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Feminism and the Bible


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Another religion thread!

The Bible repeatedly states that woman was created to be man's helper, that wives should submit in all things to their husbands. I'd like to know your interpretations of this. Is it possible to be Christian (or Jewish) and a feminist?

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Hey! Very nice question!

The Bible, as I interpret it, gives women a very high place. Women were created not merely just to "help" men, but to be an equal companion. Gen 2:23 " And Adam said, This is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh..." (You cannot treat your own bones and flesh disrespectfully, unless you are seeking auto-destruction, right?)

In an spanish translated version of the Bible, the Reina Valera, in Gen 2:18 you can read not just the word "help" but "helpmate" (And I do not think I have to explain that!Laughing

Regarding what you interpreted as "wives should submit in all things to their husbands", I would like to reassure you (and help you regain peace of mind) that the Bible is pretty clear about reciprocity and respect to the spouses. Please read 1 Cor 7:3-5, 1 Cor 11:11-12, Col 3:18-19, etc. (There are many examples, but people like to take things out of context all the time to their own gain...)*sigh*

So, yes! You can definitely be a Christian or Jewish and also believe in equality, because that is what God intends. (Equality is what you meant when you said "feminist", right? I am asking because a lot of people sees feminism as a movement that puts females over males, and to my view, moderation is key)

Anyhow, that is my interpretation and would love to hear others comment!

 

 

That rule was written back when people were few and uneducated and most things (like getting food, keeping warm, building and protecting a shelter) were based on brute force, men were stronger, got around more, were more experinced and every woman needed a man to survive. It was an exchange really - he brings food, she cooks it; he builds a home, she keeps it clean and so on.

Things have changed, but a marriage still has to be fair, if both work then both have to do chores, sticking the wife with both work and chores is not fair and will lead to problems. The bible and other ancient writings say that wives should submit to their husbands but some translations leave out the part that says as long as it doesn't contradict religious principles, no man may tell his woman to steal, lie, not go to church, etc; violence and abuse are not allowed. Submiting to a man that is good and correct is not a bad thing, submiting to someone that is a rotten apple is not obligatory.

#3  
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Feminism by my definition is social and political equality. Some Christians I have met are radically opposed to this.

I have heard different definitions of "helper" and "helpmate." Some say the words imply equality, and that this meaning was lost somewhere in translation. If this is the case, then why was "helper"/"helpmate" chosen for translation at all, since they clearly have connotations of subordination?

The Bible does RESPECT women, and I appreciate that. However, Paul states in the New Testament man is woman's head... meaning man should do woman's thinking? Modern Christians assure me this is not the case, but the biblical meaning seems pretty explicit to me.

dkn, gender roles can still be filled without biblical patriarchy. Goddess worship predates Christianity. Men were still hunters and providers, but women were viewed as the procreative, stable sex, thus logically placed in leadership roles.

So you're saying the Bible doesn't withstand time?

Christians regularly interpret the bible in all kinds of non-literal ways, and pick and choose the scriptures they use for their moral framework. I don't see why someone couldn't use the same process to come up with a feminist Christianity. It would, of course, be either a non-literal Christianity or a non-literal feminism, but there you have it. The bible does not have a consistent moral framework, really (if one considers both the old and new testaments). The judaic texts have one (more or less), Jesus has one, and Paul has one, but the contradictions between the three are irreconcilable in the literal sense. Most Christians just use the parts they relate to, with varying results: from the kind of dedication to love, unselfishness and equality that is rarely seen on this earth... to absolute bigoted fundamentalism. As a agnostic atheist, I find the variety quite interesting. 

#5  
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^True dat. I was reading http://bible.org/seriespage/all-about-eve-fem inism-and-meaning-equality and raising my eyebrow at the rationalizations. Mostly I'd like to hear some arguments from Christian feminists or whatnot.

