Wives, Obey Your Husbands

Seizing on other women’s pain to make a point on my blog is not something I relish doing. But there’s a point to be made here as we watch the fall out in the media and blogosphere around the marital crises of Evangelists Juanita Bynum and Paula White. A point that’s been long time in coming. And I am a teacher at heart. So, take out your pencils and let’s get started.

The marriages of two highly celebrated women televangelists unraveled publicly last week. News broke last Wednesday about the brutal attack on Evangelist Juanita Bynum in a hotel parking lot by her husband of four years Bishop Thomas Weeks. Shortly afterwards, Evangelist Paula White and Rev. Randy White stood in the pulpit of their 23,000 member Tampa Bay, Florida church announcing the end of their 18 year marriage.

Ordinarily, marital strife (in Bynum’s case) and divorce (in White’s case) don’t make headline news. Not unless you’re a celebrity. Everybody divorces. Fifty percent of all marriages in this country go up in smoke (60% of black marriages, says some). Sad and staggering, but that’s our reality. What makes Bynum and White’s marriages attention-getting is that Bynum and White are women who have managed to climbed to the top of the otherwise male dominated profession of Christian ministry. Women who build megaministries that can rival those of the most successful men in their profession attract the best and worst attention to themselves. Their followers, those have been strengthened and helped by their ministries, urge folks to pray for Bynum and White, reminding us of their right to privacy and that they too are human. Others, those who loathe all things related to church, televangelists, and organized religion in general, take this time to blast the church, televangelists, organized religion and, those who are, according to them, their sniveling followers. Others of us believe that a window of much needed conversation has been opened up. Some good can come out of all of this, we pray.

Here’s the lesson to be gained, I believe.

Many of the news stories describe Bynum and White as fiery, gifted Pentecostal preachers who are known internationally for preaching women’s empowerment. Say what? Since when did Pentecostals preach women’s empowerment? That’s a non sequitur. You’re talking here to an Pentecostal, an ex-Pentecostal anyway. Believe me when I tell you there are things I miss about my Pentecostal past and continue to cherish about that tradition. But its teachings on women is not one of them. Bynum is a captivating evangelist. She’s talented. She’s masterful. Heck, the woman can preach! (As for Paula White’s preaching, I’ll leave that for another post.) But Juanita Bynum doesn’t preach empowerment, not outrightly, not consistently.

Since when did those who believe in women’s submission, men’s headship, and strict and proper roles for both genders start preaching women’s empowerment? I’ve sat and watched both women preach and host shows on the rabidly conservative TBN network, and not a word has come out of either woman’s mouth debunking the notion of women’s submission to men. To the contrary, both women have risen to the top of the neo-Pentecostal, charismatic, evangelical world in which they travel preaching fiery messages essentially keeping women in their places — waiting. Waiting on God to deliver them, waiting on God to send them husbands, waiting on God to reward them for their longsuffering, and waiting on their husbands to honor them for their submission. I don’t mean to caricature, trivialize or denounce the preaching of other women. After all, I’m a woman in ministry too. But as much as we would like for it to be different, your anointing does not protect you from scrutiny. I don’t mean to deny the many other good things about their ministries. But their messages to and about women are not the sort that challenges the notion of women’s subordination to men.

It can’t be empowerment if you’re still preaching wives’ submission and husbands’ headship. It can’t be empowerment if women are wives (or ladies-in-waiting) and men are priests, the “covering”, and the “head” of the household. It can’t be empowerment if your sermons keep women believing they’re incomplete and lacking unless they are married? It’s not empowerment if you fail to tell women that they don’t honor God by suffering through abusive marriages. It’s not empowerment if men are not challenged to see women as equals and if women are not made to stop romanticizing their subordinate role. It’s not empowerment if you don’t open women’s eyes to the way their devotion and patience are being exploited by their churches (not all churches, of course) and by their pastors (not all pastors, for sure).

Here’s the lesson I take away from this sad news about my colleagues in ministry: If the marriages of women who preach submission fail, then rather than blaming it on the devil, perhaps it’s because submission doesn’t work. Never has. Certainly not in today’s world. Which explains why the first question I get in workshops for married women is “How do I submit to my husband?” Here’s what I’ve noticed in all my years of conducting marriage seminars: husbands never ask for tips on how to obey the scripture that says, “Submit to one another” (Eph. 5:21). Men don’t worry their pretty little heads about submission. They leave it to the women to get that one right.

The opposite of submission is not being a man-hater, as some would like to argue. The opposite of being submissive is being responsible. Responsible before God for having a brain. Responsible for hearing from God for yourself. Responsible for being accountable to God for your own talents and gifts. Responsible for negotiating equality in your relationships and for not settling for less. Responsible for teaching people how to treat you.

For too long women in the church have gone mad trying to obey the messages they’ve heard from society and from the pulpit, trying to figure how to live up to the script that expects them to be spiritually strong, but emotionally dependent (on men), economically self-sustaining (if you’re a black woman), but psychologically subservient (to black men)– and simultaneously physically chaste (if you’re woman of faith). We don’t question the script. We blame ourselves for failing to live up to the script.

