Anyone else think it’s ironic when Christian women spout instructional and inspirational scriptures on Facebook and elsewhere? I saw several examples only yesterday, including a ditty from one friend (I’ll call her Julia) which read in bold text, “YOU WERE MADE BY GOD AND FOR GOD, AND UNTIL YOU UNDERSTAND THAT, LIFE WILL NEVER MAKE SENSE!"
The comments that followed from her religious friends were the same, predictable litany of bumper stickers we’ve come to expect, but I decided to break the silence and chime in.
Underneath the dozens of amens and affirmations on Julia’s wise words, I pasted the text of 1 Timothy 2:12, “I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent.”
And I waited.
Apologists bend themselves into pretzel proportions to excuse the bible’s pathetic perspective on women, and they ultimately end up cherry-picking verses (like Julia eventually did) on the order of 1 Corinthians 11:7, “The woman is the glory of man.” Proverbs 31 describes the wife of noble character, a woman who fears the Lord and is “to be praised.” Ephesians 5 says a husband is to love a wife as he loves himself. God loves women!
Well, obviously, if the bible is to be embraced as a complete document, divinely inspired and relevant to all humankind, we must go beyond the carefully plucked fruit and examine the whole orchard.
Deuteronomy 22:28-29 says that if a man raped a virgin, he was required to marry her and also pay her father 50 shekels for humbling her. Yes, God cherished women so much that her rapist was sentenced to...marriage.
The previous verses (23-24) demanded death for a rape victim because "she was in a town and did not scream for help" (always a sticky situation if a rapist's hand was covering her mouth). If the hanky-panky was consensual, but the woman was engaged to someone else, she was stoned anyway...along with the co-adulterer. (At least this time, both the female and male perpetrators got an equal opportunity execution.)
For those thinking it might have been safer to be a virgin in those days, you’ll want to consider the story of Moses’ army conquering the Midianites in Numbers 31. God commanded Moses to kill all of the male Midianite children and "kill every woman who has slept with a man, but save for yourselves every girl who has never slept with a man." (Watch the apologists squirm when you ask the obvious question, “What did the soldiers do with the virgin women?”)
You’ll see similar edicts throughout scripture. In Deuteronomy 21:10-13, according to God’s law, if an Israelite soldier was at war with an enemy and saw a beautiful woman that he found attractive, he could capture her to be his wife. The woman was then required to shave her head, trim her nails and discard the clothing she was wearing when captured. She was allowed to mourn her father and mother for a month. If the soldier wasn’t pleased with her for any reason, he could "let her go wherever she wishes."
In Judges 21:10-12, four hundred virgin girls in the city of Jabesh Gilead were to be taken by God’s soldiers as possessions. Exodus 21 instructed fathers on how to sell their daughters into slavery. Verse 7 gave the handy tip that she could be “redeemed” if she was “displeasing in the eyes of her master.” But for the sake of fairness, the following verse instructed that the poor girl wasn't to be resold to “foreign people.” Well, of course!
Leviticus 27 informs us that female slaves were worth half as much as male slaves. That's right. If you didn't have a penis, you were a second-class citizen, even in slavery.
And the fun is just beginning. According to scripture, menstruating females were “unclean” and to be banished from their own camps for a week. “And if a woman have an issue, and her issue in her flesh be blood, she shall be put apart seven days: and whosoever toucheth her shall be unclean until the even. And every thing that she lieth upon in her separation shall be unclean: every thing also that she sitteth upon shall be unclean (Leviticus 15:19-20).”
This is normally the part where seminary students and various Ph.D types drag out the Old Covenent VS New Covenant excuse, completely ignoring Christ’s words in Matthew 5:17-18, “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.” It also sidesteps the question of why God would continue to allow any obsolete or irrelevant material to remain in his Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth.
The next time you hear a religious woman preach, the next time you see a religious woman embrace her holy bible, the next time you encounter a religious woman’s misty-eyed gratitude to Yahweh for his goodness and mercy, just remember this: God loves women, as long as they're silent, shamed, submissive, second-class citizens who obey the cultural and sexual requirements of primitive Bronze Age males.
I brought this material, verse by verse, to Julia's attention, but she never addressed them and the conversation thread ended. Perhaps she didn't know her bible. Perhaps she didn't care. Or perhaps she'd simply heeded the command of Leviticus and wandered off to find a remote, isolated place to menstruate.
I guess I'll never know.