"Sexism, Servanthood, and Second-Class Citizens" Transcript
Season 2, Episode 9
[An acoustic guitar softly plays six notes, the first three ascending and the last three descending — F#, B, F#, E, D#, B — with a keyboard pad playing the note B in the background. Both fade out as Jonathan Walton says “This is a KTF Press podcast.”]
Suzie Lahoud: I remember growing up, walking on the street and just having this feeling of eyes being on me and getting catcalled and just wanting to disappear. And having that same feeling kind of triggered in the context of the church, was just so horrifying to me. I just so wish that as a young woman growing up in church, that they would have done a better job of supporting and empowering women to protect ourselves. I feel like instead, all that we were taught was to cover up and to not be too enticing.
[The song “Citizens” by Jon Guerra fades in. Lyrics: “I need to know there is justice/That it will roll in abundance/ And that you’re building a city/ Where we arrive as immigrants/ And you call us citizens/ And you welcome us as children home.” The song fades out.]
Suzie Lahoud: Welcome to Shake The Dust: Leaving colonized faith for the Kingdom of God. I'm Suzie Lahoud.
Sy Hoekstra: And I’m Sy Hoekstra. Today we're going to be talking about women in the church, giving Suzie an opportunity to talk about some of the times that she's felt discriminated against or empowered being in church spaces, and we're going to talk about some of the systemic and interpersonal factors that are at play when it comes to patriarchy in the church. Just because of some scheduling issues, Jonathan Walton is not with us this week. We are going to have some content warnings for this conversation in the show notes. I'm not going to say them now because we haven't had the conversation yet. So I don't know what all is going to be content warning worthy, but they will be in the show notes if you want to check.
[The show notes include content warnings for mentions of sexual assault and discussion of sexual harassment.]
Suzie Lahoud: Please remember to take a look at ktfpress.com and consider subscribing to our publication. You'll get our weekly newsletter where the three of us send media suggestions for your discipleship and political education as we leave colonized faith. You'll get access to all the bonus episodes of this show and support all our work on writing, podcasting, book publishing, and keeping our material accessible for our disabled readers and listeners. Also, please write in to firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions you have about this episode or any other episode you've heard. Our next episode is going to be a season finale question and answer session. We've already gotten some great questions and we're excited to hear more. Write in or send us a voicemail as an attachment.
Sy Hoekstra: Okay. So let's start with this Suzie, if you don't mind. I'm falsely asking your permission, like we haven't talked about it, if it's okay to start with this ahead of time.
Suzie Lahoud: Permission granted.
Sy Hoekstra: Yeah, thank you so much. We have talked a couple times on this show. You have said a couple times on this show that you growing up sometimes felt like you were a second-class citizen in the kingdom of God because you are a woman. Can you just expand a little bit on why you felt that way?
Suzie Lahoud: Yeah, I mean, so it's something that I feel like is just kind of in the air that you breathe growing up in white evangelical spaces as a young woman. That just the subtle messages that you pick up are that you're created to be in sort of a servile position. And the way that I justified that for myself theologically as I got older, because this was something I very much bought into— on top of this, I was very much into complementarian theology— and the way I justified it again, was Christ came in a servant role, so as a woman, it should be okay that that's what I'm created for, that's what I'm supposed to do. Which is a really beautiful concept, except that I was actually using that to justify a lower view of myself that I had imbibed and that was presented to me continuously in subtle and not so subtle ways.
And so the difference there is that Christ coming as a servant is not that Christ is worth less [laughs]. If anything, Christ is the God that we worship, and so the way that that was then lived out by myself, was that I really believed that I was worth less than the people that I was serving. And that I was never meant to have a role that would in any way put me at the center or in the spotlight, and it was because I didn't deserve to be there and I didn't have the gifting that that required. And because it would've been wrong for me to do something like that. And so it’s subtle ways that you're kind of, you get your hand slapped if you're — any hint of you having authority over a man or, heaven forbid, trying to teach a man in any way.