I think so. Here's one way (I'm just making this up; I don't know if anyone actually holds this view): There is nowhere in the Bible where it says that our souls are gendered. In fact, very little is said about what souls are (mostly just what they are not). But there seems to be this assumption that souls are this un-bodied, aspatial, non-extended, Cartesian ego--the locus of our thoughts, psychology, memory, moral character, etc. But we do not typically think of souls as either male or female. Male and female are distinctions of the body, not of the soul (similarly, our souls are not fat or thin (thank goodness!), tall or short, blond or brunette, etc.). If that's right, however, then human beings, being essentially souls, would be essentially genderless. And if we're all essentially genderless, then we're all essentially equal (gender-wise anyway).

Such an understanding of persons could very easily be both (i) Christian and (ii) underlie a very respectable feminism.

Such a view may not, however, find much literal support in the Bible. But certainly it could get implied support from the vague ideas that are tossed around in the new testament. It seems like a nifty start for a view that is (i) and (ii), in any case.

p.s. I'm niether a Christian nor a feminist. (Well, maybe a post-feminist.)

Original Post by phimegaphi:

p.s. I'm niether a Christian nor a feminist. (Well, maybe a post-feminist.)

Sadly we haven't got to the point in society where anyone could be post-feminist... To me that implies the work that feminists strive for is already complete.

#9  
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The Bible does say that a man is head of his wife.  This however is not demeaning.  A ship can only have one captain.  If the first mate is always pulling in the opposite direction nothing can get done.  However this position is a dignified one.  Look at how Proverbs 31 praises the capable wife.  It even portrays her dealing in real estate!  The Bible does also state that a person's subjection to God must always come first.  When ordered by local authorities to stop preaching about Jesus, the apostle Peter said "We must obey God as ruler rather than men. (Acts 5:29).  The same principle would apply to a husband ordering his wife to go against her conscience.  God must come first.  A husband is supposed to treat his wife with love and dignity handling her as if she were a fine porceleine cup.  Not to say that women can't be strong.  The Bible we must acknowledge was written at a time when men could make enough to support their family and that sadly is not often the case anymore.  So it is only fair if both share the load outside the house both should share the load inside the house.  I heard a story one time about a man complaining that his wife didn't do any realwork so she suggested a switch.  He looked after the house and kids and she worked outside the house.  He only lasted a week!  I think it is actually sad that many women feel pressured to work out of home because what they do in the home isn't valued enough!

Helionix, it's quite possible.  In fact, in my opinion, the most fascinating and energetic field in theology right now is feminist theology.  Most people trace the burgeoning of this subset to Valerie Saiving and her incredible article, "The Human Situation: A Feminine View," which was published nearly fifty years ago now.  Still worth reading, if you can find it.

A host of other feminists have followed her, including (but not limited to) folks like Mary Daly (who might be best described as post-christian), Carter Heyward, Elisabeth Johnson, Rosemary Radforth Ruether, Rita Nakishima Brock, Sarah Coakley, Serene Jones, etc.

Typically, feminist theologians insist upon reading the text with what is called a hermeneutic of suspicion, recognizing that the text is conditioned by the history in which it is written, a history of patriarchy.  Typically, feminist theologians have suggested that the text is still valuable but needs to be deconstructed.  Some have chucked it out altogether.

For me, this is a no-brainer.  Of course, one can be a feminist and a christian at the same time.  The God I know longs for the flourishing of all humanity.  If you want to head at this scripturally, the subjugation of women to men is a result of the brokenness of the world--it is not how God intended women and men to be in relationship (read Gen 1:26... both in the image of God and created together).  Additionally, this brokenness is not intended to be the way forward.  The baptismal creed of Gal 4:26-28 harkens back to this Genesis language, suggesting that in Christ these distinctions no longer hold.  The baptized are no longer male or female but new creations.

And for those who want to harp of the 'helper' language.  This hebrew word is also used of God in the OT.  Surely we wouldn't suggest that God is supposed to be subserviant, right?

Good luck in your searching.

Original Post by merylwhite1:

Original Post by phimegaphi:

p.s. I'm niether a Christian nor a feminist. (Well, maybe a post-feminist.)

Sadly we haven't got to the point in society where anyone could be post-feminist... To me that implies the work that feminists strive for is already complete.

I think we have! That's the very point!

I know many would disagree.