When I’m feeling charitable toward the prophet Paul (which isn’t often) I give him the benefit of the doubt. Seeing how radically women took the gospel message and how eager they were to embrace the freedom that came with following Christ, Paul had second thoughts. He didn’t want this fledgling church movement to call too much attention from its detractors, and thus caved into pressures to prove that Christ follwers were not a cult, but decent and orderly folks. Urging “wives submit to your husbands” (Eph.5:22) should prove the point. The same goes for his fear that slaves hearing the gospel get the wrong idea and threaten the Roman stock market by seeking freedom from their bondage. “Slaves obey your masters” (Eph. 6:5-6) was meant to put an end to possible rebellion among Christian slaves. On my better days (which are few), I sympathize with the position Paul found himself in as a pragmatic theologian. But you don’t get to have it both ways, Paul and others. You can’t preach freedom and equality and domination and hierarchy simultaneously.

Here’s what Paul meant to say about relationships: we need a language for talking about the give and take, power and vulnerability, independence and dependence that come up again and again when two people fall in love and plunge heart long into the task of trying to live together in marriage.

Marriage is hard even when both parties believe in mutuality and equality in marriage. Sharing. Negotiating. Swallowing your pride. Censuring yourself. Finding a rhythm between the two of you. Trusting the other. Forgiving. Letting go of the hurts. Overlooking. Growing older and changing. Finding a new rhythm. Renegotiating. Starting over. It’s messy, bruising work that wreaks havoc on your self-esteem and ego. But you can survive the bruisi-ness of marriage when you know that you’re not the only one in the relationship “dying to ego.” Marriage is about mutual sacrifice, mutually giving and forgiving, and mutually surrendering one’s wants and needs for the sake of the other– not because of some preconceived notion about roles and gender, but because you love each other, and because forever is a long time to be sad, miserable, and subjugated.

Stay tuned for lesson Two on Wednesday.

39 Responses to “Wives, Obey Your Husbands”

  1. Kesha Boyce Williams Says:

    Dr. Weems: My first mind says to say “AMEN” “AMEN” and keep on rolling. But a few comments while lil Zion sleeps…:-).

    Like you, I continue to watch the fallout out of this story. As a journalist, I see a lot of less than thoughtful reporting. But that’s what some reporters often do get the quick sound byte and move on. (that’s another topic). One person’s opinion becomes the boilerplate quick phrase explanation for a person’s accomplishments to those who have never heard of them.

    Thank you for preaching the truth about what it really means to preach empowerment to women. That’s a fruitful question to ponder, What does it really mean to be an empowered woman? Why do some conversation’s about women’s empowerment suddenly shift to primarily questions regarding singleness and resigning to “wait for intimacy.” Like you said, that’s another story.

    I also continue to be saddened by the lack of stories of couples in ministry actually staying together and being fruitful together without competition (and there are some and they are not on TBN). Why does the story have to be that the ministry grows, but the marriage fails? Why is it that a woman is looked at as a failure when that happens but a man isn’t? A man can sacrifice his marriage for ministry but not be looked at as less than, but a woman ..she’s looked as as “that preaching woman that used to be married…” no matter how well she preaches, no matter how great her anointing…

    I really hope that the resurrection of this woman’s ministry in the long run does not produce a legion of sistergirl/Go on Girl women (a la In Livin Color) who use this example as an indictment against all men and the possibilities of fruitful partnerships between men and women.
    While it may fill up convention halls and sell books, I am not sure that it moves us any further than where we are right now.
    My thoughts..until next time. KBW

  2. Content Black Woman Says:

    Sister Rev. Dr. Weems :)

    Thank you for expounding further as a follow-up to our conversation today on the radio. You’ve given me so much food for throught. As always your teaching and thought process is undeniable.

    Thank you for the lesson.

    I look forward to reading your post tomorrow.

    CBW

  3. Fal Says:

    And what if women decide to use this as an indictment against all men, will the charge be unwarranted.

    I think the indictment would be completely justified on many grounds because even if all men are not beating their wives, “benevolent patriarchy” is just as insidious and toxic as overt physical violence.

    The same man that opens the door for you can also be the same man a year from that day responsible for your broken arm.

    The same man that is the head of house and provides for his family can be the same man that cannot bear to live without you and pours gasoline on you at T-mobile store and sets you on fire.

    The same man that whispers sweet nothings in your ear can be the same guy who believes he owed your body after buying an extravagant meal.

    I give these examples to show two things. Number one: sexism is within the grasp of all men because we live in world where the laws, institutions, family structures, churches, media (i.e. Mike Vick) are organized to benefit men and in this case black men.

    Number two there are rewards for women who submit to men. Women enjoy the benefits of male dominance (i.e. Financial Provider, Door Opener, Protector, etc.), but are completely naïve about the cost of such actions and behaviors.

    In general, I think Dr. Weems post was about theologies that subjugate or completely annihilate the instinctually wild natures of women (i.e. Ability to Speak, Ability to pursue their dreams/visions, Ability to say HELL NO, etc.).

    So, if today, black women decide to host a trial indicting Black men on their misogyny (i.e. hate for woman kind), I would be the first to say guilty as charged.

