Sunday, July 29, 2007

Submission

Is Christianity a male-chauvinist, sexist religion? Has God really given Christian husbands military-like authority over their wives?

New Testament Men & Women are Equal
In the New Testament book of Galatians, Chapter three verses 27 and 28, we read that God sees no status difference at all between male and female Christians. The scriptures plainly say we are all equal ("one") in Christ. We read in 1 Peter 3:7, that men and women are heirs together of the Kingdom of God.

New Testament Women Can Preach
We read in the book of Acts, that God’s daughters as well as his sons will prophesy. In some churches prophesying is limited to preaching. But preaching is preaching, so obviously, in spite of the many obvious chauvinistic and sexist interpretations of scripture, the New Testament places no prohibition on women preaching.

Although some men abuse the scriptures and use them against women in an oppressive way, Christianity, as the Bible clearly reveals, is not a male-chauvinist, sexist religion.

The "Authority" of Husbands
The entire Issue of the "authority" of husbands hinges on only one verse in the entire Bible. That is Genesis 3:16.


The very popular Matthew Henry Commentary, leading evangelical leader John MacArthur, and many other evangelical writers and leaders unfailingly refer back to this verse as the last word to any and all arguments on the subject. The general interpretation of Genesis 3:16 is based on the assumption that the married male was endowed by God with authority over his wife and given the right to demand submission from her.

Does the passage in Genesis 3:16 which says "and he shall rule over you," really mean that men were given a promotion in status within the marriage relationship because of sin? If that is what it means, then it would be the only verse in the entire Bible that definitively gives males authority over females.

Submit, Subject, Obey
Other verses which some hold to validate that interpretation of Genesis 3:16 are Titus 2:5, Ephesians 5:22, 1 Peter 3:1 and 1 Corinthians 14:34 where wives are commanded to obey their husbands, be in subjection to their husbands and to be silent in church. These are verses which are also widely believed to bestow authority on the husband over the wife.

However, a close look at both the context and the Greek they were originally translated from quickly dispels any such notions.

All Christians are Commanded to Submit to One Another
The same Greek word, Hupotasso, that commands wives to be subject to their husbands in Ephesians 5:22, is used in Ephesians 5:21 and 1 Peter 5:5 to command all Christians to be subject to one another.

Has every Christian really been given a military-like authority over every other Christian?


Absolutely no one claims that to be the case. Indeed, it is ludicrous to even consider such a thing. Yet that is exactly how these passages are interpreted when it comes to the husband and wife relationship.

The very same Greek word translated, “submit,” in Ephesians 5:22 in reference to wives, is also used in Ephesians 5:21 and 1 Peter 5:5 in reference to all Christians, who are commanded to be “subject to” and to be in submission to one another.


That means the Christian husband is commanded in scripture to also submit and “be subject" to his Christian wife.

Have All Christians Been Endowed With Authority Over All Other Christians? Do All Christians Have the Right to Demand Submission From All Other Christians? As we have shown, the command to submit and be subject to one another applies to husbands, wives and extends to all Christians. This command for all Christians to submit to one another in no way gives any Christian the authority to demand submission from any other Christian.

There is absolutely no implication of authority being conferred on wives over husbands in Ephesians 5:21 or 1 Peter 5:5, and it is both interesting and very telling that virtually no one argues this fact. So why is it that so many claim that Ephesians 5:22, which uses the very same Greek word as verse 21, bestows a mystical, unquestionable mantle of authority over wives on Christian husbands?

Be Fruitful Multiply and Have Dominion….
The original biblical mandate, found in Genesis 1:27-28, was for all mankind (both male and female) to have dominion over the land creatures, the sea creatures, and every living thing that moved upon the earth. No mandate was given to either the man or the woman to exercise dominion over the other.

Old & New Testament Mandates After the Fall of Man
According to Jesus, in Matthew 22:36-40 the entire body of Old Testament writings can be summed up in two commands, Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and strength, and love your neighbor as yourselves.


