There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is
no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.
--Galatians 3:28 NRSV
Maybe you saw the article today in the KC Star about the pastor of a
southeastern Missouri church who gave a sermon saying wives have a
responsibility to look good, so their husbands don't cheat on them. Among
his "biblical" instructions to women was for them to lose weight, not wear
pajamas and flip flops to Wal-Mart, and essentially give their husbands sex
whenever they want it. He also mentioned a male friend who has a "divorce
weight" for his wife and stated that not every woman can be a "trophy wife"
like Melania Trump but maybe they can be a "participation trophy." All I can
say is "Wow! Does anybody wonder why people are leaving churches in droves
Far be it from me to pile on this poor pastor who has made national news and
received all kinds of negative feedback, including from his own church
members, but I think this can be a teaching moment. According to his church,
this pastor has taken a leave of absence and is receiving counseling. His
own denomination, General Baptist Ministries, has issued a statement
rejecting his remarks. (Generally speaking, General Baptists are not what
you would call virulent feminists, so for them to feel the need to publicly
disown someone's remarks on women, they've got to really be saying some
outrageous stuff.) Let's hope this pastor reconsiders his views of women and
Christians like him begin to realize we are no longer living in the Middle
I feel like this example of religious sexism can be a teaching moment as
well for churches who have egalitarian views of gender. In an age of social
media and posts going viral, outrageous statements like the ones of this
pastor spread like wildfire. Unfortunately, when teachings like these go
viral, the image of Christianity as intolerant, abusive, sexist, homophobic,
racist, etc. etc. etc. becomes cemented as the dominant understanding of
what Christianity means. Alternative and more inclusive versions of
Christianity have to work extra hard to overcome this form of bad public
The beginning of overcoming this kind of bad press has to be local groups of
Christians approaching scripture from a different way altogether. The Bible
is a diverse enough collection of writings that you can pretty much find
justification for whatever preexisting beliefs one has. If you are looking
to justify a sexist position you can find scripture to do so, and if you are
looking to justify a position that understands women as people equal to men,
you can also find verses to do so. The late writer and ex-Christian
fundamentalist Rachel Held Evans framed this reality nicely in her wonderful
book Inspired: Slaying Giants, Walking on Water, and Loving the Bible Again.
If you want to do violence in this world, you will always find the weapons.
If you want to heal, you will always find the balm. With Scripture, we've
been entrusted with some of the most powerful stories ever told. How we
harness that power, whether for good or evil, oppression or liberation,
In the case of this pastor from southeastern Missouri, he was preaching on
the first half of the Bible verse 1 Corinthians 7:4, which reads: "For the
wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does."
Unfortunately, he gave little attention to the second half of the verse,
which reads: "likewise the husband does not have authority over his own
body, but the wife does." His position is a particularly acute case of
selective reading of scripture.
This verse occurs in a particularly confusing passage where the Apostle Paul
addresses the subject of marriage with the assumption the Second Coming
would occur any day. What has gotten lost for almost the last two thousand
years is that Paul's declaration of mutuality between husbands and wives was
a radical idea in his day. Sadly, for most of Christian history, the second
half of this verse declaring husband's bodies are under the authority of
their wives has been utterly ignored. Christian men throughout history have
been perfectly fine with viewing women as their property while ignoring the
radical idea that men and women should be in a relationship of equals.
A different way to approach scripture is to notice what parts of it mirror
the cultural value of its day and what parts offered a radical alternative.
What fostered the spread of early Christianity, according to many Bible
scholars, is that Christianity offered a radical form of egalitarianism
unavailable most everywhere else. In Galatians 3:28, where Paul apparently
quotes a phrase used in early Christian baptisms: "There is no longer Jew or
Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female;
for all of you are one in Christ Jesus", he presents a dramatic form of
inclusive Christianity that even the most progressive forms of present day
Christianity struggle to live out.
For Christians struggling to not be sexist, there are other choices besides
the false one to either accept a sexist form of Christianity or reject
Christianity altogether. We can turn to our own sacred scriptures with a
spirit of finding the verses which speak to the equality and inclusion we
feel is true and Christ-like and do so as dedicated Christians. When we do
so, we discover feminism is not a secular movement in opposition to our
religion, but rather an intention of God all along that sadly most
Christians have failed to see.
A more difficult task than reading scripture with a heart focused on
inclusion, grace and love is promoting this vision of Christianity in public
awareness. I know many Christians who believe men and women are equal (along
with LGBTQ people, people of all races and classes, etc.), but still most
people who have rejected organized religion see Christianity as only a means
of oppression. This is the church's burden in 21st century America.
How do we change this perception of Christianity? I wish I had an easy
answer. Stories like this preacher in southeast Missouri spread go viral,
but stories of churches where women have equal authority as men don't seem
to spread at all. I wonder what a church might look like if it was full of
people willing to approach their scripture and tradition with a God-given
passion for equality, justice and grace for all people with no exceptions?
Apparently, the early church spread, because just this type of thing
occurred. Could it happen again?
Grace and Peace,
Rev. Chase Peeples
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We're Park Hill Christian Church in KC MO. We seek to follow Jesus by praising God, loving those we meet and serving the vulnerable.