Christianity, Colonialism and The Disempowerment of Women By the Church

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I’m just wondering why some Christians spend so much time disempowering women. Why is it so important that women are small and men are big?

Bookmark the thought:

I’m from the Kikuyu tribe, one of the 42 main tribes of Kenya. As a tribe, we have an origin story (close to the Judeo-Christian of Adam and Eve, actually) that puts the woman right in the strong middle rather than the margins.

Church disempowers women

According to our tribe, God gave the first man and woman nine daughters. As in, women were born first. Then, God created sons FOR the daughters. (For those who love “birth order,” there’s a tidbit.)

Then, all nine daughters and their husbands had many children: and thus began the 9 lines (or clans) of the Kikuyu tribe. Guess whose names the clans carry? The daughters. Not the sons.

Also, the Kikuyu tribe is known as the “House of Mumbi.” (Mumbi is our tribe’s “Eve”.)

Quick recap: the daughters came first, sons were created for the daughters, the daughters’ heritage continues to date through the naming of the clans, the entire tribe (all the nine lines) is known as “House of the Woman,” aka House of Mumbi.

Church Disempowering Women

I was talking to a friend from a different African country sometimes back, and she had similar stories of strong female figures at the center of their tribe’s mythologies and history.

So me and her came to this (very unproven but strongly felt) deduction that perhaps women were not always as sidelined in our African culture as we thought they were.

That perhaps our African culture was not always deeply patriarchal; maybe originally, men and women shared power.

Maybe some of the patriarchy we see today has to do with early missionaries retelling and erasing our African history and replacing it with a western god who didn’t seem to like women much

Or (possibly more accurately), it’s the story of the world: women were not created to be subservient to men, but somehow, here we are. Their disempowerment served and still serves those with power, so on and on the circus goes.

Back to opening thought:

I once came across a post from Desiring God titled “Is Jael a Model Woman?” (because Facebook sponsored algorithm thought I’d be delighted by that type of content.) I read the post, and it lived up to its promised offerings

And I couldn’t help but wonder (like genuinely just sat there scratching my afro head) why Christians spend so much time disempowering women. Why is it soo important that women are small and men are big?

church disempowers women

Why is it so hard to share power, seeing that we’re both made in the image of God? Why do women’s achievements always have to be clipped or  “put in their place” so that men can shine? Aren’t we both mainly human beings who share the same desires and dreams for safety, security, and love?

Why can’t our differences (MINUSCULE compared to everything we have in common) be delightful perks that add color to life and relationships? Instead of being this thing that REMOVES from it?

Church Disempoweing Women: God is good but His people can be awful

(I wrote the section below as an update, after sharing above article on Facebook. Great conversations came out of the initial article but as its often the case, a man had a problem with what I had written. I felt a response was needed.)

I get so many comments about how God or the Bible is perfect, and humans are not, and how that’s a good reason to stop talking about abuse, misogyny, and other issues affecting women (and marginalized cultures) as a Christian or church problem.

Just a human issue, and we need to keep Christianity/God out of it.

And every time, I respond with different versions of, “God is good but His people can be awful and that’s what we’re addressing: The people who claim to follow Him but act the opposite of Him and how that affects others.”

Church dispempowering women: I honestly don’t know why it’s this difficult to see that it’s really really tough to process God’s love and truth when those who claim to represent Him are causing you untold hurt.

I don’t know why it’s difficult to accept that the harm cannot be fixed with “but God is not like that, just read your Bible.” (You know, the same Bible being used to injure.)

To actually change things, we must stop and empathize. We must take responsibility for how the Good News has not been good news to some. We must mourn and lament. We must dig into the mindset and systems that cause and perpetuate the misogyny and oppression and change things from there.

Sure, God is good, but how can anyone process that when reeling from prejudice and harm?

My position is not that harmed individuals or communities bear zero responsibility for their lives. My position is that they are not responsible for the harm caused. Nothing they did or didn’t makes them deserving of abuse or colonialism.

And if we understand how patriarchy and misogyny work, if we have experienced abuse and colonialism wrapped up as missionary work, (firsthand or passed along, generationaly), then we’ll know it’s not as simple as telling the targets of abuse to read their Bible, and they’ll stop being abused and oppressed.

