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Oral Sex, Yoga, and God's Eternal Wrath: Inside the New Hipster Megachurch That Tells Modern Women to Submit

Mars Hill tries to pull a young hipster crowd to Christianity. One of their biggest draws is separate spheres for women and men.

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There’s also the question of how the choices these women have made for themselves will influence those they present to their children. For Kailea, this was what convinced her she made the right choice in leaving Mars Hill. “Your daughters and your sons, they’re never going to go in and see a woman speaking, they’re not going to see a woman leading worship,” she says. “That has to tell them something about who women are.”

And would women feel as comfortable submitting to Mars Hill if they no longer had a secular safety net to push back on? The larger cultural context continues to validate women’s abilities and remind them that submission is, in the end, a reversible choice; if Mars Hill suddenly ruled the world, it would no longer be one. When I ask Jess what she imagines a Mars Hill world would be like, she is genuinely baffled—it’s not something she’s ever thought about. Kailea, however, has: “It takes about five minutes of reading through [ex-member blogs] to see what that world would be like. It would be a dictatorship.”

It’s easy to shrug off the growing population in churches like Mars Hill and repeat the American mantra of religious freedom: “They have the right to believe whatever they want.” But that these movements are gaining momentum in conjunction with a secular discourse that inadvertently validates them is not a coincidence that can be ignored. The current social climate is pointing young people down a tunnel, and Mars Hill offers a light at the other end—and that light is blinding.

Mars Hill women are smart, strong, and in many ways pro-women, but they will most likely not be voting in favor of Washington’s marriage-equality referendum, or for legislation supporting easy access to abortions, or, when the day comes, for a female president. And for that, they are also dangerous. I feel similarly to the way Sandler writes of an evangelical woman she interviewed: “She’d make a formidable feminist, and maybe would have...if only leftists had offered the promise of love articulated within a genuine expression of youth culture.” If only the current social climate offered more support to women managing the choices available to them, if only feminism had felt less divisive, if only they hadn’t stopped trusting their own capacity to figure things out, if only they’d had faith that there would be other women—or, dare I suggest it, a government—there to support them. Not only is that a great awakening I could own and lead, it’s the only one worth submitting to.

Alison Sargent is a recent college graduate from Seattle, Washington. She would like to thank all of the women who gave their voices to this piece.

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