And specific ways that I saw this growing up, so my parents as missionaries, they would travel around to a lot of different churches and they would be speakers at conferences and things like that. They were sort of on that circuit, and I was always really proud as a little girl, seeing my mom get up on stage and share. It was usually my dad would be invited to share and give a sermon and he would preach, and then he would invite my mom up, and she would essentially give another sermon [laughs]. My mom to this day is an incredibly gifted speaker and communicator and storyteller and just a real force of nature. And again, it always made me feel so proud to see her doing that.
But I remember one conference that we attended, it was a college ministry conference. And at one of the sessions, they were getting feedback from the students. And this like 19, 20-year-old kid stood up and chastised my mom in front of everyone for thinking that she had the right to stand up on stage and teach any man anything. And my mom to her credit was wise and mature enough to not take the bait and to bounce back from it pretty quickly and actually finish the conference in the way that she had been requested to lead. But for me, I cried myself to sleep that night and I'll never forget the shame that I felt by association, because he used the Bible to justify this really inappropriate take down of my mom as a woman who — how dare she think that she could do that? And so it's just really, it's things like that.
And then I remember in college, I was a student leader in my campus ministry and was actually chosen to be one of the two. Every year they would have a guy and a girl share the final parting words to the graduating class at our weekly meeting, and I was selected by my peers to be the one to give the final message. And I remember a woman that I deeply respected hinting to me that she felt like maybe it wasn't quite appropriate for me to be doing that. Even as a college student speaking to a room of other college students, she was hinting to me that she felt like maybe that wasn't my place to be standing up there.
Sy Hoekstra: Just solely because you’re getting up and talking at all. You're not giving a sermon, you're not filling the role of a pastor, you're just talking to your friends basically.
Suzie Lahoud: Yeah, because it was a mixed room, it was men and women. And up until that point, my role as a student leader was mostly leading other girls in Bible studies and stuff like that. But yeah, the implication was that that would've been inappropriate.
Sy Hoekstra: So look, a couple things I would want to point out there. One is, A, in that case in college, no man said anything to you, right? It's another woman enforcing like a patriarchal structure against you, which happens all the time in church spaces.
Suzie Lahoud: Absolutely.
Sy Hoekstra: This is something that Kristin Du Mez has said a few times, she was on our podcast. She’s just someone I've heard say this. But it is something that requires the participation of women in order to work in church spaces…
Suzie Lahoud: Absolutely.
Sy Hoekstra: ...which is why it's so threatening I think to a lot of people who hold complementarian and other views to have women who rejected openly in church. Complementarian, by the way, for those of you who aren't familiar, is just a phrase from the late 20th Century created by some white evangelical Christian men who wanted a new kind of way of framing their stance about why it was that women shouldn't teach in the church, and we'll talk about this more, like shouldn't teach or hold certain positions of authority.
And the argument that we'll get into a little bit more later is always that men and women, it's not supposed to be a hierarchical structure. It's just men and women have different giftings and are called to different roles in the church. And preaching and teaching and being in roles of authority is not what women are called to. There's obvious problems with that, but we'll talk about it later.
But the other thing was, you mentioned that your dad was the one who was mostly invited to speak in a lot of these church places, and then he would have to invite your mom up after giving the sermon. I think you've told me before that he would have to frame it in terms of like, she just wants to get up and “share some thoughts,” or, you know what I mean? Something like that that isn't, she wants to get up and preach or teach you anything. Is that right?
Suzie Lahoud: Yeah.
Sy Hoekstra: So I think that's just another, that's one of the subtler ways that sure, a woman got up and spoke in these churches, but a man had to speak first, give the official sermon and then invite the woman up on stage, and a lot of times that's how it plays out.
You have also, you’ve talked to me about how oftentimes for a lot of women, church is actually the least empowering place in their lives. Can you explain what that means a little bit?
