The Absurdity of the Subservient Biblical Role of Women
Let me begin with a little disclaimer…. I am an ex-Christian and identify myself as an atheist. I am not a bible scholar, nor claim to be an authority on the subject. I am not a Jehovah’s Witness. In fact, I did not know much about this particular religion until I met my husband, who’s father’s side of the family are Jehovah’s Witnesses. I am, however, hopeful that perhaps the perspectives of a woman who was raised in another branch of the Christian faith may prove useful to the readers of this blog.
… women should be silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be subordinate, as the law also says. If there is anything they desire to know, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church. – 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 (NRSV)
Bible passages like the one above were the bane of my adult Christian existence. I mean, what did god and the apostle Paul have against women? To fully understand my views on the absurdity of the subservient biblical role of women, allow me to indulge in a brief background about myself.
Me, Myself, and I
I grew up in a Christian home of the Presbyterian brand of protestant Christianity. I was very fortunate in the fact that my parents encouraged my education and allowed me to pursue any and all of my interests. I wanted to learn how to cook, so my mother taught me how to cook. I had an interest in carpentry, so my father taught me how to build projects from wood. I wanted to play sports, learn the piano, learn how to sing, study the sciences… you name it. I was never discouraged from pursuing any interest.
It wasn’t until I returned to my home town after graduate school (I was in my mid 20’s) that my family, as well as members of my church, started to place pressure on me to find a husband and start a family. At first, I would brush such comments off with some snide retort like “I’m too much woman for just any man to handle.” However, after a while, their persistence started to get to me.
Enter Cognitive Dissonance
Not long after I moved back to my home town, I joined a contemporary christian band. I felt “called” to music ministry, and wanted to serve in a full-time capacity and make this my career. While looking for positions, I noticed that some denominations stressed “he” in the job description. You see, growing up as a Presbyterian, men and women could serve as deacons, elders, and pastors. Hence why I was shocked at the overuse of the pronoun “he.” I thought to myself, this is ridiculous because I can serve in a ministry role just as well as any man!!
At one point, I interviewed for a worship leader position at a local non-denomination church. As I normally do before any job interview, I researched the church and learned that they were a part of the Acts 29 network. According to the Acts 29 website “The Elders/Pastors of each local church have been granted authority under the headship of Jesus Christ to provide oversight and to teach/preach the Word of God in corporate assembly for the building up of the body. The office of Elder/Pastor is restricted to men.” I brought up this bit of non-egalitarianism in my interview and the elders who were interviewing me had no idea that this was one of their “five theologically-driven core values.” One of the elders literally shrugged it off and stated “well, that’s not what we believe. We have many women who serve as deacons and in other leadership positions in our church.” I thought to myself, yeah deacons, but not elders or pastors. I left that interview shaking my head and decided this was not the type of church I could ever serve.
After this episode, I went to the bible to research the roles of women and found this gem:
Let a woman learn in silence with full submission. I permit no woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she is to keep silent. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. Yet she will be saved through childbearing, provided they continue in faith and love and holiness, with modesty. – 1 Timothy 2:11-15 (NRSV)
At that time, I believed that the bible was the infallible word of god! What. The. Fuck! This went against every thread in my being. So many questions began to swirl around in my head, which brand of christianity is right…which is wrong. AHHHHHHH!! I made “peace” with myself with a little ad hoc reasoning (for more on ad hoc reasoning, refer to Toro El’s article Adam And Eve Were Set Up). I told myself this scripture reflected the cultural practices of the time and were not applicable by today’s societal and cultural standards. I even avoided performing music for and attending churches that I knew were non-egalitarian. However, this bit of cognitive dissonance, intertwined with the pressure to marry and start a family, remained ever-present in the back of my mind.
The “I’s” Have It!
I am a wife and a mother, but I am also so much more and NEED to be so much more. If you want to be a stay-at-home mom or house wife, go for it if that is what YOU want. There were times after my daughter was born that my family would try to guilt trip me into being a stay-at-home mom. However, I have always known that I could never pigeon-hole myself into this gender role.
Not long after my daughter was born, my husband and I decided that one was enough. Many friends and relatives did not understand our decision. They continued to pressure us, well, pressure me. “Your daughter needs a sibling,” “you need to have a boy to carry on the family name,” “children are a gift from god,” blah, blah, blah. But here’s the kicker, the decision to not have more children was our choice…..period!
I think my original bout with cognitive dissonance was a result of what I believed deep down; that I could never live a life as described in 1 Timothy 2:11-15 and 1 Corinthians 14:34-35. I can not be subservient nor submissive to my husband or any male “authority” figure simply because “the bible tells me so.” I know many religions hold this as a virtue, but even when I was a Christian, I knew this was simply something I could never do. My husband and I live as equal partners. We make decisions together. If I do not want to do something or disagree with him, I will tell him so! And, guess what, he respects that!
We actually have a gender role reversal in our home. My husband loves to cook and often does so for our family. I love carpentry and can often times be found in my workshop making furniture for our home and friends. This is who we are and no one/book will ever dictate how we live our life.
I know some of you may have been taught:
Although a wife may at times find it challenging or difficult to be in subjection to her husband, this is “becoming [fitting, proper] in the Lord.” (Colossians 3:18). The Watchtower w07 1/15 pp. 4-7
Ladies, I ask that you please take a moment and examine what is it about subjection that makes it challenging or difficult. Never pressure yourself or allow others to pressure you into doing something because you are instructed that it is “fitting” and/or “proper.” If it feels wrong to you, then it probably is!
I implore you to research, ask questions, join discussion groups, and open your eyes to this marvelous world around you. In closing, I would like to leave you with the words a very wise man once shared with me “This. Is. Your. Life!”
The Watchtower w07 1/15 pp. 4-7