Sexism and the Bible

Society’s view on religion, Christianity especially, has shifted over the last 70 years. Between the horrors conducted in the Canadian residential schools that were run by Christians, to the tension over the pro-life/pro-choice argument in the United States, many are seeing the beliefs of Christians as outdated, even oppressive. Pulling verses out of context to be used to explain sexist and racist policies has been happening recently in the U.S, and it makes people hate the Bible even more than before. However, both churched and unchurched people hardly ever look at the context in which the verse was written. By looking at the context of the verses typically used to oppress women, reading the stories of the women that God used to drastically change history, and seeing how Jesus treated women while he was on Earth, it is obvious that the Bible is anything but sexist.

The Bible is unfortunately used quite often to defend one’s actions that others see as morally grey or wrong. Back in June of 2018, Attorney General Jeff Sessions used Romans 13:1-7 to defend the separation of children from their parents at the U.S-Mexico border. Without looking at the context of the verse that is being used, people have used the Bible again and again to justify hurting and oppressing others, especially women. Ephesians 5:22 is a classic example of this. The Apostle Paul wrote, “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.” Out of context, it has been used to justify spousal physical and sexual abuse. It has been twisted to seem as if wives have no right to question their husband’s authority except in circumstances when he asks her to sin, and must deal with every hot tempered moment that comes her way. However, reading further on in Paul’s letter reveals that men have even more responsibility than usually referred to when this verse is quoted. Steven R. Tracy, a professor of theology at Phoenix Seminary states that, “[e]ven more importantly, Paul raises the bar for husbands as high as it could possibly be raised by commanding them to love their wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself for her.” To love someone as Christ loves the church is to treat them with respect and consideration, not being harsh or rude. It also means being willing to give one’s life up for that other person. While that may not mean literally, the emphasis is on sacrificial love. Men who use Ephesians 5:22 to control women either conveniently have only read that one verse, or don’t care enough to abide by the parameters that Paul laid out for good husbands.

Another verse that has been under fire is 1 Corinthians 14:34 which states “the women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says.” Silence and submission is a common theme among the verses that cause abuse in male-female relationships. However in this case, much more research needs to be done to understand the context of the verse. It is not as simple as continuing to read the letter. The problem that faces many modern day Christians when trying to understand the Bible is that it was not originally written in English. Elaine Storkey highlights this in her book “What’s Right With Feminism.”

“Language changes and develops within a certain culture, so that words and phrases within a given culture have certain connotations. We have to be sure that we understand therefore not just the translated words, but the syntax, morphology, context and idioms of the original.”

To truly understand a verse, there needs to be an understanding of the culture in which it was written. 1 Corinthians 14:34 is not written to suppress women during church services. Paul encourages women to pray, even to speak prophecy. In the case of this particular verse, commentary authors believe that Paul was writing specifically to this church because women were talking without ceasing, causing interruptions, or were purposely interrupting prophetic speech. That is rude for anyone to do, and to claim that Paul was sexist because he directed his instructions towards the women is simply wrong.

A lack of stories about women is a common complaint in modern society, and that complaint extends towards the Bible. While it is true that there aren’t many stories that have females as the central character, the ones that exist are phenomenal. Take the story of Deborah, the only female judge in the book of Judges. She is one of the few godly judges, and the only judge that is godly from the beginning of her recorded story. She was sought out by Barak, the commander of an Israelite army. When she told him that he would win against Sisera, the general of the opposing army, he asked her to go with him even after knowing that he wouldn’t be the one to kill Sisera and receive the glory for it. Sisera was killed in his sleep by Jael, a woman, in a very gruesome way: a tent peg through the temple. While the story is only a chapter long, it shows how God uses people despite the restrictions placed on them by their society. In a male dominated world, Israel was freed by two women.

Esther is one of two books in the Bible where a story about a woman is the central focus (the other being Ruth). Esther became queen in a land foreign to her and her people, and was able to protect the Israelites from certain death because of her position. While it is stated in chapter 2 verse 7 that she is beautiful, that isn’t the only description of her. Reading the book in its entirety, her bravery and clever mind are the centerpiece of her character. Additionally, the books of Esther and Ruth are abnormal in nature, not because they focus on women, but because all of the rest of the books in the Old Testament that are named after someone are named after a leader of the Israelites, or a prophet. Esther and Ruth don’t fall into either category, yet their stories were deemed important enough to be recorded, placed in the Bible, and given their own book, instead of tacking them onto another. Again, in a male centered society, both books are an amazing rarity.