Suzie Lahoud: Yeah. So this is another thing that just, it can be so confusing living in a world where you'll have women who are professionals, doctors and lawyers and academics, and really qualified women who are out in the world doing really important things and leaders in the workplace. But then you come to church, and again the implication is, make sure you're not taking on any inappropriate leadership role, make sure you're not stepping on anyone's toes, stepping in the spotlight too much. And it just, it makes it feel like the place, at least I have certainly felt that the place that I'm often least empowered is in the church and in Christian settings.
It also makes it so difficult to just find your voice, which I think is so scary for the church, because imagine the amount of prophetic power that we are silencing by not allowing women to speak out in those ways. I mean, there have been times where I felt like there's almost like a stranglehold for me in terms of trying to figure out how much I can speak, and if I even have the courage or know how to speak in those spaces. There's like this code of topics that you have to stick to, and it's just, it's really strange to have to exist in those two different worlds, and then it makes me so sad too, because imagine… I talked about the loss of prophetic power and leadership potential that the church is losing, but also the church is going to hemorrhage people, period, if that's what folks are seeing and experiencing. You're just going to lose women if that's not the place where they can thrive and live to the fullness of who God's created them to be.
Sy Hoekstra: And they can do that everywhere else.
Suzie Lahoud: Right. Absolutely.
Sy Hoekstra: The prophetic voice part, I think is something that's important for me, because I was also, I grew up where there was always some amount of theology being taught that women shouldn't be in leadership for various reasons. But I was also around people who thought the complete opposite and had lots of women teaching and leading me in various capacities in church and at work. And where I ended up was like, when I was weighing the theologies, I was like, there's kind of a risk either way. You could be silencing women's prophetic voices if you're not letting them lead or speak, or just squashing gifts in general, whether it's prophecy or preaching or whatever. Leadership roles of any kind or leadership gifts of any kind.
But so then on the other side, theoretically, if there really was this God-ordained role that women were supposed to serve, something would happen [laughs] if they were, women were breaking out of that role and violating God's order of things. There would be some negative result, and I just never saw that, you know what I mean? It just came down to like my real life. I was like, let's look at the actual fruit of what's going on in these spaces where women are teaching, and I was like, I really tried [laughter]. As a young man, I was like, I really, I'm going to hunt for something problematic that's actually happening here. Not something theoretical, not something abstract. Not like this is a slippery slope or this is whatever. And at some point, I just thought to myself, “This is silly. I can't find anything wrong with this really [laughs].”
This is kind of like what I said in our episode about queer Christianity, is like, the real theological textual arguments that go on, a lot of them have to do with Greek words and Bible history and stuff that I don't really, I don't have a PhD in and I'm not actually equipped to determine who's right and who's wrong. What I have to look at is what Jesus looks at most of the time, which is the actual fruit of the theology, like what's really going on in the world and are people flourishing and growing closer to God.
So we're going to get deeper into some of the other stuff you said, but I do want to talk about some more experiences that you've had, because you have also had some experiences with what is popularly known as the Billy Graham Rule. So famous evangelist Billy Graham famously had this rule that he would not spend any time alone with any women who are not his wife. And any individual or person who does that I suppose could have good intentions for that rule, like for following that rule. But there are a lot of implications of men in leadership thinking that way and following that rule at scale, and I guess in individual churches and even some people would follow it in workplaces. So can you talk about that Suzie? How has that hesitance for men to be alone with you, what's behind that and how has that affected your life in the church?
Suzie Lahoud: The clearest example that comes to mind for me with this in terms of my own personal experience is, so right around the time I was graduating from university and I felt called to go overseas and serve, and I couldn't get a meeting with any pastors…
Sy Hoekstra: For fundraising.
Suzie Lahoud: For fundraising. It finally dawned on me that it was because I was a woman because all of my guy friends were meeting with pastors left and right, and married couples weren't having the same issue. And they were always kind of really cagey about it. Like once one pastor would meet with me kind of for a few minutes, but like only in the lobby right after the church sermon, and it was really kind of crowded and cacophonous. And as a single woman, you're ultimately just sort of viewed as this potential temptation to particularly pastors, men in spiritual authority. And it just made me so deeply uncomfortable because you just feel at that point so hypersexualized.
