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Sep 06 2011

Women Can Teach; You Just Can’t Be Obliged to Listen

Thanks (of a sort) to Dan J, who pointed me to an article on the question of whether it’s okay for good Christian men to listen to the speeches of a popular woman evangelical. Its title? “Is It Wrong for Men to Listen to Female Speakers?” The answer?

We don’t need to be picky on this. The Bible is clear that women shouldn’t teach and have authority over men. In context, I think this means that women shouldn’t be the authoritative teachers of the church-they shouldn’t be elders. That is the way Rick Warrenis understanding it, and most of us understand it that way.

This doesn’t mean you can’t learn from a woman, or that she is incompetent and can’t think. It means that there is a certain dynamic between maleness and femaleness that when a woman begins to assume an authoritative teaching role in your life the manhood of a man and the womanhood of a woman is compromised.

What I just said is unbelievably controversial. There are thousands, even millions of people that think this idea is absolutely obscene.

Personally, I find it all terribly…convenient.

Yes, of course you can use women to carry your message, but that doesn’t actually put them in any position to argue with you. It doesn’t give them any right to challenge your unearned authority. That is, of course, what religion is all about for you. As long as you get to keep the privilege of making your whims and prejudices everyone else’s business, you’ll let a few women make ridiculous amounts of money talking about them too. You’ll let them be persuasive and emotional on your behalf. But only as long as they agree with you.

Not that these few women get nothing out of the deal. The person who asked the question knows, even if the fellow answering it doesn’t, that it isn’t that simple to deny the authority of a persuasive speaker. That’s why he asked. But even beyond that, that rare woman who is publicly both forceful and humble enough to be allowed that job becomes a very special snowflake indeed.

So, yes, dear boys. You are allowed to listen to women speakers. You just can’t, you know, listen to them.

And girls, you may allow yourself to strive very hard to be the sort of woman who is occasionally allowed to be heard. Or, if you find the idea as obscenely regressive as author L. M. Montgomery did more than a hundred years ago, you can always see how well your church does without your help.

9 comments

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  1. 1
    Adamo

    Blame the Nicene Council for the rampant poison in the New Testament against women. If they had allowed the gospel of Mary Magdeline and downplayed Paul a bit, things might be different. But of course, they were men, and validated the gospels for correctness based on their need to maintain power. It’s the same reason John got included (it’s all about the word) and Thomas got booted (it”s all about your actions). Heaven help them if it got about that Mary was a partner with Jesus, not only teaching alongside him but writing her very own gospel.

  2. 2
    Ron Sullivan

    So they stick their fingers in their ears and yell, “LALALALALALA I CAN’T HEAR YOUUUU!” Their fingers, their ears, their carefully-tended ignorance; who cares?

    It’s the LALALALALA drowning out the rest of us that pisses me offs.

  3. 3
    Elipson

    So how do these “good Christian men” square this with working under a woman? I find it hard to believe that most female managers would take kindly to the idea of an “underling” ignoring them…

  4. 4
    dochopper

    I don’t think think women in the Untied States realize how close they are to losing a century of gains.

  5. 5
    dochopper

    “United” sorry

  6. 6
    Zuska

    Of course women who teach within fundamentalist christian ministries aren’t supposed to challenge male authority. What, are you crazy? That’s not what their ministry is all about. It’s about showing women how to be good christian women in this modern world full of perils, one of which is feminism, which has created so many dangers and made it so difficult for a christian woman to live the life she is supposed to live. At Liberty University in Lynchburg, VA, there is a major in “women’s ministries” wherein one learns the basics of “biblical femininity”. You can become an event planner, a teen girl camp counselor, a women’s ministry director in the local church, a women’s ministry bible teacher, and so on. The world’s “ever-changing views of womanhood” create despair in women, and women’s ministry will help guide these women back to the unchanging biblical view of femininity, removing the despair etc. You know, so that they can learn how to be better wives and mothers, homeschooling the kids to raise up the next generation of male christian leaders. So men might want to listen to women to learn something about the little sub-category of women’s place in the world of christianity, but not about the big picture stuff, the main religious questions that d00ds are supposed to wrinkle their foreheads over.

    The tensions of feminism within conservative christian women’s groups are pretty interesting, and in some cases right-wing women have co-opted pieces of feminism where it suits them to do so while strenuously arguing against feminism as an evil force in society. The book Righting Feminism gives a lengthy consideration to this subject. It is a mistake to think that conservative christians have no use for women activists – they are in fact very strategic in their use of women activists. It just doesn’t look like the kind of activism you and I are used to.

  7. 7
    Stephanie Zvan

    Elipson, I doubt that very many of them ever need to make that accommodation. There are plenty of industries in which female managers are incredibly rare and easy to avoid. Still, though, there are plenty of people who go through the world just building up a whopping pile of indignation at the “injustices” they are forced to endure in this evil, evil world.

    Zuska, what fascinates me is how much taking things one individual activist at a time gives you the impression that it’s very similar to the kind of activism I’ve been around all my life. Much of that has been driven by women making emotional appeals to community, family, and children, often very effectively. It’s only when I step back and see how those women fit into the overall evangelical movement that the differences become apparent. It’s much like how the picture of Michele Bachmann changes when you back up far enough to see that she has made herself the mouthpiece for Marcus’s–er, God’s–concerns. I may need to make some free time for that book, though.

  8. 8
    frankboyd

    Eh. The only reason to listen to anyone is if they have something worth listening to. This evangelical drivel is the pious counterpart of those idiots who think tha just because they have a double X, they’re worth listening to.

  9. 9
    Dan J

    These Christian men will do everything they can to justify (in their own minds) their feelings of superiority to everyone not like them. It’s pathetic and reprehensible.

    I’m happy to provide links to interesting articles any time, Stephanie. :)

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