What Does Sexism and Ageism Look Like?


Most people think of Ageism and Sexism only in corporate terms, such as intentional job discrimination against women or the elderly. Hence, these practices are not given much thought outside the legal world. But as noted on my blog many times, something doesn’t have to be illegal to be wrong. A classic example can be found in today’s purity groups that target “teenagers” and “girls.” Is purity and saving sex until marriage biblical? Of course it is. However, there is nothing biblical about limiting purity to only teenage girls. Shortsighted church leaders have been heading down this road for quite a while, all the way back to the first abstinence groups of the 1990s. This is a pernicious problem that has its roots in parents who do not have the spiritual maturity to address such issues, parents who do not have the common sense to disregard social stereotypes and rely solely on the word of God. It does not take virtue to have a child. But many spiritually immature parents think problems like sexual immorality can be tackled using the world’s standards of common denominators and sex surveys. And preachers think they can solve the problem by bringing the world into their churches.

John: “Excuse me ma’am, why is your purity conference only for girls?”

Mom: “Well, everybody knows only girls wait. Take a look at the surveys. We don’t want boys harassing our girls.”

The result of this kind of fatalistic, common denominator approach to sexual ethics is that it reinforces the status quo. It tells boys that nothing more can be expected of them. It tells them they are expected to act like animals on the prowl. It tells them they are not expected to wait until marriage to have sex. In short, they are exempt. Speaking of math, what happens to the marriage equation when . . . only girls wait? What will they be waiting for? Mr. Playboy who doesn’t know what purity is? It’s not possible to raise the standards for daughters today, but at the same time lower the standards for daughters in the future. It more than cancels each other out.

Yes, some church organizations and youth leaders and parents may have good intentions with their mother/daughter purity conferences, girls’ purity retreats, father/daughter purity balls, etc. But good intentions are only as good as their faithfulness to scripture and long term results. Nowhere in the Bible do we read where sexual purity is limited only to women. As a matter of fact, the person in the Bible that had the most to say about purity was a guy who lived the life, Apostle Paul. How would you feel about inviting him to your next cookie and tea retreat? Actually, this stereotype points to one of the root causes of teenage pregnancies today – parents who didn’t wait until marriage and who don’t know how to conduct a biblical and civilized discussion about sex between themselves. And it points to the fact that many mothers don’t expect their daughters values to rise any higher than theirs, thereby continuing the destructive cycle from one generation to the next.

Ageism is another fallout from focusing on surveys instead of the word of God. Just as with sexism, it is a pernicious problem that has metastasized to all corners of religious organizations. “It is used as a means to keep homosexuals out of nonprofits,” one prominent psychologist recently told me when talking about mentoring organizations. “If you’re over 40 and single, it’s assumed you’re gay.” So mom, if age limits give you a sense of comfort, keep in mind that you are actually shooting yourself in the foot, that by blocking access to godly mentors you are actually crippling any chance of your child holding out until their wedding day – especially if that day comes later in life. There may come a time when they have to swallow their pride and come to terms with the fact that they don’t always know best; that there may be others members of the body of Christ who know best in this area. And most importantly, they need to realize that Christian ethics are not played out on a soccer field with pep rallies and points.

When the Bible references age or sex, it is usually in regards to shattering stereotypes. For example, Sarah conceived in old age to give birth to Isaac; Elizabeth conceived in old age to give birth to John the Baptist; Moses climbed Mt. Nebo at the ripe old age of 120. Who was the first person to see Christ after his resurrection? Was it one of the apostles? No. It was Mary Magdalene.

Ageism and sexism may look innocent outside a courtroom and in the confines of a church. All for the good of the children, right? But the destruction they are wreaking on the ethics of tomorrow is far greater than any courtroom case today.

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