Saturday, November 14, 2009

Just Thinking | THE GHETTO RANT -3-

I recently saw a movie that reminds me of the situation. It was called Jarhead. I don’t recommend the movie, but it may offer us some advice. It was about some soldiers trained, equipped and sent to the front to fight in a war. The problem was that they were never deployed. The government that sent them wouldn’t give them permission to engage the enemy (they were caught up in political talks) and so the soldiers sat on the ground - trained, equipped and stuck.

Not able to engage the enemy - not able to shoot, fight or even die - they started doing other things. Trying to keep in shape, wasting time on the decorations in their bunkers, learning to cook in different ways and getting angry at each other. It was a picture of soldiers stuck. And every married women officer-leader lives the same reality. So we busy ourselves on the ground… taking courses, watching our weight, picking on each other, over-organizing every women’s event and project… all the while simply trying to create some meaningful existence for ourselves, convincing ourselves that it isn’t our fault that we can’t lead, but having no way to prove it.

Now I’ve had this conversation enough times with enough people to tell you the responses:

Why do you need to lead on a positional level… are you hungry for power? This suggests that every leader wanting to stretch her ability to lead is hungry for power. It is an argument already lost by the practice of many godly men who long to lead well and lead bigger to mobilize forces and take more ground for God. Stop insulting us by considering any godly ambition for women leadership to be a Jezebel-inspired desire for control. It’s embarrassing.

The women’s ministry department is a valid leadership area. Good one. If that’s valid, then why can’t even the top dogs in the ghetto qualify to lead the Army? And considering that any single woman General can simply add the duties of World President of Women’s Organizations to her other responsibilities as international leader of The Salvation Army, this hardly seems like a division that needs to stand on its own.

The Army’s great strength is in “team leadership.” Married couples should work together and the women shouldn’t need a position to be able to lead with her husband. Yeah, this one really works, except when it comes to any administrative position where there is only one head, and except when it comes to an organizational culture that dismisses women from the boardroom and power positions. It’s such a nice offer to let us women “influence” the final decision made by men anyway, but let’s be honest: no signing authority, no positional authority, and no real authority means no authority.

Don’t get me started on headship. Anyone who still holds to this view needs to read the Bible again. Here’s a hint: look deeper. Not only that, but our movement has already established Army theology (even if it remains unimplemented), so if you believe in headship limiting women leaders, join another movement.

It has the potential to wreck marriages. Nice marriage. There is nothing like a union that insists on one of the members stuffing her gifts and abilities down inside of her for fear of her partner looking smaller in light of them. This behaviour insults the purpose of marriage and makes men look bad. Grow up and get a healthy ego. Stop needing your women to be smaller than you to feel good about yourselves. Actually, to take a more pastoral note: get some counselling.

I’ve heard that there were once attempts to make some married women officers department heads, and one couple was called in to see if they would accept. This is insulting. I’ve never heard of a couple being called in to see if it was okay to offer promotions to men. Never. Ever. The marriage is never considered and often is compromised when it comes to promotions. Think about it. The Commissioner calls me up and says, “We’ve been thinking about promoting your husband but were concerned about how that would affect your marriage. Would it be okay with you?” Yeah, that’ll happen. But when it has potential to work the other way, we ask first and then call it off! What happened to equality… what happened to the greater work of the war trumping our personal preference? Come on.

Women don’t want to lead. To that, I would point out that the women’s ministry department in many territories have the most success at getting converts and then building disciples by making soldiers. This means that even from the ghetto, women are leading and leading well. Perhaps the shrinking program departments around the western world should take note. There might just be a married woman who could grow a whole programme department… imagine!

While I’m on this one… does it matter if a male officer doesn’t want to lead? Don’t sign up. Kick women out who don’t pull their weight. Don’t use lame women leaders as an excuse to paint us all with the same brush. It’s pathetic. Honestly, I’ve known some male officers who lack the muster to work hard… it doesn’t seem to make a difference on the ones who do.

Here’s the best one of them all: In many cultures and situations this is not culturally acceptable. I can’t help but chuckle as I imagine Catherine Booth in Victorian England scandalizing the country and even herself as she spoke the scriptures publicly for the first time. It was as counter-England in her century as you could find. Now come with me to America as 16-year-old Eliza Shirley leads the charge, or how about the Marechale opening the Army as a young woman in France. And on and on I could go. We have never been a culturally relevant movement; we’ve been the very opposite. We were a threat to the established church culture, we were a circus to the thinking class, and we were a sign and a wonder for the average person on the scene. When did we start thinking cultural sensitivity was our calling? If there is an evil part of culture, let’s do everything we can to offend it. I suggest that subjecting women to unequal treatment and opportunity is an evil to be challenged, not a relevancy to be followed. Let’s go buy ourselves some courage and return to the war ready to actually fight!

How do we change it? With so many women of bad theology and bad practice, how do we turn the tide now?

Writer: Capt. Danielle Strickland is currently the Social Justice Director of the Southern Australia Territory. She digs traveling, reading, running, speaking, basketball and movies. Her passion is grace, mercy and justice… and all the stuff in between. Her favourite question is ‘how hard can it be?’ and most of her days are spent answering it. (While waiting to enter Training College as an accepted Candidate, Canada, she helped pioneer the work in Moscow, Russia.)

11 comments:

Sven Ljungholm said...

Don't get me started about Danielle ! She truly let me down... should've expected it I guess.

It was 9:30 PM in Moscow, and it had been a typical work day- start at sunrise- Lunch on the run- and the Canadian Candidate had joined us a few days earlier; super musician, children's worker, 'presentable' speaker/spokesperson, but then she announces to those of us still working at that late hour; "I'm heading home!" I bid her good-night, wanting to handle this 'newbie' woman with appropriate soft gloves.