  4. Anonymous Says:

    I am so grateful that someone finally spoke up about the “women’s empowerment” myth regarding Juanita Bynum. I’ve been saying to my friends all weekend that what Bynum preached most of the time was not empowerment.

    Here’s my question for you, Rev. Dr.: How do we teach and preach from the Bible in a way that demonstrates that we think that the Bible is important and that we take it seriously without embracing everything in it wholesale? And how do we help that people we serve to feel comfortable in doing the same?

  5. ispeaklife Says:

    When word came down from the media here in Atlanta about the violent craime against Juanita Bynum, I was outraged. As a male who is a practicing femininist, wanted to call for all men to raise their voices for justice when it comes to “women empowerment”. So, I went to the barber shop and heard more conversation around Michael Vick than this woman and other women, so I peered my head into the conversation and mentioned Ms. Bynum.

    Not one man came to her defence, my barber included(it was last my visit), the comments were all over the place”she talks too much”, she needs to get into her place”, that will keep her from getting in his face”, I was all alone in my confronting of this sexism at the highest level.

    So, to read your thoughts about women empowerment and the church, is heart felt.

  6. Anonymous Says:

    The church and its practices have always been patriarchal. The full context of what is said in the bible is never really told in the church. The giving, sharing that BOTH should do for each other is skirted across and only the woman is responsible for the relationship moving on thereby giving the man little to no responsiblity. Be they players, macks, abusers or pimps, this attitude in our society of men being over women with no regard to what and who God placed them here to be is sad and abusive.

    I do believe in some traditional roles but I have always had an issue with Ms. Bynum’s message. The responsibility for being chaste and good falls only on women in her messages and I have issues with that. According to the Bible everyone is suppose to do what is right. I guess her message about women abstaining is suppose to empower women to have power over their own sexuality or something. That really begs the question of why wouldn’t we have power over our own sexuality in the first place. I know that swallowing what is best for you because of antiquated ideas preached at a church that does not address the fullness of what being a Godly woman and wife is certainly NOT empowerment for women. This refusal to look honestly at what the Bible says about women keeps men in a position of power in the church and in society at large.

    Nikita

  7. jbd Says:

    If there is a trial where Black men are being indicted on innumerable counts of misogyny, puh-lease put me down as the prosecution’s star witness…that is, me and so many other Black women who can provide volumes and volumes worth of affidavits recounting our abuses at the hands of Black men. There must be—as fal points out above—in fact, it is necessary for Black women to realize and name our indictments against Black men, particularly those who profess to “love” us.

    Thankfully, through counseling, coursework and relationships with friends and mentors, I have found arenas to articulate the personal/political reasons for my distrust, disgust, and albeit, sometimes hate for Black men. And though many times I hesitate to admit it, my desire to be in authentic relationship with Black men has virtually gone unabated. There are many Black women who choose not have relationships—platonic or otherwise—with men. Though I’ve been on the verge, I can’t say that I’m one of those women…at least not entirely…for now…

    Like me, many of my twenty-something girlfriends acknowledge that our scathing critiques against patriarchy do not diminish our desire to be in authentic relationship with Black men and women. Yet, in honoring our mothers and grandmothers in our rightful pledge to find voice and run like hell (with the wolves) away from prior abuse and misuse, we find ourselves questioning the value of marriage and partnerships and scared stiff of intimacy with men and women.

    While I champion models that deconstruct theologies of submission, I am (we are) in need of models, theologies, biblical interpretations—ones that reach far beyond the ivory tower, ones that are written in books and preached in pulpits—that also construct ways of being in relationships that are alternative to the norm. Dr. Weems’ post provides us with a good start…

  8. Susan K Says:

    You are right on! While I hate to hear it when any woman is abused, and, having gone through divorce(while being a pastor), wouldn’t wish that experience on a rabid dog, I am truly saddened that too many women in the church - and in the clergy - are still held captive by an erroneous theology which makes them feel like they’re SUPPOSED to endure suffering in their marriages because that’s what God wants! No way! Very few women preach what Christ-directed and Christ-centered empowerment is. Paul’s theology has been used as a tool to justify oppression of women and of black people, and that is sad! I pray for both Sis. Juanita and Sis. Paula, but I also pray that their experiences help more of us in the clergy wake up, stop being afraid, and really preach and teach empowerment - which first and foremost means loving OURSELVES as Jesus loves us. Jesus would NOT condone being abused!

  9. Fran Harris Says:

    I was saddened and angered by the news of Bynum’s assault. Saddened because we just don’t seem to get it. How many women have to be emotionally, mentally and physically assaulted before we stand up and let our voices be heard. How long? How long do our daughters have to be objectified at school, in the videos and yes, at church before women with “good sense”, as mama used to say, stand up and say, “No more.” How long? How long will we continue to be guided by what the Bible says without acknowledging that the Bible is a book, written by men, complete with their biases and prejudices, therefore, it is not infallible. Nor is it complete as written! Do we really believe that women had such a small role in the leadership of the church. C’mon, we cannot be that enslaved still.

