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Sexual Shaming In Church – With Helen Loewen

Today’s blog post comes from one of our listeners! Thank you to Helen, for sharing your post about sexual shaming in the church with us today. You can read more from her and see the original post on her blog HERE. Be sure to stop by her page to tell her Thank You for sharing her story with us today.

Sexual Shaming in Church

I’m a Mennonite living in Mexico. If you want to see a diverse group of people, just come here. There’s multiple denominations among us. To those who understand the culture, you can tell fairly well which people belong to which denomination. Today, I want to tell you about the most visual way that one of the groups shames women for sexual impurity in the church.

Generally, most of the churches will go through a baptism course for about 3 months. It explains everything pertaining to baptism in depth. Each church has their own course plan and material. They almost always take place at the beginning of the year so baptism falls around Pentecost. It’s very interesting to me. I have taken part in the curriculum from a variety of churches. I did it simply because I enjoy hearing the different layouts and opinions. I was baptized in the EMC church and now attend Living Water (Lebenswasser). I absolutely loved our classes. But today, I want to talk about the Old Colony denomination.

We all hold similar beliefs. What differentiates us is our interpretations of man-made rules. Around here, Lebenswasser is very modern church. We have drums and electric guitars and overhead screens in our church. The polar opposite would be the Old Colony. They are super reserved. Women wear head coverings and dresses. Jeans on a woman are frowned upon. They sing without instrument in church. They also make up the majority of the Mennonites in Mexico.

I attended their baptism preparation classes two years ago. It was one of the best and most intriguing experiences for me. It was unlike any other baptism class I’d sat in on. I thoroughly enjoyed it and learned a lot from the pastors and elders. They study through the Catechism. But I found myself struggling with the shaming of women.

If a girl has had premarital sex, she is required to wear a black, super fancy, tall head covering. I think they’re beautiful pieces. Exquisitely made. Married women normally wear them to church. The virgins wear smaller, frilly head coverings. My father-in-law told us that in the church he’d visited this season, 7 of 10 girls wore the large head covering. Then he joked about the winter having been warmer because the couples kept each other warm…in bed.

These girls are publicly shamed inside a church by doing this. The boys? Nothing. They wear no sign of fornication. They’re proud. These girls are talked about and humiliated for quite some time after baptism. I see it as wrong. One of my friends was telling me about the shame she felt for having to go through this. It’s like they’re missing the point of what baptism is. Rather than shame these women for their past, build them up. They’re making a change for the better. They shouldn’t have to wear the humiliation.

This is just one example. Sexual shaming happens in many forms and is sometimes very one sided. The focus on women’s faults and transgressions. The pressures of remaining pure and also giving it up. There’s a lot to do to get past this and create a place of healing. It starts when we stop focusing on shaming in the church and being the help we should be.

This isn’t only within the Old Colony. It’s everywhere. They just have a system that exposes it more clearly, which is why I focused on them. But, by no means are they the only ones to shame sexuality. I’ll post another blog on a similar topic soon.

-Helen

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