Gender Roles … the Christian Way

I don’t wanna drive traffic to a site that teaches the very doctrine that had me so messed up, but then I came across BiblicalGenderRoles.com and I think it’s worth the reference.

originalAt first I thought it must be a joke site. I dunno … a satirical site for the purpose of pointing out how twisted the bible is on the topic of women. But it would appear I’m wrong.  Dang! Twice in one day!

The author holds an extreme view from what I read this afternoon. I pulled out one example, on the topic of marriage counseling. The author is squarely against it. If there’s conflict, he says:

“A husband should not be yelling at his wife all the time, while there may be some cause for husband to raise his voice to his wife if she acting in a rebellious way. But even if a husband does yell at his wife more than he should – this is not something for a marriage counselor to solve. This is not something where a wife gets to run to a counselor and say “he yells at me too much”. He is her authority, she is to reverence him, obey him and serve him as his wife despite his flaws. This does not mean she cannot bring her concerns to him gently – but there is no cause for a third party in the form of a marriage counselor to come in and undermine his spiritual authority.”

After reading that again, it’s kind of a tame example compared to other stuff on his site. None-the-less, reasoning with a person who holds such views wouldn’t be prudent. He’s in the power position and has the holy ‘word of god’ on his side. And since I’m a woman, my role is diminished straight out of the gate.

I gotta say, back in the day, when this kind of authoritative, male supremacy stuff was thrust in my face, I felt the blow. Boy, did I! Sometimes I’d brood for days, crying and praying and and ripping through the pages of the bible asking god, why?

The fact that a human being was teaching or saying this kind of stuff in the name of the Lord was bad enough but …

The worst was that treating women this way was all biblical.

Some would say, “So? What’s the big deal with that? It’s just a book some old guys wrote.”

I wish I could have dismissed it for the rubbish it was. But at the time, it was THE BIGGEST deal. The bible was god-breathed! Inspired! So the passages used to subjugated women … THEY were inspired. They were God-breathed. They were his words for Christian living.

77449-383x254-Woman_with_BibleIt crushed my little heart. It really did. There was no where to run. No where to find fairness. God, the creator of the ends of the earth had spoken. And men like BiblicalGenderRoles.com were proud to remind us any chance they got.

(I worked with a few men like that who’d toss in a submission joke for good measure. The psychological damage was significant and long lasting.)

This exasperated my husband to no end. He’d long since dismissed the demeaning scriptures as archaic nonsense. But he wasn’t the problem. God was the problem. God was the heart of this matter for me. The ultimate authority had spoken.

Those were dark decades for me.

These days, since leaving Christianity and throwing my bible and its shackles in the trash, I see things differently. There were no tears after reading this guy’s website where at one time, there would’ve been. I wasn’t mad or confused and it certainly won’t keep me up tonight.

I tend to think that life on this big blue ball would be so much nicer for we earthlings if we heeded the words of Robert Fulghum in his book, All I Really Needed to Know I Learned In Kindergarten.

Here’s his simple list of actionable behaviors most of us learned in school:

children-sharing-toys_21. Share everything.
2. Play fair.
3. Don’t hit people.
4. Put things back where you found them.
5. CLEAN UP YOUR OWN MESS.
6. Don’t take things that aren’t yours.
7. Say you’re SORRY when you HURT somebody.
8. Wash your hands before you eat.
9. Flush.
10. Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.
11. Live a balanced life – learn some and drink some and draw some and paint some and sing and dance and play and work everyday some.
12. Take a nap every afternoon.
13. When you go out into the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands, and stick together.
14. Be aware of wonder. Remember the little seed in the Styrofoam cup: The roots go down and the plant goes up and nobody really knows how or why, but we are all like that.
15. Goldfish and hamster and white mice and even the little seed in the Styrofoam cup – they all die. So do we.
16. And then remember the Dick-and-Jane books and the first word you learned – the biggest word of all – LOOK.”

chalkboard.jpgWhat a wonderful model for marriage this list would be! How utterly simple and beautiful and superior in every way to the paragraph at the top of this post. It has everything. Kindness, consideration, empathy, cleanliness, attentiveness … peace.

I’m sad about the years I lost feeling beat down and subjugated by god, the bible, and people like the owner of BiblicalGenderRoles.com. It’s tempting to hurl an insult his way, but compassion outweighs that feeling. And it would be such a sad irony if I caved. Because I agree with Fulghum when he said,

“Sticks and stones may break our bones,
but words will break our hearts.”

It was most certainly true for me. 

I suspect that if the god I learned about in Sunday School were real today,  his model for marriage would look a lot like Fulghum’s list. 