Sy Hoekstra: Literally, I mean, that's precisely what's happening, is you're being sexualized by your own pastor.
Suzie Lahoud: Yeah, no, literally. And in a way, again, it’s hard to experience just how uncomfortable and just sort of icky that is. And it was also in a way that was actually quite familiar to me unfortunately, having grown up in a country with extremely high instances of rape and sexual assault against women. I grew up overseas, outside the United States, but the same can be true of the United States. But I remember growing up, walking on the street and just having this feeling of eyes being on me and getting cat called and just wanting to disappear and wishing I could just wear a paper bag every day. And having that same feeling triggered in the context of the church was just so horrifying to me, and is something that it's taken me a long time to really shake.
And again, it increases as you come of age in the church as a young woman if you're in spaces where these patriarchal forces are really at play, you start to feel that, that sense of eyes being on you, of being objectified, hypersexualized. This is something, Sy, you and I started to talk about in prep for this conversation, but I just wish looking back, and this is where patriarchy and purity culture and all of that sort of begin to intersect, you know all of these conversations are so interconnected, but I just so wish that as a young woman growing up in church, in youth group, in campus meetings and all these other spaces, that they would've done a better job of supporting and empowering women to protect ourselves, to not feel like we are being belittled as beings that are viewed as only there for sexual pleasure. And to work through the shame and the guilt and the fear that comes with that. I feel like instead, all that we were taught was to cover up and to not be too enticing and to not attract too much attention to ourselves. In cases where for myself, I grew up praying that if I was going to be raped, that they would kill me first because I was just so terrified.
And so there are really dark places that this feeds into, and ways that it just, it's so dehumanizing of women, and so marring of the ways that women are created in the image of God. Because I think that sometimes it becomes almost this sort of Orwellian Animal Farm narrative in the church, where it's like, oh, all people are created in the image of God, but some are more in the image of God than others. Like all people are created in the image of God, but men are more in the image of God, than women. And obviously you can add to this the intersectionality of race and all these other aspects too, but it just, yeah. The things that that does to a person's soul, that kind of belittling and dehumanizing is really dark and ugly, and I wish that the church would play more of a role in restoring hope and healing in those spaces rather than amplifying those areas of hurt and brokenness.
Sy Hoekstra: Okay. So a couple things. First of all, I'll just pause here for a second and say, I and the audience, everybody really appreciate you being willing to talk about things that are personal on this level because it's not easy, despite the fact that you're doing it very confidently and in a straightforward way. The stuff about not teaching women to respect and protect themselves is so frustrating in the context of, like you were saying, rampant sexual assault, which was very high in the country that you grew up in, but is also not as high, but still very high everywhere.
So the church is teaching women to quote-unquote “protect themselves” by not dressing in too revealing of a way or whatever, and effectively accepting the behavior of men. Like the behavior of men is a given, it's boys will be boys and it sort of infantilizes men in a way. Like men are just going to behave that way. You don't need to expect anything more from them, stand up for yourself, like push back at all. It's basically up to you. So it is unsurprising that you go to that dark place when you are basically told by the church you're alone. This is you protect yourself as much as possible by not dressing in a provocative manner. And it's just, I don't know. It's like gross in a very profound way, and people just don't think about the damage that they're doing by acting that way. And like you said, like your experience demonstrated, it is men and women who reinforce this constantly in church leadership roles, in youth group roles, in women's ministry and children's ministry roles talking to little girls that yeah, it's awful.
Okay, so let's talk about specifically how this looks in a couple of different contexts. Like how these patriarchal dynamics operate in the church, in churches that affirm women in leadership, like that have women as pastors, women as leaders, women able to preach from the spaces, are allegedly egalitarian versus churches that don't, because there are differences in dynamics. And I should note here, you already kind of touched on this, but we're two white people talking about this, right?