    How long are we as women going to continue to be marginalized and oppressed by our own men and alleged spiritual leaders before we say, “No more.” How long? God has not called any of us to be abused — under any circumstances. God has not ordained any oppression at the hands of any man or woman. Yet we continue to teach our daughters that to be valued in this society you must be somebody’s “something” - mama, girlfriend, wife. Until we begin to teach our daughters and therefore, ourselves, that we are plenty just as we are, we can only expect to see more of the same. And until we stop excusing the oppressor and the abuser, nothing will ever change. It starts with all of us. And it starts in this moment. Write a letter, get involved, help a woman see her way, ask for help but for our sake, DO SOMETHING! Dr. Weems, thank you for your sterling example and for this forum.

    Dr. Fran Harris

  10. princessdominique Says:

    Thank you for this Dr Weems. I wanted to say that I will be sitting at the computer waiting for the next lesson. It was also a pleasure to share the roundtable with you and discuss this issue. You truly motivate a lot of women. Now I’m off to add at least one of your books to my Amazon shopping cart.

  11. Anonymous Says:

    This is a painful but necessary conversation. It is most common to hear about submission as something for wives to do…’it’s supposed to be good for you’..like the cereal offered to Mikey in the commercials. Rarely do we hear the commandment to the human beings to have shared dominion as recorded in Genesis. It hurts my heart and makes me angry the way that so many ministers, male and female, will even gratuitously offer that God is using women in leadership because ‘men are out of place.’ I hear so many women scream, holler and say amen to this oppressive doctrine.It is sometimes more subtle than this, as found in the comments of many a male pastor about the physical beauty of his wife.Why are women so happy to be relegated to the sexual realm as though her job was to be beautiful and satisfy her husband? Of course there’s nothing wrong with satisfying your mate but that’s not all there is to a woman is it? Please. The women on the other hand refer to the annointing or knowledge of God that their husbands have. There is a fear in my opinion of embracing the mutuality in the marriage relationship. It’s killing us.It’s limiting the very idea of empowering women. So many grown Christian women responded to the Bynum situation with “she shouldn’t have followed him out.” Wow.

    lauretta

  12. Jason Evans Says:

    Dr. Weems, I nearly agree with you on everything you said, but I must take an alternative approach to your treatment of the apostle Paul. As I understand Pauline theology, I believe Paul wrestles with the “here-not yet” tension in which the Church lives :the eschatological reality/promise of equality(Jew/Greek,bond/free, male/female) and present age with sin in the world and social structures that promote exclusion and subordination of women, slaves, the Gentiles from the Jews. Paul’s word of the word ‘head’ for man should not be translated as authority. Kephale in Greek does not refer to authority in its metaphoric and metonymic connotations though it has been traditionally translated to be so. In “Women’s Authority Roles in Paul’s Churches: Countercultural or Conventional?” (Novum Testamentum, Vol. 36, Fasc. 4. Oct 1994) Cotter argues that in his letters Paul calls upon the leadership skills of women and admonishes them in the backdrop of the ancient Romanized societies that did subordinate them by law(371). Pentecostal scholar Janet Powers makes a flushes out the rich kephale metaphor in her piece “Recovering a Woman’s Head with Prophetic Authority: A Pentecostal Interpretation of 1 Corinthians 11:3-16″ in the Journal of Pentecostal Theology issue 10.1 (2001).

    There is great scholarly work being done in ‘conservative evangelicals circles’ i.e. Christians for Biblical Equality who do not see Paul’s use of headship in such subordinationistic ways nor the 1 Tim 2:11-15 in a hierarchical interpretation (see free articles section at http://www.cbeinternational.org).

    I guess my point is that not all conservative evangelicals believe in female subordinationism or believe that Paul is complicit with the misogynistic culture of his time. God Bless!

  13. Fal Says:

    Jason,

    irrespective of the true meaning behind Paul’s intentions or if conservative evangelicals believe in female subordination, the fact remains that ministers both male and female use Pauline writings to subjugate women. And furthermore, I don’t think the majority of ministers make a “distinction” between strands of conservative theology when they implicitly believe irrespective of Christian theology that women should subservient.

  14. Jason Evans Says:

    Fal,

    I do agree with you on that point there. I think Christian ministers need to really study the cultural backdrop of the early church and Koine Greek in its richness of tenses and metaphors/metonyms and how ancients write. I see Paul’s instructions concerning women and prophesying, and authority as temporary and strategic in order that the Gospel not be blasphemed. As a self-identified egalitarian (or some would say evangelical feminist), I’m a bit reticent to call Paul a misogynist. Some’s of Paul writings are written androcentrically i.e. 1 Timothy Chapter 3 concerning the work of Bishop/Elders/Deacons, but in Romans he openly admonishes Phoebe as a deacon of the church at Cenchrae. To our modern eyes, this seems contradictory, but if we study the literature of near eastern/jewish culture this is quite normal. Prophets are addressed in the masculine in Numbers 25 but Deborah, Miriam, Huldah, Anna, the women at Pentecost when the Holy Ghost fell, and Philip the evangelist’s four virgin daughters are prophets.

  15. Anonymous Says:

    Dr. Renita:

    Thank you so much for bodaciously articulating the true meaning of female empowerment. I believe that men and women eed to hear from you more often on this topic!