The New Testament mandate for mankind is to place ourselves unselfishly at the disposition of one another—to prefer one another before ourselves, to refrain from thinking to highly of ourselves. Christian leaders are warned not to Lord it over their flocks. Jesus said in John 13:35 that all men would know we are his disciples because of our love for one another.

Demanding Submission is a Violation of Scripture
In light of those mandates, to demand submission from anyone (other than legal, judicial authorities) clearly violates the biblical command directed towards every Christian to be “subject to” (accountable to, at the disposition of, defer to) every other Christian. Therefore, the same limitations placed on wives and every other Christian in regards to submission, must be placed on the Christian husband in regards to his wife.


The marriage relationship is not exempt from the general biblical instructions Christians are given regarding all relationships—one of which is to submit ourselves one to another.

Women Keep Silent
The passage in 1 Corinthians where women are forbidden to speak in church is clearly in reference to a wide-spread local custom of the time and no longer applicable today. There are very few, if any, churches in existence today that, in actual practice, adhere to that custom. So there is no good reason to defer to that verse in defense of the authority of the husband.

Keep it in Context
It can be argued that the same Greek word, Hupotasso, translated obey, submit, and be subject to, also applies to children, to slaves and to government authority, so obviously this word has a variety of applications including a connotation of strict obedience and subjection in some usages.

All this tells us is, that the context in which this word is used, must be taken into careful consideration before coming to a conclusion as drastic and consequential as giving husbands the unilateral right to demand a lifetime of subjection from their wives, thereby depriving them of all autonomy and personal freedom.

Evangelical Views Converge
It is interesting that the various schools of evangelical thought disagree about whether or not males and females were originally created equal and given dual authority over the earth and over all creation. Some believe the Bible teaches this is the case and some do not.

Most evangelical views converge, however, in assuming that after the fall—because of sin, the man was given authority over the woman. It is generally agreed that the woman’s curse included more pain in childbirth, increased frequency of pregnancies /multiple births—and that her husband would rule over her by being promoted to the status of “head of the house.”

The man’s curse, it is generally agreed, had to do with working hard. He was told he would eat his bread by the sweat of his brow, because the ground was cursed as well.


Was Adam Given a Mandate To Rule?
No one can deny that the scriptures say, “…and he shall rule over thee.” But is that a solid basis for interpreting Genesis 3:16 to mean that Adam was given a promotion within the marriage relationship and received a mandate from God to rule over his wife?


It cannot be proven from scripture that Adam was given any such mandate.

The scriptures simply say that one of the consequences Eve would have to pay because of sin being introduced into a previously sinless creation, was that her husband would rule over her.

Adam’s ruling over his wife was a perversion. It was a curse. It was a consequence of sin—not a reward for it, and certainly not a command.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Patriarchy

I am often asked if I believe patriarchy is responsible for spousal abuse and domestic violence. To a large degree, the answer has to be yes. But I believe the real question(s) should be, "Is the God of the Bible a male-chauvinistic God? And is the Bible itself a sexist book?


All ancient cultures were patriarchal cultures, and many cultures today still are, but it seems the Bible is singled out and blamed for many of the past and present prejudices and mistreatments of women simply because the Jewish culture, chronicled in the Old Testament, was also a patriarchal culture. Bible Definition of Patriarch In the Bible, the word "patriarch" is used only 4 times—all in the New Testament and all translated from the same Greek word, Patriarches, which literally means male ancestor or progenitor. Biblically speaking, the word patriarch encompasses no greater meaning than that.


The secular definition of patriarch is: The father and ruler of a family or tribe, a venerable old man, a bishop of the highest rank in the early Christian church, and patriarchy is defined as: a form of socialization in which the father is head of the family and in which descent is reckoned in the male line—the children belonging to the father's clan.