Suzie Lahoud: Oh yeah, no, for sure.
Sy Hoekstra: This is extremely different in contexts that are not the ones that we grew up in. And so that's, we will acknowledge that here, dynamics are different in other churches, but because white evangelical churches have exported so much of their theology to the rest of the world and to the church and to non-white churches in general, we are talking from our context. And that value is whatever that value is to you as a listener [laughs].
Okay, now, I'm sorry, now answer my question.
Suzie Lahoud: Yeah, so it’s interesting and I guess unfortunate because having an egalitarian theology where you view that men and women can take on the same kinds of roles and women don't just have to be in servile roles or traditionally what in traditional gender models would be assigned to women, embracing a theology that eschews those kinds of ideas doesn't necessarily solve all of your patriarchal problems. And the ways that I see that oftentimes are, even if you're in a church or a Christian space that has women in leadership, that doesn't always mean that women are actually allowed to be changemakers in the sense of having the power to make decisions that will actually affect change.
So they can still be sort of there symbolically in some ways, or oftentimes women are in leadership, but they still really only can affect change as it pertains to other women or children. They still may not, or probably won't have authority over men. So probably the lead pastor oftentimes is still a man, and so it just, I see a lot of folks and male pastors who I think want to be there and want to treat men and women equally, but and yet I still see them falling into this pitfall of not being willing to relinquish enough power that it's actually going to be an equal space. And that again intersectionality, like obviously you see the same dynamic when you're talking about diversity within your congregation and empowering people of color. And obviously this is going to be compounded when you're talking about women of color being in positions of authority and leadership in the church. So that dynamic being at play.
And this is something I experienced at a certain point. Another woman and I in one of my churches, we had sort of started this ministry together. There was something on our hearts that we felt was really important to address, and we had gotten together a group and it started to grow. And my husband got on board and started joining in. And then this older gentleman joined and he was someone who had been in ministry for years, and all of a sudden it became very difficult for me to facilitate meetings about this ministry, because he would only look at my husband and referred to my husband. Like literally sitting in meetings, he wouldn't even make eye contact with me. And if I made a point, he would address it to my husband, as if my husband had made the point. And it was just exhausting week in and week out having to deal with this dynamic to the point that after about a year of this going on, I finally stepped down and asked my husband to take over, because it was more important to me that this ministry continue than that I have to go through this experience of trying to facilitate when I wasn't being allowed to do that. So you can have those dynamics.
And the sad thing is, I don't even think this individual was aware that he was doing that, and so that also shows space for discipleship, that men need to be discipled out of patriarchy. Because there can be microaggressions that I think men aren't even aware that they're making, and so that those things need to be brought to light for them, but I don't think that a lot of men are even used to having those things brought to their attention. And I just, again, patriarchy is something that you have to be discipled out of, for men and for women, because just knowing that patriarchy exists in the church and that it's such a powerful force doesn't mean that you're aware of all the ways that it manifests day in and day out, and all of the ways that you are a part of that.
And Sy, you're so right to continuously point out that women are just as much a part of upholding patriarchy as men are. And again, we're not the first people to say that, but it's so true. I've been one of those women who have enforced those boundaries and tried to put and keep other women in their place, because I thought that's what you're supposed to do. That's how to be a godly woman. So it just, there's so much work that we have to do around this and so much that we're not aware of. And there's so many granular conversations that need to be had, not just up at the high level of like, okay, when we look at our church, are there women in leadership positions, but down to the everyday interactions, how do those women feel who are in leadership positions? Do they feel empowered? Can they make actual impactful changes? Do they have that power and authority? Are there times when they feel like they're being pushed back on and put in their place and being belittled and put down? All of those things need to be addressed and we need to be on our guard for those things.
