15 microaggresions women in the church deal with on a daily basis

I admit I’m borrowing the idea and the list from this article (be warned, there is a bit of language though it’s not the author as much as the examples of the micro aggressions and while I’m at it, I used some gif’s with language too. Some things are just best expressed with certain words. Sometimes they’re the only words.). The article is pretty comprehensive, but it doesn’t offer examples that really speak to the way these issues are present in the life of the average Christian woman who isn’t out “in the world.” This makes it easy for those in the Church to dismiss these ideas because they just aren’t the reality they live with.

Except they are.

So I’ve decided to offer examples of how they are and here you go.


1. Sexist Language

Women who are starting to question how they have been taught God views us often land on the question, “Is there a sound, inclusive language, Bible translation?” This is because it is very hard to realize that the Bible is written to you when everything said to any group of people is translated with masculine pronouns. I’m well aware that the rules for most languages say we use feminine pronouns for groups of only women and masculine pronouns for groups of only men OR groups that include even ONE man. The rule itself is part of the problem, but the bigger problems is that insisting on sticking to the rule is giving the message to young women every day that the Bible is largely not written to them.



We need more women like this

2. Sexual Harassment Did you know that it’s sexual harassment to stand up and walk out of the room just because the person who got up to speak is a woman? It’s not sexual harassment if you have to go to the bathroom and you will be going right back in, but maybe you could hold it for just a bit because most of the time when I get up to speak and someone leaves the room they aren’t coming back. Sometimes they loudly proclaim that they aren’t going to sit there while a woman tries to preach. The very idea that God doesn’t want women teachers is sexual harassment — and it flies in the face of so many examples from Scripture.    

via GIPHY    

3. Slut Shaming You’re probably more familiar with this as “Spirit of Jezebel” shaming. For those not familiar with it, every woman in a Christian context who has ever said something a man didn’t like has been accused of having a spirit of Jezebel. Jezebel — the woman who introduced child sacrifice to Molech into common practice in Israel — the woman who killed a man because he wouldn’t sell her husband his vineyard. But, okay, I guess that’s the same as holding a different doctrinal position as we all try to encourage people to worship God. I’m not even going to dive into the ocean that is slut shaming from men like Mark Driscoll and those like him.        

via GIPHY    

4. Victim Blaming This one isn’t that different from how it’s encountered outside of the church — women who dress like they want to be raped deserve it. Because you know we all shop at that store that sells things for the woman who wants to be raped. And even when it’s winter and the person was covered head to toe you know you’re going to get the question, “What was she wearing?” In the Church it goes to a different level, though. In communities that view everything that happens to you as evidence of God’s judgment of you, the victim was judged by God to be deserving of it. Even if they are a child. One man I know loudly insists that his daughter won’t dress like a whore because if she does and her brother rapes her then it will be all her fault. No, I’m not making this up. Driscoll went so far as to blame years of issues in his marriage on his wife having been “promiscuous” when she was raped.        

via GIPHY    

5. Tone Policing This one brings to mind the book I read that had explicit instructions for how women are supposed to go to their husbands to try and share opinions before the man makes his final and unquestioned decision about something. Of course the woman should divert her eyes and not move in any way that could be perceived as aggressive. She needs to ask her husband, first, if he is open to hearing her ideas. If not, she is to take that as his decision and respect it. It doesn’t matter what the issue is. If he is open, then she needs to make sure to present everything in a non-threatening way and with a tone that doesn’t sound challenging. She must at all times remember that he is the one with the authority and she is being granted this opportunity. At all times a woman must speak with a tone that makes it clear she knows her place and if she doesn’t then she deserves whatever she gets.            

via GIPHY      

6. Language Policing When women don’t know their place and they begin to talk about things like equality, or even suggesting that God has called them to anything other than a pre-determined “woman’s role” she is called out. I have been told many times, “You say that God has called you but . . . ” I don’t think I’ve ever heard that said of a man. The very use of any language deemed “feminist” is justification for dismissing you entirely. Maybe I should back up and say that the very idea that women are not allowed by God to “teach” the Word of God is the essence of language policing. We are told we are quite literally not allowed to speak the Word of God if a man might hear us and learn something. (We can, however, write it if the man can later read it and imagine that he is learning from a man.)        


