Women

Sometimes I think that conservative Christianity has traded one set of rules (the Old Testament Law) for a new set of dos and don’ts.  We like to say we’re not legalistic, that we don’t want people trying to buy or win God’s favor.  Yet at the same time, we also seem to like to pick and choose which regulations to follow.

For example, we don’t make women cover their heads in church anymore.  We say that to do so would be falling into the trap of legalism, obedience to rules for rules’ sake.  But many churches still refuse to ordain women, and even ban women from leadership.  Some churches allow women to lead but not to do any sort of public teaching unless it is to children or other women.  In some instances, women are allowed to teach provided a man oversees her work.  In what way is that different from head coverings?

And let’s look deeper at the man-is-the-head-of-the-household teaching.  How about when he loses his ability to lead the family, by injury, illness, or absence?  Some might try to wiggle out of that, saying that of course there are exceptions.  Nice idea, but if you’re going by what the Bible says, it gives no indication that there are exceptions to the rule.

I have long been frustrated at the narrow, dim view of women within many conservative churches.  Women are simultaneously placed on pedestals and given status clearly lower than men.  The message is clear: Women cannot be used by God unless the church says it’s ok.

Here is another area in which we need some fresh insight, a new way of thinking about the issues.

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8 thoughts on “Women

  1. I was raised in a church in which women were required to have their heads covered. In fact, I still have a couple lace doily-type-things (technical term) in my sock drawer from those days.

    Obviously I was also raised that the man is the head of the household. Wives submit to your husbands. All that nonsense.

    (I certainly am not setting out to insult your own beliefs here)

    Because I was raised this way, when I married my first husband (behold the “godly” baptist man I had prayed my entire life for), and he turned out to be verbally and physically abusive toward me, I stayed. Surely it was my fault. I was not being submissive enough (I can regale you with sexual stories here, but will refrain). I was too arguementative (riight). I wasn’t meek enough. And our strict baptist church he dragged me to every Sunday, where we played the part of the happy Christian couple, reinforced the notion that I should stay. That God had a plan for me, and if that plan included Idiot Boy beating the shit out of me, then so be it.

    Happily, I came to my senses and left him. I’m lucky he never had his gun on him when he was angry with me. I’m lucky I survived that marriage.

    I’m also lucky that my atheist husband is the kindest, most compassionate man, who respects me and treats me the way I should be treated.

    God and I… we don’t have a relationship. I feel like he screwed me. If he exists at all.

    • I don’t feel insulted at all. Nothing you said was disrespectful toward me or my beliefs, and I thank you for your respectful tone.

      Thank you for sharing your own story. I think this is exactly why those of us inside the church need to rethink our treatment and attitudes towards women. It can all too easily spiral downward into the type of abuse you described in your own experience.

      I am so, so sorry for the hurt you experienced from within your own marriage and church. How terrible.

  2. I just have a problem with organized religion in general. Seems to me churches spend more time dividing Christians than uniting them. Quibbling over little things… like dancing.

    Religion should be about agape.

    These days, it seems to be more about superiority.

    • I could not agree more. I’m coming to that perspective more and more, although I do still consider myself a Christian (in the sense of what I actually believe, not in the sense of warming a pew on Sunday mornings). I am sticking with it because I refuse to give up on the people within my church, even if I am on the edge of giving up on the institution itself.

  3. Pingback: Pereiraville » Blog Archive » religion

  4. I was raised attending a Southern Baptist church during the 60’s and 70’s. Women were burning their bras and claiming emancipation. Would that it were true.

    Now, I’m more traditional in my role as a wife but I do believe that women should be equal to men. I may not want to be a priest, [I converted to Catholicism in high school] but why should women be barred from that vocation because it was written 2,000 years ago? We’ve come a long way, baby! And why should priests need to remain celibate for that matter?

    I do believe that men are the heads of their house… and I treat my husband as such, but it has nothing whatsoever to do with his ability to earn an income. I’m just hardwired that way, regardless of the equality thing.

    It’s just always been that way for my mother, for myself. For many other folks out there. Tradition and rules are great, but there must be growth.

    We have made massive leaps but religion is just one of the areas in which women are made to feel like second class citizens. I believe that will change, maybe not in my lifetime, but it will.

    • Thanks for your thoughtful post. I too am more traditional within my family. Some of it is circumstances (I stayed home because my husband earns more than I do) and some by choice (I continued to stay home because I enjoy it).

      My issue with the church and women is that I cannot understand why there seems to be this strange belief that God does not speak to/through women unless it’s to other women. I have friends (women) who are pastors. So far, they don’t seem to be leading their congregants astray. My own church has a rule that women can teach mixed groups only if there is a man to “oversee” her. Is this because she might say something “wrong”? (Because, of course, a man wouldn’t do that, right?)

      Seems odd to me that a woman can be a CEO or a brain surgeon, but the minute she steps into some churches, she becomes subject to men (perhaps even the very men she oversees in her job!).

  5. This discussion brought up some old memories – nothing bad, I can assure you! Growing up attending a tiny Baptist church in the country has its advantages. Everyone knew each other, supported each other…
    One of the things I remember with great love is the music. But I also just remembered guest speakers, some of whom were women. So that wasn’t an alien concept, even back then.

    If women can be Sunday School teachers, why not pastors? Like you said… women can be brain surgeons but in some churches are subjective to men.

    Some sects of Catholicism – not recognized by Rome, of course – have modernized and allowed priests to marry and women to become priests. It’s only a matter of time before the last barriers are broken.

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