Sy Hoekstra: I think when it comes to egalitarian spaces, what you're talking about, or the analogy for what you're talking about is gender blindness, kind of like colorblindness. Meaning like obviously race and gender are not the same thing. They don't have the same effects. They don't, they don't function the same way in society. But there's a logic to discrimination that is kind of consistent, which is like, you can have a church where, or you can have a business or a neighborhood or whatever, where legally, technically, Black people are welcome. There aren't any Black people there though. And it's the same thing in the church. You could say, yeah, women are allowed to be in leadership. There aren't any in leadership, but they're allowed to be.
And then I think a view that puts women in specific roles in the church is making the same logical mistake of the notion of separate but equal, which is that you're trying to split people up into categories and assign those categories certain roles in society. And you have just like this abiding faith or hope that that will not result in a hierarchy. But it is not a coincidence that when it comes to those kinds of churches, what roles do men play? What roles do women play? The roles that men play are the ones that have all the power and all the influence, and the roles that women play are the ones like childcare and being a good housewife who cooks and cleans, that men don't want to do anyways, and that wealthy white woman push off on women of color.
And I… so the fact that it all shakes out that way isn't surprising to people who have spent some time thinking about how discrimination and segregation work, which is kind of, it's just another reason that I reject those ways of thinking, is like, it is so, it maps on so perfectly to the patterns of the world around us. It just, it is so reflecting of the same idols of power and manliness and masculinity that we see all around us. It looks too much like our culture for me to believe that this comes from God.
Suzie Lahoud: And it makes sense that you can make that comparison, even though as you said, gender and race, those are distinct spaces and distinct forms of discrimination though overlapping, but it makes sense that you can make that comparison because power dynamics. Those who are in power will always be to some extent oblivious to the ways that they wield power, to the detriment of those who don't have the power.
Sy Hoekstra: And if you split up people into categories along those lines of power, you're going to end up recreating hierarchies.
Suzie Lahoud: Yeah.
Sy Hoekstra: All right. So let's talk about something more positive Suzie [laughter]. Where have you found in Christian spaces real empowerment as a woman?
Suzie Lahoud: Yeah, so I guess this is the really kind of beautiful part of my story, is that the folks that in many cases I’ve been most empowered by have been other men in my life, other brothers in Christ. And a lot of times, to be quite honest, it’s men of color who have been most empowering to me. And I think one specific example, my husband, when he and I were dating, as I mentioned before in the show, my husband's Lebanese. He and I met when we were in Lebanon… when I was in Lebanon; he grew up there. And then I moved there and we met at a Bible study, actually.
And when we were dating and I think already engaged at this point, we were sitting down together at one point and he turned to me and was like, “So what do you want to do with the rest of your life?” My response was basically, “I thought I would get married and serve my husband in whatever he felt called to do.” And so to have my future husband and now husband really challenging me to seek out my own sense of calling and passion and purpose and vocation, was really at first, honestly kind of scary because in some ways it’s easier to think you're just going to hitch your wagon to somebody else's. But then also really incredibly empowering. I mean, he's the reason that I decided to go to grad school and get another master's degree and then two, and pursue other things in my life, and he's always been empowering of me in our relationship in terms of us being decision-makers together, and that's something that I've had to learn into because that wasn't the theology of marriage that was originally taught to me.
Because as a single woman, you're always taking a lot of notes on how to be a good married woman [laughs]. I feel like I was prepping myself for so many years on how to be a good complementarian and then to have this this man in my life who really wanted me to step into leadership alongside of him was so incredible. And then I went to an Arab seminary where everyone from the president of the seminary, to my advisors, to professors, really challenging me to continue in my studies and to speak out and to preach if I felt called to preach. I'm not someone who's actually ever felt called to be a pastor, but it's been really empowering the times when I felt like there were folks who felt like I had a message that I had to share and provided me with that platform to do so. It's because of men in my life that I'm pursuing my PhD today, and so that's been really incredible and remarkable.
Sy Hoekstra: Can we pause for one second? I don't think we’ve ever actually said on this show that you're doing a PhD at Oxford right now [laughs].
