It has been four months since Beth Moore publicly cut ties with the Southern Baptist Convention. Since that time, Moore has oscillated between prophetic and apologetic as she hones her new post-SBC voice.
One moment she’s publicly calling out “hyper-complementarianism” or defending The Making of Biblical Womanhood, Beth Allison Barr’s 50-caliber assault on “Christian patriarchy.” The next moment, she’s tweeting her more standard fare — a Bible verse, a memorable one-liner, or a reminder that she’s still her husband, Keith’s, devoted wife and biggest fan.
And then there are the apologies. In April, after stirring up a hornet’s nest with a series of tweets characterizing complementarianism as a “doctrine of man” and highlighting the harm it causes, she took a four-week break from the platform.
“I feel a bit too strongly about some things to be on Twitter right now,” she signed off. “I don’t trust myself.”
Last week, Moore waded back into the waters of controversy again. Another tweet, this time addressing the Critical Race Theory-related accusations surrounding David Platt.
“We are out of our minds by the time we’re going after the David Platts,” she wrote. “If Jesus was up for elder at some of these people’s churches, I’m convinced they’d vote him down for being too woke.”
Another firestorm. Another apology. Another insinuation that perhaps she was being “unladylike?” I don’t know. I’m trying not to read too much into it.
“Somebody take my phone,” was all she wrote.
To which I can only reply: “No, Beth Moore. I will not take your phone. I will not silence you. I will not perpetuate a system that makes bold, prophetic women feel like they need a man to guard them against their own hysterical female emotions. In many ways, the evangelical world has lost its mind, and I’m overjoyed that someone with your deeply rooted insider ties is speaking out.”
“I will not perpetuate a system that makes bold, prophetic women feel like they need a man to guard them against their own hysterical female emotions.”
I’m not going to pretend to know what Beth Moore is thinking right now. It seems like there is probably some internal conflict. On the one hand, she’s a committed conservative Christian, holding a deeply conservative view of biblical interpretation. Even her perspectives on gender norms are still relatively traditional, but on the other hand, it seems that the evangelical luster is wearing thin. Whether it’s the SBC’s sex abuse scandals, the wholesale evangelical support of the former guy (misogyny and all), or decades of “Christian patriarchy” finally taking its toll, Moore’s thinking has been upended.
She has publicly cut ties with Lifeway, the SBC’s publishing arm, risking the book, Bible study video, and conference speaking empire she has built on their foundation. But while Moore has been willing to take on personal controversy and financial risk, whatever has changed doesn’t seem to have been enough to completely rid her of decades of ingrained “male headship” and female submission.
Are Moore’s public apologies and self-imposed Twitter timeouts a symptom of the very same patriarchy she is publicly battling? If they are, it’s understandable.
The current dominant incarnation of American evangelicalism is built on a decades-long pattern of bold male domination and quiet female submission. In her book Jesus and John Wayne, Kristin Kobes Du Mez traces this line of thinking through the past 70 years of the evangelical subculture Beth Moore calls home.
“Women … were gentle responders, tender companions, ‘aloneness fighters,’” Du Mez writes, summarizing some of the arguments in Stu Weber’s 1993 book Tender Warrior.
“The current dominant incarnation of American evangelicalism is built on a decades-long pattern of bold male domination and quiet female submission. “
Nearly two decades earlier, Marabel Morgan offered similar advice.
“It was important for women to keep up their ‘curb appeal,” Du Mez summarizes. “To ‘look and smell delicious’ to be ‘feminine, soft and touchable,’ not ‘dumpy, stringy or exhausted.’”
Beth Allison Barr notes similar strands of thought in her volume. “As a teenager, I remember flipping through his (James Dobson’s) book Love of a Lifetime,” she writes. “I learned that biology predetermined my physical weakness and emotional instability.”
She then sums up the basic message she received as a young Southern Baptist woman, “Men’s voices were public, while women’s voices were private.”
Her response? “I stayed silent.”
Beth Moore has built her career in this world where a woman’s most important contributions are looking pretty, having babies and staying silent. She has lived her whole life being told that it’s unladylike to be anything other than positive and encouraging. To be fair, Moore always has resisted the worst of this ideology, but this is the world she inhabits. It’s no surprise that finding her post-SBC voice seems to be a struggle.
“She has lived her whole life being told that it’s unladylike to be anything other than positive and encouraging.”
I still don’t agree with Beth Moore on many things, but our world desperately needs strong women to speak truth to power. So no, Beth Moore, I will not take your phone when you advocate for equity and fairness. I will not take your phone when you stand up to the voices perpetuating patriarchy. I will stand with you, and I will pray for you, knowing the thousands of women who have looked up to you for decades need to hear your voice now more than ever.
These women are watching you, and their daughters are watching them. They need to know they have permission to speak up. They need to see a Christianity that has room for their voices too. I don’t envy your position, but no, Beth Moore, I will not take your phone.
Jason Koon is an ordained Baptist minister who writes at the intersection of faith and politics. He lives in Western North Carolina with his wife and two teenage daughters. His “Almost Ex-evangelical” blog is at www.jason-koon.com.
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