7. Mansplaining

If you think you’ve encountered mansplaining out in the world, you haven’t even tapped the keg of the store of mansplaining out there to be had. First year licensed pastors with no formal training whatsoever have been known to mansplain doctrine when I’m trying to make a point. I guess my Master’s degree from a world renowned seminary doesn’t mean I understand simple things because I have had people correct my word choice, argue for a different explanation of what I’ve said, or even try to apologize to others on my behalf because I clearly don’t realize that it says . . . .

My favorite is when I get told, as if this puts a nice point on the issue, that I should read my Bible and then I’d understand.




8. Sizeism

There are examples of skinny women and girls being singled out by the church, like this girl who wrote about breaking Christian school dress codes and talks about how her yearbook picture was left out because her “A-cups were demanding too much attention.” These stories tend to fall under sexual harassment more than sizeism, though.

Sizeism is different (my autocorrect keeps wanting to change it to sizes. Like it’s not even a thing!)

Charisma Magazine came right out and asked “Why is the church so fat?” Telling us

Have your noticed that we don’t fit in the pews anymore? God’s people are packing on the pounds, but His Word is clear about how we can reclaim our health.

This article drew a correlation between church going and being fat . . .

In an interesting Purdue University study, sociology professor Ken Ferraro found that affiliation with the Baptist and Protestant church increased the risk of obesity, going as far as to call religion a “feeding ground” for obesity. Ferraro also cited an earlier study at the Pawtucket Heart Health Program that found regular churchgoers were more likely to be more than 20 percent overweight. While Ferraro found a direct link between obesity and the Baptist Church, particularly among women, he found Judaism to be at the bottom end of the church-chunk spectrum. Conversely, he found that obesity did not drive people to the church.

Which has got to be GREAT encouragement for the Baptists when Landover Baptist Church’s Brother Percy felt the need to post in detail how God hates fat people!  (Landover Baptist is kind of like the Onion, but if you read the other two articles and this post you see that they don’t have to go far to lampoon).

And over at ChurchLeaders.com the question “Should fat people lead worship?” is tackled. At least the answer was

So back to the question, “Should fat people lead worship?” If they are gifted, they have no choice.

The question isn’t weight, height, gender or race; the question is gifting. Without the gift, it’s just a show; with the gift, it’s holy ground.

I can’t be the only person who finds the question inherently aggressive.




9. Mom Shaming

Believe it or not, the very idea that God ONLY created women to be wives and mothers is a form of mom shaming. Especially when you encounter “Quiverfull” teachings that suggest even child-led weaning is disobedience to God because you are allowing natural amenhoerrhea to make you infertile.

I love Dulce De Leche — truly, she is an amazing woman. And I love this article she wrote outlining the differences between Fundamentalist Quiverfull teachings and traditional Catholicism — because people often lump “All Christians” together when they want to bash something.

What she brings to light — while not becoming guilty of it herself — is the tendency to bash the parenting practices of some other group (especially one we don’t really understand) and how mom shaming across denominational lines is just as unhelpful as mom shaming across parenting practices.

And, at the same time, there are some practices that absolutely should be called out as NOT Biblically supportable. Quiverful is among them. So are the programs and books written by the Ezzo’s and the Pearls. Then there’s jacked up teachings of church fathers who have had a lot of doctrinal influence on things taught to this day

“I fail to see what use woman can be to man, if one excludes the function of bearing children.” — Augustine

Motherhood is a blessing because it is an amazing opportunity to become worthy of the children entrusted to us by God. Motherhood is not a competition. Motherhood is not the pinnacle of woman’s purpose. There is nothing that says every woman has to be a mother.

Stop shaming moms.

Stop shaming how moms mom.

Stop shaming the women who aren’t moms for not being moms.