Suzie Lahoud: Oh yeah. So should I not mention that?
Sy Hoekstra: No, I'm saying, so my point is that's the extent. You were thinking I'm going to spend my life supporting what somebody else does, and your husband’s like, “What do you want to do,” and now you're getting a PhD at Oxford. That's quite a turnaround and it's very cool.
Suzie Lahoud: [laughs] Thanks. No, it's been an incredible journey. Again, I remember having one, even having completed my last master’s. I did my last master’s at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at Harvard, and I was so afraid to tell my advisor in Lebanon that I was applying to Harvard because I was afraid he would just laugh at me. And I had to tell him because he was writing my recommendation. And to tell him and have him look me straight in the eye and say, “Yes, you should do that,” was just incredible.
So just all that to say, don't assume that the women in your life don't need to be affirmed in the roles that they're in, because we do need people around us to bolster us up because it can be hard out here sometimes. And you will have enough people who are trying to dissuade you and discourage you, but sometimes it's just those few kind of bulwarks that you need in your life that can encourage you to move on and press forward and that's incredible. That's such a gift.
Sy Hoekstra: And it's also like you're… this is something I can relate to a little bit as a disabled person, is like you feel all those things that hurt your confidence or hurt your, I don't know, just sense of self-worth, and you're still taught to project confidence and happiness and cheerfulness and whatever. So it's like, it's, it can be deceiving. Like people may need encouragement who you would not expect based on their immediate outward behavior.
Suzie Lahoud: Oh, absolutely. Yeah. And it's not to say too, I know I've emphasized the role that these incredible men have played in my life. And it has been women too, but I just think men also have an important role to play in terms of empowering and lifting up other women, and I love to see that.
Sy Hoekstra: And some of it is just role modeling like your mom.
Suzie Lahoud: Yeah, totally.
Sy Hoekstra: You also told me that you found some empowerment just in like changes in your beliefs, like in theological changes that you went through in your life. Can you talk a little bit about how you found that kind of uplifting of yourself in scripture?
Suzie Lahoud: Yeah, so I should say a real turning point for me was at the small seminary that I attended in Lebanon, the Arab Baptist Theological Seminary. I was also working with the parent organization of the seminary at the time and we were doing a training in partnership with World Vision. It's called Channels of Hope for Gender, but basically it's how they work with partner churches to address sexual and gender-based violence, which is something that was a part of my caseload of things that I was doing at my job at the time. And sorry, there are a lot of different threads I tried to tie together there. But it's a small community, so a lot of things happen with a lot of different hats.
But the trainer was this incredible... I don't know if he was a pastor, but just this incredible trainer from, a Black man from Zimbabwe. They brought him in to do this training with church leaders that we brought together. And he started in the book of Genesis and worked all the way forward I think through Revelation, just looking at how gender is presented in the Bible, and essentially the ways that women and those who are perceived as different, who don't fit into our gender boxes, how scripture has been used to oppress them and the ways that actually we should be understanding scripture and disentangling these ugly patriarchal messages from the biblical text.
And it was such an incredible moment for me because I was one of the people who had brought together these church leaders to learn from this trainer, and then sitting in the first session, I realized that I was the one who needed to hear these things, because I still read Genesis as, this is such a simple, silly thing, but “Oh, God created Adam first and Eve was out of Adam. So Adam must be therefore somewhat more important than Eve, like men are somehow more important than women.” He used that example, he said, “Well, if you believe that, technically God created the animals first. So how is that a theological hermeneutical tool for understanding that?”
And just bringing it for—all these other little silly things that I had bought into, even talking about Eve's role, again this is just starting in Genesis. But when the Bible talks about her as a helper or a helpmate, that term, ezer, the only other place you see that in the Bible is referring to God himself, that God is our helper. It’s not a disempowering term. It's actually this beautiful, full term. It actually implies, I think, power. It's a really robust term that does not mean that I think women are second-class citizens and are only there to serve in a secondary role as supporting characters. So, all of these things that he brought us through, and I'm still actively learning how to, obviously, decolonize my faith and depatriarchize my faith.
