The parallel between the abuse of women by men in power in the secular world and the abuse of women by men in power in the Christian world is no coincidence. In a previous blog post, I used as examples Harvey Weinstein, disgraced film producer, who prompted the #MeToo movement, and Paige Patterson, disgraced ex-president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary whose behavior prompted the #ChurchToo movement.
The correlation is no accident!
I’ve explored how traditional translations of the bible were heavily influenced by society’s view of the roles of women and men. The sad truth is that the teachings of Jesus and the apostle Paul concerning women, and other low-status peoples, have been skewed by these translations to mean quite the opposite … women as second class citizens who are not due equal respect and benefits. Biblical verses have been used for generations to back up this view.
Women were considered by society, including many Christians, to be at the service of men.
From the beginning, Eve desired her husband, Adam, and he ruled over her. The apostle Paul is quoted as saying, “Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord.” Both have been used through the ages to support the notion of men’s superiority and have become examples of biblical patriarchy.
You might wonder how divorce fits into this dynamic.
Traditionally, and in many conservative churches today, divorce has been considered an unpardonable sin. I won’t get into verses about divorce here. Suffice it to say that traditional translations can be, and often are, interpreted as divorce being forbidden except in the case of adultery by the offending spouse. Some conservatives even find that an insufficient reason to divorce.
There was no attempt by these leaders to look further into biblical meaning and context of these verses. Why would they? If women were allowed to have an equal status in the church and in their marriages, male power would be threatened. Church leaders claimed the right to treat women in just about any way they chose. Following the example of church leaders, husbands were also given free rein to “lord it over” their wives.
It seems clear to me that disallowing “divorce” from spiritually abusive churches, and actual divorce from physically and emotionally abusive marriages, kept the patriarchal church functioning. Once women would be free, as equal human beings to leave the abuse, the traditional church would come tumbling down. Traditional marriages would change, too. We see that dynamic happening today.
The question, now, is what can we learn from the Jesus' teachings to form spiritually healthy churches and marriages. Stay tuned.
Do you have a divorce experience to share? Have you been shamed by a church because of your divorce? There are hurting people who need to hear your story, who need to know they are not alone, and who need to be encouraged. If you are interested in sharing your story, email Linda for guidelines: Linda@LindaMKurth.com
Linda M. Kurth is a writer and a divorced and remarried Christian. In going through the divorce, she experienced a dichotomy of responses from the Christian community. After sharing some of those experiences in her upcoming memoir, God, the Devil, and Divorce, she's heard many stories of divorced Christians who have struggled with the same issues. This blog invites divorced Christians to tell their stories with the goal of encouraging churches to resist condemnation and become a source of healing and grace.