Sexual assault by men in power is a hot-button subject these days. I’ve been following several of these cases, trying to understand how they relate to abusive Christian marriages. When Paige Patterson, recently disgraced ex- president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and a prominent leader in the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), advised women to stay in abusive marriages to help “save” their husbands, he unwittingly revealed to the world the systemic misogyny of a large number of Christian churches.
It would seem that much of the Church has the very same problem toward women as the secular world. Perhaps we Christians are not all that different from un-churched folk.
Perhaps we Christians are not all that different from un-churched folk.
In his book, What Paul Really Said about Women*, John Temple Bristow describes the ancient world’s view of women. “The philosophers of Athens … bequeathed to the world a double indictment against womanhood. From the classic period, especially in the teachings of Aristotle, came the conviction that women are inferior to men … women are to be commanded by men and used for the pleasure of men.” The Stoic philosophers believed that “women are a distraction and temptation to men. Therefore, women are to be avoided by men who would thereby be free to pursue those qualities that make men superior.”
Wow! Does that sound familiar?
Men like Harvey Weinstein could never have vocalized those beliefs with impunity. But his actions tell us that, at some level, he holds a similar philosophy. Faith leaders like Patterson, on the other hand, have cherry-picked the bible to declare, in more overt ways, this ancient secular philosophy of women’s service to men.
How can that be? The Apostle Paul declared, “You are all sons [people] of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all you who were baptized in Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:20-28)
There's the rub.
Ah, there’s the rub, as Shakespeare was wont to say. According to long-revered translations of the bible, Paul perhaps also indicated that women ought to be under the authority of their husbands. However, Bristow points out that the translators of these versions were heavily influenced by the traditional view of women being of lesser intellect and value than men. This misinterpretation is why Patterson and his ilk have been able to get away with his type of spiritual abuse for so long.
Fortunately, we have scholars today who are able to study the true meaning of the scriptures and are giving us new insights in what the bible says about women, and men too.
Stay tuned for Part 2 of this discussion.
*What Paul Really Said about Women: An Apostle's Liberating Views on Equality in Marriage, Leadership, and Love, 1988, Harper-Collins
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.