But all I can report is my own experience. I have not felt a single slight or disadvantage due to my gender. On the contrary, I've been given many considerations where men with my qualifications might have been overlooked (simply because they were men, and I a woman). This isn't to say I didn't deserve what men with comparable backgrounds didn't get. But still...I think it's progress that I, a woman, feel like it has been more to my advantage than to my disadvantage that I've been a woman in this day and age...

I know this isn't universal. And for that, my hesitation.

But, still.

It's hard for me to get all rah rah rah behind feminism when the inequality that motivates it is nothing that I can experience in my daily life (thank goodness!).

Hence, post-feminism.

Original Post by jenniferar:

The Bible does say that a man is head of his wife.  This however is not demeaning.  A ship can only have one captain.  If the first mate is always pulling in the opposite direction nothing can get done.  However this position is a dignified one.  Look at how Proverbs 31 praises the capable wife.  It even portrays her dealing in real estate!  The Bible does also state that a person's subjection to God must always come first.  When ordered by local authorities to stop preaching about Jesus, the apostle Peter said "We must obey God as ruler rather than men. (Acts 5:29).  The same principle would apply to a husband ordering his wife to go against her conscience.  God must come first.  A husband is supposed to treat his wife with love and dignity handling her as if she were a fine porceleine cup.  Not to say that women can't be strong.  The Bible we must acknowledge was written at a time when men could make enough to support their family and that sadly is not often the case anymore.  So it is only fair if both share the load outside the house both should share the load inside the house.  I heard a story one time about a man complaining that his wife didn't do any realwork so she suggested a switch.  He looked after the house and kids and she worked outside the house.  He only lasted a week!  I think it is actually sad that many women feel pressured to work out of home because what they do in the home isn't valued enough!

Can you see that what you have described is not equality? What you have really said is that the bible is not misogynistic, but that is not quite the same thing. There is a difference, after all, between dignity and equality.

Original Post by casey_thompson:

Typically, feminist theologians insist upon reading the text with what is called a hermeneutic of suspicion, recognizing that the text is conditioned by the history in which it is written, a history of patriarchy.  Typically, feminist theologians have suggested that the text is still valuable but needs to be deconstructed.

This is also how I see it. Also, it always seemed to me that the new testament (and Jesus especially) were pretty radical with regard to supporting women's rights compared to the society in which they were based.

Whatever the original text, sentiment or intention of the founders, most organised religions today are run by men and therefore have a strong misogynistic streak.   The catholics venerate a 'virgin' mother, demand celibacy from their priests and don't allow women to minister....  There is even a catholic service in the prayer book to cleanse new mothers of the sin of giving birth - known as 'churching'.    Many sectors of Islam force their womenfolk to cover their entire bodies in black cloth and hide themselves from sight and are also not allowed to minister - despite the Quran giving women equality status.  Judaism segregates the sexes for many purposes.  The list goes on.

Even if someone does believe in a god, I fail to see why any woman would want to be associated with any of the mainstream organised religions.  Whatever the social trends, religious organisations firmly keep women as second-class citizens.

 

Original Post by jenniferar:

The Bible does say that a man is head of his wife.  This however is not demeaning.  A ship can only have one captain. 

Marriage (or any relationship between men and women) is not a ship.  That's a really bad analogy.  Nobody has to be the boss in a cooperative relationship.  Isn't it better to negotiate the best path rather than depend on a decision by one person who might very well be wrong?

I don't want a "boss" I want a partner.

Like Trustwomen implied above, the only way you can be a feminist and a Christian is by turning a blind eye to the many, many, many bible passages which explicitly condone rape, treat women like possessions on the same level as livestock, and equate womanhood with intrinsic sinfulness and uncleanness.