    While I appreciate and respect the unique giftedness of my sister preachers–like Junanita Bynum and Paula White, I am often concerned about the lack of sustenance in their messages and the lack of genuine female empowerment–even though they are characterized as female empowerment leaders.

    Indeed, my thinking and actions on what it means to be empowered as a female minister of the Gospel and a Christian women have been deconstructed and greatly challenged by thinking women of faith like you and through my seminary experience.

    I often say we cannot help ourselves for we have been enculturated in a patriarchal society. Patriarchy has been our blueprint for living. It is only because I have listened intently and resonated with the truth-telling sermonic messages of thinking women of faith like you, Dr. Prathia Hall Wynn, Dr. Brenda Little, Dr. Cynthia Hale that I have been challenged to deconstruct my own patriarchal mindset– I am no longer waiting for my prince charming before doing certain things in life—I buy my own property, nice car, and travel the world while God has given me this opportunity.

    Albeit, I spent years working in a congregation as an Assistant Pastor allowing the Holy Spirit to use me to empower others, serving faithfully, always making myself available–while being verbally abused, underminded, and disrespected by male pastors for my God-given giftedness; and standing by and watching men be promoted who were in the novitiate stage of ministry, but given more responsibility than me simply because they had “three legs.” I stood by and watched lay women be given more responsibilities and respect than me—lay women that I taught and spent hours teaching and showing the way.

    I pray that we (men and women) would surrender to God and learn how to love one another with a spirit of mutual submission, mutual respect, mutual support and admiration.

    Preach on sister Renita!

    FW

  16. Georgia's Angels Says:

    Dr. Weems you’ve gone and done it now! you have people thinking and speaking from their hearts. I know this, when God gave Eve to Adam it was to make him happy.and when he came upon the woman that was being stoned he asked who was it with out sin?
    That tells me he did not believe women should be us abused. I have read all of your books, and I always come away with one thought, That women need to be kinder, more supportive and understanding of each other.(Just A Sister Away)That we must learn to respect our own desires and needs and be willing to go after what we want.(what Matters Most) I don’t believe we should debate or fight with anyone that does not respect us or our right to be who we are, when we encounter these people we should shake the dust from our feet and move on. Once we stop talking about our power and use it we’ll see some changes.

  17. Fal Says:

    Jason,

    First and foremost, my comment was not intended to characterize Paul as a misogynist. My comment was simply saying that ministers irrespective of the true meaning behind Paul’s intentions or conservative evangelical’s belief(s) in female subordination use Pauline’s writings to subjugate women.

    Furthermore, even if Paul used masculine terms in reference to women’s ministerial/prophetic authority, the fact remains that “most evangelical fundamentalist” ministers who have large followings (i.e. congregations; national and international followings, TBN, etc.) hold to dogmatic interpretations of biblical text surrounding female submission.

    As I stated previously, I don’t think the majority of ministers make a “distinction” between strands of conservative theology when they implicitly believe irrespective of Christian theology that women should subservient.

  18. Jason Evans Says:

    I’m sorry Fal, I didn’t mean to imply that you were, I guess I was taken back at Dr. Weems’ “charitable towards the prophet Paul” statement.

    Dr. Weems: Is there something in Paul’s writings that which you disagree? Have you written about Paul on a scholarly level? I would like to read your published research/work. I ask in order to understand.

  19. rjweems Says:

    Jason,

    Thanks for your comments. I appreciate your effort to join the sisters in this discussion.

    I’m not quite sure what you mean by “Is there something in Paul’s writings that which you disagree?” I think I’ve stated quite clearly in this blog piece my ambivalence with “Paul.”

    I was trying to avoid a heavy scholarly discussion of Paul/Pauline theology (i.e., Ephesians as a deutero-Pauline book).

    Finally, whether “Paul’s” admonishment to women (and slaves) to stay in their places was accommodationist (as I claim) or driven by his overenthusiastic expection of the parousia’s imminence (as you claim), he was…wrong. And humankind has been made to pay.

    Feel free, Jason, to do a search of my books and articles here on the internet. My field of specialization is the first testament, the Old Testament, but there’s no avoiding the New Testament even when writing about the Old.

    Again, thanks.

  20. rjweems Says:

    To the person who asked “How do we teach and preach from the Bible in a way that demonstrates that we think that the Bible is important and that we take it seriously without embracing everything in it wholesale?”:

    I hope I’ve modeled one way that can be done in my books, especially in Just A Sister Away which gets used a lot in women’s bible study groups.

  21. kari c Says:

    WOW, seems like we have an interesting conversation going here. Well I guess I will add my two cents. I am not a bible scholar, nor am I an expert in the humanities. What I am is a woman who has seen both men and women scripture used to oppress women .

    I have seen women need years to be able to be called and ‘Evangelist’ when a man can be called one day and preaching a sermon the next.

