The image above is haunting. I found it on flickr and haven’t been able to get my mind off it. This past Sunday, we continued our teaching through Colossians and have parked for two Sundays to focus on Colossians 3.18-19:
Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them. [tNIV]
When I became a Christian at eighteen, I simply could not understand why women were treated so differently within the church. If women should be seen, valued, and edified as beautiful and equal creations in the image of God, wouldn’t and shouldn’t that have taken place in the church? Sadly, that hasn’t always been the case. While I don’t want to go off on a rant about the injustices committed by the larger institution of Christianity, the most egregious act may be the injustice committed against women. This is often overlooked because it has always been the case. It simply doesn’t stand out because it’s so status quo. And much of this is a result of poor and erroneous theological reflection. Theology is critical because it gives foundation to how we act, how we believe, and how we choose to develop our construct and understanding of God and His creation.
So, throughout history, here are some heinous quotes from ‘heavy-hitter’ theologians and prominent figures that have added to the diminishment of the value, equality, and beauty of women. I’m certainly there’s a larger context to these quotes but nevertheless…
- Woman, you are the devil’s gateway.” [Tertullian]
- Woman is the gate of the devil, the path of wickedness, the sting of the serpent, in a word a perilous object. [St. Jerome]
- In fact, even though the man was created outside of paradise, he is found to be superior. [Ambrose the bishop of Milan]
- Women are on earth to bear children. If they die in childbearing, it matters not; that is all they are here to do. [Martin Luther]
Another quote from a contemporary and influential pastor [m. driscoll]:
“So the question is if you want to be innovative: How do you get young men? All this nonsense on how to grow the church. One issue: young men. That’s it. That’s the whole thing. They’re going to get married, make money, make babies, build companies, buy real estate. They’re going to make the culture of the future. If you get the young men, you win the war, you get everything. You get the families, the women, the children, the money, the business, you get everything. If you don’t get the young men, you get nothing.”
You can listen to yesterday’s sermon if you want [it’s long as usual] but I’ll share one important thought. You cannot view Colossians 3 or Ephesians 5 [or other texts that are often used to place women under men] without the context of the Creation, the Fall, and the Curse. While the Church often speaks of the Fall and the Curse, we must understand and absorb the essence of God’s creation of humanity in Genesis 1 and 2. And in Genesis 2, we are told that both man and woman were created – equal – in the image of God. There are no words of submission, dominion, or rule in regards to their relationship but rather, mutuality and partnership. While we can acknowledge the structures that are in place because of the Fall and Curse, do we truly believe in the redemptive and restorative work of Jesus Christ? Do we believe – even despite our brokenness – that we are new creations? Will we live as new creations? Will we simply settle for our depraved and sinful nature or can we grow into the adamah – human beings [man and woman] – we were originally created to be?
While I have theologically and intellectually believed in the equality of women for the bulk of my Christian life, it has spoken much more deeply to my ‘heart’ in the years at Quest. Serving, worshipping, praying, and doing life with both women and men have been a very enriching and humbling experience. In addition, I have grown to be more aware to the ‘injustice’ towards women simply because of my two older daughters – J and T. It seems like every single week, they come home from school upset as they share how other boys keep telling them, “You can’t do this…you’re a girl.” And yes, it pisses the hell out of me. If these elementary school boys weren’t so big, I’d challenge them.
I can write more but it may be better for us to ponder the ‘stuff’ from couple emails in response to yesterday’s sermon. Obviously, they’ll remain anonymous:
I was a new visitor to your church today. I wanted to comment on your sermon about women submitting to their husbands and the ways God intended a husband/wife relationship to be. I was absolutely shocked…but in a good way! I had been a Christian for 11 years and walked away from the church around a year and a half ago. The only reason I had gone to Quest today was because I promised a friend to come with her to check out different churches. When I saw the sermon topic, I automatically went rigid expecting something totally different. I came from a great church but a lot of the congregation was legalistic. I had been involved in a relationship with a man who was physically abusive. My fear of the verse about “submission” and fear of church response kept me from telling anyone for months. When I did, I lost friends and my faith. I didn’t feel I could be a Christian anymore because I didn’t want to marry someone who would be “above” me. Your viewpoints were right on with how I felt and I gained some new hope that I could continue being a Christian and have a different interpretation on these issues.
But at one point today, you said, “Women, you were created equal to men in the image of God.” I mainly write because I don’t know if you realize how powerful that statement was. I don’t know if you realized what it would feel like to hear that statement coming from a man — what it would mean to me, and possibly to other individual women and men. You didn’t even say it to me individually…I have never been told by a man, Christian or no, that I am equal to him. I have never been told by a man that I am equal to him. And equal in that we are both created in the image of God…I cried all the way home. How is it that I’ve never been told by a male person that I am equal to him? That I am equally beautiful and broken? That we are both created in the image of God?
…Women are deeply wounded by living in this world, and wounded that men don’t fight for us. Instead, they fight to rule us, and we…sometimes we fight, but most of the time we believe them when they tell us we aren’t worth our weight (sometimes taken literally). Today I felt like a man was fighting for me, not because I can’t fight for myself, but because he recognized the wrongs in a world and a Church that have benefited him unfairly.
As I shared yesterday, I don’t expect to have everyone or even anyone agree with my exegesis on this and other texts. But perhaps, this would be a good opportunity for us to dialogue – ask, answer, throw out questions, challenge, exhort, recognize, fight, and perhaps, just to listen…