Talk about the shock factor- an hour later, having changed out of her uniform and dressed in different 'work' clothes, she bounces in the door and asked; "What's next for me Cap!?" And so it went until the day, some months later, when she was farewelled by more than 100 Russian salvationist at Moscow's Sheremetsova Airport bound for the Training School in Toronto.

My assessment? I wouldn't trade one Danielle for 10 of your average SA lads !

Deborah said...

"over-organizing every women’s event and project…" Oh man, did you hit the nail on the head. Enough already with the decorations and themes.

Anonymous said...

Danielle,

Thank you for your firm stand.You are a brave lady. That is more then I can say for many of the men in leadership. Many females in the Army
are not supported that they may be properly used.
The Army was not meant to be this way. It has gone the way of the world and cultures of ill. Maybe that is why many female officers have bailed out of a failed system.

Anonymous said...

"...many godly men who long to lead well and bigger to mobilize forces and take more ground for God."

I know plenty of my my male officer colleagues (top army leadership) who have prostituted themselves and continue to jock for higher and higher positions. I can see their faces clearly as I type this response!

Might I suggest it all begins, in my opinion, (this thirst and hunger for "increased responsibility") at the Army's base...the four trainning colleges here in the USA. How does it work in other parts of the world?

active officer serving in the women's ministry department and current ghetto resident.

Anonymous said...

The imparity and injustice seem to be taught at The Training College level and is reflected at Divisional levels and so forth. Many decisions
are made at "hush hush" levels with many of the troops wondering what in the world is happening. Granted some decisions in moving , promoting and reprimanding need to be confidential.Beyond that too many decisions are never explained and eras of confusuion ensue. There is not enough openess about major issues in The Salvation Army. Too much good old boy mentality has destroyed true fellowship and team effort. Women are often left out of major decisions and are not consulted. The Army has a vast army of women that can put many men to shame. When will this end? Female officers unite. What if most female officers just stayed home for a month? Chaos! Think about it.

Former male officer USA East

Anonymous said...

Here's a very controversial point of view...

What about coaching/discipling etc., for men. Where men are not properly led, coached, discipled, trained etc., they simply do what 'naturally' comes to them - aggressive behavour. Whether that be in aggressive leadership, myssonginist views, or whatever, when men are not properly coached or led, this is what happens.

Why am I saying this? Tell me - Who is the current leader (in any Territory/division etc) for Men's ministries? My first appointment had a thriving mens ministries program. The previous few officers were all married (with no dependents) and the husband took a very strong lead in mens ministries, while the wife concentrated on womens ministries. They were both run at the same time as for a number of reasons, this was the only time they could be run successfully. I was a single male officer. I raised this issue with DHQ and THQ within my first fortnight of arriving at my appointment. The response was 'close the mens programs and concentrate on the womens program. Womens programs are more important. You are officially the Womens Ministries leader, not mens ministries.' There was no soldiery capable of taking the leadership of either so that I could do the other.

When mens ministries are neglected, of course you are going to continue to see these trends that have been talked about. In the secular world, and in psychology, we talk about the responsibilities of men, and we train them. This is turning the tide of male domination within the secular world, because there is a focus on training/leading men. This leads to men being properly conditioned/trained to understand better practices etc.

Let's start focussing on mens ministries, and training and leading men, if we want to see women progress.

Yours in Christ,
Graeme.
Former Australian East

Anonymous said...

Re Danielle's Ghetto Rant - I think she's one very brave lady!

I remember when we were in Training, having a "married women's" (not Officers)"Seminar." 1st. year, so 1978/9. Several of us vociferously took exception to such advice as "If a Soldier asks you something which would affect the programme/running etc. of the Corps, you mustn't answer them, but tell them "I'll have to ask my husband."!" Our objections were shrugged off with the equivalent of a pat on the head & a "There, there, dears - this is how it is." The married Officer wives (or Officers' wives - subtle difference!) could not conceive of it being any different. Maybe the fact that as a Cadet we were "Cadet Mrs." & after Commissioning "Mrs. Lieutenant" sums it all up! Until your husband's off sick of course, when you're just expected to do 2 people's jobs, & suddenly allowed to be an Officer in your own right.

Somebody in a comment suggests that jockeying for position starts in
Training College. I well remember the jockeying for Sergeants'
Appointments towards the end of Session - e.g. "it's one prayer & 2
Testimonies to her, add making the Scenery for the Commissioning
Presentation to him.... etc. etc." Some people said they didn't know
what to pack for Out Training - would they need autumn clothes, or would they be back at College as Sgts. by then....& the couple who flounced off out for the day when they the Announcement was made & they weren't made Sgts. & were sure they would be! & have you ever seen a (Singing Brigade) pianist trying to play piano with her Sgt.'s stripes showing, & people with their arms in strange positions on the Sessional Photo so the Stripes would show!?

Former
UKT

Anonymous said...

I am the daughter of a third generation officer. I left the SA when I left home, but I honor my heritage. I continue to be perplexed, though, at the discrimination (there is no other way to describe it) against females. Female officers receive orders and have mandatory job expectations in each appointment. But they are not compensated. Clearly discriminated against and treated differently due to their gender and marital status, and treated differently from single female officers. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 makes this type of discrimination unlawful, and I cannot believe that there has not been a class action lawsuit in this regard. The Army is putting themselve at risk by not addressing this. However, addressing it puts them in a position of admitting guilt as well. That could be their conundrum.

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