It staggers me that the church is still biased against women as though they were in some way a lesser species than men. The truly awful thing is that both men and women take the Bible and claim that male superiority is ‘written’. Therefore, in the noble cause of freedom and the promotion of truth here are a few thoughts that will hopefully encourage us to have a more respectful view of God’s pinnacle of creation.
In certain Muslim communities if a women is raped she can be found guilty of a kind of second degree adultery, she is imprisoned while the man goes free. Of course our ‘civilised’ western minds are appalled at the thought of such injustice; but I would say that the monstrous seeds of such evil can be found even among us. I know of church leaders who would say that a wife who is beaten by her husband has to take at least some responsibility for his actions. WHAT! You are joking aren’t you? Not that there is anything to laugh at here. There is NO justification in any circumstances for beating your wife; it is the same as molesting a child – there is never an excuse, the guilt lies solely with the perpetrator.
If you are one of those who think it is okay to use physical violence to get your petulant childish needs met, think again. I have heard christian men justify their actions by saying “if she would change” or “if she would just do such and such”. Get real! The issue is yours, your wife could be Nigella Lawson in the kitchen, a domestic goddess around the house and your wildest fantasy in the bedroom. Guess what? You would still hurt her because the only person who can make that pain and inadequacy go away is you, with God’s help and perhaps a good therapist.
Another terrible example of the churches’ view on women was a survey amongst Pentecostal church pastors, that showed the majority would tell a women who was in fear of her life to stay with her violent husband. They justified their stand by saying that God would reward her on the last day if she was killed. When I hear things like this it makes me nervous about admitting that I am a Christian, I tend to use the phrase “follower of Jesus”. The question is how have such attitudes survived in the church for so long and where do they come from? I think the short answer is the incorrect reading of Scripture mixed with inbred misogyny.
This is not going to be an I depth study but let me throw a few openers that may encourage people to dig deeper.
We all know of Adam’s blame statement when God called him to account in the garden, “that women YOU gave me”. Of course God didn’t buy into that nonsense, but we did. I have heard men say to me that it is women that are in essence corrupt because of the fall (the truth is both sexes are messed up); their theology is out of the dark ages when they blame the woman for their problems with lust, or anger or whatever. We need to remember that the woman was deceived, the man wasn’t. The Bible tells us that he was right there at the tree with his wife, he watched the whole thing, he knew what was going on and did nothing except join in. The point here is that the man was far more culpable than the women; this means we cannot justify treating women as somehow second class believers by continuing to lay a generic blame at their feet.
Women can’t lead.
Oops! God dropped a clanger there, appointing Deborah as prophet and president. She was the spiritual and political leader of Israel. Bearing in mind that God alone appoints prophets, and that He was quite happy for a women to be Judge over all Israel. It is also worth noting that the first people to be entrusted with the message of Jesus’ resurrection were women.
Can women be ordained as priests?
I was asked this question by a lady who was strong on sexual equality in her denomination. To be honest, for me it is a non question, we are all already a Royal Priesthood unto our God. However, that aside you won’t find a verse in the Bible that disqualifies a women from any form of ministry. On the contrary, Paul enjoyed the company of women ministers, Jesus had a group of women supporting Him and history has repeatedly shown that God is perfectly happy to have His daughters equipping the saints.
What about silence and submission?
If this blog creates enough interest I will publish a fuller study, but for now let me suggest the following. Paul’s so called admonition for silence cannot be taken at face value as a few chapters earlier he explained how a woman should pray or prophesy in the church gatherings. At least part of the issue is, I think, that we try to read the Bible as a ‘systems manual’, and it wasn’t written like that. For me the Bible is more of a narrative, it tells the story, it reveals things that were personal to the people it was written to; it does reveal things that apply to us all, but above all its pages point to the person of Jesus Christ.
A vital rule of Biblical interpretation is to ask the question “what did the original recipients hear?” To answer that fully we need to know something of their world view, culture, etc. I remember being taught that word translated virgin in Isaiah’s prophecy of the birth of Jesus was actually maiden, thus Jesus wasn’t born of a virgin. Sounds good, but for anyone hearing that in that culture, virgin and maiden were synonymous; there was no sex before marriage, even if a man raped a women he had to marry her.
With that in mind did the early Christians think that women should be silent, unable to teach and totally submitted to men. The answer of the New Testament is a clear no, we just have to read it with an unbiased mind. Take the silence and submission issue:
Let your women keep silent in the churches, for they are not permitted to speak; but they are to be submissive, as the law also says. And if they want to learn something, let them ask their own husbands at home; for it is shameful for women to speak in church.
1 Corinthians 14:34 – 35(NKJV)
Okay with a 21st century mind and a male biased translation we could control our women folk quite effectively with this one. But, are they to keep silent? In 1 Corinthians 11:5 Paul tells the women the culturally appropriate way for them to prophesy and pray, and it wasn’t by signing. This means either, Paul is confused or we don’t understand it. What about asking their husbands at home? What if they are not married, or their husband isn’t saved?
Then we have the women submitting as the law says, what law? The only law that counts is the one that God gave through Moses, and you can read and re-read it, there is nothing about women having to cower to their husbands. Then we have the finale, “it is shameful for a women to speak in church”, the word shameful being a weak translation. We would more likely say, vile or disgusting.
So to summarise, women must be silent, in total submission to their husbands, they have no right to have things explained to them and if they speak it is disgusting. Feel the love!
So what is Paul saying? Try this, get your Bible and put speech marks at the beginning of verse 34 and the end of verse 35; what do you have? A quotation, Paul is responding by quoting something that the Corinthians said to him in a letter. He answered the woman question in chapter 11, now he is dismissing some stray pharisaical teaching that had entered the church.
I know there are other arguments for this verse but they are a bit lame. The truth is women aren’t welcomed as equals in a lot of traditional churches (including charismatic and Pentecostal) and they need the Bible to agree with that. But Paul was writing to more organic churches, to whom he said, “there is neither Jew nor Greek, male nor female, you are all one in Christ Jesus”. Galatians 3:28
We love you sisters!
Go well my friends 🙂