So, I was directed to an interesting article by Jimmy Carter that covers a topic that I will fully admit I have very little knowledge on: biblical gender roles. The person who pointed it out to me mentioned that she would be interested in hearing my opinion, that is why I am giving it here. I will admit that it is an ignorant and not fully developed opinion, but that has never stopped me from sharing any of my other opinions on this blog, so screw it, here goes!
First of all, Jimmy (am I allowed to call him that?) explains that he left the SBC because of their views regarding women. The views that he takes issue with are “that Eve was created second to Adam and was responsible for original sin, ordained that women must be “subservient” to their husbands and prohibited from serving as deacons, pastors or chaplains in the military service.”
He goes on to explain that these views are not specific to the SBC, or even to Christianity, but that they are present across many religions throughout history.
Let me state a few things before going into my thoughts on all that. First, I am a Christian. I believe the Bible is true. Second, there are many many things in which I disagree with the mainstream of modern Christianity (feel free to peruse the blog a bit for an extended set of examples). Third, and as I previously stated, gender roles are not something that I have spent a significant amount of time studying or thinking about.
Having said all that, I think that there are some great points to what the article states. I think that many terrible things have been, and currently are being done, to women in the name of religion. I think that there are many underlying prejudices that drive the way modern American men and women interact, many of which can be tied to traditional Christian and religious views. I also think that it is tragic that Christians are not at the forefront of promoting equality for all people.
A couple things that I would point out that are particularly important are that religion is used to push the agenda of certain people and groups, and that interpretation of ancient documents, such as the Christian Scriptures, can easily be manipulated, both intentionally and unintentionally, to promote the views of the person doing the interpreting. I think the article hits on a lot of that, but I also worry that at points the roles are flipped around, implying that men mistreat and subjugate women because of their religious views, rather than stating that men build religious views to justify their mistreatment of women.
This has happened for all of human history. People have used various methods to force others to do what they want them to do. A big army helps make people do what you want, but if you don’t have that, the keys to Heaven and Hell can come in pretty handy as well. If you can get both, well, now you’re in a good spot. Fortunately this isn’t the Dark Ages. People know how to read. The Bible is translated into many languages and accessible to anybody who is interested in picking it up. For this reason, there is little reason to live under the thumb of religious leaders anymore. They try to cling to their last few shreds of authority by misusing Scripture to imply that they have some superiority over other believers, but more and more people are figuring out that this is a bunch of bullshit.
As far as women pastors and elders and deacons and all that. I don’t think women should hold these offices. I don’t think men should hold these offices. I don’t think these offices should exist, at least not in the way that we understand them today. God uses people to teach each other, I see no reason that women can’t do that teaching. See, we want to think that teaching is all about sermons and Bible studies and seminary and whatever. Teaching is about life, the lessons learned through observing one another. Teachers are those who demonstrate what they believe. So, if we say women are not to teach, are we to say that women should not demonstrate what they believe? That is nonsense. God also uses people to serve each other. Women should certainly serve men. And, men should serve women. Women should serve women, and men should serve men. Serving each other is the demonstration of love toward each other. We should all be serving others.
I don’t want to get into the details of the role of men and women in marriage or any of that silly Original Sin debate. The bottom line, as I see it, is that any time Christianity, the Bible, or any other religion or holy book, is used to suppress, manipulate, subjugate, or oppress others in any way is not only an offense to those being oppressed, but an offense to the book, religion, or god which is being distorted to promote the oppressor’s agenda.
Particularly as this relates to Christianity, it is in complete contradiction to the most important part of interacting with each other: to love and to serve the other above yourself. Instead you are using Christianity to force them to serve and obey you. When God commanded that we not take his name in vain, I believe this is what he meant. Do not use God’s name to promote your agenda. Do not attach God’s name to your hate and selfish ambitions. See, God is pretty big on people glorifying him. When his supposed “followers” use him to oppress others, they put a big skid mark on his name. If you do this kind of stuff, it may just piss him off, and I don’t think that’s a great idea.