10. Period Shaming

As I’ve focused study on the actual Hebraic ideas behind different things found in the New Testament I’ve learned something really interesting . . . the Patriarchy of the modern Fundamentalist Church is NOT, as they like to argue, rooted in Judaism or the actual teachings of the Old Testament. There is a lot made of the fact that the book of Leviticus speaks of women being “unclean” during their period. But the context is absolutely lacking in any of the teachings I’ve encountered from the Church.

Like, for example, the fact that the book of Leviticus is speaking of what makes someone RITUALLY unclean as in unable to serve in the role of offering sacrifices in the Tabernacle or Temple, which is why the man coming into contact with her blood is even discussed. Other things that made you ritually unclean included wet dreams, being spit on by someone with an open wound, or encountering roadkill. By now you might be seeing a connection between being literally unclean – as in you need to bathe – and the level of ritual cleanliness that was needed for serving in the role of the Levitical Priests who offered the sacrifices on behalf of the people who brought them. What it took to be ritually clean generally involved waiting until sundown (the start of the new day) and bathing. And yet the implication of the idea of pure and impure, clean and unclean, is not related to physical cleanliness when, for example, Hassidic authors address the issue. They see this as speaking to the value of “life” and the call to mourn “death.” What wet dreams and menstruation have in common is that they both are the results of life not being created. It isn’t sinful to not create life each month, and yet there is a call to stop and consider the value of life.

There is much made of the Red Tent, but in ancient Israel the Red Tent came about as a practical solution to a practical problem. It’s not commanded in Scripture. God didn’t establish the Red Tent. He did, however, establish the New Moon as a day of rest for women. Only one of the very pro-women things that God has established in Scripture. Personally, I would welcome a Red Tent where I could go and no one would want me to take care of them on days when I want to just rest and care for myself and be taken care of. It has been a long journey for me to not hate and resent menstruation. Now when I hear the hate come out in teachings about women and the “monthly curse” I call it out immediately.

I’m also quick to point out that I don’t have any responsibility as a pastor to prepare or offer animal sacrifices in the Temple. Neither do ANY pastors or priests within the Church.




“No, this is not representative of women in Christian ministry”

11. Stereotypes

I’ve had people assume I’m the secretary.

I’m not insulted by what people might think I am. I’m bothered when they just can’t imagine that I’m the pastor.

I’m bothered when I know that if they walked in and saw a man standing there they would assume he was the pastor and the secretary was out of the office for some reason.

I’ve been writing a series for CBE International on why we need to stop calling every woman in the Bible a whore because we are destroying the role models that women have been given in Scripture.




12. Objectification

One reason I’ve been told that women aren’t supposed to be preachers is that someone’s husband might find them attractive. I’ve never heard that as a reason for a man not to be a preacher.

Women who breastfeed in church are often told they are responsible for all of the porn addicts getting turned on. That’s sick!

Women who wear something someone finds sexy are guilty for making him lust . . . even if the outfit isn’t something anyone in their right mind would get in a hissy about!





13. The Wage Gap

The reality is that women are going to have a harder time getting a job in churches, especially if they want to be a pastor. Then, when they do, they make even less compared to men than women in jobs outside of the church.

This is really important because

The BLS reports weekly earnings, which generally show less of a gender gap than annual earnings. According to the BLS, in 2014 male clergy earned $1,007 per week; female clergy earned only $763. This is a $12,000 difference in annual earnings.

The gap among clergy is noteworthy because, as an occupation, the clergy has credentialing (ordination) and educational requirements that should encourage similar pay for similar work. Religious organizations often have educational requirements and institutional controls for clergy

In my personal experience, I had my Master’s from a top seminary and then I had to take classes offered by my chosen denomination because I needed to prove that I understood the doctrine of the denomination I had chosen to align myself with and had been teaching as a part of for several years at that point. Men fresh out of high school were getting ordained faster than I could prove my knowledge and loyalty.

In my first staff position I started making $200 a MONTH. When I launched out on my own I learned that church plants were not being funded because 3 men had started churches and they failed so there wasn’t money for that.




“NO! Women preaching does not lead to atheism. Ironically, not letting them preach sometimes does.”