    I seen women called Jezebels for things as insignificant as wearing pants or lip gloss or having the audacity to think they are called to something beyond cooking and cleaning. And by “called” I mean a calling to be anything (i.e. a career or a ministry or both)

    Was Paul a misogynist? By the standards of his time, maybe not. By today’s standards, YES! Times change, opinions and belief’s change. Paul’s writing hasn’t reflected those cultural changes. The scriptures regarding conduct have no reflection on salvation, they are set according to the cultural norms of that day. But Paul’s day no longer reflects our day. People, men and women use his words to dictate the course of the lives of many women. It does not come as a surprise to me that Paul is not the beloved bible figure to the women on this blog, thinking women who would have been shut up, shut down maybe even stoned for having an opinion if we were a part of Paul’s church. It is not a surprise that the Queen of Sheba is admired in this circle as a thinking woman, not a harlot.

    So maybe I am a harlot, but I’ll take a thinking harlot over a stupid harlot any day of the week.

  22. Fal Says:

    Ashe Kari C!!!

  23. Anonymous Says:

    I have a great deal of respect for you as a Minister of the Gospel and have been blessed by your ministry. I do have to beg to differ with your comment that “submission does not work.” If it doesn’t work, why does God have it in the Bible. It does work, it’s just that we, His people, have not been working it. As you stated toward the end, the sum total is that we, husbands and wives, are to submit to one another.

    I believe that most women have issue submitting to their husbands for a variety of reasons. One being that Sub meaning under and mission meaning the vision, makes it difficult because often men do not have or fail to clearly articulate the vision that they believe that God has for their family to fall under and work together toward. Is this something that the husband only provides? No, but he takes a greater leadership because he is ultimately responsible.

    Remember, in the garden, when God came to reckon with the sin committed, he called Adam to the carpet, not Adam and Eve. Men have a greater responsibility and are therefore positionally the head. Anything with two heads is a monster. Your body doesn’t have two heads. As I’ve often heard, they may be the head, but we’re the neck. We as wives have the great power of influence if we use it to our advantage. I think there is a great deal of power in that. I do understand the sexism that is in the world and especially in the church and definitely am against it. That does not, however, invalidate the Scriptures. We can not pick and choose what we want to follow based upon our preferences or opinions. Respectfully,

  24. Fal Says:

    To above the comment,

    Your comments are unsettling and your reasoning perplexing, however, many Christian evangelical fundamentalist women like yourself express sentiments like yours.

    I often find statements like “he’s the head and I’m the neck” or “I am his backbone” or “I am the wind beneath his wings” as ways to extinguish women’s Baba Yaga which is a psyche force within are female sub (i.e. under) consciousnesses that allows women to make wise decisions and not to be so damn naive to think that being some man’s head, backbone, or wind are acceptable purposes in life.

    Moreover, your comment is so telling of how unmothered and bereft women are as a collective in understanding the power we possess. If only we could see ourselves as La Loba or as La Que Sabe then we would know that just being some man’s footstool is not living or liberation or God/Gods’ will for women.

    For more understanding of the terms Baba Yaga, La Loba, La Que Sabe sees Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes’ Women Who Run with Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype.

    Her book is one of my many Bibles. It helped me to liberate my mind from growing up as a Christian fundamentalist to become a thinking woman of faith.

  25. Georgia's Angels Says:

    Fal;
    I took your advice and read women Who run With Wolves. I”ve given it to my (3) daughters and my oldest grandaughter. I adore your courage and love of the word. The women of my generation would have never been given this book. We grew up believeing that our sexual and other pleasures should be dictated by our husbands. Now at the later years of our lives we are finally able to talk about that which is not all that important anymore. It’s a shame because all of these crazy notions came from our religous upbringing and we realize now how unhappy these women that preached these stupid ideas were probably more unhappy than we could ever know.

  26. Fal Says:

    To Georgia’s Angels,

    I am so happy that you enjoyed Women who run with Wolves. It’s one of my favorite life-giving books.

    The book makes a great gift too!!!
    Your daughters are so blessed to have a fierce La Loba mother like you.

    To you Georgia’s Angels, as a blessing, I give you two of my favorite quotes from two of my favorite books, Anita Diamante’s The Red Tent and Janet Finch’s White Oleander:

    Anita Diamante’s The Red Tent,

    “But the other reason women wanted daughters was to keep their memories alive. Sons did not hear their mothers’ stories after weaning. So I was the one. No matter what their hands were doing–holding babies, cooking, spinning, weaving– they filled my ears . . . I will poor out everything inside me so you may leave the table satisfied and fortified. Blessings on you eyes. Blessings on your children. Blessings on the ground beneath you. My heart is a ladle of sweet water, brimming over.”

    Janet Finch’s White Oleander

    “They wanted the real mothers, the blood mother, the great womb, mother of a fierce compassion, a woman large enough to hold all the pains, to carry it away. What we needed was someone who bled, someone deep and rich as a field, a wide-hipped mother, awesome, immense, women like huge soft couches, mothers coursing with blood, mothers big enough, wide enough, foe us to hide in, to sink down to the bottom of, mothers who would breathe for us when we could not breathe anymore, who would fight for us, who would kill for us, die for us.�?

  27. Anonymous Says:

    I wanted to share this with everyone, it is an excerpt from June Jordan’s Moving Towards Home. I cherish her words and her resolve to resist the notion that a virtuous woman is one who suffers graciously and silently. She changed my life. Thank you June and thank you Dr. Weems for this wonderful and much needed post! — alucas

    “I wanted to be strong, I never wanted to be weak again as long as I lived. I thought about my mother and her suicide and I thought about how my father could not tell whether she was dead or alive.