Feminist's view patriarchy as inherently oppressive and discriminatory towards women, i.e., male-chauvinistic and sexist, and rightly so, as historically, in practical application, that view has been well validated.


Women in the Genealogical Records: The Jewish culture, which is the culture the Old Testament of the Bible primarily chronicles, was a patriarchal culture. We see that the Jewish genealogies are primarily patriarchal—almost 100%. But they deviate from time to time to include women in the genealogical records. Although there is no law or command found in the Bible concerning family record keeping, it is obvious that the human race, as portrayed in the Bible, quickly turned from reckoning family lines through female kinship to the patriarchal method of socialization. Katharine Bushnell maintains genealogy was originally reckoned through female kinship, and she makes a good argument for female kinship and how and why it was overthrown.


Is the Bible a sexist book?


Definition of Chauvinist: The dictionary defines a chauvinist as one who puts his or her own gender on a pedestal, an irrational advocacy and love for one’s own sex, the minimization, status declassification, putting down, and belittling of the opposite sex as a whole. Sexism: A sexist is someone who advocates for and endorses chauvinistic thought and policy, implementing actual discrimination against the opposite sex.


Sexist discrimination is the culmination of chauvinistic thought, so logically, chauvinism leads to sexism. Do the scriptures put the male sex on a pedestal? Do the scriptures put the male sex on a pedestal and irrationally advocate for it while at the same time minimizing, putting down and belittling the female sex? The answer to that question is, no.


The Old Testament example is that women were not only equally citizens of the commonwealth of Israel just as men were, but were also well able and permitted to handle the responsibilities of leadership. Women are still afforded respect and opportunity in that culture. Deborah Golda Mier was born in Russia, grew up in America, and became the second female Prime Minister of Israel. The first was the Deborah we read of in the book of Judges.


In Deborah, we see an ancient example of a woman who held three major positions of authority in Israel. She held these positions simultaneously. Although she had a husband, she was the one who was Prophet, Judge (equal to our modern day heads of state) and Commander in Chief of the armies of Israel. Under her administration Israel lived in peace for forty years. In how many ancient patriarchal societies, besides the Old Testament Jewish culture, do we see a woman held in such high esteem that she serves as head of state, Commander in Chief of the army while also being recognized and deferred to as prophet to the nation? Look around the world today and count the number of women leaders in comparison to men. Even though, at this present time, there are more women in leadership than at any previous time in history, the worldwide ratio of men to women in leadership is still poor. Women are still not permitted to vote in many of today’s cultures. They are counted as citizens of their countries only in terms of possession but not in privilege.


God Created Men and Women Equal The Bible itself (aside from how it is interpreted and taught by traditional role religionists) supports the fact that God initially created male and female as equal in status. The Bible says that both men and women are created in the image of God. The discrimination we still see today, even in these modern and “enlightened” times, is a consequence of sin being introduced into God’s creation. Although God himself, in the third chapter of Genesis, predicted that oppression of wives by their husbands would be one of the consequences of the woman’s sin, Genesis 3:16 does not imply, nor can it be inferred, that authority over their wives has been bestowed by God upon all husbands. But this remains the popular interpretation of the verse.


The fact is, there are many examples in scripture that refute this interpretation and prove that God is not a chauvinistic God, and that the Bible is not a sexist book, but in spite of the weight of scriptural evidence against it, most theological arguments concerning male authority ultimately lead to Genesis 3:16 anyway.


Women in the Bible: Would a sexist book include books named after women—books which memorialize their praiseworthy and heroic actions? Would a sexist book include women in genealogical records? In scripture, there are repeated instances of praiseworthy and heroic actions of women being recorded. The record is there of women in ministry. These things cannot be denied. We read of women functioning as deacon, apostle and teacher. The first person to see Jesus alive and to preach the gospel was a woman. We see women in the highest positions of leadership in the Bible. The most dramatic, of course, is Deborah, but we see others as well.