14. Implicit Bias

It’s not only that women are treated differently in most church settings. We are treated as less than — and often that is justified by saying God made us to be less than.

Women are finding that they are able to give more to a society and a world in need OUTSIDE of the Church than they are inside

Additionally, Lane points out, women have been gaining ground in every arena of society: economically, in their careers, at school. They have a new sense of vocational agency—something the church hasn’t always encouraged in women. “With more education, women have had more opportunities afforded to them to contribute to the public good,” she says. “What was different (or better) about using my gifts in a church than, say, in my work as a retreat facilitator for clergy or in the feminist writer community of which I was a part? As a young woman, I often felt a greater sense of personal voice and agency in my work outside the church than I did within its walls.

I talked with a team of men who was traveling to train people in a program. They were so very pro women, and they did not travel with any women because they wanted their wives to know how valued they were and that there was no threat to the marriage. This means there were no women in this position because that would mean people would question the sexual fidelity of the men.

Why wasn’t I talking to a team of women who were doing this job and traveling without men?

Why had these very pro-women men not realized what this policy was doing to women?




15. Gas lighting

And then when you get to the end of the list and you call it all out and you show how aggressive the Church has been to women on a micro (and a macro level) you get to hear this:

Are there complementarians who oppress women? Yes.

Are there complementarians who are sexist? Yes.

Is the complementarian view oppressive or sexist to women?


Complementarianism is the teaching that women are created to be subordinate to men and men are granted authority and the position of leader, boss, and final say by the very nature of their creation.

Are there people who believe that women were created to be subordinate to men who oppress women? Yes.

Are there people who believe that women were created to be subordinate to men who are sexist? Yes.

Is the teaching that women were created to be subordinate to men oppressive or sexist to women?

YES! Yes, it is inherently sexist!

If you’re not familiar with what Gaslighting is, it’s one of the signs of a cult and here is some great info about it. It’s evidence of Spiritual Abuse and that page is about types of spiritual abuse found in a particular cult. So when you say you are dealing with sexism and you know you are, and you are told you aren’t, you’re encountering gaslighting.

And just as an FYI, ironic sexism is still sexism. Trying to dismiss it by calling it “ironic” is a form of gaslighting.

Thankfully there are organizations, denominations and churches tackling this issue openly and head on, but there is still a lot of work that can be done and we can all do our part at that!

Just remember, when God calls you, you don’t have to defend yourself to people who want to stand against you. There’s a wise Pharisee in the Bible who talks about the early church leaders and says if they are not called by God then their efforts will be revealed as false and the situation will take care of itself. If, however, they are doing God’s Work and called by Him to do it then maybe the Pharisees shouldn’t position themselves against them because doing so is positioning against God.*

That’s not a position you want to take when you claim to be the Church!


*Before anyone feels the need to mansplain I’m talking about Gamaliel in Acts chapter 5

The problem when it needs to be said

ps_janet-scott_40160_bunting-flag-shape-mask-018_puI remember reading several years ago that we need to stop telling girls that they can be anything they want. The reason? Until we said this to them they never thought they couldn’t be anything. The very need to say something can sometimes betray the reality of the opposite.

The other day I was very intentionally trying to focus on the road and loudly singing whatever was on the radio when something caused an idea to bump and shift slightly in my head and that memory flooded back and shed light on something I’ve been digging into recently. Suddenly I understood what was bugging me!

I grabbed this definition from Wikipedia because it is the generally agreed upon definition and I didn’t really want to do a ping back to someone’s site because that really isn’t the point of this. Essentially Complementarian doctrine is this:

Complementarianism holds that “God has created men and women equal in their essential dignity and human personhood, but different and complementary in function with male headship in the home and in the Church.”

See anytime I’m talking to someone who holds to Complementarianism and trying to talk about the problems I see with the doctrine that God created men and women to be different in function with male headship in the home and in the church, the problems are always quickly explained away with the idea that He created us equal in essential dignity and human personhood.

Until we told girls they could be anything they wanted, young girls didn’t know there was a reason to think otherwise.

The fact that this doctrine needs to include the idea that God created men and women equal in our essential dignity and human personhood means that the doctrine itself suggests otherwise.

