(4) Notes and Quotes from “The Making of Biblical Womanhood,” by Beth Allison Barr: Chapters 7-8

Listen to “S2E6: Down With the (Christian) Patriarchy!” — it’s an episode all about this book from your favorite podcast Red Weather Christians.

Need to get caught up? Here are the first three posts for chapters 1-6:

Chapters 1-2

Chapters 3-4

Chapters 5-6

Chapter 7: Making Biblical Womanhood Gospel Truth

“Forgetting Our Past”

In 1934, no one at this Southern Baptist church had a problem with Mrs. Lewis Ball preaching.

Oh, how quickly we forget. This just shows how inconsistent we’ve been in our “rules” about women preaching. And not only was Mrs. Ball preaching, she was the revival preacher for the one-week revival event at First Baptist Church Elm Mott near Waco, Texas. Barr goes on to reference a 2017 essay by religious scholar Timothy Larsen “showcasing the long history of female leadership in the evangelical tradition, including the Baptist tradition”:

[Larsen] went so far as to call women’s involvement in public ministry a “historic distinctive of evangelism.”

Well wow. I don’t think people associate women in public ministry with evangelism anymore. What happened? Let’s rewind a bit and walk through Larsen’s essay:

[Women in public Christian ministry] is historic because evangelical women have been fulfilling their callings in public ministry from the founding generation of evangelicalism to the present day and in every period in between.

It really makes you wonder how we came so far from this. Women used to have no issue preaching, teaching, and pastoring.

John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, moved from prohibiting women as preachers to embracing them.

“It is fascinating,” writes Larsen, “that [Wesley] affirmed the ministries of these women in explicitly egalitarian language as of the exact same order as that of the men who had not received Anglican ordination whose public ministries he was also affirming.”

Despite John Piper’s hardline complementarian stance, even Calvinist evangelicals of the past have affirmed women’s calling by God as public ministers. Larsen explains how the first American Calvinist denomination to emerge from the eighteenth-century evangelical revival was founded by a woman, Selina, Countess of Huntingdon.

So how did we get from this history, rife with women in ministry, to … this:

Many evangelicals believe that supporting women in ministry is a slippery slope leading to liberalism and agnosticism.

To which I reply, liberalism and agnosticism never looked so good. But seriously, how do we ignore history like this and simply rewrite the rules to benefit men? Because people like Wayne Grudem and John Piper — without proper historical context — are the ones speaking out about how if we support women in ministry, we are “succumbing to the peer pressure of modern feminism instead of remaining faithful to the timeless standard of God’s word.” And might I interject here: the word “feminism” means “the advocacy of women’s rights on the basis of the equality of the sexes.” Based on what? EQUALITY OF THE SEXES. It’s not saying that women are better than men, even though maybe we should use the word “better” to compensate for how we’ve been treated for much of history and still today. But back to Larsen:

Larsen inverts [Grudem’s and Piper’s] argument: “When evangelicals have cared more about the Bible and the gospel than they did about being perceived as respectable by the wider society, these commitments have often led them to affirm women in public ministry.”

Barr elucidates further:

When evangelicals have supported women in public ministry, they are most closely aligned with the gospel of Jesus. It is when evangelicals succumb to the peer pressure of contemporary culture that they turn against women in public ministry.

Boom. Read it again. Let it sink in. We are most closely aligned with the gospel of Jesus when we support women in public ministry. OK, so let’s align!

“Redefining Orthodoxy”

…it is impossible to write women’s leadership out of Christian history. We can forget it and we can ignore it, but we can’t get rid of the historical reality. It is also impossible to maintain consistent arguments for women’s subordination because, rather than stemming from God’s commands, these arguments stem from the changing circumstances of history.

Whether it’s keeping women out of leadership, justifying paying women lower wages than men, or keeping women out of the political realm, patriarchy has a way of shifting to meet whatever “needs” men happen to have at the time. In 1938 Dorothy Sayers actually wrote an essay with the title, “Are Women Human?” Why — I wonder — would she feel the need to write this essay? Oh, well perhaps she felt as though women weren’t being treated like humans!

