Recently I made a very important personal decision with which I have struggled for a very long time. As I’ve become more engaged in the Democratic Party platform, I have found my affiliation with the Southern Baptist faith incongruent with my true spiritual and intellectual values. A young, fiery, Baptist minister at a service I attended asked members of the congregation to stand up and give personal testimony. He was very specific in inviting the ladies of the congregation to participate as long as they did not “preach to the men in the congregation” as the Bible strictly prohibits women from “prophesying” to men. And that started it. I really had never thought about women’s role in the church, and from that point on I was on fire to understand what God’s real guidance was for women.
Was it possible that I was not qualified to speak instructively to the congregation or lead prayer in a room with women, children AND men, but Billy Joe Jim Bob without even a high school GED WAS qualified and even encouraged to do so? I just could not, at any level – intellectually or spiritually – reconcile that I, a successful member of executive management in my organization, a college graduate, national public speaker, and member of community and professional boards of directors was NOT welcome to participate at equal levels as any man in that church? Clearly this did not sit well. And in trying to explain to my husband how really disturbing this was, I became even more exasperated. It went something like this:
Husband: Do you WANT to preach to the congregation?
Husband: Do you WANT to teach the Men’s Sunday school class?
Me: HELL NO!
Husband: Then what’s the problem?
My husband is not a sexist. Much. Just kidding, he’s not. However he IS an upper middle class, conservative white guy. He has NEVER been told he can’t do something. He was never told, in pre-Title IX days, that he couldn’t play a particular sport because of his gender. 200 years ago he would have been allowed to vote, and 2,000 years ago he would have been permitted to own property in virtually every culture on the planet. I, on the other hand, couldn’t vote until relatively recently, and 2,000 years ago would have been little better than a 2 legged cow. So he had absolutely no idea what I was talking about. If I didn’t want to do it myself, why was it an issue? I’m getting all riled up again, reliving the conversation. Sigh.
What I did was read. A lot. And I learned that for each Christian denomination there was a different position on women in the church. Thank God for that. And many of those positions discussed a need to “apply a different lens” depending on what one was reading in the Bible. Some truths are timeless. Don’t murder, don’t lie, don’t steal. I’m on board with that find those to be pretty applicable in any decade, century or millennia. Illustrative lessons, the parables, require a lens that takes the timeless moral of the story and applies that moral to today’s situations. Pretty simple. Jesus’ parables about, well virtually everything, are still thematically applicable to most events today.
My real dilemma with the Southern Baptist church came with the historical lens. Do I believe that Paul said what he said? Absolutely – I believe he said that women should be quiet in church, that they should cover their heads and that they should not preach to men. Do I believe that the exact same standard should be applied today? Of course not. In Paul’s time most women were not educated so why would you want them teaching men? Or kids? Or anyone? The fact that women were NOT eligible for the same education as men is another issue for another day, but suffice it to say that uneducated people probably shouldn’t be teaching other people. Shout out to Billy Joe Jim Bob teaching Sunday school today because he has a penis.
That simply doesn’t make sense in our world today. The spirit of God is timeless. Humanity striving to be more enlightened, like Jesus or Buddha, or whomever you see as an enlightened being, is why I think God put us all here together. Loving each other as ourselves is timeless.
We don’t continue to teach the world is flat, nor do we teach that women and minorities are second class citizens in this day and age. In no other place in the United States of America have I ever heard, with my own ears, that intelligent, professional women should still be relegated to the status of chattel (or cattle) as they were 2,000 years ago. This same doctrine teaches that women should remain with their husbands, even if they and their children are being abused.
Wow. That sounds like a couple of recent GOP Congressional votes, doesn’t it?