Sy Hoekstra: Depatriarchize.
Suzie Lahoud: I was going to say, I don't think that's a word, that's my neologism for the day. But, and I've certainly learned from incredible academics and scholars that we have today, like Kristin Kobes Du Mez and Beth Allison Barr. And we recently shared in our newsletter a piece talking about the work of Elizabeth or “Libbie” Schrader, who is a young academic scholar who's doing amazing work on Mary Magdalene and looking at Papyrus 66, the oldest extant copy that we have of the gospel of John, and changes that were actually made to the Papyrus, to sort of scrub out and blur the role of Mary Magdalene in the early church. Like really incredible stuff that is changing the way that I read the Bible.
And then that lens is changing the way that I view myself and is helping to heal really deep scars that I have, because I have viewed myself as a second-class citizen in the kingdom of God for so long. So my hope and prayer is that moving forward, we will be able to raise a generation of young women who don't ever view themselves as less than, who see the power of God that is placed in them. Who know that they are fully, fully 100 percent created in the image of God and bearing of his dignity and the value and worth that comes with that.
Sy Hoekstra: Amen to that, as someone who just had a baby girl.
Do you know the stereotypical thing that Republican politicians do when somebody, like there's been some sexual misconduct and they come out and they go, “As a father of daughters …
Suzie Lahoud: [simultaneously] I have a daughter.
Sy Hoekstra: … I object to this.”
Suzie Lahoud: Yep, yep.
Sy Hoekstra: I just did that basically [laughter].
Actually, I want to pause on this Libbie Schrader thing for a minute, because it's really interesting. If you're a subscriber, go back to the newsletter we had recently that has “The Missing Mary Magdalene” in the title. But anyways, it's this woman's work who basically discovered that the Mary and Martha in John 11 is not actually supposed to be Mary and Martha in the original [laughs]. In the story of Lazarus, that's supposed to be one person, Mary Magdalene, who then pronounces that Jesus is the Messiah. So it's just Peter and Mary Magdalene are the only people that do that in the gospels.
And this is not like some revisionist thing, this is like the people who were the keepers of Bible translation are now really wondering what to do about this. Do we put a footnote, do we change the text? It's a kind of a, it's not been questioned really. So we'll put a link to a historian who we've also referenced before in the newsletter, Diana Butler Bass, kind of explaining Libbie Schrader's work, and what implications it has and you'll see why it's so inspiring to Suzie.
Alright. So we are going to pause there for now. Suzie, thank you so much for opening up and talking about all that stuff today. This was a great conversation and I really appreciate it, and I'm sure the audience does too.
Suzie Lahoud: Yeah. No, thank you for having the conversation as always.
Sy Hoekstra: Before we go, reminder, please go to ktfpress.com, check out the subscription there. Get the newsletter, the bonus episodes of this show, support everything we do at KTF Press. We could not exist without our subscribers. We really appreciate everyone who chooses to support us that way. So please really do consider that.
Also, our next episode is going to be our season finale. It's going to be a mail bag; we're going to answer some questions. We've already gotten some great ones like Suzie said, and we would love to get some more from you all. So please do send your written or voice recorded questions to email@example.com. Our theme song is “Citizens” by Jon Guerra. Our podcast art is by Jacqueline Tam. And we will see you all in two weeks!
[The song “Citizens” by Jon Guerra fades in. Lyrics: “And that you’re building a city/ Where we arrive as immigrants/ And you call us citizens/ And you welcome us as children home/ Where we arrive as immigrants/ And you call us citizens/ And you welcome us as children home.” The song fades out.]
Suzie Lahoud: You know, it can even be sort of like microaggressions that they don't aware that they're doing. Oh, wow, that wasn’t English. I'm so sorry [laughter]. Let me say that again. Oh, COVID brain…
Sy Hoekstra: Yeah, you're recovering from COVID. It's fine.