It’s more nuanced than that.

Earlier, I responded to a comment on yesterday‘s post about patriarchy and oppressive mindsets and behaviors against women and indigenous people around the world. Lots of good conversations for the most part.

One male commenter responded and made an argument I’ve heard repeatedly, mostly from men. His take was that the Bible is perfect, and if only women and indigenous people stopped being lazy and read it, they’d no longer be oppressed. (My take on his comment, which I felt illustrated the very point I was trying to make on church disempowering women and the marginalized )

Here’s how I responsed:

“It’s not about “what the Bible says” (and there’s a lot we misconstrue) but about how humans interpret it that harms. And calling people lazy because they are harmed is actually indicative of the very thing I’m discussing here; patriarchy, corrosive mindsets and practices against women.

Rather than empathize or take responsibility for ways men have harmed women, or the harm caused by missionaries around the world, you’re calling women and indigenous people lazy. Lazy for being harmed.

It is common for individuals with the power to blame those they oppress. They will not take responsibility but find something to justify or minimize harm done.

It would be helpful to study up on these issues first before offering commentary because your comment here is a mindset that perpetuates harm.”

Continue Reading: Church Disempowering Women (and the Marginalized)


  1. Mary Stewart says:

    Thanks so much for your work! I’ve been talking with an old college friend on Facebook because he didn’t like an article I reposted from Bare Marriage about do we follow the same Jesus. Basically, he doesn’t believe that women are made in the image of God but the men are. he feels that white Christian males have been emasculated by this thinking. What I’ve been pondering in my mind is, is it really women being made in the image of God that emasculates a man? Or is it that Christian men have always been on top and now they’re being threatened by women And other ethnicities and they feel emasculated because they’re not on top of the power anymore? I really don’t think they’re struggle with women or others but with themselves, personally.

    1. “Christian men have always been on top and now they’re being threatened by women And other ethnicities and they feel emasculated because they’re not on top of the power anymore?” <—-THIS 👏🏾👏🏾

      I also believe they need to turn inward and heal their inner world. The problems are not "out there" but inside them.

  2. Thanks Ngina for asking the question – why the church disempower women? It would be a lot helpful to explain it in detail what you mean? Others think that Jesus Christ (Christianity) gave women a lot of protection than does other religions by far; even better than the African traditional religion you shared.

  3. absolutely! I agree and so glad you posted this!

  4. Thanks for this post, Ngina. Just to clarify, (as I’m scratching my South African head, here in the USA 😅), where you talk about “According to our tribe, God gave the first man and woman nine daughters. As in, women were born first. Then, God created sons FOR the daughters.”, Please clarify if you believe what your tribe says to be true or not. I’m assuming not, as we know scripture tells us in Genesis 4: “Now the man had relations with his wife Eve, and she conceived and gave birth to Cain, and she said, “I have gotten a man-child with the help of the Lord.” Again, she gave birth to his brother Abel….

    1. Learning to be beloved says:

      Ngina states she and her friend were exploring if patriarchal attitudes were native to Africa or brought by colonization/missionaries. Kenya had a tradition of honoring women that was wiped out.

  5. Ngina, you cracked me at “… sat there scratching my afro head”. And, I’m born in Africa, but it is sooo refreshing to hear your tribe’s story. I’ve always thought women were always second class, in the margins more so in Africa. And that this christian God doesn’t like women. I’m deconstructing my faith and just wanted to say thank you for the work that you are doing. From a fellow African sister, thank you.

  6. Sesi Mahlobogoane says:

    Thank you for yet another insightful and deep article. Me believes that as much as we don’t want to admit it, the church is conforming too much to the standards of this world! We unconsciously walk parallel to the Word of God in support of oppressive cultures that advocate for patriarchy in all its abusive forms. That’s why many pastors, in their heated sermons, vilify women like Eve, Vashti or Job’s wife and many others. I pray for the true revelation of God when we read the Word, otherwise we will perpetuate the same abuse of women and power that we claim to be standing against!
    May God empower you to continue unearthing the truth and keep feeding it to us until we get it!

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