Because the very idea of male headship — the idea that men were created by God to be the ones in charge, the bosses, the authority, the final say in any disagreement, the recipients of wifely submission with the “equal” requirement on men being that they need to love their wives and be benevolent dictators and not tyrants — is an inherently unequal essential dignity and human personhood.

Think about it for a minute. Left to your own, without any doctrine about men and women, would you have thought that God created men and women with essentially UNequal dignity or human personhood?

Then you hear the doctrinal position of male headship and the clear and obvious reaction is to say, “HEY! That is inherently unequal essential dignity and human personhood!”

And the proponents of the doctrine say, “No. I know it looks that way. I know it sounds that way. It just isn’t.”

And you say, “But it is. It’s inherently unequal.”

And they say, “But our doctrinal description already addressed that. It isn’t.”

And that is supposed to be the end of it. Especially when ideas are tacked on like if you don’t agree you will go to hell, or if you argue you must be a Jezebel feminist, or the bullying received from the men who are supposed to have all the authority if you try to disagree with them.

But it doesn’t have to be because it isn’t. Them saying so doesn’t make it so. If I don’t turn off my brain, it isn’t the end of it.

“Equal in essential dignity and human personhood” is entirely incompatible with “male headship in the home and church.”

You don’t have to pretend it isn’t. I refuse to.

Distilled Thought for the Day

If you really think about it Complementarianism fits the requirements of a lie of Satan — it acknowledges the power of God while hindering God’s work through half of His Kingdom. And then the response is to say that women wanting to serve God in His Kingdom work are being influenced by Satan. It’s brilliant really. Quite Machiavellian if you stop to think about it. The confusion caused by the logic loops is textbook Satan. The power and control dynamic is textbook Satan. The victims defending the victimizers and trying to force those who begin to escape to stop using their brains and just embrace their lot in life is textbook Satan.

Let’s Talk About the F Word

Do I have your attention?

Brace yourself . . . it is going to be really controversial!

It’s not something I want to talk about . . . I want to live in a world where we don’t need it.

I’m talking about Feminism.

Some of you might be thinking, “That’s worse than what I thought she was going to talk about!”  In some circles this is the worst F Word you can utter!

I know this because there are all sorts of blog posts and articles and memes and Facebook posts, Tweets, etc., etc., all trying to caution people about the dangers of Feminism and how it’s in opposition to Scripture.  Honestly, that’s why we need to talk about it!

Princess Leia was amazing when I was 7 -- she saved the guys and spoke her mind. I loved seeing that portrayed in a movie! The only girl more awesome is Rey.

This was my shirt when I was 7. Princess Leia was amazing — she saved the guys and spoke her mind. I loved seeing that in a movie! The only girl more awesome is Rey.

I really don’t appreciate when people who don’t understand it try to define it.  I really hate it when people who don’t understand it try to define ME!  They will boldly post what feminists believe, what the feminist agenda is, where feminists want to take everyone, and what is really driving us.

Why?  Why does it bother me?

It’s because they are so miserably wrong and they don’t get it.

Most recently I read an article that talked about one of the problems with feminism being that everyone defines it differently.  An interesting argument but not something I’ve ever found to be true.  In fact, I just googled “feminism defined” and was quickly informed it’s a noun of French origin that means “the advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of political, social, and economic equality to men.”

Easy peasy and no confusion at all! A quick scan of the articles and blog posts about the definition of feminism confirmed that this is the basic agreed upon definition that feminists are functioning with.  It’s why there isn’t a lot of infighting about what we’re all advocating for.  We basically agree.

At the same time, we all function in different realms of life and there is going to be a beautiful diversity of how that plays out and what it looks like in our lives.