Huldah, the wife of Shallum, was a prophetess. Although she was married, there is no indication that she was required to consult her husband when she served the Lord as prophet to the nation of Israel. That placed her on the same authoritative plane as Nathan, who was prophet to Israel during the reign of King David. The same goes for Deborah. There is no evidence that she was required to consult with her husband as she carried out her leadership responsibilities as Judge, Prophet and Commander-in-Chief. Some may argue that Deborah is the only example in the entire history of Israel of a woman holding that position, but the fact is, there were only two men in the entire history of Israel who held all three positions simultaneously, and these were Moses and Samuel. So we see that Deborah's leadership position superseded that of every male in the entire Old Testament with the exception of the two she held equal rank with.


A chauvinistic-sexist book would never have carried the stories of Huldah and Deborah. It is the biased interpretations of traditional role religionists that has given the Bible a bad reputation as a male-chauvinistic and sexist book.


Jocelyn’s next book: Woman this is WAR! Gender, Slavery, & the Evangelical Caste System, is scheduled for release on July 20, 2010 to coincide with the 162nd anniversary of the second day of the historic Seneca Falls Women's Conference held at a Methodist church in Seneca Falls, New York. It was a decidedly Christian event.


Visit the following link for details:
 http://hungryheart100.tripod.com/womansubmit/id10.html



Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Beauty for Ashes

Just this morning I found myself feeling the sting of something that happened to me years ago, and that I thought I had gotten over and forgiven the offender for!

I was really caught off-guard when feelings of resentment and unforgiveness surfaced concerning this particular incident. I had to give myself a good shake and remember that I really do believe all things work together for good for those who love the Lord and are the called according to his purpose. All things--even the worst things.

I can thank him for the things that hurt and marvel that according to his great mercy and power I am even still alive (if I dwell on some things though, it can get scary). I have found that is the only way I can truly forgive. That and asking myself just what that person could do that would satify my sense of justice and settle it for me.

This answer to that of course, is that there is nothing they could do to make up for the pain and injustice. Nothing that would satisfy my soul. Only Jesus can give me peace on that one as I obey him in forgiving and be consciously thankful that he can take these awful things and through a power only he has, make something beautiful grow from the experience.

He truly does give beauty for ashes....

Friday, July 13, 2007

A Young Mother's Story

Churches are failing abused women through a combination of bad advice, faulty theology and a Catch-22 where women are told divorce is not an option and yet held in contempt for staying in the situation and tolerating abuse...

That's how Bob Allen, managing editor of
Ethics Daily began his very moving and powerful article/review of, Woman Submit! Christians & Domestic Violence, published on July 13, 2007.
He showed himself for the advocate he is on behalf of battered women.

In fact, I have been moved more than once by the sincere compassion demonstrated by evangelical journalists like Bob Allen of Ethics Daily and Ed Thomas of
One News Now.

Within the past week or so the story of a young mother was brought to my attention that had me spitting nails and reminded me all over again of why I wrote Woman Submit!

This young woman had escaped an abusive husband and, along with her small children, was attempting to rebuild her life.

She had found a church she really loved and threw herself whole-heartedly into being a part of the worship and fellowship activities there.

According to a fellow church member, with the exception of her children, "The church was all she had" in her life during the short time she been attending services there.

Now this was not a small narrow minded so-called "fundamentalist" church, but rather a very large church of one of the more "progressive" and modern evangelical denominations. In fact, the denomination in question has done several surveys concerning domestic violence and portrays a compassionate public image for women who find themselves in such circumstances.
The church member who shared this young mother's story with me did so out of profound regret concerning a decision the Church leadership made in regards to this young woman and her children.

His regret was such that he ultimately left that church for one he hopes would demonstrate more sincere compassion towards its members.

It is not uncommon for the spouses or former spouses of abused or battered women to not take the divorce or separation quietly. In fact, they rarely do. It may surprise the uninitiated to find out that the workplace is a common place for battered women to be killed or injured by their violent spouses or ex-spouses.