    I wanted to get well and what I wanted to do as soon as I was strong again, actually, what I wanted to do was I wanted to live my life so that people would know unmistakably that I am alive, so that when I finally die people will know the difference for sure between my living and my death.

    And I thought about the idea of my mother as a good woman and I rejected that, because I don’t see why it’s a good thing when you give up, or when you cooperate with those who hate you or when you polish and iron and mend and endlessly mollify for the sake of the people who love the way that you kill yourself day by day silently.

    And I think all of this is really about women and work. Certainly this is all about me as a woman and my life work. I mean I am not sure my mother’s suicide was something extraordinary. Perhaps most women must deal with a similar inheritance, the legacy of a woman whose death you cannot possibly pinpoint because she died so many, many times and because, even before she became your mother, the life of that woman was taken; I say it was taken away.

    And really it was to honor my mother that I did fight with my father, that man who could not tell the living from the dead.

    … I am working for the courage to admit the truth that Bertolt Brecht has written; he says, ‘It takes courage to say that the good were defeated not because they were good, but because they were weak.’

    … I cherish the mercy and the grace of women’s work. But I know there is new work that we must undertake as well: That new work will make defeat detestable to us. That new women’s work will mean we will not die trying to stand up: we will live that way: standing up.

    I came too late to help my mother to her feet.

    By way of everlasting thanks to all of the women who have helped me to stay alive I am working never to be late again.” — June Jordan, Moving Towards Home Political Essays, “Many Rivers To Cross”

  28. Anonymous Says:

    Fal,
    why do you rebuke everyone who has a different take on Dr Weem’s comments? I’m not sure this is good for dialogue is it?

  29. Fal Says:

    To the above comment,

    Being that you’re anonymous makes it very difficult to ascertain which comments are yours. However, in an open forum such as a blog, you are given great latitude in commenting, refuting, agreeing, disagreeing, challenging, or supporting the views of the given blog.

    The definition of dialogue does not preclude constructive, critical, and cursive responses such as the ones I have given on this post about female submission.

  30. Anonymous Says:

    For over twenty years I placed my ministry as secondary to my minister husband’s. In fact I left seminary convincing myself that my calling was to empower my husband’s ministry. And I did that until I was struck by cancer in 1983 and had to reassess what God was saying out of that experience. God was telling me that it was my time to fully minister. I was heart-broken and appalled at the lack of reciprocity displayed by my husband. He never came close to being willing to do for me what I had done for him. Thirty years of marriage disintegrated. I found my minister husband to be full of anger and resentment toward any success that I had achieved or aspired. It was the hardest thing I ever did to walk away, but the mean-spiritedness grew into a burning house. I got out just in time and under the direction of the Holy Spirit. Often when clergy wives have put up with so much, their husbands do not believe that their wives will leave. They reach such a level of entitlement that it catches them off guard. I thank God for the therapist who helped me to understand that I did not have to accept things as they were. The most tragic part of minimizing your gifts and abilities is that the man you married can never rejoice in what is happening to you. Rather, your high times become low times for him and for the couple. This is especially true when his ministry may not be faring as well as he would like. But glory to God, after eight years, God has restored to me all that I thought I had lost when I divorced PLUS. (I am one of the fortunate ones.) Living with the shame and disappointment is hard. People think that two ministers should be able to work everything out. But this can’t happen when one or both are not willing to change. Women need to come out of oppressive situations. God asked me, “Is not my love sufficient? Didn’t I love you and bless you long before this man came into your life? And stop waiting for someone to do for you what I have enabled you to do for yourself. ” I just hope that Dr. Bynum will speak out against domestic violence as forcefully as she has done about those sheets. My prayers are with her and every other woman minister who is still a pioneer in breaking gender traditions and roles. We sometimes think that
    we have made great strides. In truth, we are still in the struggle and the backlash can be overwhelming. Although we are counterculture, society is not, the church is not and even our daughters find it hard to understand the wilderness road that God has led us in To every divorced woman of God I say. “I’m proud of your courage”. I say that because I have seen so many male clergy stay- and not always faithfully - in lifeless and dead marriages.

  31. Anonymous Says:

    Dr. Weems,

    I am a little taken back at the thought that you can justify what Biblical authors are okay to believe and which ones are in error. If we get rid of all the Pauline books in the New Testament we would lose 13 books some say 14 depending on whom you believe wrote Hebrews. Jesus nor Paul were on earth to change the political or social systems establish; Their goal was to change the hearts of people who would accept salvation and then live according to Godly principle while remaining here on earth. Let me first focus in on the submission issue. #1 Jesus is our example right? So let’s look at Philippians’ chapter2 where we find that Jesus in the flesh was equal to God but humbled (submitted) Himself even unto the death of the cross. This doesn’t sound like submission doesn’t work to me. He was not concerned with equality but with his role here on earth (the ultimate sacrifice). God created both man and woman. They are equal in his sight but they have distinctive roles here on earth. If you disagree please go back and read Genesis. Next Paul in Ephesians was comparing marriage here on earth to what it will be like in heaven. Will Jesus the Husband have to submit to His bride the Church? The #1 problem facing the church today is not submission it is humanism (we want to live our lives the way we see is best for us) which means that we are not living our lives according to the scriptures Galatians 2:20. Please go and read that scripture before you argue that fact. Now for some practical application: Heb 13:17 requires me to submit to my Pastor (according to Ephesians 4:11 this is apart of the 5 fold Ministry, Male or Female) If you were my Pastor and I believe that submission doesn’t work how could you help me? Can any Church or Business work without an established hierarchy? If they cannot why would God set up a marriage structure without one? If everybody is the leader we go no where. There can only be one driver, pilot or conductor. A Christian example of this is when Jesus tells us that we cannot serve God and mammon (this worlds systems and way of thinking). To me it is amazing how many people can get up and go to a job and be told what to do and then say submission doesn’t work….lol