At feminism.com there is an excerpt called “What is Feminism?”by Jennifer Baumgardner and Amy Richards*

In the most basic sense, feminism is exactly what the dictionary says it is: the movement for social, political, and economic equality of men and women. Public opinion polls confirm that when people are given this definition, 67 percent say they agree with feminism. We prefer to add to that seemingly uncontroversial statement the following: feminism means that women have the right to enough information to make informed choices about their lives. And because “women” is an all encompassing term that includes middle-class white women, rich black lesbians, and working-class straight Asian women, an organic intertwining with movements for racial and economic equality, as well as gay rights, is inherent to the feminist mandate. Some sort of allegiance between women and men is also an important component of equality. After all, equality is a balance between the male and female with the intention of liberating the individual.

I am not advocating everything on the site, or even in the Manifesta – I haven’t read it all and don’t want to be misconstrued.  I do want to point out a few things in this beautiful description and offer my thoughts on them.

First – as I mentioned above, there isn’t debate about the definition and it’s easily defined

Second – the goal is inherently pro women AND pro men.  There is no need for men to lose in order for women to live in equality with them.  In fact, if the goal is equality then the idea of taking men down is counter productive and foolish.

Third – wanting to accomplish these things for all women regardless of their gender, position, sexual orientation, etc., is not the same thing as endorsing or agreeing with all of the things they may choose to do.  It is, however, important to acknowledge the reality that women may make choices you don’t agree with. That is not a valid objection to them having the information and right to make those choices.**

Fourth – the goal of empowering women with enough information to make informed choices is only scary if you are invested in victimizing and controlling women.

It’s with the fourth point that I find myself most entangled day to day. This is because I am not just a feminist . . . I’m a Christian Egalitarian.

All too often Fundamental Patriarchalists will say that Christian Egalitarians are liberals who discount the “plain and obvious truth” of the text of Scripture.

To that I say that Fundamental Patriarchalists have found another area where they have no idea what they are talking about.

For one thing, the issue of liberal and conservative with regards to the Bible has to do with whether you hold the Bible as authoritative for the instruction of believers. Liberal means you do not hold the Bible as authoritative.  Conservative means you do.

I do. That makes me theologically conservative.

And we find ourselves at the primary reason that anti-feminist bloggers in the Christian community can’t seem to find a way to silence us.  We are not the straw men they set up and knock down.

Who are we and what do we really believe?

We are educated, intelligent, empowered, women AND MEN who have studied Scripture and believe it to advocate for gender equality.

Galatians 3:28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.

Gender equality is not the same thing as gender neutrality.  I don’t care how many times someone tells you it is, they are wrong.

Christian Egalitarians do not reject submission.  We reject the idea that there is a sound doctrine that requires women only to be submissive while men are told to rule and dominate.

Ephesians 5:21 “Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.”

Mark 10:42-45 “42 Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 43 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.””

Christian Egalitarians reject Subordinationism.

Christian Egalitarians know that the Word of God presents God not as male or female but as Spirit and as the Creator determined, male and female are both image-bearers of God.

Genesis 1:27 “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”

One test I put doctrinal ideas through is this . . . I take them to its extreme and ask what that looks like.  Does it hold up to Scripture?  I just can’t find anything in Scripture that argues against treating men and women as equal image bearers of God, submitting and serving one another sacrificially, and treating people in the way that I would treat God because as we do to the least of these we have done to Him.  I have yet to come across a sound argument against Christian Egalitarianism.

In fact I believe Egalitarianism is the doctrine that best expresses  God’s intention for men and women within the Body of Messiah.  Therefore, I am a Christian Egalitarian.  I am a feminist.


*from Manifesta: Young Women, Feminism, and the Future by Jennifer Baumgardner and Amy Richards (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2000).

**While Christian bloggers might express loud and passionate views of what they think of men’s choices, to my knowledge there is no organized movement to remove information and choice from men’s lives.  There is some hate mongering and name calling when someone does something some people don’t like, and efforts to pass laws making it okay to be mean to them or refuse their business.  Those laws would include women too so it’s not the same thing.

The Husband is the Head of the Wife

Ephesians 5:23 “For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior.”