“Championing Biblical Inerrancy”

…inerrancy creates an atmosphere of fear. Any question raised about biblical accuracy must be completely answered or completely rejected to prevent the fragile fabric of faith from unraveling.

The evangelical fight for inerrancy was inextricably linked with gender from the beginning. Kristin Kobes Du Mez explains how, in the SBC specifically, the direct challenge to male headship caused by the rising number of female Baptist preachers put conservative Baptist leaders on the defensive. Inerrancy wasn’t important by itself in the late twentieth century; it became important because it provided a way to push women out of the pulpit. It worked extremely well.

Well, well, well. Isn’t that interesting. Inerrancy being used to push and keep women out of leadership. Annnnnd now you know.

“Reviving Arianism”

Quick aside: if you don’t remember what Arianism is, it’s a heresy denying the divinity of Christ.

So in this section, Barr writes about nonchalantly sitting in a church service when all of a sudden, the preacher starts speaking about how Jesus is subordinate to God. She says she would have dropped her coffee had she been holding one. She says she looked around to see if anyone was reacting to this heresy. Nothing.

This teaching, called “the eternal subordination of the Son,” has infiltrated the evangelical world. Aimee Byrd describes a 2001 Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood document that teaches “the Son, the second person of the Trinity, is subordinate to the Father, not only in economy of salvation but in his essence.”

Spoiler alert: Christians are using this teaching (which, friendly reminder, is “outside the bounds of Christian orthodoxy”) to claim that if the Son is subordinate to the Father, then women, of course, must be subordinate to men. Wow, nothing like using heresy to justify subordination of women. I mean, ya gotta love the creativity there.

On to the final chapter…

Chapter 8: Isn’t It Time to Set Women Free?

And the crowd goes wild. “Yes!” they cry. “Yes, yes, yes!!”

Barr talks about how at the 2019 Southern Baptist Convention, Rachael Denhollander captured her experience:

“I think it is very telling that I have heard hundreds, literally hundreds, of sermons directed on the quiet and submissive sphere that a woman should have,” she said. “I have heard not one on how to value a woman’s voice. I have heard not one on the issue of sexual assault.”

Barr goes on:

Not one time during those years did I hear a preacher speak out against abusive relationships; not one time did a pastor speak about the dangers inherent in patriarchal power hierarchies. What I did hear was what Rachael Denhollander heard — women are called to be wives and mothers, submissive and silent.

And I have to concur with both of these women — neither in my experience have I heard any sermons about the dangers in patriarchal power hierarchies.

The harshest words Jesus utters in the Bible are to strict male religious leaders functioning as self-appointed border guards of orthodoxy. “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like white-washed tombs, which on the outside look beautiful, but inside they are full of the bones of the dead and of all kinds of filth” (Matthew 23:27).

Hmm, male religious leaders functioning as self-appointed border guards of orthodoxy — this feels familiar. It’s almost as though some current male leaders are these exact people. (Piper and Grudem, I’m lookin’ at you.)

And even though people like Piper and Al Mohler and Russell Moore claim that their “Christian patriarchy” is different, Barr directs us to Kristin Du Mez’s point:

… that the conservative church model of authoritarian leadership combined with rigid gender roles fosters a culture of abuse (decade after decade, church after church, leader after leader).

Conservative evangelicals preach “a mutually reinforcing vision of Christian masculinity — of patriarchy and submission, sex and power,” Du Mez writes. “It was a vision that promised protection for women but left women without defense, one that worshiped power and turned a blind eye to justice, and one that transformed the Jesus of the Gospels into an image of their own making.”

But it left women without defense. The recent report on sexual abuse in the Southern Baptist Convention claims in its nearly 300 pages “that top church leaders suppressed and mishandled abuse claims, resisted reforms and belittled victims and their families.”

Well.

And if that wasn’t enough:

Katie Cannon explains, “The institutional framework that required Black men, women and children to be treated as chattel, as possessions rather than as human beings, was understood as being consistent with the spirit, genius and precepts of the Christian faith.” Patriarchy walks hand in hand with racism, and it always has. The same biblical passages used to declare Black people unequal are used to declare women unfit for leadership. Patriarchy and racism are “interlocking structures of oppression.” Isn’t it time we get rid of both?

