My experience with abuser-enabling misogyny in the church
To the woman he said, “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.” (Genesis 3:16)
So you will be delivered from the forbidden woman, from the adulteress with her smooth words, (Proverbs 2:16)
And as if it had been a light thing for him to walk in the sins of Jeroboam the son of Nebat, he took for his wife Jezebel the daughter of Ethbaal king of the Sidonians, and went and served Baal and worshiped him. (1Kings 16:31)
God’s Word in Holy Scripture is pure, right, life-giving, and true. Whenever and wherever scripture is cited to support evil, we can be sure that its real teaching has been distorted. Verses such as the ones quoted above have been very frequently twisted to misrepresent the fundamental nature of women and I want to tell you how I (and most all of you) have personally seen these distortions played out among Christians.
First, let me say very plainly that both men and women enter this world in a spiritually fallen condition – as sinners. Alienated from God. Without hope. Dead in their sins and hell-bound (see Ephesians 2). If not for the mercy of God in Christ, all would most certainly perish for all eternity. Outside of Christ, women, like men, are sinners. NOTE: Be very careful to understand that the Bible does not address real believers as sinners which they once were. The oft-repeated refrain “we are all sinners” when applied to believers is frequently a favorite tune sung by sin-levelers and sin-minimizers to enforce their demand that we forgive them and reconcile with them no matter what they have done or whether they have truly repented or not.
To return. So yes, Eve was dead in her sins after the fall, just like Adam, as we see in Genesis three. And yes, absolutely, there are indeed “forbidden women” and “adulteresses” in this world who young men must be warned against. And certainly, there ARE Jezebels to be found, evil women who actively work to lead others into worship of their false gods. Many if not most of you have no doubt met some such woman before. (I won’t take the time here to go into detail, but let’s make special note that of course there are male adulterers who seduce women, who women must be warned against. And there are indeed male “Jezebels” who work to turn women away from the true and living God).
But let me describe for you how these verses and others are very commonly used to paint a picture of women in general, including Christian women, that is really nothing less that misogyny in disguise. “Misogyny” by the way, comes from the Greek verb “to hate” and the Greek noun for “women.” Misogyny means “hatred of women.” Here is the false doctrine that is VERY often taught, overtly and covertly, in our churches by and to people who often really do desire to hold Scripture in high regard as the Word of God:
Women, ever since the fall in Eden, are to be subservient to their husbands. In fact, women in general are subservient to men, inferior in their very nature due to the female-specific trait inherited from Eve of craving to dominate their husband, and most probably to set themselves above men in general. Women use their sexual and seductive charms to seduce and control men, and like Jezebel would lead men away from true religion in Christ.
These seducing and usurping traits are characteristic of Christian women as well, and the godly man who is wise must take particular care that he is not driven astray by any woman. Church leaders especially must guard against this constant, ongoing desire of women to usurp male authority in the church. Christian fathers and husbands must see to it that their wives and daughters cover themselves so that godly men are not seduced and tempted into sexual sin. Christian wives must be careful to resist their innate tendency to usurp authority over their husbands.
Does any or all of that sound familiar to you? Ironically, these doctrines are often taught by Christian women as well as Christian men.
Now, of course there is most definitely a true, wholesome, biblical teaching about modesty for all Christians. In our day (and I suppose in most every age of history) rank and wicked immodesty is characteristic of the evil world we live in. Where the Lord is rejected you always see men and women spiraling into ever-increasing degrees of sexual sin, nakedness being one such common defiance of the Law of God. But what we are speaking of in respect to this misogyny is the notion that by the very nature of the woman as woman, she tends to seduce men and lead them into sin. The extreme example of this very thinking is the teaching and practice found in some versions of Islam that require women to be essentially totally covered and hidden from view and if a woman is raped it is her fault for leading her poor rapist into the act. This strain of radical thinking regarding modesty is also often to be found in patriarchal Christian churches and organizations. [see Wendell’s article on Shariah law in the church]
One young woman I know recounted to me how she was once at a youth group meeting, sponsored by her church. It was summer time and she was wearing cut-offs. She was sitting near one of the young men (who came from a very controlling, patriarchal family). The young man reached down, picked up a sweater lying nearby, and covered her legs from view. You can see the problem here. In this young man’s thinking — which he had been taught on the supposed authority of Scripture — he believed that the source of the lustful thoughts he was starting to sense within himself was not his own sinful flesh, but in the young woman herself. You see the fallacy here and the damaging blame-shifting which really is misogyny. How is this young man going to view his wife one day? You can probably sort that out for yourself and the picture is not a pretty one. If he commits adultery or views porn, well, it is the fault of his wife, right? Many of you who have suffered at the hands of a domestic abuser will resonate with that claim.