This young woman happened to be at church when her ex-husband showed up. Fortunately he did not harm her or anyone else, but before he left, he had made quite a scene, thoroughly humiliated her and possibly frightened a few other people as well.

I was not told the extent of the incident or whether or not police had to be called. All I was told was that after this happened, the young mother was summoned to the pastor's office and informed that this was not the right church for her. He felt certain she would be happier if she found another place for herself and for her children to worship and fellowship.

This large, rich (they presently have a $5,000,000 building project going on), "progressive" church dropped this young family like a sack of potatoes--like so much garbage.

One young woman and 2 small children were simply too much trouble for all the rest of the members, who had their lives "together," to deal with.

Yes, the churches are failing abused women, in more ways than we can imagine. It is a stench in the nostrils of God.

And what a breath of fresh air, what a shot of encouragment it is for me to cross paths with people like Bob Allen, Ed Thomas, Marvin Sanders, Tim Wildmon,Earl and Rachel Gooden, Arthelene Rippy, Ted Elm and so many others who are joining with me in what often seems like an uphill battle to bring awareness and hopefully help generate some compassion towards battered and formerly battered women who draw strength from something as small as our acceptance of them and maybe a willingness to be inconvenienced, just a little bit, on their behalf as they take the steps they need to in order to free themselves from the hellish minefield of abuse.

Christian Men's Movements & Domestic Violence

Here is a question I was asked this week and my answer:

Q:In the early 1990s the Promise Keepers was founded and seemed to usher in a new Christian men's movement. .. I'm wondering how you view the rise of the men's movenment as it relates to domestic violence, keeping in mind the following statement from Tony Evans:

"Men, sit down with your wife and say something like this, ‘Honey, I’ve made a terrible mistake . . . I gave up leading this family, and I forced you to take my place. Now I must reclaim the role.’ I’ m not suggesting, Tony Evans says, that you ask for your role back, I’m urging you to take it back . . . there can be no compromise here. If you’re going to lead, you must lead . . . Treat the lady gently and lovingly, But lead!"

A: I have not kept up with the rise of the Men’s Movement, so I really cannot comment on that. I would like to comment on the statement by Tony Evans that men need to “reclaim” leadership roles within their families regardless of how their wives feel about it (isn’t that what he said?) If that is the message of the men’s movement, I can see how that could translate into domestic violence in some cases.

I cannot disagree that many men have seriously dropped the ball in regards to responsibility towards their families in ways that burden wives with taking on multiple roles of mother, father and breadwinner. But Evan’s advice for husbands to “take back” authority they perceive their wife has usurped from them is a recipe for disaster in a marriage where the husband is prone to domestic violence—and there are plenty of men who are prone to domestic violence in evangelical Christian churches.

Evan’s statement is not surprising to me at all. It reflects an attitude that is quite prevalent among evangelicals that if the leadership balance at home is restored to what they feel it should be, with the wife in proper submission to her husband, then most family problems would automatically be solved.

His directive is not so much dealing with the issue of men reclaiming leadership roles within their marriages as it is with men demanding submission from their wives. This is made quite clear by the fact that the wife is given no option in the matter and lines up perfectly with the way the doctrine of submission is taught and interpreted within many evangelical churches. It is statements like this that lead men to believe it is their God-given right to exert authority over their wives, and this logically leads to problems with abuse if they attempt to assert this authority—especially with men who deal with unresolved anger issues and are prone to violence.

I feel certain Dr. Evans would argue that he is not suggesting that men exert authority over their wives, but what else can he be suggesting when he tells men they need to “take back” the leadership role within their marriages whether their wives agree to being defaulted to a subordinate role or not?

When Abusers Follow Their Victims to Church

What can we do to protect women and children when abusers show up at church and pose a threat to everyone or deliberately create fear and c...