Blog Archive

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Women in the Bible: Whoring it up since 1400 BC

This week I was confronted with the question, "Are you comfortable with the bible?" Strangely, I realized my answer is no. 


As I was listening to a sermon earlier, the pastor reminded those of us listening that God shows no favoritism. He backed this up by quoting the Apostle Paul in Galatians where he says, "There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus" (3:28) At first this made me reflect on the radical message of equality in the bible. Later, I reminded of 1 Peter where Peter writes: 


"Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, pearls, or the clothing you wear— but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God's sight is very precious."

Can it be that we're supposed to believe both of these statements? So according to the bible,  God's design is that both men and women are deserving of equal respect and fair treatment: however, God is keeping watch over lustful hair braiding

I kinda get it, I guess. I mean there's no way this vain hussy isn't going to burn. 


Braids and pearls? Please, she's got whore of Babylon written all over her: probably in freckles. 

Beyond the obvious outdated sexism of this verse, is the glaring absence of condemnation against male vanity and pride. In Timothy where Paul says something very similar, there is ONE sentence about how men should be slow to anger, and that's it! That's all you've got for the men Paul? Cause you've sure got a lot to say to us women. He continues,

 "Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. 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—if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control" (1Timothy 2:11-15)

Well there we go ladies, we get to be quiet and submissive sinners who can only be saved through popping out babies like a vending machine, until our vagina's close up or we die. No wonder Paul was single, what a dick.

But Paul's not the first (or last) one to pigeon hole women into a certain role. Like he says, from the beginning, with a capital B, the biblical account of women has consisted of three roles: the whore, the victim, and the harpy. 

Through most of the Old Testament, women are considered  loose and deceptive. We're either whores for money, power, of apparently just for the fun of it. More then once Proverbs warns innocent, naive men, about the danger  of female "temptresses."

Jezebel is the beautiful-makeup-wearing power grabber, whose known for worshiping other Gods — a truly heathen character. 

Other shining examples include Rahab: the hooker with a heart of gold, Delilah: the beauty whose feminine wiles brought down Samson, and the whore of Babylon in Revelation; full title: "Babylon the Great, the Mother of Prostitutes and Abominations of the Earth."

Then it would seem, when we're not hoebagging it up, we're getting raped. 

You know what I'm talking about. You have your bible open to a story about the epic heroics of biblical patriarchs, and here comes a brief half-chapter about some chick getting kidnapped and raped: an event so unimportant we never find out what happens to her, and is never heard from again. 

But all those great descriptions just make up the unmarried gals! Wives have an entirely different role, they get to play the jealous, bitter, ignorant spouses who nag their husband to an early grave: which according to the bible, may or may not have been 105 yrs old.

Don't misunderstand me, maybe this is a bitter diatribe against men; but most of the women I know are not sluts, victims, or high maintenance nags.  
I know there are plenty examples of women who defy most of the stereo types presented by other parts of the bible. But even with these few examples, women are still left to bare the label of "whore."                                                                                                                                     

What about male promiscuity? It seems to me women aren't the ones idealizing casual sex in the media. I can't really think of a movie where women are going to parties just to hook up with random guys with no follow through. If films like American Pie (and those like it) represent the male psyche at all, it would appear men are the ones who value these kinds of shallow sexual relationships. Chick flicks convey the exact opposite in point of fact. Romantic comedies are so popular among women, because they tap into the deeply rooted female desire to be monogamous and full of sacrificial love. If anything, women get in trouble for investing TOO much into committed relationships. This is well represented in Eat Pray Love, wherein author Liz Gilbert writes, 

"“If I love you, I will carry for you all your pain, I will assume for you all your debts (in every definition of the word), I will protect you from your own insecurity, I will project upon you all sorts of good qualities that you have never actually cultivated in yourself... I will give you the sun and the rain, and if they are not available, I will give you a sun check and a rain check. I will give you all this and more, until I get so exhausted and depleted that the only way I can recover my energy is by becoming infatuated with someone else.” 

Sometimes when I read the bible, it becomes clear a lot of it was written by men, for men. Often it's as relatable as reading a Cormick McCarthy or Tom Clancy novel: sure I can try and appreciate it, but I know I'm not the intended audience. It's the same likelihood that a man would appreciate Judy Bloom or Nora Ephron, it's just not meant for them.

This, I believe, is why I don't feel at home in the biblical text. What (as female believers) are we to do about Paul's logical inconsistencies, Jacob's four competing wives, and other examples of biblical sexism? 

As for me, I'm tired of constantly defending the Bible's treatment of women. Just like men, women aren't either prostitutes or virgins: we are, like the wise poet Alanis Morisette once sang, "I'm a little bit of everything all rolled into one. I'm a bitch, I'm a lover, I'm a child, I'm a mother, I'm a sinner, I'm a saint..."

Finally, I must ask, what does Jesus have to say about all of this? The answer: nothing. Apparently Jesus wasn't interested in "keeping women silent" or correcting our slutty ways. Instead, Jesus forms relationships with real women and invites them to be a part of making his kingdom a reality. It's in conversations with women that Jesus decides to share some of the most intimate details about heaven.

If Jesus was so concerned that husbands should hold dominance over their wives, why didn't he say anything about it??? Where is the son of God's mandate for women to be kept silent? When Jesus is teaching his disciples about injustice and evil, why doesn't he warn them about "gold diggers" and women with opinions? One can only assume that Jesus, as God's true representation on earth, didn't hold these kind opinions about gender roles.  He even went out of his way to break all the social rules for how a powerful man supposed to behave, by washing his disciples feet and willingly dying on a cross. 

Would Jesus joke the way some Christian men do about women being in the kitchen? Or serving their husbands as slaves? Or, instead, would he assume the role of a servant, and in so doing fully represent the character of God.


2 comments:

  1. The Bible offers an answer about this problem. In Gen 3, the position of womans to their husband was as a result of the sin. Then, its not a natural order or the orden that God wants. In spite of all the facts we can see about this topic in the kingdom of heavens there will be no separation of sex, we will be like angels.

    ReplyDelete
  2. You're exactly right! How we ever took the "curses" section and made that our bedrock for the gender politics of Christianity I will never know...

    ReplyDelete