Oh, oh, call on me! I know the answer!

It’s YES.

What if evangelicals remembered women like Christine de Pizan and Dorothy L. Sayers? What if we remembered that women have always been leaders, teachers, and preachers, even in evangelical history? What if our seminaries used textbooks that included women? What if our Sunday school and Bible study curriculum correctly reflected Junia as an apostle, Priscilla as a coworker, and women like Hildegard of Bingen as preachers? What if we recognized women’s leadership the same way Paul did throughout his letters — even entrusting the Letter to the Romans to the deacon Phoebe? What if we listened to women in our evangelical churches the way Jesus listened to women?

What if we finally stood together, united by our belief in Jesus instead of divided by arguments over power and authority?

What if we realized that, even when the male disciples pushed women away, Jesus always listened to women speak? Complementarianism is patriarchy, and patriarchy is about power. Neither have been about Jesus.

Jesus listened to women speak.

Women, it’s time to speak.

Men, it’s time to listen.

The Grief Episode

This episode was difficult for me to record. Several times throughout, I had to stop, breathe, and collect myself before resuming. The point is, grief may not have an ending point. I’ve learned that that’s OK. I hope through listening to this episode, you’ll realize that, too. Especially in the Christian community, we have a tendency to think that it’s OK to grieve — but only for a time. After that time has lapsed, we better be better. If we’re not, sometimes the message to us is that our faith isn’t strong enough. If we really believed that we have eternal life and that we’ll see our loved ones again, why would we continue to grieve?

And yet we do.

Listen on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, or wherever you listen to podcasts.

Red Weather Christians: “S2E9: The Grief Episode”

passive christianity

hey, dave
you said
you didn't displace
your tenants
(the rents went 
too high)
you won't take credit
for that
you said it
you don't have that
power
it's not you
it's the market
inflation
the ratios
the numbers
the thing is
the markets inflation the ratios the numbers
are tools that you use
for your personal gain
you sit and collect
the raises in rents
but the razes in tenants
doesn't faze you at all
because after all
it's the market
not you

so let's raise a glass
to raising the rents
and complaining about
the taxes and cents
that we have to pay
to government
devils
what massive problems
that we have to fight
our money our pride and
our god-given right

but what massive problems
when our passive income
becomes something bigger
than Jesus' words

past the point of
no return
we turn to our
passive income 
only to see
ourselves staring back
plain as can be
because we

we are passive Christians
we can't make decisions
left at the mercy of 
markets inflation the ratios and numbers.

"Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me."

Listen: Money Talks, Part 1
Listen: Money Talks, Part 2

a piece

God
you are a poem
metaphor to mountains
and star-studded skies

white     space     and
line
breaks 
and

rhyme 
but most of the 
time
an impossible task
to ask
what it is you mean

your mean is the
average of all of
these words
so I dust off the Bible
and add them all up
and divide by the total
each word with a value
and as I decide 
what is one and what's five
I arrive at the
door of the thought
caught
between opening
-- I supposed -- 
or keeping it closed

I open of course
and the door starts to
crumble
I curse as the knob turns to
sand in my hand
and I crumple
the floor finds my face

the door explodes 
into fragments
and colors
it's shining
it's blinding
and gone
and it's gone 
and each piece
is dissolving to dust
as the dust floats to floor
with watery eyes I
look 

I look
but it's impossible to
see
I want you to
be
on the other side of that door
but before
I said you are
poem
and though I'm
mere mortal
I think I can see
that a poem
means leaving the mean
and not meaning to know
but leaning
and learning
and loving
and so

I look up at mountains
and star-studded skies
white     space      and
line 
breaks
and slowly realize
that the space
and the breaks
and the words
and the marks

all combine to show
a small piece of divine
and I pick up my piece
in my hand say a prayer Please
help me find peace
in my place
in this place
you have made
and this piece
may it be something
special to me so
I feel you and see you in

white     space     and
line
breaks
and star-studded skies.

