Follow Christ’s example by supporting equal treatment and respect of all God’s people

By M. Garlinda Burton

As it is in the news game, the story of 14-year-old Malala Yousafzai, who defied a fundamentalist theocratic regime to champion education for girls (and was shot by these followers of God), is no longer in the headlines.

But her story should resonate with every woman of faith (and men who love women) who have ever been told that being the best person you are called to be is against God’s law.

The maligning and fear of empowered women are not limited to Pakistan. Just in this year women in the United States have been chastised by lawmakers for even saying the word “vagina,” which is the channel by which all of us are born on earth. Even more disturbing, some elected officials engaged in public debate about whether one expression of sexual violence against women is more palatable and worthy of criminalization that others. (Remember the “forcible rape” debacle?) Ask any woman who has been there and she will tell you, “Any rape is horrible.”

Among Christians in my country, women are being told at this moment that leaving an abusive marriage is wrong, that the Bible extols “modesty” and “obedience” over all other so-called feminine traits, and that we are not smart enough or worthy enough to be good stewards of our bodies–including our reproductive health.But God’s Word incarnate in the Living Christ is, for ALL women everywhere, the same as it is for all God’s people, period: grace, forgiveness, liberation, responsibility for the least of these, social justice, mercy, free will, choices. There is nothing in Jesus’s teaching about one sex or gender controlling another, about one race or clan being wiser than another, and certainly nothing that says that violence against women is the way to witness to one’s faith.I am calling on United Methodists to start in our own churches by supporting the full and equal treatment of and respect for women in every aspect of our Christian lives. That no congregation be allowed to say “no” to a woman pastor; that no United Methodist use violent actions or rhetoric against a woman who is having to make a tragic decision about whether or not to have an abortion; that no women has to hear a spiritual adviser blame her for being a victim of sexual or domestic violence.

I serve a living God who loves me as a daughter, who challenges me when I falter, and who upholds me in all things. I am strengthened in my faith by strong pastoral leaders and teachers who help me grow in my understanding and my relationship with God in Christ. What does NOT help any women grow in faith is to be bullied, threatened, chastised, maligned, targeted for hate and derision by her own faith community. Like Malala, we will not listen to the noise of those who would defile our faith with false teachings. Rather, we will continue to rise and walk to our destiny on the wings of the God in whose image we are also created.

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