Some lovely examples:

  1. If a man is caught in the act of raping a young woman who is not engaged, he must pay fifty pieces of silver to her father.  Then he must marry the young woman because he violated her, and he will never be allowed to divorce her. (Deut 22:28-29) Yep, the young woman is forced to marry her rapist.
  2. All women must suffer labor pains because Eve ate the apple (Adam ate it too but whatever, he's a guy)
  3. Lot offers his daughters to get gang raped by a crowd. Later, Lot impregnates one of his daughters.
  4. God ordains men forcefully taking several wives.
  5. Leviticus says that women need to be purified after giving birth because the women are "unclean." P.S. Women who gave birth to a female baby have to purify for twice as long as those who gave birth to a male. Yep. It seriously says that.
  6. Women who are menstruating are to be hidden away in their houses and cant touch anything.
  7. Anyone who even LOOKS at a menstruating woman (aka 1/4th of women at any given time) are wrong.
  8. If a man has sex with a slave woman or an engaged woman, he must whip her. No punishment for the man.
  9. Unchaste daughters of priests must be burned to death. No mention of unchaste sons, so no punishment for them.
  10. Leviticus 27:3-7 God places dollar values on humans. Women worth less than men.
  11. Numbers 31:14-18 Moses tells his soldiers to kill all the men, elderly peeps, and children, but keep all the young virgin girls for raping.
  12. Too many more for me to list.

If you choose to call yourself a Christian, you should know that you are worshiping a god who condones rape, murder, genocide, slavery, racism, homophobia and infanticide. And in doing so, some would say that you are indirectly supporting these things yourself.

Original Post by jenniferar:

I think it is actually sad that many women feel pressured to work out of home because what they do in the home isn't valued enough!

I would be curious to know how many women work outside the home because they are actually "pressured" by perceived "value", as opposed to real world financial considerations.  

In much the same way as I'm curious to know how many women feel pressured to stay at home so they won't be accused of being a negligent mother.

For the record, I was brought up Catholic, but I am an agnostic atheist.

The bible was written a very long time ago, and has an awful lot of stories etc in it.  Is it an eye for an eye, or do you invite them to smite your other cheek?  As Trustwomen said, you can pick and choose a moral framework out of the bible.  So at that point, I'd say let's take the bible out of the equation and just look at what Christianity is today...ie do the policies of today's Christians reflect feminism? 

I am primarily familiar with Catholicism and so I will only speak to that.  The entire structure of the Catholic church is patriarchal.  No female pope, ever.  No female priests.  In some areas of the world, girls cannot be altar servers.  That is primarily because serving at the altar is intended as a way of building up the vocation of priesthood in a boy's life.  In that sense, Catholicism doesn't jive with feminism. 

Original Post by azirra:

If you choose to call yourself a Christian, you should know that you are worshiping a god who condones rape, murder, genocide, slavery, racism, homophobia and infanticide. And in doing so, some would say that you are indirectly supporting these things yourself.

I choose to call myself a Christian.  I worship God.  I believe the Bible is God's word and much of it (the historical part) is true.  Much of the non-literal is for teaching and learning.  But let's move past that.  Let's deal with your first example to expose some of your ignorance:

If a man had sex with (consensual or not) an unmarried woman, he rendered her un-marriageable.  He was then forced to support her for the rest of her life, else the society of the time (then non-Christian and non-Jew) would have banished her (at best) or killed her (more likely).  The rule was there to ensure a wrong was righted.  Was this the BEST solution?  Well, today we might not think so, but two thousand years ago it was a shockingly merciful solution.

People did (and do) many despicable acts.  azirra, you are ascribing to me, a law abiding military veteran who loves his wife and four daughters, many crimes.  As an agnostic, might I ascribe to YOU the sins of those who carry your banner?  Shall I throw some ignorant and unlearned examples in your face and call your beliefs illegitimate?

Further, are you saying that the American founding fathers, the ones who ensured your rights in this country, also condoned rape, genocide, slavery, racism, homophobia, and infanticide?  These same men and women, flawed as they were, set up likely the only governing system in the world where someone with your beliefs could openly attack the majority of people's beliefs without fear.  How about you head over to the Middle East, say Pakistan, and start talking about their laws that TODAY protect those things you accuse me of supporting?  Make sure your affairs are in order, first, OK?

Funny how those who expect mainstream folks to tolerate their extreme beliefs have NO tolerance for those who think differently from them.  I respect (and nearly died for) your right to think differently.  How about a little respect for what I (and the majority of people in the world) believe in?

Just sayin.

wow, hembroffd. throwing in the founding fathers and your veteran status is a complete red herring.

just sayin.

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