everyone goes

hey
dad
it's been a 
minute
but I wanted to
talk about heaven
with you
and I think you're
there right now sitting on your lawn chair drinking hot coffee

I wanted to
talk about heaven
with you
and tell you that
I'm sorry
for all the times you told me
Everyone goes to heaven
and I 
scoffed
because I knew
I knew
you didn't understand
how
the 
gospel
works
you called me a princess
but it was an attack
and I hated you for it
but now looking back
I now can see
how that's
exactly
what 
I
was

I was a spoiled princess
How Dare you Defy Me Dad
Don't You Know I Know
more
than
you
about
life

you told me everyone goes to
heaven
how could a god allow people to
go
to
hell
how could he do that
and why
and I
scoffed
the royal princess that I was
and why should I listen
to someone who wakes waiting
to drink
every
day

I was so much better than that
but now I think I'd like to
talk about heaven
with you
and say
I'm 39
and not a day
goes by
that I don't think of you
and I don't think of you
in hell
but how you have a lawn-chair seat in heaven

and when we
talk about heaven
I want to tell you
that I wish I would have
been a better daughter
later after you died
I tried
I tried
I tried to understand your 
pain
in life
your pain
I think you numbed
you'd sink into
grayed and fuzzed and cotton-muffled brain

but we're talking about heaven
and I want to say
that even though you couldn't stay
to make your heaven
here
on
earth
you've got it now
and now
I know that
I 
don't 
know
all the things I thought
I knew
and you
and you are sitting on your
lawn chair
drinking coffee
restful and content
so proud of me
(you were always so proud of me)
I wish I could have been proud 
of you

but it came too late you couldn't wait
to leave
you 
could 
not
cancer decided
you
did 
not

so hey 
dad
it's been a
minute
but I wanted to 
talk about heaven 
with you
and tell you
that I am doing what I can
to make my heaven
here
on
earth
and when I drink
hot coffee
I think 
of you
of you
of how proud
I am
of you.

Listen: The Grief Episode

stories

All of this is Yuck
you said
but Yuck to me is
biting into a bad peach
fuzzy orange skin belying
gray stinking flesh
teeth sink in and

something
is
wrong
It had been sitting on the counter for too long

So that's what you think of me
I looked like a Christian
at first
Did the Right Things
Said the Right Things
but that was the surface
that was my skin when
I had questions when
I had doubts
you were Repulsed
Rot
you thought I was Rot that
I had gone Bad

But even though
the peach had gone bad
its stone pit
its stone heart
was cold and hard
And then I think of 
you

something
is 
wrong
you had been sitting on the counter for too long

stored in a Bible-shaped
Tupperware box
orange lid cracked
but still so hard to breathe
you shouted from inside
the Bible-shaped box
that I was
Maddening
that I was
a waste of emotional energy
(and I can understand that when the simple act of breathing is a chore)
but your voice was muffled 
and I didn't understand your words
I didn't understand that

something was wrong
you had been sitting on the counter for too long

the Bible-shaped Tupperware box didn't move
and neither did you
face up in the box
staring at the underside of the
opaque orange lid
it was simply
all you saw of the Bible-shaped box

something  was
wrong you  had
been sitting  on
the counter  for
too long stored.
a  Bible-shaped
box    with     an
orange          lid.

But this is all just a 
story, of course
Gone in 24 hours
your powers like magic
but really just clicks
erase

me

I'm gone

I've gone

bad.

episode 4

The grocery list taunts me
with dish soap and milk
But this white page draws me
Black ink spills into words onto white

Because I think I could use some
black and white
in my life right now

So I take what I can get
and sit
and think
and write

You told me I didn’t have
faith in the God of the Bible
That you stopped listening
No good for your blood pressure

Things would be different
if there was a cup of coffee
between us
but the only thing
between us
is a continent

(And as I write black words
on white paper as outside
skies are gray
I think
gray is nice and would suffice
for this cobwebbed mind that is prone to
wander

And as I wander I can’t help but wonder
why God
chose the gray for the day we lowered my mom
into wet earth

That gray is part of my history
It mingles in my veins
and it’s there
and it’s always been there
)

But you stopped listening

Things would be different
if there was a cup of coffee
between us
but the only thing
between us
is a continent

So I tread on
heavily
clumsily
as I wrestle with sacred topics

Maybe on your continent the skies
aren’t gray as you listen to
The Bible
on
audio
repeat
sipping
Steaming
Lattes

you said you love me
and support me
and pray for me
you tell me that
I can know Who God Really Is
because You Do

But the truth is that your black words
on the white screen
end there.

