When women get antsy in the church, this is why.

It’s not just one or two snarky sexists, it’s a whole room of cackling voices seeming impressed and egging them on. They aren’t rambling out on the fringe, they are prominent, renowned leaders of large organizations, best selling authors, and public faces of our faith. They don’t put vocal women in their places by just telling them to go back to ladies’ Bible study, they tell them to “go home.” They aren’t content to eviscerate the women out to radically upend complementarian gender roles but also bare their claws at Beth Moore, who writes: “Being a woman called to leadership within and simultaneously beyond those [Southern Baptist] walls was complicated to say the least but I worked within the system. After all, I had no personal aspirations to preach nor was it my aim to teach men. If men showed up in my class, I did not throw them out. I taught. But my unwavering passion was to teach and to serve women.” They don’t just express concern over modern feminism, they discount feminism in general as pure power hunger and thus vilify women who speak out from places of empowerment– specifically, in this snippet, those who preach the gospel and those who share stories of sexual abuse. They claim Scriptural concern but posture and counterattack and turn blind eyes to Scripture like love manifesting as kindness, pride causing downfall, and Jesus’ example to consider those who wage war on darkness with us as allies not to be impeded.

We watch these respected, God-fearing men charge through topics like women’s relationship and obedience to the Lord, women’s gifts, women’s place and purpose in their faith communities, and women’s basic safety like bulls in red-carpeted china shops, and we fear, perhaps correctly, that for every brother as disgusted as we are by this locker room bully display, there’s another finding validation. We’re out here wrestling with questions of purpose and worth, trying to be brave enough for the boldness and vulnerability that are the fuel of community… and statements like this land in our hearts and minds to be the devil’s playthings.

If John MacArthur can say it so plainly on such a platform, why not my elder? Why not my teacher? Why not my friend? If not even Mama Beth is safe from heartless humiliation, why would I expect to be? Writing me off as a power hungry narcissist will be a cake walk if you’ve already made that leap on folks like her…

Yes, the fear will subside. I don’t live daily in paranoia or find it hard to connect with brothers in Christ. Neither will I let fear stifle the possibility that there may come a time that obedience requires Beth-level boldness. I watch her critics, count the costs like Jesus said, and know that, ultimately? That level of healing impact on the world is worth the cheap shots it returns. I will quickly settle back into my normal cheekiness toward the Accuser who won a victory this week through these men’s mouths– back into the belief that being on the receiving end of wickedness means you’re a threat to something wicked. The moment is already passing. *winks Jesusly at Satan*

But before the dust settles… Before I roll my eyes and remind myself this is why I take internet sabbaticals… Let’s name what this is and what this does.

This is misogyny masquerading as righteousness, and it stands a very good chance of alienating an essential half of the Body of Christ. Your family. Your peeps. And all those who could be. It’s a gross, ad hominem attack over a difference in ideas that was self-admittedly developed in a snap judgement and accidentally revealing of dismissive attitudes toward women. And it hurts like the place it originated.

I’m in no position to read John MacArthur & Co. the Riot Act. Our travel budget is pretty spent this month. But what I can do is flag this moment for my brothers and sisters to remember when some of us women seem sensitive.

We may be sensitive, but we aren’t delusional. When we feel shushed and rejected over things that seem small, remember we watched a beloved teacher and encourager be told to “go home.” Told her public speaking skills amount to “hocking” and qualifications for influence cap out at selling jewelry on QVC. That our rising voices– from preaching to hashtagging #metoo— are the alarm bells of a sinful world intruding on the Kingdom, not the roar of the Holy Spirit in us. That any authority we hold is suspect and impurely motivated. That to navigate the sometimes gradient bounds of complementarianism without absolute precision forfeits our right to Christian compassion. And all to auditorium-wide applause.

We bring that with us. Is it fair? Not really. There are plenty of hurt women who start on the offensive in conversations around the women’s roles topic. Some of us still brace for impact rounding every corner. We are responsible for doing battle with fear and defensiveness and for engaging from a position of openness and security. But sensitivity to certain undertones in our church talk and policy formation is understandable. Prudent, even. We know that in exploring our identities and roles as women we’ll rub elbows, somewhere somehow, with someone who harbors such attitudes, and not counting that cost only adds to the shock value and risk of discouragement when it happens. Sexism is real.

So we walk the fine line but don’t desert. We young women especially need community in our maturation, in defining our purpose, in facing our hurts. We need a church that bears with us through flaring fear and anger and lets us ask hard questions.

A great starting point? Hit play. Listen to this panel’s discussion, and then hit replay. Hear these men through our ears, cringe with us, and let it humanize and validate us in our most frustrated, contentious moments. When it seems like we’re teary over a 12-year-old boy leading closing prayer in a service where we’re disallowed, this is the iceberg beneath.