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Tuesday, June 13, 2006
Discuss - Sexism and the Bible
So last night I ended up in an interesting conversation. I showed up at the local Meetup.com Feminist group and it ended up being just me and the leader (a guy by the way). We started talking about issues related to feminism and at one point he pulled a bible out of his bag and challenged me to tell him one thing in that book that wasn't sexist. I gave my answer, but I am curious - what answer would you give? I would love to hear your thoughts.

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posted by Julie at 12:37 PM ¤ Permalink ¤


7 Comments:


  • At 6/13/2006 01:18:00 PM, Blogger CSDL

    I think my response would have to be about Jesus's attitude towards women. Look at his discourses on divorce. He was changing the way divorce was viewed in the current culture by actually saying women should have as many rights as men. Before then (and probably even after), men were not punished for infidelity, only the women.

    Specifically look at Mark 10:10-12:
    "10Then in the house the disciples asked him again about this matter. 11He said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her; 12and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.” "

    Before this, only the 2nd half of that statement was considered true.

    Some additional examples would be Jesus's meeting with the women at the well and the story about the women caught in adulery.

     
  • At 6/13/2006 04:28:00 PM, Blogger nelda sue

    "Seen but not heard” would have been the adage of the day in regard to women in Christ's time. Jesus did the unthinkable, he taught in the outer courts of the synagogue. Look and see how many times it is recorded that he taught with both women and men present in the synagogue. This could not have occurred in the "men's only" section of the synagogue. I also believe the reason that Christ so often taught outside the cities was not just to reach the "unclean" who were not allowed inside the city gates without constantly announcing their presence as to not make anyone who accidentally bumped into them ceremonially unclean; but also to include the women. Jesus lived with a woman who was scandalized and ridiculed within her own society, a woman who sacrificed all that she held dear and the very essence of who she was to follow the will of God...his own mother. He knew the double standard all too well, and graciously and most defiantly lifted women to a place of equal standing. Place yourself as a bastard child in the home of a truly pious but tarnished woman who lived in a society whose rules and regulations would have condemned her for his very presence...the presence of God; how would you have viewed the societal unfairness and tragic denial of the grace of God seen around you everyday?

     
  • At 6/14/2006 03:28:00 AM, Blogger Melanie@Abri

    I would point out that Luke's gospel has an extraordinary emphasis on women and that as he was writing for a wealthy Gentile audience he was in effect empowering women leaders. I would point to the mention of Junias the Apostle in Paul's letters - although it was originally assumed that Junias was male, more recent scholarship would suggest that Junias is actually a female name. The negative references in PAul's letters that are often used to speak against women in leadership are usually about specific women and should be seen in context.
    ANd I would point out that patriarchy and miogyny only came in to existence after the fall, as result of the fall, and that God's intended vision for humanity was one of harmony between the sexes and that Jesus' death and ressurection redeemed that.
    And the bit in Paul's letter where he says there is no longer 'slave or free, male or female'... for we are all one in CHrist.
    I'm sorry I am rushing so I don't have all the references to hand. But I would say to the guy at that meeting that the Bible is one of the most revolutionary feminist texts in the world.... just to really get the conversation going!!!!
    Ciao
    Melanie

     
  • At 6/14/2006 11:47:00 AM, Blogger sylvia skinner

    I would echo the comments about how Jesus treated women. I also believe that Paul's comments have to be taken in the context they were written (i.e., letters to specific people in specific locations). For that matter, I think one would have to consider the entire context of the Bible and who wrote it (i.e., pretty much it was written by men!) so in the same way that each author's personality would affect what was said and how it was said, one would also have to consider the gender of that author. I just thought of this, but I wonder how a gospel authored by Jesus might read. Jesus' words seem to indicate that women are created equal and they should be treated as such. As for Paul, it's amazing to me how people will interpret Paul's words in such a way that they actually conflict with what Jesus said. I think we not only have to consider the context in which Paul's letters were written, but also remember that the interpretation of his words must submit to what Jesus said--after all, he was God. Finally, I just wanted to mention that I read this great book a couple of years ago: 10 Lies the Church Tells Women. Has anyone else read it? It really helped me to put into perspective a lot of what I had been "feeling" all along about the way church treats women (inappropriately, that is) and reinforced what I had thought to be true for a long time--even though it didn't quite match up to my conservative upbringing. Interestingly enough, it is written by a man! Check it out.

     
  • At 6/14/2006 06:51:00 PM, Blogger From the Margins

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  • At 6/14/2006 07:12:00 PM, Blogger From the Margins

    - I agree with all that has been written above ...

    - But, before answering his question, I would have agreed with him that the Bible certainly does have many stories that seem sexist to us in the 21st century.
    - Then I would have asked him a question back before answering his ... engaging him in a conversation that allowed me to know 'where' he was coming from. I like knowing the context of people's spiritual background giving me a better footing for a genuine conversation.
    - My question back would have been something like, "You seem to know something about the stories in the Book ... which one do you find particularily sexist ... one that bothers you the most?"

    - If he picked one of the many biblical stories that I agree with that are sexist, I would have then asked, "But, does that mean that they are there for us because God agreed with what was taking place?? Or, I'd suggest to you that they are perhaps there for us to learn from, to have thoughtful converations about them... so that we can hear God's voice and heart yearning for us to NOT repeat the same sexist mistakes ... what do you think?"

    Looking forward to what you said Julie and how the conversation unfolded.

     
  • At 6/16/2006 10:49:00 AM, Blogger Julie

    thanks for the responses - you all brought up some great stuff. I was unsure at the time if I should agree that it is sexist (to our ears today) or if I should go straight to claiming that it wasn't sexist given the context. I chose to point out all the examples of women in leadership in the bible, point out laws that protected women (I went with Numbers 5, but the divorce thing is good too).

    At that point he brought up levitical law that has different requirement for men and women and asked if I follow them. That then led into a whole discussion about how I am not a biblical literalist and how the bible must be understood accoding to its cultural context... that was a completely new concept for him so we discussed it for awhile.

    His biggest issue was the "women are not permitted to speak in church" passage. I gave him some of the alternate interpretations of the greek for that passage that make a lot more sense imho. which led into a discussion of sexist translations of scripture and how they have warped our understanding of women.

    it was a good conversation. I don't think he had ever encountered a christian who wasn't a bible thumping evangelical literalist (and hence sexist to him). I had fun.

     

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