Most people are familiar with this verse and when issues of submission come up this is one of the quick draw verses brought out to defend certain patriarchal teachings within the modern church. There is a lot going on in the discussions of submission that go way beyond the scope of this article, but I want to discuss the Greek word kephale that is here translated “head”. And briefly, before I discuss kephale, I want to be clear that I believe in wifely submission. Where I disagree with traditional patriarchal ideas on submission is on the overall dynamic of the relationship in which I believe wifely submission is placed by God, and I believe that the verses used to support wifely submission ignore the instruction to men to submit as part of the all believers submitting to one another (a relationship that does not change after marriage if both spouses are believers in Messiah) and are taken out of context to create a doctrine that does not accurately express God’s heart for His children—male or female.

The way the traditional argument goes is that “we all know” that the head means the thinking, logical part of the person who is in charge. It’s on the top of the body so it must be the boss. And Jesus is the boss of the church so it makes sense that the man would be the boss of the woman. Interestingly, that does not fit with what this passage in Ephesians is saying.

There are several words in Greek that can be translated into English as “head”. Some actually do mean “boss” or “in charge” or “the top”. Kephale is not one of those words. Since Paul was a highly educated man who was writing in order to teach the believers in Ephesus I believe he used exactly the word he wanted to use to communicate exactly what he wanted to communicate. As it turns out, kephale means a literal head of a body, and is the only word for “head” that is used for the head of a river. In that context it would be best translated that, “the husband is the source of the woman even as Christ is the source of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior.” Rather than boss and “in charge” this rendering opens up an incredibly rich theological fountain!

It is easy to agree that Jesus is the source of the Church—we exist because of Him and who He is and what He has done for us. His death is the source of our gaining access to life. From Him flow all blessings and teachings and Wisdom and love. He is the source of our gifts and the source of our callings to ministry—and our being equipped for those ministries.

Is the man similarly the source of the woman? In the beginning the man was put into a deep sleep and from his very body was taken the essence of woman. More specifically, though, the passage does not tell us that “man” is the head/source of “woman”. Rather, the husband is the source of the wife. According to tradition it is the man who generally extends an invitation to marry to the woman who, when she accepts the offer for marriage, becomes his wife. He brings her into his life and the home he has made for her – a home she would run and that she was admonished to run with him and his best in mind. He was here being told by Paul to teach his wife and bring her into his study of Scripture, what was in the Word of God. In this way he was to be, like Jesus to the church, the source of wisdom for his wife, the source of her understanding and being equipped for whatever calling the Lord had for her, and the source of bringing her into study of the Word.

When I’m studying Scripture I believe it’s important to always go to the Hebrew—even if what was written was written in Greek—because the authors of the New Testament were writing in an effort to communicate Hebraic ideas, properly understood in light of Jesus, to a mixed audience of Jewish and Greek believers. The Jewish audience would be familiar with the traditional Jewish teachings, and certainly familiar with what was in Scripture (the only Scriptures anyone had access to at that time!) and if there is a change to the original understanding there is much to be learned from it. Nothing in Scripture can contradict anything else in Scripture if it is being properly understood for God is the same yesterday, today and forever. So when going to the Hebrew I would expect to find help in clarifying Paul’s teaching and this is a wonderful illustration of how that works.

Hebrew for “head” is “rosh”. It means the literal head, it also means the “head of the month”, or of the year. Rosh Chodesh is the name for the “new moon” celebration. Yom Teruah is the name for the Feast of Trumpets but the holiday is also called Rosh Hashanah because it is the first Rosh Chodesh of the new year! It is from Rosh Chodesh that the month flows, Rosh Hoshanah that is the source of the year. And as the literal head, the Hebrew word rosh, is a perfect fit with kephale.

The husband is the head of the wife, the source of the wife, the rosh of the wife . . . just as Messiah is the head of the church, the source of the church, the rosh of the church. There is much in this teaching that challenges man and woman, husband and wife, to pursue a closer relationship to God and one another so that they can fulfill the previous command to submit to one another.

The Weaker Sex

Okay, I admit it . . . I sometimes wish Peter and the other Apostles were here to answer for some of their word choices. As much as I love learning about the culture and thoughts of their day to try and understand the message behind their words, sometimes their words leave me having to answer so much more than I would like. Peter’s reference to men remembering that women are the weaker sex is one of those times. The lightbulb moment I had with this verse was so refreshing . . . I admit I cannot prove that this is, in fact, what Peter exactly meant. BUT none of the ideas about what he meant can be proven. They are all someone’s best guess about what Peter meant. So, here are my thoughts thrown into the mix.

