Here’s the thing, I’ve been through hell and back with God. A few times. Seriously. Hell. Then back. Then Hell again. Then back again.
So, I can tell you without any doubt in my mind that the dude is real.
I know that for some people, that might sound like a weak line of thinking for deciding whether or not to believe in an almighty creator. But if that’s the case for you, then you either haven’t been to hell, or you haven’t gotten back yet. I have. And getting back from that awful place is horrible. So when God grabs your wrist and physically yanks you out, well, it’s life changing.
It’s so life changing that I do my best every day of the week and twice on Sundays to tell other people about this God dude who saved me from the abyss. Specifically speaking, I’m a youth leader.
More specifically speaking, I’m a God-related craft creator, mission trip planner, pizza/paint/markers/poster board buyer, Bible studier, fund-raise organizer, raw tears cleaner upper, hard-question explainer, youth room janitor, church-leader-meeting attender, go-to-pray-er, sermon giver, parent re-assurer, candy bringer, and teacher who humbly hopes to help just one teenager avoid hell altogether, and prays every day she’ll have the chance to help bring at least one other back from the fire.
It’s not easy. It’s not “Christian light.” And I
wouldn’t couldn’t do it without a strong faith in God.
Except. Well. Dude. Some of this Christian stuff is really hard to figure out.
The stress in my stomach started about a couple weeks ago, while I was reading 1 Timothy, Chapter 2 (Page 1875 in my Bible for those following along at home).
“I also want women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God.”
All right. “Dress modestly” is pretty vague, and the ban on braids seems pretty silly, but I can’t afford any gold or pearls anyway, so I can sort of, kind of, maybe follow this part. But then. Well, it continues.
“A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. But women will be saved through childbearing — if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety.”
I had heard those words before. But as a relatively intelligent woman, I had just decided to ignore the fact that they were in my holy book.
Except. Well, there they are. Page 1875.
To sum up: As a woman, I should shut up and listen to the men. Also, God literally forbids me from trying to teach said men anything. Oh, and let’s bring up all that crap about Eve and the stupid apple, because obviously, if she could be tricked by a snake, then every woman ever could be as well. And, seeing as how I don’t have kids, well, I’m pretty much screwed. Er, not literally, otherwise, I suppose I would have kids.
But ya. So. What the hell?
Why is that in the Bible?
Yes, some try to say that the verse were culturally specific to the Ephesian women of the time, known for being floosies and whatnot. However, in my holy book, it does not start, “An Ephesian woman.”
It just says “A woman.”
So, for me, at least, that’s not enough.
A lot of scholars has attributed this book of the New Testament to Paul. Before he was “Paul” he was a Christian killer named “Saul.” After a crazy conversion experience, he changed his ways though, and we’re told he went about the world preaching the Good News.
From what I can tell he’s a pretty decent guy. I mean, sure, he’s got really high standards for Christians (See: Galatians 2:11-14, where Paul yells at Peter) (Yes, THE Peter), but in his other letters* he doesn’t seem to have anything against women as a whole. So how could he have possibly written this?
*Yes, there is a little blurb in I Corinthians about women being silent in church, but some believe it was inserted into the letter after Paul wrote it by one of the scribes who was charged with copying it down and passing it on.
Well, the newest research has raised objections to whether or not our man Paul actually wrote this section of 1 Timothy. The style and the word choice seem to be just different enough that it could have been someone else writing the letter using Paul’s name for credibility. It was likely one of Paul’s students though, so it’s not like it was super shady. Think of it like the Baby Sitter’s Club Books, which haven’t actually been written by Ann M. Martin for years.
Ok. So maybe Paul didn’t write this bullsh*t. Maybe it was someone else. And we can all go on our merry little way respecting women.
Except, well. It’s still in there. Right on page 1875.
And I don’t do “Christian light.” I do “Christian, whatever it takes because I have seen hell and I do not want to go back.”
So, does that mean I need to follow these teachings about women? I honestly don’t know.
I really don’t.
I can tell you that I personally believe I’ve been called to my current church, where I am not only childless, I also teach men on a regular basis, braid hair, and have authority over at least the teen-age men.
I’ve heard some very smart Christian women try to get to a place where they can submit to this teaching. They’ll say things like,
“Well, God created men and women different. And it’s an act of faith on our part to submit to a man.”
Or “Men are created to have authority over us, and when we allow them that, things just go more smoothly.”
I’m sorry, but that is total bullsh’*t.
It seems a lot more likely that verses like this were written and continue to be taught because if it’s suddenly all right for women to teach and talk and stuff, and it turns out that they don’t suck at any of those things, then all the men in the world would suddenly have a lot more competition for their power.
And I have read the Gospels, and poured over Jesus’ life story with a studious heart and a yearning soul, and I never got the impression that he was opposed to women being smart. In fact, I dare say the man was a feminist in his time — all protecting an adulterous woman from death by stoning, walking around with women in his posse, and even appearing to a group of women first after the resurrection and then telling them to be the opposite of quite about the whole thing.
Never once did he say anything close to “Women should shut up and listen to the men in this world and for crying out loud, stop braiding their stupid hair.”
And don’t you think, that if he was super worried about getting that point across, he was would have mentioned it to John or Matthew or someone to take a note when he preached it?
But even with that line of thinking, this passage in 1 Timothy still bothers me. When I read it, I feel like I’m being punched in the gut, and tears fill my eyes, because I know it does not align with what I feel I have been called to do at my church — but at the same time, I know I cannot ignore a teaching in my holy book.
The bottom line is, I don’t agree with it, I don’t like it, I don’t understand it, and I don’t know if I ever will.
But I can tell you one thing, even if every other Christian on this entire planet tried to tell me we needed a national law forbidding women from braiding their hair, wearing pearls and teaching men, lest God’s perfect intentions for the ways of the world be doomed, I wouldn’t fight for that law. I wouldn’t fund raise to pass it, I wouldn’t vote for it holding my head high as a Christian and I most definitely would not feel I was accomplishing Christ’s work by doing such things.
Which brings me to homosexuals.
I don’t agree with those parts of the Bible either. I don’t like them, I don’t understand them, and I don’t know if I ever will.
God forgive me if I’m wrong.