Christians are told to look Jesus as a model of how to live, making the accounts of Jesus’ life of the utmost importance. Being a part of the Trinity gave Jesus the right to judge humans with true justice while he was on Earth in human form. However, there are two interactions that can show everyone how to truly love others, regardless if they deserve it because of their actions. First, the story in John 4, where Jesus speaks with a Samaritan woman at a well. He should not have even been speaking to her in the first place, but instead Jesus strikes up a conversation with her. He tells her things about herself that he could not have known, and encourages her. Even though she had had five husbands, and was currently living with a man who wasn’t her husband, Jesus spoke truth and life into her. Because of that interaction with Jesus, her life was changed.

Another powerful story can also be found in John, this time in chapter 8. A woman is brought to Jesus by the religious leaders of the day. She had committed adultery, and the punishment was death by stoning. They wanted to trap Jesus, but he had a very simple answer for them, “let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” Every one of them left, because every human has sinned. Jesus could have throw a stone, he is the only human to never sin, and had the authority to judge her in that moment. However, he did not. He told her that she was forgiven instead. Both of those stories show how Jesus cared for those in a society that was always looking down on them. He shows that everyone is worthy of love. The verse back in Ephesians 5 should be a reflection of this kind of love. Christ loves that church, and both these stories show how to emulate Jesus everyday.

The Bible is misunderstood because there is at least two thousand years and several languages of barrier between current society and the culture in which it was written. By analyzing the context, considering the stories of women in the Old Testament, and looking to Christ as the example of behavior, it’s obvious that the traditions in the time period of the Bible are what are considered sexist today. It should be noted that often times those who use verses out of context are trying to excuse their behavior. In those cases, don’t blame the source material. The Bible isn’t sexist, people are.

Bibliography

 

Burke, Daniel. “What does the Bible verse Jeff Sessions quoted really mean?.” CNN, June 15, 2018, https://www.cnn.com/2018/06/15/us/sessions-bible-quote-apostle-paul/index.html

Miller, J.r. “Residential Schools in Canada”. In The Canadian Encyclopedia. Historica Canada. Article published October 10, 2012; last modified September 21, 2018. https://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/residential-schools

Thiselton, Anthony C. “ The First Epistle to the Corinthians.” In The New International Greek Testament Commentary, Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2000. 1155-1156.

Tracy, Steven R. What Does “Submit In Everything” Really Mean? The Nature and Scope of Marital Submission, 2008. 33

Storkey, Elaine. What’s Right With Feminism. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1985. 151

Stress

I have a large assignment due tonight, and since I’m writing a blog post instead of working on it, take a guess how it’s going. It’s not even a hard assignment, there’s just a lot to do, and a lot of steps. Once I get this one done, I have more due the next week, and the week after, and the week after that… You get the idea. I’m loving school, but balancing everything is really tricky. I’ll figure out I’m sure. I just need a day where I’m not swamped by a deadline to plan everything out.

Sorry for never posting on a schedule, that’s not how I work. Maybe once I get a handle on this I’ll have time to write more. Hey, maybe I’ll post bits of my essays. Might as well have another reason to write them.

Sex and Relationships

I’m going to be honest, abstinence-only education doesn’t work.  It doesn’t. Wherever you fall on the political and religious spectrum, take some time and do some research. Go look up which states have abstinence-only education, and which states have the highest teen pregnancy rates. I needed two minutes to find stats that show states that have either no sex education or abstinence-only education have the highest teen pregnancy rates in the U.S.

We need to educate young people. The average age that young people are losing their virginity is 17 years old, and I can guarantee there are kids much younger than that having sex. Teaching them about sex isn’t putting any new ideas into their heads. Most kids are learning about sex and pornography at a young age, especially with the internet being so accessible.

Sex education shouldn’t just be about what sex is and how to be safe, although those are very important. It should also cover consent, what sexual assault looks like, and what to do if you’ve been sexually assaulted. Conversations about sex should be happening much sooner. I remember having the main sex-ed talk in grade 10. We learned about different types of contraception, and a LOT about STD’s. I knew a heck of a lot about oral herpes after that section. But honestly, it wasn’t that helpful. I thankfully have an amazing mom who talked about sex with me when I was a lot younger, and that’s where my knowledge came from. She made sure that I was informed before I heard about from friends or movies.