And anyway you stopped listening
A long time ago you stopped listening

May I never stop listening



(3) Notes and Quotes from “The Making of Biblical Womanhood,” by Beth Allison Barr: Chapters 5-6

Listen to our podcast episode here: Red Weather Christians “S2E6: Down With the (Christian) Patriarchy!”

Chapter 5: Writing Women Out of the English Bible

… all biblical translations are written by human hands.

A conveniently forgotten truth, that translations are written by fallible humans. This truth is one to hold onto, my friends.

By fall 1997, the battle lines were drawn. Secular culture, especially the feminist movement, was changing Scripture in a dangerous way, and it was time for Christians to fight back.

The exact note I have in my book for this quote is, “Oh, GAG.” And this “battle”? Gender inclusive language in the Bible, something that from Barr’s historian point of view is more accurate than the male dominated language. Barr says the following:

Yet, as a medieval historian, I know that Christians translated Scripture in gender-inclusive ways long before the feminist movement. I’ll admit that the debate also scares me. It scares me for the same reason that it amuses me: because gender-inclusive language has a long history in the church, the debate shows how much modern evangelical Christians have forgotten church history.

This is just a funny little tidbit here. These Christians in 1997 thought the feminist movement was so dangerous, that it was such a big deal, when in reality the gender debate was nothing new. Do they even know church history? Seems not.

The Protestant Reformation changed how the Bible was used by Christians, but it didn’t introduce the Bible to Christians. English translations of biblical text existed long before the Reformation.

Just a little reminder for everyone that the Reformation wasn’t the beginning of it all. It wasn’t the beginning of Christianity, and it certainly wasn’t the beginning of the Bible. The Bible published as a single bound book happened in the 1500s, but the Bible did exist before it was a single bound book.

I was struck by how the SBC leaders harped on 1 Timothy 3:2, that overseers should be husband of one wife. They used this as ironclad proof that senior pastors had to be men. Yet Lucy Peppiatt shows us how 1 Timothy 3, the chapter so often cited by the male leaders of the conservative resurgence as articulating why only men can preach, was shaped by English-language translations to look more masculine than it actually is. We assume 1 Timothy 3:1-13 is referencing men in leadership roles (overseer/bishop and deacon). But is this because of how our English Bibles translate the text? Whereas the Greek text uses the words whoever and anyone, with the only specific reference to man appearing in verse 12 (a literal Greek translation of the phrase is “one woman man,” referencing the married state of deacons), modern English Bibles have introduced eight to ten male pronouns within the verses. None of those male pronouns in our English Bibles are in the Greek text. Peppiatt concludes that the problem with female leadership is not actually the biblical text; it is the “relentless and dominant narrative of male bias” in translations.

“Whoever” and “anyone,” you say? Interesting. Those original pronouns sure do seem gender neutral. I wonder why they were changed? A head-scratcher, for sure. Here’s just 1 Timothy 3:4-7 (NIV) with all the male pronouns in bold:

He must manage his own family well and see that his children obey him, and he must do so in a manner worthy of full respect. (If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?) He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil. He must also have a good reputation with outsiders, so that he will not fall into disgrace and into the devil’s trap.

Please don’t ever think that pronouns are insignificant.

From this perspective, gender-inclusive language isn’t distorting Scripture. Gender-inclusive language is restoring Scripture from the influence of certain English Bible translations.

Well, what a refreshing shift in perspective. And from a historian, no less.

The English Bible makes it clear that Genesis 2:22-24 sanctifies marriage. Yet neither the word marriage nor the word wife appear in the Hebrew text.

