Why I reference evangelical women I disagree with in my writing

One struggle I have as a religion writer is with how to cover a topic that includes voices that trigger and hurt people I care about.

For example, if I was a political analyst for CNN, I would need to cover Republicans and Democrats. And while I would be very focused on exposing the Christian supremacists on the right, I would also need to cover other Republican characters like Mitt Romney.

While Romney believes in the Republican platform and is committed to the Republican cause, he also calls Republicans out for their abuses of power. So in some ways, he’s exposing the Republican Party for some of the harm it causes, while on the other hand he’s complicit.

It would be totally legitimate for a reader who was hurt by policies Romney supports to feel triggered by me mentioning him or interacting with him in an article. And for that, I feel bad. In no way do I want to hurt those who are already hurting.

But as someone who cares about making the world a better place, and who is a professional writer, it would be important for me to discuss relevant conversations that could improve conditions for everyone. So it would be a mistake for me to pretend like Romney doesn’t exist, or to pretend like he’s just like me, or to write about him like I would write about a Christian supremacist in politics.

In the same way, I am a religion analyst. So I need to cover the relevant conversations that are happening in evangelicalism today. And that means covering a variety of voices.

At times, I’ll be very blunt about men like John MacArthur, Voddie Baucham, John Piper, or Albert Mohler. At other times, I may cover women who those men verbally abuse, but who remain committed to much of the theology those men espouse.

Like Romney with the Republicans, these women believe in the evangelical platform, are committed to the evangelical cause, and call out evangelicals for their abuses of power. In some ways, they are dismantling the entitlement that evangelical men on the top floor of the tower are demanding, while on the other hand they’re complicit by remaining in the tower and by participating in building and promoting it.

Given the fact that many of my readers are ex-evangelicals who have been abused by the church, it can be triggering for them to see me quoting these women or interacting with these women’s work in my articles. And for that, I feel bad. In no way do I intend to hurt you by mentioning them.

But at the same time, I think it would be a mistake for me to pretend like these women don’t exist, or to pretend they’re just like me, or to write about them in the same way I do men like MacArthur.

I’m trying to dismantle the towers of entitlement. But there are different floors in that tower, and different roles and power dynamics played within it. So while I always stand in opposition to the tower, I need to be able to go in at times and work with women who remain in the lower floors or who work around its edges who are willing to help undermine the men at the top.

Additionally, because these women are still in or around the tower but are near the bottom of it, they have insights into how the entitlement hierarchies within the tower are structured that I may not be aware of. So despite my disagreements with them about the tower itself, there is much that I can learn from them when they name the weight of the frustrations they’re feeling.

Of course, at some point I would love for these women to be completely free of the tower. But that’s a work that they are going to have to do on their own, in their own time, and with their own journey of consent. And yes, I’m aware that they probably hope that I’ll come back and join them too.

I realize this probably won’t help those who feel triggered by religious trauma when they hear these women’s names come up in my articles. If that’s the case, please don’t feel any pressure to read the article. Your well being is more important to me than clicks on an article. I really do care about you.

At the same time, given the reach of the tower of entitlement and the shadows it casts, I need to be able to highlight conversations that include a variety of voices that can help to undermine what the men at the top are doing.

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