No Girls Allowed: Why the Church Shouldn't Follow Augusta National Golf Club's Membership Policy
I remember three things about the afternoon my parents dragged a 13-year-old me to a famous and local golf tournament: 1.) being bored out of my mind, 2.) having to keep very quiet and 3.) learning what exclusive meant in country club speak.
I'm not sure how it came up, but when it did, when my dad explained that at this club exclusive meant Blacks, Jews, Hispanics and women were not welcome, I was appalled. I wanted to leave immediately. But my parents insisted we stay. We were merely spectators, they explained. Not members. We weren't complicit in the bigotry. I disagreed (still do). But at least that day I learned something valuable: that wicked things weren't always ugly and charred. That they can be lush and manicured and that Christians sometimes stood around and applauded them.
So when I read the story of Augusta National Golf Club holding firm to its ridiculous and misogynist membership rules and refusing to offer IBM's new CEO, Ginni Rometty, the same membership they extended to her male predecessors as sponsors of The Master's tournament, I expected a familiar furor to bubble up, to boil over. But it didn't.
Instead something like weariness ran through me.
I suppose I'm just tired of this being an issue. Weary of Old Boys Clubs and "No Girls Allowed" signs. Weary of uber-accomplished women being told they are still not up to snuff—or up to par, I guess—because they are not men. I'm weary of companies proclaiming their misogyny by sponsoring these sexist events. Weary of people buying their products—making bigotry good for business. I'm weary of tradition and fear of change being guiding principles in clubs, in business and—if I'm being honest here—in the church.
But while I can defend Augusta's—or any club's—right to exclusivity till the cows come home, the Church can't be defended for the same. We aren't allowed to hang up "No Anyone Allowed" signs—not if we want to be like Jesus, at least. And yet we put those signs up. Again and again and again.
Before some of you tense up in defensiveness or get red-faced in your fury, allow me to explain: I'm not necessarily talking about "complementarian" versus "egalitarian" or "progressive" versus "conservative" here. I don't care which "camp" you're in, each camp has at least one rickety clubhouse built high off the ground, with a crookedly painted, dangling sign that declares who is and who is not allowed. The Body of Christ is notoriously divisive. Even as Christ himself was notoriously inclusive.