Genesis 2:22-24 (KJV), often under the heading “Institution of Marriage”: “And the rib, which the Lord God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man. And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man. Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.”

Funny side-note: Several years ago, I and my husband were actually a part of a Bible study called “Leave and Cleave.” It was … not our favorite.

Chapter 6: Sanctifying Subordination

Medieval women moved closest to equality with men when they were furthest from the married state.

Well that’s just not Christian. Come on now. Moving along…

After the Reformation, the spiritual economy flipped, so wives received the highest honors, followed by widows. This time, virgins — now demeaned as spinsters instead of celebrated as saints — brought up the rear.

This is sounding more Christian. Phew!

To be a Christian woman was to be under the authority of men.

This is definitely the Christianity I know. Huzzah!

During the nineteenth century, a similar fixation with female purity emerged — stemming from a new ideology about women, work, and family life — which historians call the cult of domesticity.

OK, back to reality. I don’t want to be part of a cult. Do you?

Purity culture thus shamed women in the nineteenth century as it continues to shame women today.

(Because that’s what Jesus came to do: shame women. Among other things, of course.) Barr goes on in this section to chronicle many of the times that people broke the “rules” and Jesus responded with love. So if a girl let her bra strap show at Bible camp, Jesus wouldn’t condemn her.

Once again, the world in which we live oppresses women, fighting to control their bodies from their “natural” fallenness. … Once again, the God we serve has always done the opposite. Jesus has always set women free.

And to this I say as genuinely as it gets, “Thank you, Jesus.”

Perhaps the most famous early proponent of complementarity was the philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau. In his famous text Emile, he expounded his philosophy of education for women, arguing that “the search for abstract and speculative truths, for principles and axioms in science, for all that tends to wide generalization, is beyond a woman’s grasp; their studies should be thoroughly practical.”

“Quit being so selfish, Jean,” and give the women some credit. And speaking of practical, Jean, I’d like to see where we’d be today if it weren’t for women.

What evangelicals have failed to realize, explains Randall Balmer, is that the “traditional concept of femininity” that we believe to be from the Bible is nothing more than “a nineteenth-century construct.”

Christians, oh CHRISTIANS, did you hear that? Certainly we can believe that we are above adhering to a nineteenth-century human-made construct, right? Right. Good. Moving on.

History matters, and for modern evangelical women, nineteenth-century history has mattered far more than it ever should have.

Yep.

See you next time for chapters 7-8.

(2) Notes and Quotes from “The Making of Biblical Womanhood,” by Beth Allison Barr: Chapters 3-4

Listen to our podcast episode here: Red Weather Christians “S2E6: Down With the (Christian) Patriarchy!”

Chapter 3: Our Selective Medieval Memory

“Blessed God, may you be praised, who, among the other infinite boons and favors which You have bestowed upon the feminine sex, desired that woman carry such lofty and worthy news.”

Let’s goooooo. Here, Barr is quoting Christine de Pizan — “a professional writer who lived in the late fourteenth century France and was employed by the French court.” Jesus, by authorizing Mary Magdalene the right to speak with authority, gave women “the freedom to speak.” Go, Jesus! Way to be a contrarian.

So, for medieval Christians, Mary of Bethany was not just a woman who sat quietly at the feet of Jesus; she was a repentant prostitute and former demoniac. She was the apostle of the apostles — the first apostle who carried the good news of the resurrection. She was a missionary of Christ, affirmed by Peter. She preached openly, performed miracles that paralleled those of the apostles, and converted a new land to the Christian faith.

Dang, Mary! You are a total rock star. Well, for medieval Christians, that is. Why is that, though? Why don’t modern Christians talk about you? Preach about you? Regard you as the apostle of the apostles? Sad.

In a world that didn’t accept the word of a woman as a valid witness, Jesus chose women as witnesses for his resurrection. In a world that gave husbands power over the very lives of their wives, Paul told husbands to do the opposite — to give up their lives for their wives. In a world that saw women as biologically deformed men, monstrous even, Paul declared that men were just like women in Christ.

