“…one of the things that struck me [in reading through the Bible] is how many prominent women are mentioned in every culture but that of the Jews and Christians. It would seem that God, my God, the God of the bible, introduced the idea that women should be subservient to men, and his people have been busy making an example of that to the rest of the world. Christians especially, seem to have done a excellent job of setting this example, ultimately culminating in the dark ages, when women were worth less than cattle.
“Now, after 6,000 years of this, women are working hard to dig themselves out of this trench to demand equality and respect. Equality before men AND God.
“So what was the point of this? When I first read through the books of Moses, this really angered me. During the time God was laying out all 600+ laws and instructions to Moses, he couldn’t have said ONE DARN THING to protect women from what he, as God, should have known would happen? It seems clear to me that Jesus respected women, and treated them well, which is probably why he had such a following of loyal women. So why the disconnect? What was the purpose of being such an ass?”
I found Reina’s remarks to be honest and thought-provoking…so for no other purpose than it seems easiest for me to process my thoughts this way, I’m going to write my response here directly to Reina and you can just listen in. 🙂
I mentioned in Thursday’s post that the church’s oppression of women has happened “because we have basically interpreted a few Scriptures in the light of our male-dominant culture, instead of the culture in which they were written.” Reina, my opinion is that this is where the disconnect is–not within God’s intentions for you, or for women in general.
I want to suggest that the reason it appears to you that the Scriptures promote this idea of female subservience is likely because (although you greatly dislike it) you, too, are reading the Scripture through the lens of our culture, rather than its original culture. For most of us, both men and women, this is the only lens we have been given; and so the only options seem to be to accept what we see of the Bible through this lens–or to reject it out of hand.
But if you look at the Hebrew culture, out of which the Scriptures were written, you’ll discover that women actually had a place of honor in that culture. Women were free to own property and conduct business transactions independently of men, and in fact had far more rights and protections against sexual misconduct under Hebrew law than even American law provides. (You did not want to be a man accused of rape in ancient Israel.) And there are prominent females in Scripture; female leaders and “heroes of faith” can be found throughout the entire Bible, although they are not often preached about in churches. The primary focus of the woman was home and family, but as the home was the center of Jewish life (and even of spiritual activity), the woman’s place of leadership and influence was held in high respect, much more so than in our modern culture.
If anything, this legacy of respect was extended, if not expanded, into the early church. You mentioned Jesus’ respect for women; there is also the fact that female prophets and apostles are mentioned throughout the N.T., and that Paul even mentioned some of them as his “co-laborers”. In fact, it was Paul who stated that in Christ “there is no male or female…” It’s highly unfortunate that a few of Paul’s other statements (“women keep silent” for example) have been greatly misinterpreted. If you study that statement in historical context, it reveals that he was addressing some specific issues surrounding that particular church–not establishing a doctrine to exclude women from leadership.
Taken in this light, I believe the Scriptures may seem a lot less male-dominant. I think the reason it might feel otherwise is because our own culture lends that bias, not the Scripture itself.
To shift focus a moment…one question you raised was of particular interest: when you asked why God did not write into the Law of Moses more protections for women against their inevitable oppression. I think it’s important to look at this, because your honest words reveal a deep feeling of injustice about this that may be felt by many women–and anger not just at men, but at God. If God is supposed to be a loving Father, why would He leave His daughters so unprotected? I have a couple of thoughts about this…
First–it occurs to me that this is a question that any oppressed or marginalized segment of humanity might ask. It would be just as relevant to ask why God didn’t write something in to protect people from becoming slaves, or being hungry, or conquering each other. We could bring it into the modern era: Why didn’t He do more to protect the Jews from the Holocaust? Why doesn’t He do something about the horrors of sex trafficking, or poverty, or plague?
Don’t misunderstand: I’m not making light here at all. I’m just saying there are many examples of injustice that seem for the moment to go unanswered, things we don’t understand. And the answers are hard to come by, because we are finite people trying to understand and predict an infinite God who sees a bigger picture. But one thing I do believe confidently is that just because these injustices happen, that does not mean that God does not see, does not hurt over them, or does not care. By the same token, what I’m saying is that when you see what seems to be a lack of protection here against the male oppression of women…it does not translate to “God doesn’t care about me”, any more than it does in any other case of injustice. Nor does it mean God approves of that oppression. I believe He hurts deeply when a woman is mistreated or marginalized–and just because it looks to us like it goes unanswered does not mean He isn’t going to do something about it.
Second–and this part is just a guess–perhaps the Law doesn’t address female protection more directly because, as I mentioned before, the surrounding culture already honored and respected women. It wouldn’t make sense to make laws or warn a people about the suppression of women if they simply didn’t think that way. It was not until the New Testament, when the church expanded into the Greek culture (which was far less favorable to women) that gender issues were addressed more specifically, and probably (ironically) for the purpose of bringing some protection there. Unfortunately, as we know, these Scriptures were misinterpreted over the years and, used as an excuse for man to outclass and suppress woman, rather than protect and respect her. Just an opinion…
Thank you again, Reina, for being open about your struggle and your thoughts about all this, and for allowing me to share my response in such a public way. Please take my long, rambling response here for what it is…a brother adding his perspective to the conversation, for whatever it is worth. 🙂
UPDATE: Within minutes after I posted this, I found this outstanding post by Jonathan Brink. Everyone, especially men, need to read it.