee or the Baptist a beer. We could ask the Anglican how he enjoyed giving his morning sermon in stifling heat while wearing heavy robes.
We were an odd group, often changing as people came and went. Pentecostals, evangelicals, Anglicans, Methodists, Presbyterians and even a few that Christians back home doubted the faith of, were all welcome. Bound by a common love of Christ and a common desire to see Him glorified in a dark land the differences seemed inconsequential. There was an overwhelming sense that a small group of very imperfect people were all in this together.
I wish sometimes I could recapture that feeling here in the U.S. Yet for some reason it seems harder here. Differences that seemed not worth mentioning there somehow get bigger here. Yet I keep thinking that the future of faith in our land is more like that distant country than it is of a land of evangelical purity. Perhaps before we take out our theological pistols and start firing away at some of those 50 Christian women, or any other group that is not just like us, we should stop and think. The day may come when I realize that they were on my side all along.