Last summer, I accepted a faculty job at a Baptist University, and when the first new faculty meeting rolled around, I was the only woman present in a room full of Baptist men. Given the recent headlines of sexual harassment, abuse, and sexism coming from prominent Baptist men, I wouldn’t blame many readers for assuming the worst of my situation that day. But never in that meeting of men did I feel less-than, condescended-to, endangered, or objectified. In all my dealings with the men of this Baptist institution, I’ve found respect and collegiality.
And I know that I’ve been lucky.
The Baptist world is in the messy middle of its own #metoo movement, a movement long overdue. At last week’s Southern Baptist Convention, many called for repentance and measures to prevent future abuse. I know many who have been personally affected by sexual abuse within the church. (The general statistic for sexual abuse is about 1 in 4 women). My heart grieves for them and cries for justice. In no way do I wish to diminish their stories and experiences. But in light of so much terrible news, I want to spend just a moment shining a light on those godly men who have taught me to expect godly behavior from all men who profess faith in Christ. I have been so lucky to have been surrounded by the genuine “good guys,” and today, I want to say “thank you.”
Thank you to my dad, one of the kindest, gentlest men I’ve ever met.
You taught me that strong men can know how to fix a car AND how to fix dinner. You played silly games with me and taught me to play whatever instrument I fancied until I finally landed on guitar. You prayed with me and read the Bible with me. You believed in my music and personally invested in it. You stayed up late, laboring over math homework with me. You set the bar high, right from the start, for any other men in my life.
Thank you to my Baptist ministers, men of high character.
Thank you to the youth pastor who made it a point to never ride alone with your youth girls, but who never used that as an excuse to exclude. Instead, you changed plans so that both boys and girls could be safe and included. Thank you too to the youth pastor who nourished my intellectual gifts, who never dumbed-things-down or reserved the deep talk for just the boys. Thank you.
All of my pastors have encouraged my musical gifts and given me space to grow, to share, and eventually, to lead a whole congregation. My gender never entered into the discussion of whether or not I should lead a worship song, a youth service, or a whole church as music director. You nurtured and supported me in my gifts, and I will always be thankful.
Thank you to my male friends.
Thank you to the guys I knew in high school and college. Some of you I dated. Some of you stayed in the friend zone. No matter “zone” you were in, you respected my boundaries and behaved as gentlemen, always. You had deep conversations with me, you played music with me, and you respected me. So thank you, too.
Thank you to my husband (my best male friend of all). Thank you that I can hide in your protection and stand strong at your side at the same time. We are both complementary and egalitarian in the very best senses of both words. We’ve both heard some crazy stories about men who insist their wives only work from home or forbid their wives from having a higher degree or making more money than they do. Thank you that you always want me to be exactly who I am, knowing that my growth does not diminish you. You’re my favorite.
Thank you to my male professors at a Baptist University.
You nourished my intellectual curiosity, provided helpful feedback on papers and projects, encouraged my sometimes unorthodox approaches to music and academia. You made me feel that I could hold my own with “the guys” (since it was almost always guys in those intellectual circles).
And to my colleagues and superiors who walk the halls of that same university with me today: thank you again. Now, I’ve experienced from the professor side what I already knew when I was on the student side: you are the real thing. You really love Jesus, and that love compels you to treat all those around you with respect. Thank you.
I am happy to say that this is an incomplete list. I’ve met many godly men in Christian and Baptist circles: men who lead small groups and cook pancake breakfasts, men who drive church vans and make hospital visits, men who take care of sick animals and broken-down vehicles, and who do it all with integrity. It would take me many blog entries to thank you all.
Some may say: why say thank you for general human decency? That’s a valid objection. But when I see the ones who got it horribly wrong, I often see men who got caught up in a broader culture of sexism or who twisted scripture to debase women, all while believing they were doing the “right thing.” It takes courage and humility to go against the broader culture, especially if doing so means potentially sacrificing your own stature or power. None of these men are perfect, but they are consistent, gracious, and faithful. The light of their lives shines brightly, and in that light, the darkness is exposed for how dank and dingy it really is.
Being the good guy can be a thankless job. So, to the good guys everywhere: thank you, from the bottom of my heart.