Now, to the Christians who might be mad at me, I’m not excusing sex before marriage. I can just speak from experience when I say that schools in the U.S and Canada need to do a better job of teaching kids about sex. However, it’s not their place to talk about morals.  Yup, I said it. We live in a very secular society, even if the basis of our government was Christian (I could dedicate a whole other post about that, so I’ll spare you.) With such a mixture of different beliefs systems, schools can’t say, “Here’s why you shouldn’t have sex.” That conversation is up to parents and pastors.  But, make sure you’re informed, know your Bible, watch sermons, make sure you know why you believe having sex before marriage is wrong. If your argument is either because it’s in the Bible, or because I said so, your kids aren’t going to listen. Make sure you can explain it calmly and with wisdom.

There’s an amazing series I just finished watching. It’s all about relationships, and Pastor Mike does a fantastic job explaining why sex should only be in the context of marriage.

 

Please leave a comment or a question for me, I would love to hear where you stand on this.

 

Who Do You Serve?

Everyone has something that controls them. Now you may be thinking, “Well, not me. I make my own decisions and chose my own path!” However, if you take a closer look at your life, you’ll start to see what I’m talking about. You can be controlled by your job, or a lack of money and security. It could be relationships, either platonic or romantic. Wanting to be loved and accepted by people. It could be clothing, or technology, or travel. It could be anything, even religion. None of these things are bad, wanting to have friends and be well-off, looking good or experiencing the world. But when we put our focus on one of those things, when pursuing it becomes your life, that’s when it becomes dangerous. Something that is talked about a ton in Christianity is the idea of idolatry.

Most people think that idols are only the physical cravings or images of gods, but it’s far more evolved than that. They take other forms nowadays. Modern-day idols are coping mechanisms. How you cope with stress, anxiety, financial struggles, anything can be an idol. Everything I mentioned before can be idols in people’s lives. And guess what, religion can be an idol too, especially in Christianity.  There are many people who are more focused on things like communion, confession, baptism, even reading the Bible, than actually having a relationship with God. They start worshipping the religion aspect, and it’s really easy to tell based on how they act during the week.

I want to challenge everyone to take a look at what their idol (or idols) are. I have some too that I’ve been working on, and asking God for help is the best way to evaluate and figure out exactly what’s going on in your heart. So, who do you serve?

 

Back To School

I start school again on the 10th and I’m very excited. I’ve missed being in a Christian community like this, and I can’t wait to get started. We had orientation for two days, and I just want to be in class already. It was great getting to know the people I’ll be going to school with, and since it’s a very small college, I’ll probably get to know everyone by the end of the semester. Orientation was just full of classes on how to do things I already knew how to do, like reading a syllabus, or where to buy books. I’ve already done two years at another college, so it was a little bit of a waste of time for me.

 

My brother and I have very different feelings about classes starting. He just wants to get to know everyone and hang out, so classes starting is a bummer for him. I want to get to know people as well, but I’m so excited to start learning again. I’ve never been a good student, but I’ve always loved learning new things. I used to pick random topics and research the crap out of them. I still do, when I have time.

 

I think most of my excitement is because God told me to go to bible college almost a year ago, and I’m finally starting. I’m not good at waiting, and I’m really not good with surprises, so knowing that I need to go, but not knowing why or what He’s got planned for afterward is really hard for me. I’m still working on trusting God.

God Is Good

So, I’m back from the mission’s trip, and I slept for 14 hours last night. I saw God working not only in mine and my team’s lives, but the lives of people around us. I saw healings happen right in front of me, and even experienced one. Story time:

So I have weak ankles. I’ve rolled both probably dozen times as a kid, and badly sprained my left ankle twice, the second time being this past May. I know how to handle a sprain. I nearly rolled my left ankle again a few times on the trip, but luckly I made it through without reinjuring it. On our second last night, I sprained my right ankle. We were going horseback riding the next morning, then travelling home that night. Both of those would be uncomfortable and quite painful with a sprained ankle, but my main concern was trying to hold it together for the team. I got inside and put my foot up as soon as I could, and started icing it. I could not find a position that was not painful for my ankle, didnt matter what angle it was at, which side it was on, nothing helped. It would be fine for a couple seconds, then it would start throbbing.

