Tag Archives: women

God’s Daughters: Evangelical Women and the Power of Submission

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University of California Press; 1997

Griffith’s work[1] centers on research about prayer-filled women within an international, Pentecostal, evangelical, parachurch organization (still running today) called Aglow Women’s Fellowship. While reading and analyzing her research about the initial attraction, then success, of this international women’s organization, it made me wonder why and how it was so effective. It seemed obvious at first—Aglow was an opportune space for evangelical women to find community. Yet, there were other available spaces for evangelical women like the local church. So,what role did the local church play in the unintentional push of people towards the parachurch and what did the parachurch offer people that they pulled people away from the primary commitment to the local church?

Religious leaders have contested amongst one another about the the tension and fragile relationship between local churches and parachurch organizations time and time again. In “The Church and the Parachurch: An Uneasy Marriage,”[2] Dyrness explains both sides of the argument. Local church leaders feel concerned that parachurches “drain leadership and finances and often lack doctrinal or operational accountability.” They hold very strong convictions that the church, which is Christ’s bride, is the most important earthly organization that will last when all others will fade. It is the brand that it most common worldwide. The article mentioned was written in 1984, but the topic has not ceased to bubble up again in this decade.

Recently, there was a publicly aired interview conversation between two mainstream, evangelical, male church pastors, Mark Driscoll and Rick Warren. Driscoll asks Warren “Why are you still in the local church? Why not something else?” Driscoll implies that Warren could be creating nonprofits, parachurches, or doing other things that could make international impact. Warren answers, “I learned a long time ago that the church is God’s agenda. The church is the only things that is going to last.” Warren clearly states the primary importance and position of the church in God’s kingdom plan and his current ongoing work above other even Christian organizations.

On the other hand, White states that parachurch leaders believe that churches are “either insensitive to or incapable of meeting specialized needs.” Aglow is a parachurch that encourages members to be loyal members of their local churches because they understand that the church is primary, while parachurches are supplementary to religious followers. However, the problem is that time, financial and emotional commitment to this group would seem otherwise. The strength of Aglow was that it focused on the specialized needs of women, thus helping the women feel more important and personally connected through the network of small groups. These women were being regularly heard and even supernaturally healed, opportunities that weren’t as readily encouraged within some local churches—especially depending on the denomination.

The rise and success of evangelical Christian parachurches can be seen as manifestations and symptoms of the lack/gap that the local churches have in meeting the needs of people. Thus, there needs to be a healthy partnership and communication between local church leaders and parachurch leaders to work together in serving the people of their communities.


[1] Griffith, R. Marie. God’s Daughters: Evangelical Women and the Power of Submission. Berkeley: University of California, 1997. Print.

[2] Dyrness, William A. “The Church and The Parachurch: An Uneasy Marriage.” International Bulletin of Missionary Research 8.3 (1984): 135-318. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials. Web. Dec. 2012.

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“The Invisible War”: Outing one of America’s best kept secrets

Click on the image for a link
to view “The Invisible War” film

 “[In the U.S. military], we see a guy get five years for drugs and two weeks for rape.”

Earlier this fall, I was invited to a private screening of a documentary film called “The Invisible War.” This film was chosen as the Winner of the Audience Award at this year’s  2012 Sundance Film Festival. Written and directed by Kirby Dick and produced by Amy Ziering (both Emmy-nominated documentary filmmakers),  “The Invisible War” was created to expose “one of America’s most shameful and best kept secrets: the epidemic of rape within the U.S. military.”

For a soundbite, this film explores the personal narratives of women who were sexually assaulted and/or raped during their service in the U.S. military. This issue proved to go far beyond the lack of processed assault reports —a similar problem for the wider population of civilian women who raped outside of the military environment . One of the main issues that the film exposes is the faulty investigation and prosecution process after reports are made. This is due to the fact that the process is left in the hands of the survivors’ military unit commanders who are more often than not friends with assaulters (frequently senior officers, supervisors, etc.)  or assaulters themselves. Convictions of these assailants are rare and even if they are found guilty, punishments are so light that they could be seen as merely “slap on the wrists.” According to one survivor, she realized that the most commonly implemented method of handling the situation is to “eject the victim and keep the perpetrator.”

To make matters worse, U.S. veteran survivors are continually denied the benefits to pay for injuries caused by the sexual abuse. Instead of punishing the assailants or trying to help the injured survivors, victim-blaming is another commonly accepted practice within the military (accusing them using various phrases like: what was she wearing, she was asking for it, she should’ve expected it when entering into a male-majority environment, etc.). No severe consequences or hardly any disciplinary actions are given to these men for these atrocious (usually multiple) acts on military women. Thus, the cycle has continued for years and has been kept hidden by the higher male military officials and commanders in fear of shame or serious punishment. The idealism and complete trust in the military need to be reconsidered because there is a serious disjunction in the system if the very men who are enlisted and enthroned as protectors of our nation are the same soldiers who are raping our female soldiers. The unjust prosecution structure of our U.S. military system allowed for this war to have remained dreadfully invisible, until now.

The urgency, importance and critical matter of this film demanded responses from both lawmakers and viewers from the general public. For example, Kori Cioca, a U.S. Coast Guard veteran denied benefits to pay for a face injury from a military sexual assault, was offered entire medical cost coverage by a viewer who saw the film. Like this viewer, the majority of responses to the film was that of shock, sadness and compassion. Thankfully even some actions were taken even if it did only create minor changes to the currently warped system.

According to sources on Wikipedia:

“Following The Invisible War’s initial allegations of widespread harassment and sexual assault at Marine Barracks Washington, eight women filed suit against military leaders for maintaining an environment that tolerates rapists while silencing survivors.”

“On April 16, 2012, [Secretary of Defense Leon] Panetta issued a directive ordering all sexual assault cases to be handled by senior officers at the rank of colonel or higher. This effectively ended the practice of commanders prosecuting sexual assault cases from within their own units. Panetta later told one of the film’s producers that watching The Invisible War contributed to his decision to revise this policy.The filmmakers applauded these changes but said that the Pentagon needed to take further steps, requiring that investigation and prosecution of sexual assault cases be handled outside of the military chain of command.”

I’ve always harbored simultaneous feelings of appreciation and sadness about watching eye and heart-opening documentary films. The appreciation stems from the labor of these filmmakers—and even more so for the courage of these participants who are willing to be featured on camera—to create films with the purpose of bring more awareness about these controversial and heart-wrenching issues that we’d normally prefer to skim over when seen in text or when brought up in conversation. However, the sadness arises from the ending of these films that always seem to feature a website or petition of some sort in order to stir viewers to take action to help those in need. I always wondered how far these films when to influence the actual situation and how much of it went to just more intellectual societal awareness. The results of this film, although the changes were minor, brought me more hope about the positive and real influence the film industry can have to not just change complex ideas/issues in theory, but to change actual individuals’ lives in today’s world.

For more resources:

Official movie trailer: The Invisible War —Trailer

Full streaming movie: Source 1 or Source 2

Interview on ABC’s The View: Part 1 and Part 2

Interviews of Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering: BYOD video interview and Huff Post article

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Women’s Well-Being: Ranking America’s Top 25 Metro Areas

How to Assess Human Development and Well-Being

Human Development of Women in the 25 Most Populous Metro Areas

U.S. Female Life Expectancy by Racial and Ethnic Group

Women’s Educational Attainment by Age

Male and Female Higher Education Enrollment

 

To get further information about Women’s Well-Being in America:

Download the Measure of America PDF

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