‘You will need a man who is strong enough to make you do! Someone who can rein you in!’
I won’t be the first young girl raised in the church who heard this regularly from a young age and unfortunately, I won’t be the last.
The belief that women need to be ‘shaped’ into smaller, quieter, less opinionated, less forceful and less wild versions of themselves by a male counterpart, is damaging and is a concept still perpetuated by many churches. Sadly, the Bible used as a weapon to justify these sexist teachings. As a result, growing up as a female within a church community is fraught with hermeneutical perils, which can have drastic developmental consequences.
Interestingly, when penning this blog, I felt the need to seek male approval on the content before I could submit it. The regrettable latent consequence of the gradual hacking away of my self-confidence through damaging ‘Jezebel’ Christianity, which ended with me crumbling when I didn’t get the validation I was seeking. Although my anxieties may seem small fry, they are the thin end of a destructive wedge of extreme lack of self-belief, self-loathing and discomfort with challenging men, which has left many churched women vulnerable to abuse.
Men who undervalue and undermine women can be traced as far as the Creation Narrative story. Even in the Garden Adam protests, it was, ‘that woman YOU gave me!’ He blames Eve, then God as he scrambles to abdicate responsibility, and men have been shamelessly building fences around their moral high ground ever since, mainly by framing Eve as the archetypal rebellious woman. We are all taught that it was her rebelliousness alone that ushered evil into the world. However, that’s not the only way of interpreting this passage.
Firstly Genesis 3 tells us that Adam was with Eve during the whole of her interaction with the serpent. What was Adam doing during this exchange? Well, your guess is as good as mine, since he wasn’t offering words of wisdom or guidance or quoting the rules. Maybe he had already become fascinated with his genitals because he said absolutely nothing! Adam gave silent assent. He didn’t say anything because he secretly really wanted Eve to take the fruit. His curiosity was as real as Eve’s, but his cowardice was greater. There was a genuine danger she would die if she ate the fruit, but also the tempting possibility that she would live, and become like God. It was for Adam, like a bad game of ‘Chicken’. ‘Will she die, or will we both live greater than we did before?’ I would go as far as to say that his silence was as cajoling as the serpents’ lies and once he saw that she lived, he dove straight in and took a bite himself!
The most significant ammunition to most sexist theological arguments that somehow women single-handedly unleashed hell on earth is merely untrue. Genesis 3 clearly showing us that biblically the only thing women were responsible for that men were not, was discovering a remarkable wizarding talent for parseltongue.
Then along comes Jesus and in John 8:7 – He sticks it to the crowds of violent men, jostling for position to join in with the brutal public murder of a woman, by saying this:
‘Let any of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her!’
It’s a shame that the Apostle Paul didn’t hear this before he wrote in 1Tim 2:11-15 that women must obviate all leadership roles because they were deceived in Eden, not men! Jesus here makes a clear feminist statement, that men cannot judge the sin of women from a position of superiority because they are also fallen. This verse in Timothy used to make the case that men are without blame and spiritually superior, but Jesus says that we are equally in need of the cross. In the light of Jesus, there should be no stone-throwing within the church.
As Jesus freed the woman caught in adultery from the controlling framework of abusive male expectations in her community, we as women today, also find ourselves freed by Jesus from bigoted religious ideals and sexist limitations. The challenge is to live in that freedom!
So, be wild ladies with your opinions, go big with your characters, and live loose in your God-given independence; because in both our imperfections and our significance, we are all completely equal — one in Christ Jesus.
About the Author:
Jen is a full time mum and a self employed artist who creates both art with serious themes but also art that is good cheesy fun. Her main passion is using her B.A.Hons in Theology to create art and writings, which challenge religious frameworks and controls, encouraging a Christianity which constantly questions and struggles.
*Blogs are opinion pieces and represent the opinion of the author, not necessarily that of Press Red.*