So this is just a brief description of the false doctrine that I was taught about women and wives and daughters by people in the church, including many big-name Christian celebrity preachers and teachers, and I assumed for a long time that it was just a ‘given’ that these things must be true. After all, who was I to disagree with Bible college professors, seminary professors, Christian theologians who wrote books, and so on? I was a nobody and they, well, they were super saints with huge followings. (That is a very dangerous mentality for a Christian to have by the way and the Apostle Paul refutes it: “And from those who seemed to be influential (what they were makes no difference to me; God shows no partiality)—those, I say, who seemed influential added nothing to me.” Gal 2:6).
Now, finally, think this all through VERY carefully. Forget about parsing Greek verbs and doing intricate word studies for right now. What have YOU seen in the visible church in regard to these things? I think I know the answer because I have seen the same thing. It is NOT characteristic of a real Christian woman to constantly connive and sneak and deceive and manipulate her husband into giving her what she wants — to usurp his authority. Rather, the typical scenario we see even and especially in abuse cases is that the wife has no desire to dominate her husband, but hungers for him to be a godly man who she will willingly and gladly join hands with. Sadly, this admirable wish on the part of the abuse victim in Christian circles is used against her to keep her in bondage to abuse. She wants to serve the Lord. She wants to be the woman and wife and mother Christ calls her to be. And somehow the abuser diabolically senses this and turns her heart’s desire against her.
There IS misogyny in the visible local church. There IS very commonly a notion, often cloaked in pious-sounding talk about the worth and value of women, mothers, and wives, that women must be kept down else before you know it men will find themselves, their churches, and their families, dominated by liberated women who are the product of devilish radical feminism that would lead us all into Baal worship. The thing is ages old, and I close with an example of it from Scripture:
But Queen Vashti refused to come at the king’s command delivered by the eunuchs. At this the king became enraged, and his anger burned within him. Then the king said to the wise men who knew the times (for this was the king’s procedure toward all who were versed in law and judgment, the men next to him being Carshena, Shethar, Admatha, Tarshish, Meres, Marsena, and Memucan, the seven princes of Persia and Media, who saw the king’s face, and sat first in the kingdom): “According to the law, what is to be done to Queen Vashti, because she has not performed the command of King Ahasuerus delivered by the eunuchs?” Then Memucan said in the presence of the king and the officials, “Not only against the king has Queen Vashti done wrong, but also against all the officials and all the peoples who are in all the provinces of King Ahasuerus. For the queen’s behavior will be made known to all women, causing them to look at their husbands with contempt, since they will say, ‘King Ahasuerus commanded Queen Vashti to be brought before him, and she did not come.’ This very day the noble women of Persia and Media who have heard of the queen’s behavior will say the same to all the king’s officials, and there will be contempt and wrath in plenty. (Est 1:12-18)
NOTE: Please do not use this post as a launching pad for a debate in the comments on whether or not women are to serve in the church as pastors and elders. We here at ACFJ generally try to avoid that debate and focus specifically on abusers, abuse, and abuse victims in the church. We hold our own personal views on the former issue, but here in this post we want to simply acknowledge the misogyny that so commonly exists in the churches.
Related Posts and Articles:
Sabotaged Submission by Carmen Bryant