Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Creating In the Same Direction

I recently attended a conference in Chicago called Q.

Q is a leadership summit and describes itself as “a place where leaders from every sphere of society come together to learn, reflect, collaborate and take action to renew culture. We have in common a commitment to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and an appreciation for our Christian calling to partner with God in his work to redeem both individuals and entire cultures.”

This was my first time to attend Q and I found it amazing and valuable, thought-provoking and a phenomenal networking opportunity. Not to sound star-struck, but I found myself proud of Q, proud of my faith tradition and these incredible days spent at the Civic Opera House. That said, it has taken me awhile to write this post because what I am about to say has been said before. Again and again and again.

One more time from the top:

Evangelical protestant men I ask you with a heavy heart, not a militant temper tantrum scream, “Where are the women?”

The creators of Q have a vision to transform culture and they target seven channels of cultural influence. Each presenter fit into one of these channels; media, business, arts and entertainment, church, education, government and social sector.

I sat in the darkened theater and listened to all the presentations. I sat at the round tables and discussed. Often I was the only woman at the table. Very valuable things were communicated, but what was said to me loud and clear was this:

“Women, mothers, and home are not considered a channel of cultural influence to us. We are the lead pastors, the publishers, the businessmen. We run the Christian conferences, radio stations and ministries and we do not recognize you as a fellow leader for our generation.”

I am not the first person to notice this. So at some point, this oversight of female speakers, this oversight of home as a valuable channel of cultural influence, is no longer simply an oversight but is intentional. I do not believe well-spoken, intelligent, female Christian leaders are so allusive.

Richard Florida, the author of The Rise of the Creative Class, was one of the keynote speakers. He is a sociologist who first started putting words on how our generation has begun to work and live the way creative people such as artists and scientists always have. He explains that today nearly 38 million Americans in many diverse fields create for a living and he named us The Creative Class.

Q clearly embraces this concept and is a direct reflection of The Creative Class. As I listened to man after man give his presentation, I kept thinking, “All these men who are living and creating and taking risks in life are married to women who are also a part of this Creative Class. We are embracing motherhood and family with the same values. Just as they are not going to work for 30 years for Sears and retiring with a gold watch like their fathers, we are not doing motherhood the same as our moms, either. Chances are these men are married to women who cheer them on, are excited about the risks they take, and enter into the creative process fully with their husbands. Chances are these women have advanced degrees as well and have their own avenues of creativity and influence apart from their husbands.”

I am sobered that in the year 2010 with such huge shifts in culture the feminine voice is not equally represented in the church.

A friend recently asked me what I considered to be my calling. I sat. I thought. I said finally, “I feel called to create in the same direction God is creating for His purposes in my generation.”

I would love to partner with my brothers on this.


  1. Amen and amen and amen. It is, as you said, sad and inexcusable. Christianity 21 held here in Minneapolis last fall featured 21 women speakers--and it was not a women's event. There are strong, smart, challenging women out here doing incredible, meaningful, world-changing work. It's not that we need a platform to do that work, it's that the world--the church world in particular--needs our point of view in order to have a full picture of the human experience.

    Caryn spoke at a class at Bethel last month and one of the girls in the class, a pastor's daughter about to graduate, said that she wondered why she had never once heard a mother speak in church about what she'd learned about her life and faith through mothering. One of the most profoundly spiritual experiences a human being can have goes unrecognized as a valid source of insight. And of course women have all kinds of insights and ideas about all kinds of other issues. The TED talks manage to find smart women, you'd think Christian conference promoters could too.

    On the issue of these men being married to women who no doubt share their passion and intelligence I have this to add: It's those women who are back home tending to the children of those men who make it possible for them to do what they do. They are where they are because they have women in their lives willing to set aside their own goals so their husbands can write and travel and spend three days at a conference. If I had a wife, there's no telling what I could accomplish!

  2. A brave and beautiful post, Shayne.

    People often respond to my book by saying, "It's so good to have a strong woman's voice out there." Which is great, and genuinely encouraging. But the fact that it's worth noting reveals the fact that we still have a long way to go, especially in evangelical circles.

    You are not alone! Thanks for speaking up!

  3. You rock Miss Shayne!

  4. Shayne, thank you for writing bravely. I recently met up with a guy friend who asked me why my writing was "for women". I had no answer, except, "because that's what I feel like the church tells me is my audience." It made me sad. I wish I knew more about how to change I continue to be obedient to where God has me now.

  5. shayne!

    you're caught in a dying system where the power structures are highly dependent on you continuing to politely ask permission for recognition and/or inclusion that is automatically and naturally yours.

    i left the church and have never regretted it. most of the men i knew in that system benefited greatly from the women around them remaining unclear and well-behaved about their relationship to freedom and power related to gender.

    you're being played, and you don't have to keep playing.

    you can leave.

    it's a fantastic world out here.

    all the best,
    jen lemen