    Faithful Minister of the Gospel 2 Timothy 2:15

    Ps please respond to me with scripture facts because opinions and experiences mean nothing if not lined up with God’s Word. (Holiness or Humanist you decide then pary)

  32. rjweems Says:

    Whatever.

    I don’t defend myself to anonymous folks. It’s my blog. I don’t have to.

    As long as comments maintain a certain tone I let folks (even anonyous folks) post comments that differ with my own.

    When I don’t like the tone a commentator is taking or tire of anonymous folks trying to bait me into pseudo-biblical debates that lead nowhere, I’ll stop with the open comments onto my blog and move to monitoring comments and deciding which ones end up in the trash and which ones get up on the site.

  33. Anonymous Says:

    Dr. Weems,

    I wasn’t asking that you defend yourself, I was asking how does your opinion line up with The Bible. That is all I apologize if my tone was wrong. I honestly didn’t want to offend just to get clarification based on Biblical teaching. God Bless

    Faithful Minister of the Gospel 2 Timothy 2:15

  34. Anonymous Says:

    I don’t believe in rewriting the Bible to say something other than it said. God intends wives to submit to, and obey, our husbands. Fact. If you don’t like that, don’t marry!

  35. T H Says:

    WOW–a long string. It’s interesting how people want to focus on the wives sumbitting but seem to forget about the husbands loving…I propose that it would be easy to respect someone who truly loves you. The problem seems to be that “weak men love weakly”

    I do appreciate the advice on working at marriage.

    Thank you

  36. lj Says:

    re: sub means under and mission means vision. who cares what mission means when sub means under? submission, subway, subliminal, submarine, substandard, substitute – who wants to live a sub life? submission does not work b/c it’s a lazy way of life. making someone else responsible for your life is lazy. tempting at times, but lazy nonetheless. furthermore, we don’t even use that language with children. parents don’t ask their children to “submit” to the teacher or the adult next door. neither are employees asked to submit to their employers. instead, we are asked to be respectful. trust me, while it may seem like splitting hairs, language is everything. and respect works in ways that submission never will.

    my pastor (whom i love dearly) said just this past sunday during his men’s day sermon that “the head of every man is Christ, and the head of every woman is the man.” as a childhood friend of mine used to say, “ain’t no way by aretha franklin.” first of all in this whosoever will faith of ours, Christ is not the head of every man. He ought to be, but fact is – He is not. He is the head of every man or woman who will accept Him. furthermore, how the heck can the head of every woman be the man? what man? my father is dead. i have no brothers. i have no husband. and, i have no son. what man is the head of me?

    and this fictitious man – will he feed, cloth and shelter me or will he just have headship in my life while i feed, cloth and shelter myself? funny how none of these submission advocating preacher men want women to submit to their husbands when the husband takes issue with time and money given to the church. then all of a sudden God and the things of God (namely, the man of God) must come first. to borrow from yet another aretha song, R-E-S-P-E-C-T is effective in the schoolhouse, the workplace, the church and the home. find out what it means …

  37. Rev. LT Says:

    I sooooo appreciate what you wrote. I may be a day late and dollar short on this ongoing blog but the issue is still relevant. I do believe we need to WAKE-UP!!! That however, would require that we study and be open to “direct” guidance and not be spoon-fed. It would mean that we would have to ask and answer those hard-questions that apply to our own lives, traditions and inherited beliefs. It would mean that for a moment it may be uncomfortable. . .however, like all relationships this is where the relationship with God becomes enriched. People want change of the world without having to change themselves. Therefore, the ability to see “through” a media blitz of so-called victims requires discernment beyond the surface.

  38. Pacific woman of faith Says:

    Rev Weems, God bless you! I am a woman of faith in a region where both men and women of faith condone the use of violence in our homes with devastating results for children and women. I have been inspired and moved to tears by this message. You see, as the abused wife of a solid ‘man of God’, I have held on to one ray of light throughout the rain of abuse which my children witness. And it is that I am a daughter of a heavenly father who has a purpose for me beyond abuse, pain and shame. I know that I know that I know. This mantra, given the silence of women in churches and our men as leaders in speaking out, has kept me going. Now I find this, and I am singing inside. Thank you. I am seeking permission to share this and your blog widely.

  39. J. Marie Says:

    Wow, this blog generated some heavy discussions that I have not heard on hear before!

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