My team decided to pray for healing. Now, I had seen healings happen already on this trip, but I’ve never experienced one. While I was hopeful, I didn’t think it would actually happen. When my team finished praying, I tested it out. I just sat on the couch and tried moving it around. It was stiff, but no pain. I stood up, no pain. I even danced with no pain. I was so shocked and honestly still am, because I never thought I would even be healed in that way.

This is three days ago, and here’s the thing. It still got swollen. But I know how my body reacts to sprains, it should be a whole lot of lovely bruise colors. I bruise super easily. And I shouldn’t be able to sleep comfortably or walk around and stand on it for lenghty amounts of times without it bothering me. But it hasn’t. It went from causing me a lot of pain, to just being a little comfortable when I try to sit cross legged. I was able to walk around uneven ground, go horseback riding, stand around in airports, and sit on a plane for 11 hours without my ankle being an issue.

Some people might not believe me. I get it. I just wanted to share my story because good news is meant to be shared. While it wasn’t a complete and total healing, I do truly believe God worked in my life. I saw him work in the lives of the people we were serving, and in the lives of my teammates. I’ve been praying for years to see something so impossible, it would have to be God. I just never thought that I would happen in my life.

The Unfair Debate

   When I was in high school, I dated an atheist. We had dozens of arguments about religion and Christianity and looking back, I’ve realized two things. First, that I was always on defense, and second, that his distrust of Christianity was caused by past hurt.
   My always being on defense is nothing new, but it is something I’m finally pointing out to people. In discussions about Christianity, Christians are the ones who have to defend their beliefs. Think about it, from your own personal discussions, no matter which “side” you’re on, you’ve probably seen or experienced it. Why is that? Why does it nearly always turn into an attack on Christianity, and we suddenly need to answer for every Christian who has done wrong?
   I’ll say this right here, there are some bad Christians. I hear stories on the news that break my heart because it’s someone who is using the Bible to justify their actions. The situation in the US for example, with the immigrant children being taken away from their families and housing them in what were essentially internment camps. Jeff Sessions quoted Romans 13 to try and justify it, but he missed something. An unfortunate thing that many people do, is they look for a verse to back them up, but they don’t look at the passage surrounding it. They don’t look at the context of the verse. Down a few more verses in the same chapter, is this, “[f]or rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. (Romans 13:3)”
   I read that as listening to authority when they are being fair and just, and standing up and calling them out when they aren’t. The laws put in place were not fair or just. They tore families apart and caused a lot of pain to a lot of people. But it’s situations like that one that makes people distrust the Bible and Christians. This brings me to my second point.
   My ex would tell me stories about his childhood, and the more I learned, the more I realized where his hurt was coming from. He didn’t trust Christians or the Church, because he had been hurt by them many times. Having a super religious babysitter does that. Once I realized that I started to see it everywhere. People often don’t have an issue with Jesus, they just hate the people who follow Him, and the rules that we’ve come up with. It’s hard to see the heart of Christianity when all that is seen is how badly we’ve acted in the past.
   So I challenge you, next time you end up in a discussion (or let’s be honest, a debate) about Christianity, stop and think about those two things. And be gentle and calm in everything you say. Your goal isn’t to make them believe everything to do with Christianity. Your goal should be to get them to stop and think for a second why they believe what they do.
   (If you have any suggestions for what I can write about, or any questions, please leave a comment. I would love to hear from you, and knowing I’m writing something you actually want to read is very special,)

First Blog Post

I guess this is a trial run to see figure all of this out. Well, welcome to my blog! Now, I’m not a theologian by any means. I was raised Christian, and I’ll be attending bible college in the fall, so this is an area for me to air out my thoughts. I have a lot of frustrations with the conversations happening between Christians and non- Christians, and I hope that by at least sharing my point of view, I can help move along the dialogue. And if no one sees any of this, well then, at least I tried. At the very least, this blog will be a time capsule that I can look back on later.

I will hopefully be updating as regularly as I am able, altough I know I’ll be busy with school work pretty soon. If anything, I can post about my stress levels. I’m leaving on a missions trip on Sunday, so I’ll have some thoughts to share for sure when I get home.