Pushing People Out of the Church – Part 3

The anti-religion, left-wing, news-and-commentary website Alternet.org published an article by skeptic Valerie Tarico entitled, “8 Ways Christian Fundamentalists Make People Convert — to Agnosticism or Atheism.” While I find most of the articles on this site either offensive or just plain ignorant, this article caught my interest, because it contains some truths that Christians need to understand.

Ultimately, people who reject Jesus Christ do so because they choose to suppress the truth (Romans 1:18-19). However, there are also things that many in the church do to push people away. As Tarico states, “if you read ExChristian testimonials you will notice that quite often church leaders or members do things that either trigger the deconversion process or help it along.”

As a Christian, I can learn a lot by listening to what skeptics say about why people leave the church. This series looks at the eight reasons Tarico highlights.

Tarico’s third reason:

3. Misogyny. For psychological and social reasons females are more inclined toward religious belief than males. They are more likely to attend church services and to insist on raising their children in a faith community. They also appear more indifferent than males to rational critique of religion, like debates about theology or evolutionary biology. I was interested to notice recently that my YouTube channel, Life After Christianity, which focuses on the psychology of religion gets about 80 percent male viewers. Women are the church’s base constituency, but fortunately for atheists, this fact hasn’t caused conservative Christians to back off of sexism that is justified by – you got it – prooftexting from the Old and New Testaments.

Evangelical minister Jim Henderson recently published a book, The Resignation of Eve, in which he urges his fellow Christians to take a hard look at the consequences of sexism in the church. According to Henderson, old-school sexism has driven some women out of Christianity permanently, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. For those who stay, it means that many are less enthusiastic and engaged than they would be. Churches rely on women to volunteer in roles that range from secretary to director of children’s programs to missionaries. That takes a high level of confidence in church doctrines and also a strong sense of belonging. Biblical sexism cultivates neither. Between 1991 and 2011 the percent of women attending church in a typical week dropped by 11 points, from 55 to 44 percent.

Definitions

First, let’s define some terms:

Misogyny
is the hatred of women.

Sexism is:

1: prejudice or discrimination based on sex; especially
: discrimination against women

2: behavior, conditions, or attitudes that foster stereotypes of social roles based on sex

Prooftexting means to pull a Bible passage out of context and to use it to justify a doctrinal position.

Misogyny and sexism in the Bible

Does the Bible promote misogyny, the hatred of women?

25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, 26 that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, 27 that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. 28 So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church. 30 For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones. 31 “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32 This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church. 33 Nevertheless let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband. Ephesians 5:25-33

There is no verse in the Bible that teaches the hatred of women. God does not hate any person. It is not in His nature to hate people. God hates sin, but loves everyone in the world (John 3:16). Because He loves all people, including women, He has commanded His people to love women, not to hate them.

Does the Bible teach sexism? The answer depends a lot on semantics. The Bible does not teach prejudice or discrimination; nor does it teach stereotyping. It does, however, teach that men and women have different roles and functions within the Church.

And the Lord God said, “It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him.” Genesis 2:18

To the woman He said:

“I will greatly multiply your sorrow and your conception;
In pain you shall bring forth children;
Your desire shall be for your husband,
And he shall rule over you.” Genesis 3:16

From the beginning, God created women and men to work together, but with differing roles. Those roles were in perfect harmony until sin entered the world. After the Fall, the roles of men and women changed for the worse, not because of God, but because of human sin.

Many atheists like to point to verses such as Leviticus 21:9, Leviticus 12:2, or Leviticus 15:19-23 to claim that God hates women. First, the atheist does exactly what they accuse Christians of doing when they prooftext – pull passages out of context to support their view. The Old Testament Law was never about making a person acceptable to God, but all about pointing to the need for a Savior. Men and women were uniquely created to be different from, but complementary to, each other. The Fall effected men and women differently – compare Genesis 3:16 and Genesis 3:17-19. As a result, the Law, which is all about demonstrating God’s holiness and our need for Jesus Christ, has variations for men and women.

So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. Genesis 1:27

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. Galatians 3:28

God created both men and women in His image. Men and women are of equal value to God. In Jesus Christ, men and women are equally loved, equally valued, equally accepted by God.

And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence. 1 Timothy 2:12

But as for you, speak the things which are proper for sound doctrine: that the older men be sober, reverent, temperate, sound in faith, in love, in patience; the older women likewise, that they be reverent in behavior, not slanderers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things— that they admonish the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, homemakers, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be blasphemed. Titus 2:1-5

Again, atheists and skeptics point to these verses, and others like them, to claim the Bible teaches misogyny. The problem is that such an assertion presupposes that differing roles implies superiority, that God values men more than women. This presupposition does not come from the Bible; rather, it is a sinful, man-made idea. One must cherry-pick verses out of context, and ignore other passages completely, to claim the Bible teaches that women’s roles are inferior to men’s roles. Granted, some in the church have done exactly this for centuries; but this doesn’t mean the Bible teaches it.

The Church and Sexism

What should the church’s position be on the roles of women in the church, the family, and society? Tarico is correct when she says that Christians need to take a hard look at the consequences of sexism in the church. Women should never be put down because of their God-given roles; rather, men need to value women above themselves, as Christ valued us above Himself. God created men and women to fill different roles, but human sin has corrupted the harmony and complementary nature of those roles. The church must make sure they are not prooftexting passages about the roles of men and women, but looking at all of Scripture to balance understanding. The Bible clearly teaches that women and men have different roles, and that men are to be the leaders; but, it also says that men are to love women as Christ loves the church. Tarico is correct when she states that misogyny and putting down women is wrong, and drives women from the church. But, she’s wrong in assuming that different God-given roles means that the Bible teaches that men are more important than women.

Is the Bible misogynist? Absolutely not.

Does the Bible teach sexism? In the sense of teaching that men are better than women, absolutely not. But, the Bible absolutely does teach that men and women have different, yet equally valued, God-given roles. Some will ignorantly call this sexism and misogyny. I call it God’s design for balance and diversity. As Christians, we need to make sure we have God’s Biblical perspective on this issue, not mankind’s perspective. If the Church has a correct Biblical view of women, then women will be drawn to the church, not pushed out, because the Church will show God’s love, respect, and honor toward them and their Biblical roles.

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One Response

  1. Re-posting a comment I made on Facebook:

    God created men to be leaders, but He also created leaders to be servants. Jesus Christ is the ultimate example of this. Although He created the world and humankind (John 1:3, Colossians 1:16), He came to the world as a servant, ultimately dying to save us humans from our rebellion against Him. When men abuse the authority given them by God by demanding to be served, rather than serving, that’s sexist.

    Again, it’s not sexist to believe the clear teaching of the Bible that men were created to be the leaders. What’s sexist is to ignore the clear teaching of Scripture and to demean the role God created women to fill. What’s sexist is for men to ignore the clear teaching of Scripture and abuse the position God has placed them in.

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