Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Sexism in the Church

his is a sort of an addendum to my post about sexism. I did not want to talk about sexism in the church and among Christians in it because that was not really necessarily a part of the Christian faith but a behaviour of His followers. I thought I would write about that separately here. I hope this will be the last post about sexism I write for a while because I would like to focus on other things and deal with my anger with this issue alone with God, but I am open to chatting about it in the comments.

When I was about 14 and experienced anger toward God for the first and only time in my life. It started out so simply. I was spending Christmastime at my grandmother's house. I arrived with my mother early before my brother and father. They had some business to take care of. Before they came we three took turns doing the dishes and I was fine with it. It was fair and I was happy to co-operate. When they came it came my turn again I stated that it was one of their turns. My grandmother stated, with the support of my mother, that they did not have to because they were men. Why not? Well they were men, like that meant something. They worked hard all year. Well, did my mother not work hard all year to keep the house and she still was? “Women's” work, when done well is not laziness and my mother was not lazy. The men were not working my mother was, the same as ever. I became frustrated and angry in a way only teenagers can manage. Refused to take my turn out of principle and stomped up to the attic and cried from sheer frustration and self loathing remembering all the awful things preachers in church has been saying about me. I really felt worthless in the eyes of God.

Once I went to a Sunday school class that was about marriage. I was only about 19 so marriage was not on my radar but it was the only interesting sounding class on offer. At this point my parents had had a successful marriage of over 25 years, now they are at something like 35, I cannot remember. The couple teaching the class had been married only a mere 12 years. They taught the class they stated, very clearly, that their was was the only “Godly” way to do a marriage. They advocated that all Christian marriages should have the man as the only breadwinner and the woman should never work after marriage unless absolutely, vitally, no other choice about it, necessary. The most infuriating thing was the lack of confidence in his position as the head the man exhibited. He repeatedly said “Christ” pointing to himself and”church” pointing to his wife. He did this over and over and over again. Really? Are you afraid that we will forget or you just have no confidence in your Biblical manhood that you need to keep doing that? It was ridiculous. He also advocated not using birth control and letting God be in control of that. Really, I thought God was omnipotent and therefore capable of being in charge of that regardless of what measures we took? They stated that theirs was the only way. Well, that was obviously false in the fact that my parents had had a Godly marriage of many more years than theirs and my mother had worked during most of it and they had practiced birth control. So, obviously theirs was not the only way. I was angry to have been given false information in such a condescending way. As I left the Sunday school room. A girl, I have no idea who she was, asked me if I had liked the class. I made a mistake and told her I did not like some of the aspects of it, especially the condescending manner in which a man rules over his family. She told me I had a problem with submission. She was right I do, I have a BIG problem with unquestioned submission to some flawed human. True, I suppose the penis is an organ of leadership, but still, even it is fallible phallus (sorry for the penis sarcasm).

So many Christians, men and women alike come up to me and tell me that this submission is noble and Biblical and I don't get it. I mean I get what the Bible says, as far as I detailed in my last post. Still when contrasting it with the explicit spiritual equality of men and women that the Bible claims this is a bit of a contradiction.

These things are white washed to be something noble but they feel like punches to my stomach. The noble job of a woman raising her children in the home, while her husband works. Noble job of cooking, cleaning doing laundry and other assorted things that go into the job of a help mate, that word makes me gag. It is like I am supposed to be the Robin to my husband's Batman. The Cato to his Green Hornet. The Tonto to his Lone Ranger. I am to play second fiddle and like it, weather I like it or not and say “Ugh, kimosabe, the roast is ready.” Then there is the no women preachers thing. Finally the most egregious thing. Men are supposed to be the spiritual leaders of the home. This is the last bastion of the separation of the roles. Many modern churches are willing to give women the same rights as men, except this. It makes me feel like I am inferior to my husband. It really does. I have listened to preacher after preacher try and justify this and make me feel like it is a privilege to be given the same spiritual role as my child when it comes to my husband. I have heard it all, don't even bother explaining it. Men with followings of thousands have tried to explain it. As have women who are happy as their roles not being equal partners with their men. It hurts, it does, it hurts a lot.

Also I admit, I am angry, hurt and betrayed by the Church, not by God but by the Church. I am a little annoyed that God allowed his word to be written in such a manner as to cause this but it is his Church that interprets it and insults my intelligence, talents and worth as a human. It makes me angry about being a woman. I feel like I can't be myself because I am a woman.

How has the Church betrayed you?


  1. I really do understand your frustration and anger. The situation you describe is damn near ubiquitous in the church catholic, especially in Evangelicalism. These attitudes are illogical and represent the emotions of a male dominated society. The interpretations that support such attitudes neglect the totality of the biblical witness in favor of a verse or two. And the most often quoted verse is Ephesians 5:22 which cannot stand alone because in the original the verb is in the previous verse, the one that calls all believers to submit to one another. Wives are under no greater obligation than any others.

    the Corinthians passages are quite clearly Paul's opinion and directed to a specific church at a particular point in time and place and never meant to be generalized as commands for all time. I will say the same about the Timothy passages with the exception that they are pseudo-pauline.

    How do I get this? Well, lets look at the Jesus, Mary, Martha narrative of Luke 10. In the culture of the time he traditional place of a disciple is at the feet of his rabbi, the traditional place for women.... Mary takes the position of a disciple while her sister assumes the role of the woman. Martha complains that Mary's place is with her in the kitchen preparing and serving the men. Jesus subverts the traditions, both of the expectation of the role of women and who can be a disciple--eventually to be a rabbi, when He tells Martha that Mary has chosen the better way.

    Paul, himself, in the authentic pauline letter Galatians, takes the three major areas of life, religious, political, and social/biological and subverts the traditional structures in Gal. 3:28 when he says that there is no Jew or Gentile, no slave or free, no male or female as all are one in Christ (read Kingdom of Heaven).

    As far as marrieds, what does the absurd idea that the wife is subservient to the husband do to, a man will leave his mother and father and be joined to his wife and they will be one flesh. Neither superior to the other.

    So, I share your frustration and anger although it may not be as personal. As a male I reject the archaic, misinformed, illogical misogyny that has infected the church as it conforms to the ways of the world.

  2. The Church has really corrupted the word of the Bible and God over the past 2000 years to fit its own agenda. Even though it was the norm at the time I don't want to believe my religion was founded on sexism.

    Here in the US its ridiculous how much the religious right has twisted the teachings of Christianity, particularly toward sexism. I expected churches in Europe to be more liberal but I guess there are many factors.

    I was raised Lutheran and I was never taught anything sexist or discriminatory. My church is very reserved and has never forced any teachings on our congregates, they just taught us the bible the way it is written.

    You're free to worship God in your own way. You don't have to accept all the teachings of the Church or renounce them altogether. Its your religion, you practice it the way you want to. Its not like each religion is a club and you have abide by its rules to remain in the club.

    I plan to make a post on my thoughts on religion and God sometime soon

  3. Ive done it! Give it a read if you want.