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10 thoughts on “Gender Roles … the Christian Way

  1. You really have had a hell of a time it sounds like from many of your posts, having to deal with people in the church subjugating you because of your gender. I’m sorry it had to be like that. If I had had those experiences, I likely would have turned away from God too. I don’t think there’s anything oppressive about the man as the head of his wife and family. But a head needs a heart. A heart needs a head. Anyone who takes this passage to mean he has the right to be domineering and ignore the spiritual importance his wife has in his life, is, well, using his head too much. Letting reason rule over faith, and you know by our previous discussion about my irritation with Christians letting the Bible take over as God, when we should be praying, participating in a relationship with God, and living as Christ lived–cross and all.

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  2. But it wasn’t just the folly of youth. Didn’t you spend a great part of your adulthood as a missionary?

    The Bible is a way for us to see our spirits, mapped out. Like cardiologists studying the innerworkings of the heart, just because most of us have not attained to that level of medical practice does not mean, or even indicate, that we cannot know our own hearts. For me the book has been helpful to know all of the cells of the spirit. I have been the Virgin Mary. I have been Job. I have been the Pharisee, Caiaphas. I have been Peter. And on and on. In spiritual battle I am often many figures warring at once! I quit my job four years ago to go down to Medellin, Colombia and read the Bible cover to cover. It was useful to learn more about Paraclete and my own spirit on earth, but by no means necessary. When one says ‘yes’ to the invitation of Christ, prayer and contemplation, worship and sacrament, teach far more readily and lovingly than the often abstruse holy book. According to some, I’m probably blaspheming right now. Haha! Oh, well. God sees…

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  3. We were in our early twenties when we went overseas. And I wasn’t the most mature young woman. We were only there for one year. Then we settled back in the states. We went back into ministry where we stayed for 25+ years.

    The “cells of the spirit”. Not a phrase I’ve heard before. Quite an ethereal concept since a spirit can’t actually have cells. Care to enlighten me?

    I’d agree there are aspects of every character in the bible that we could relate to. I appreciate the value in that. When you read other books with relatable characters, are they also a way to see your soul mapped out or is this exclusive to the bible?

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  4. I originally wrote “characters of the spirit” but liked the imagery of cells, as related to cells of a heart, or even more poignantly, to the each of us as cells of the Body of Christ/Church. And about other books, absolutely! This is why I read fiction–for the truth!

    I guess I misunderstood about your life as a missionary. But I’m still curious about what you did in your ministry with your husband and presumably your children too. Do you regret living 25+ years serving this way?

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  5. Way back in our college days, we operated a Christian coffee house. Then we went off to seminary and I worked at CBN during that time (Pat Robertson’s ministry) in the ’80s before we went overseas. Once we got back stateside, my husband went back to seminary and became a pastor. I headed up the prayer team, wrote and directed Christian plays and lead a bible study. We raised two of our three children as Christians. One has since left the faith like me although I suspect he left before me. We only recently compared notes. Our youngest has been raised entirely without religion. He recently visited a friend’s church youth group down the road … he’s not interested in going back.

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  6. With so many modern Christians having such a strong tendency towards mysticism and personal connections and experiences of the divine I really wonder how Gnostic Christianity hasn’t taken off yet. It’s basically all the good stuff -if you’re leaning towards the Stoic concepts in Jesus’s teachings, minus the OT since many of them believe that the creator God who “wrote” it is basically evil plus a major tendency for personal mystical experiences that don’t require verification. I don’t think they even need a historical Jesus for all that either. They can’t prove any of that stuff so they just stop caring since it’s all personal experiences. I can definitely tolerate those folks.

    I couldn’t read much of that gender role site. I mean alright, some people might be a little more blunt than most -people like me- and they definitely benefit from significant others who are more emotional, balancing them and vice versa. But I don’t think that’s always the norm and I don’t see how it’s necessary to put all that into default power dynamics. I can definitely accept either gender willingly and consciously entering relationships with different sorts of power dynamics, as long it’s their choice. But that being the default? I don’t think it’s even close. And here’s the theological argument. If plain mortals can realise that, shouldn’t this already be in a supposedly divinely-inspired text?

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    1. Could not possibly agree more. Adults have to decide what works for them and every couple has their own dynamic. I know a Christian family where the wife is clearly in charge but they give lip service to husbandry headship. She is the leader in that family and it’s easy to see. It works for them. Why for some biblical model that requires her husband to lead if by his nature he is not a leader … and she is?

      Thank you for your comment. As always, I enjoy our dialog.

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