People. This is big. REALLY big. (That’s what she said.) But seriously, Jesus comes in and completely upends tradition, cultural norms, rules. Reminds me of a one of my favorite quotes from good ol’ Walt Whitman: “Resist much, obey little.” Jesus seems to understand that there are times to break the rules. I’d agree.

No, the problem wasn’t a lack of biblical and historical evidence for women to serve as leaders along with men in the church. The problem was male clergy who undermined the evidence.

But good Christian men wouldn’t do that, would they? Are you alive? Have you seen all the crap “good Christian men” have gotten up to in the church? It’s embarrassing. It’s inexcusable. It’s a mess. Sexual abuse, affairs, stealing church funds, narcissism, lies — not to mention gross justification for private jets, mansions, extravagantly expensive sneakers, etc. I could go on; you know this. So are modern Christian men so very different than the men who contributed to the different translations of the Bible? Barr goes on to quote New Testament scholar Ben Witherington:

“No, the problem in the church is not strong women, but rather weak men who feel threatened by strong women, and have tried various means, even by dubious exegesis, to prohibit them from exercising their gifts and graces in the church.”

How are feeling right now? A little threatened? First, let me ask: are you a man? If yes, then read the entirety of this book. Next, are you a woman? If yes, then read the entirety of this book. Then we’ll talk. Because if you’re feeling a little uncomfortable, GOOD. Dig into that. (By reading Barr’s book.)

… “women have been preaching in the Christian tradition from the earliest historical moments, perhaps only days after Jesus Christ was crucified and his resurrection announced” …

Barr uses Elaine Lawless’s words here, and do you know why? Because writers know that sometimes someone else writes something so clearly, so eloquently, that they couldn’t possibly re-word it. This is an example of this. Lawless makes it pretty clear that women have been in the preaching game for a long time, preaching after and about Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection. Boom, done. Up next is another one, this time by a guy named Abelard who is thought to have given the “last defense” for women’s ordination:

Abelard argued that female ordination “was established by Jesus himself and not by the apostles, specifically rejecting the teaching that only the male priesthood and diaconate were part of the original church.”

Seems reasonable. Logical, even. But female ordination went the way of all things, and soon enough, the church became full of male priests being ordained by male clergy. What the heck?

Could it be that another building block for modern biblical womanhood is simply that evangelicals have rewritten Christian history?

Could it be, indeed. Sigh.

Chapter 4: The Cost of the Reformation for Evangelical Women

While it could have affirmed women’s spiritual equality with men, the Reformation instead ushered in a “renewed patriarchalism” that placed married women firmly under the headship of their husbands.

Well that’s depressing.

Reformation theology might have removed the priest, but it replaced him with the husband. . . . In an eerie echo of the ancient Roman paterfamilias, the orderly household once again became the barometer for both the state and the church, and the waning power of the Catholic priest was balanced by the waxing power of the Protestant husband.

We sure do have a way of taking a good thing and messing it up, don’t we?

1 Timothy 2:15: “Yet she will be saved through childbearing.” In one of only two medieval sermons to discuss this verse, the sermon casts the woman (the “she” in the verse) as an example for all Christians, who must go through the pain (like childbirth) of cleansing themselves of sin before experiencing the joy of salvation (the child itself).

This verse is wacky, and I’ve heard different interpretations. One is that these particular women Paul is talking to are recent followers of Artemis, their “mother goddess,” and that when they give birth without Artemis’s help or blessing, they know they’ve been saved by Jesus. But this medieval sermon Barr shares is fascinating, too. For all the women out there who have given birth, you know it’s painful. But the joy of that newborn baby is unrivalled. So a cleansing of sin and joy of salvation is a neat analogy.

In other words, a shift occurred across the Reformation era in how preachers used Paul.

Just before this, Barr brought up an example of a sermon by a man named Lancelot Andrews that used the childbearing verses as some kind of divine ordination of women as homemakers. And then Isaac Marlow published a tract that argued “Women ought neither to teach nor pray vocally in the Church of Christ.” He goes on to argue that singing is considered teaching and since women clearly should not teach, they should not sing. As someone who has sung most days of her life, I am offended.

