A good friend, with whom I have been in dialogue over my posts on sacred friendships (December 21-24), sent the following story to me. It is all too true to not be troubling if you have the eyes and ears to see and hear.

In the evangelical churches I attended growing up, traditional gender roles were portrayed, taught and even encouraged from elementary age, up. Girls do one activity, boys do another. Pointing to the actions of women in Bible stories as fodder for what “godly” women do. In youth group, boys and girls take on different roles: at events, girls prepare and serve food and do cleaning. Boys do “setup” of sound systems, chairs, electronics. Girls are complimented for having “humility” and “a servant’s heart” and boys are encouraged to be leaders.

Male sexuality is an almost-uncontrollable force that must not be tempted. Women must “avoid tempting the boys,” and in the name of modesty, take responsibility for the eyes and libidos of their male counterparts.

I never remember a pastor talking to the boys and young men about self control and respect for women. It was always a warning not to be “tempted by women.” I do remember hearing middle- aged female youth volunteers or pastors’ wives (we never had women pastors) warn the girls not to tempt the boys, not to dress inappropriately. “Those are your brothers, and you need to protect their eyes.” Islam has a saying about women having “Nine parts of Desire.” When Allah created women and men, he gave nine parts of desire to the woman, and one part to the men.

So women must be covered and separated, because their sexuality is dangerous. Which is effectively the very same thing I learned growing up in the evangelical church.