The only times I have ever wondered if I might be worth less than a man has been while reading the bible. That isn’t what my church taught, of course. My church told me that women were equal to men. They also told me that the husband was the head of the household and that wives should submit to their husbands completely. I was expected to find a man who would be a good spiritual leader, and I would be his support. I only considered these goals in a vague sort of way.
This is one of those things you brush off as a Christian. All the little details in the bible that seem like a mistake….why did god make sure this part was in here? The New Testament is only slightly more optimistic, but the Old Testament makes it clear that women are nothing more than property to be traded among god’s favored gender. When you are a young woman seeking god regularly in the pages of the bible, this evidence is hard to reconcile. What does god really think about me? Am I worth as much as a man to god?
My husband and I got married young, as many Christian couples do. Before our wedding we were required to go through premarital counseling with the pastor who would perform the ceremony. He gave us personality tests which revealed something that came as no surprise to anyone. While our personalities were an excellent match, the tests also showed that I was more suited for the leadership role in our relationship. The pastor assured us that this was okay, but he told me it was not ideal for a Christian marriage and I would have to be careful. He told me that it should be the other way around, since the husband is the head of the family. At the time, I agreed. Because I had read the bible.
We have been happily married for nineteen years and my husband is now a stay at home dad. We were married for eleven years before having our daughter, and I no doubt disappointed his family by working as a married woman. When our daughter was born I had a good job and we were able to survive on my income. My husband is an incredible caregiver. Truthfully, he is better at it than I am. It made perfect sense for him to stay at home, and we considered ourselves lucky to be able to do it.
This wasn’t easy for the rest of his family to accept. My husband co-owned a recording studio at the time, but the fact that I still went to work meant that he wasn’t doing enough. It didn’t matter that we had made this choice and that he had quit his day job on purpose; his father would still regularly ask him if he had found a job yet. We usually find humor in the extremes of his family, but it hurt my husband to know that his parents believed he was failing as a provider. He had been raised to be the head of his house, after all, and he was all too aware of their thoughts on the matter.
His sister was far worse. She will be the first to let you know that women should not be in positions of power because they are more emotional than men. They require a man’s leadership. She always submits to her husband, and so she naturally looked to him for guidance on how to accept our situation. When our daughter was four months old we received an email. She had good news! She was now able to agree with our decision, because her husband had helped her to understand that we were a special case. You see, my husband has epilepsy and cannot drive. According to her, this disability meant that my working outside of the home was acceptable in the eyes of god.
Where does the bible say that? I imagine she thought this would help me to deal with my “unfortunate situation” but I had already let go of my concept of god by then. I didn’t really care how she rationalized my decision to be a working mother. It wasn’t any of her business. If I took the bible as seriously as she does, could I even be with my husband? I suppose I would have to blame him for my lack of faith. Perhaps I am simply too emotional and need a strong man to step in with a firm hand. In that respect my husband has, indeed, failed miserably. It’s one of the reasons I love him.
I live in the United States. The year is 2015. The fact that I have had this conversation with another woman is proof that something is not right about the bible. The bible backs up her views on women, but it does not back up mine. It has been pointed out to me again and again, but always in an uncomfortable way. Why doesn’t the bible quite fit here? My guess is because it was written by men who lived in a time and place where women were viewed as property. I can make this ridiculously simple observation because I do not hold the bible up as being authentically inspired by god. That’s the difference between our two versions of a woman’s role, isn’t it? How much we are willing to live according to god’s word?
It isn’t likely that a perfect god would evolve in his own beliefs. If the inspired word of god is what god wants us to know about him, then god has made himself clear on the subject of women. And if we are holding ourselves to god’s word, which never changes, how can we ever move forward without defying god? We can’t. Not truthfully. More and more Christians are getting beyond this by deciding the bible isn’t the absolute word of god after all, but rather a book of historical religious text that offers us insight into how those who came before us viewed god. Not exactly an amazing revelation. But it is further evidence that people can evolve where god does not.