Paul had less impact on attitudes toward women within late medieval English sermons. In the aftermath of the Reformation, however, Paul came to define Christian womanhood. . . . The question is, of course, why? Why the shift in how Pauline texts were used in regard to women?

Yeah, I think that’s exactly the question I had reading through this chapter. So here we go:

The medieval reality was that most men would never be priests, placing them — strangely enough — on more spiritually equal footing with women. The spiritual headship of a husband didn’t matter so much in a patriarchal world where both husbands and wives had to go as individuals through a priest for the necessary sacraments. But it did matter in a world in which patriarchy was already the norm and women potentially had as much spiritual power as men did. Patriarchy had to shapeshift to adapt to the new Reformation world.

So there needed to be action. Patriarchy wasn’t going to shapeshift on its own. It needed help. Early modern reformers most likely did the easiest thing:

The emphasis on Pauline texts by early modern reformers was born into a secular world already supported by a gender hierarchy.

I imagine the conversation went like this: “OK, so gender hierarchy is already a thing? Cool, cool cool cool. Yeah, that sounds good. Let’s do that. Men, sound good to everyone? Yeah. K cool lez do ittt.”

Rather than Protestant reformers reviving a biblical model, they were simply mapping Scripture onto a preceding secular structure. Instead of Scripture transforming society, Paul’s writings were used to prop up the patriarchal practices already developing in the early modern world.

One word here: UGH. Now brace yourself for this next quote:

Women’s identities were now subsumed within the family. . . . As the role of wife expanded, the opportunities for women outside of marriage shrank. The family became not only the center of a woman’s world but her primary identity as a good Christian.

This just makes me think of the little blurb Christian women put on their social media bios. The descriptor “wife” is almost always on there. But do men include “husband” on their bios? I don’t see that as much…

Instead of Scripture transforming society, society transformed how early modern Christians interpreted the Bible — and this was compounded (as we will see in the next chapter) by the proliferation of the English Bible.

Well fantastic. See you next time for the next couple of chapters.

And, again, if you’re itching for something to do in the interim, check out my and my husband’s podcast: Red Weather Christians.

Listen: Down with the (Christian) Pariarchy!

Becoming Red Weather Christians

I have one life and one chance to make it count for something. . . . My faith demands that I do whatever I can, wherever I am, whenever I can, for as long as I can with whatever I have to try to make a difference.

Jimmy Carter

If you’ve been following along with my life, you’ll know that Steve and I started a podcast called “Red Weather Christians.” It’s a big deal for us. And it’s nerve-racking.

Because it’s about our journey growing up in the Christian faith . . .

And then growing out of the Christian faith.

(Spoiler alert: We are still Christians.)

So we wrestle with how to reconcile still being Christians with lots of questions and doubts. With questions and doubts are we even Christians? Are we Christian enough? Steve and I think we are.

But we do wonder what other people — other Christians — might think.

Listen, there’s a problem in the Christian community: If we ask the hard questions or express doubt, we’re often met with dismissal, eyebrow raises, and defensiveness. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Steve and I are two simple people who would like to change the narrative. We’d like to normalize questions and doubts and embrace an incomplete understanding of our own faith (which, if you’re a Christian, I’d challenge you to think about that: can you say you have a complete understanding of your own faith?).

After all, we have only this one life. With one chance to make it count for something. So we’re going to do whatever we can, wherever we are, whenever we can, for as long as we can with whatever we have to try to make a difference.

And we’d like for you to come along with us, asking questions, expressing doubt, and opening yourself up to healthy dialogue. You might have questions for us. You might express doubt towards us. We welcome that.

So I encourage you to join us as we chronicle our disillusionment and analyze our commitment to the complicated faith called Christianity.

We are Red Weather Christians.

Episode 1: If Those Idiots Call Themselves Christians, What Are We?

Episode 2: Sometimes God Moves You. Literally.

Episode 3: Navigating the Missionary Position

That’s what we have so far. Stick around, and the sound quality gets better, I promise. Thanks for giving us grace on that. This is all completely new to us, and we’re learning a lot along the way.

Peace be with you.