2009/02/18

"I permit no woman to teach..."

OK. Is it just me? Because I've noticed that almost no one has anything to say about yesterday's readings. Usually I run across at least one post a day that addresses the readings for that day. Often it's just in passing. But, yesterday? Silencio.

Just to refresh your memory let's hit some of the high points:

From I Timothy 1:18-2:8

9... the women should dress themselves modestly and decently in suitable clothing, not with their hair braided, or with gold, pearls, or expensive clothes, 10. but with good works, as is proper for women who profess reverence for God. 11. Let a woman learn in silence with full submission. 12. I permit no woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she is to keep silent. 13. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; 14. and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. 15. Yet she will be saved through childbearing, provided they continue in faith and love and holiness, with modesty.

These, of course, are the verses that get our goats. And these are the verses that the fundagelicals love to exploit in justification of their mysogynist ways. And to be fair to the fundies, that IS what it says. The words.

There are lots of ways to approach the words in the Bible. You can read about all that in books. Three are lots of ways on that and lots of books about it. But, I find there are two main ways of approaching the Bible itself.
Some people treat it like a book, and, of course, they read it in one of the many ways that people do.

Or, it's more of an icon, a presence. It reveals different things at different times, different things to different people. It has multiple meanings, some of which even seem contradictory.
The basic difference in these approaches is that in the first instance the Bible is a mere book, something to study, and it is dead. In the second, it's alive. You don't have to guess which one I am for.

So, I think we have to look past the words on the page and ask the Bible what it is actually saying to us. Moreover, we want to know what it is saying today, and how it applies to our own lives. And the very first thing I want to know about these verses is what in the H-E-double toothpicks was the writer thinking?

I'll tell you what I think. I think it was starting to look like Jesus was going to tarry awhile longer than initially expected. There was no more communal property, no more looking into the sky each day. Jesus was taking his time about returning. Some believers had even died. A few had even died on account of their faith. Yes, persecution was a'brewing. I don't think our letter writer was thinking about theology at all. I think he was thinking about survival.

So, the writer steps back from the precepts of kingdom living: Gone are the days of no more male and female, slave or free, all that. Now we begin talking in the language of Roman virtues. Prudence (moderation) and restraint. And we start to see more concern that we should all fit into the accepted social order. Wives obey. Women don't be quite so loud. We obey our leaders, our Lords. The patri/heirarchy is back.

But, what is all that saying?

Well, again, I am going to tell you what I think. I think that the Bible is telloing us that culture really does influence the church and that sometimes it's a good idea. I think that it's giving us permission to be real about our circumstances and to adapt.

I am not saying that we should all become slaves of cultural fashion. You all know me better than that. But, what I am saying is that I can see an example, right here in the Bible, of culture influencing the church and, hey, the sky didn't fall.

The prevailing culture has done it many times since: Clerical celibacy, divorce, re-marriage, women, even hats... it all goes back and forth. I think the writer of I Timothy is just being real about the culture he's in and doing his best to protect his fledgling flock.

What I want to know is why we seem so unable or unwilling to do the same. I am not going to prattle on any more about it. I just want to say that this business about culture wars is bogus. It just keeps the bigots and religious know-it-alls in business and it's time for it to stop.

9 comments:

Presbyterian Gal said...

Amen! I always prefer to stick with the basics of Jesus' teachings. This other business, like with Timothy, is part of being in the world and not of it.

And P.S. Fundigelicals wear more gold, jewels and makeup than anyone else I've ever seen. The women too!

Jan said...

Not knowing about the culture and times when the scripture was written gets us all in trouble. Being unaware of our current cultural biases hinders our understanding and awareness, too. I don't know how people cannot understand that Paul (or whoever) lifted the cultural "guidelines" of his times and inserted them in his letters. That doesn't make them "divine."

Diane said...

I still have bad memories of the year that the sr. pastor decided to use 1 Timothy as our preaching text for Lent (to go with a different series on Sunday morning). And we wrote the sermons "together", which means he decided what they were going to be about, and I got to contribute a story. And one day this text came up, and I "got to" read it, and there was no commentary on how to take it.

at the 10:00 contemporary service, there were several women who looked visibly angry, so he decided that he was going to do a Bible study on the verses after the service. (I was supposed to lead another service after that.)

I think you are right about the way you are reading this (obviously.)

more later.

Ann said...

So right, Lindy. If we don't know the greater context - we don't know what is being said.

Lindy said...

ANd people forget to compare it to Galations, both attributed to Paul, btw... there is no longer and male or female, gay or straight, etc... and look at that last little bit of soteriological information we are given: "She will be saved in childbearing..." That is so not what the writer of Galations said. The literal reading we get from the Baptist and others is just nuts, it doesn't make any sense at all.

I'll tell you, if I had depended on men only for my teaching about God and the Bible I would have quit years ago. Just quit. God, church, believing, everything.

Don't get me wrong. I like men. I think some of them are smart and decent and fun to hang out with. But, they have not been very good teachers to me.

Go Women! Go Diane and Ann, Go Presbyterian Gal and ShareCropper, Go Jan and Catherine, Elizabeth and Mary, Go Jane, Paula, Judith, and the hundreds, literally hundreds, of other women who have taught, laughed with, and coached me through to today. Go! You too Marianne, GO!

Catherine + said...

Considering everyone has basically expressed my thoughts quite well, I could have nothing to say...however...Thanks be to God for the wisdom given to Lindy and all of these women who you name [me, eyes cast down with humility for being named in such august company]. I think if men have such a hard time with women in the pulpit or teaching, its because they exhibit the kind of intelligence they wish they had...but don't necessarily.

Such a refreshing read...anytime I a come here...

Padre Mickey said...

Look, the Bible said it, I question it, and that leaves it all up to discussion!

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Anonymous said...

So you know what God wants or what He wanted to pass to us through His chosen ones?

No, you do not.

Quite simply, you feel that your position is threatened by such teachings, and you want to 'bash' the words and menaing.

Well I am happy to say that yes indeed these words mean exactly what they mean. Man comes first in Gods eyes and females come second.

It's as siple as that. Like it or not it 'is' exactly as God wishes.

Feminism means nothing to God, because His word is law. Not some female idea of what things should be like.

...and before you ask no I am not a fundamentalist or even a regular Church goer. I simply believe in God and His word