First, especially in ancient times, I seriously question the idea of women being viewed as “weaker”. I’m sure in some cultures that was the perception of women, but I read Proverbs 31 and other writings and I see amazing women who are honored for all that they do for the family and the community. The perception that women weren’t valued in Jewish culture could not be further from the truth. Women were not “forbidden” from studying Torah — they were “excused” from the obligation to study it for two reasons.

1. They were caring for the family members who included babies and young children and wouldn’t be able to commit to the requirements put on the men.

2. It was believed that women intuitively got a lot of spiritual truths that men didn’t get without a lot of study.

I’m not saying this just because I’m a woman, either. I would encourage anyone who wants to learn more about women in Judaism to visit the page on women at jewfaq.com. [Read more…]

Review of Love Wins by Rob Bell – Start Here

I’ve got a long long list of books I need to read (I’ve got a long list of books I’m currently reading–present tense!) so what is it about this book that gets it bumped to the top of my list? Everyone is talking about it. Even more specifically, several people have specifically asked my opinion on the book and on some of Bell’s points and 1) I keep telling them I will read and review it, plus 2) I can’t think of any more creative blank stares when I have no idea what to respond. So as I go through the book I’ll try to make some notes by way of review–this will probably be a series of posts more than 1 article so please bear with me.

I read the preface this evening so I’ll start there: I get why lots of people are annoyed by his writing style–it’s choppy and somewhat awkward. But someone mentioned he writes like he talks so I’m trying to read him in a casual chatty tone. It helps.

On page x he does make a point similar to one I’ve made lots of times so I’ll mention that. “Sometimes what we are witnessing is simply a massive exercise in missing the point.” Amen to that! I word it a bit differently: I believe the church has spent a lot of time arguing about who’s right about the wrong things! Either way, I think it’s true. Now I’m curious about what he thinks the right things are.

I think that is enough by way of an intro to this series. I’m looking forward to interacting with this book and, by way of this series of articles, with everyone who has been having very big reactions to it (whether they love it or not).

Chapters 1-3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Bell on Hell

Last Two Chapters

Love Wins – Ch 1-3

I’m putting these together not just because I read them together but because they really go together. In Chapter 1 Bell asks a lot of fantastic questions–questions I’ve been asking for my whole life! I fully agree with him that many people are *right* to reject the Jesus that is preached to them–if the Jesus they are told is about is not truly who Jesus is, then those who worship him are worshiping a false messiah–an “anti-christ”. I’ve been long convinced that for most of the history of the church the Jewish community has been *right* to reject the Jesus who appears to be of Scandanavian descent and who came to do away with the Torah, to start a new religion, and to make sure the Jews know that they’ve been replaced. What apostasy! In order to accept that Jesus you have to reject the whole Torah–which is essentially what many churches teach we should do. How could a faithful disciple of HaShem, faithful follower of the Word of God, faithful child of God’s chosen people who were entrusted to preserve His Word, simply reject that Word and follow after someone who came to do away with it? And to argue that He came to do all of the commands perfectly so that they would not need to be done by anyone else is ludicrous to anyone who understands that no one person can do all of the commands–some are for priests, some only apply in the Temple, some only during worship, some only for men, some only for women, and on and on.

But Bell is most concerned in this chapter about the realities of heaven–is it a place that only a select few get to go to–some *other* location that is not here? Or is it a different reality made available to anyone who is willing to join on for the journey? I agree with Bell that the idea of heaven as some other, ethereal place where good Christians get to go to be with God is simply not presented in Scripture. Rather, heaven is what you have when you are in the presence of God and God came to Earth to dwell among us in the person of Yeshua HaMashiach and He sent His Spirit to dwell within us now–causing our bodies to become living Temples and the dwelling place for God.

In Revelation we do not get a picture of people going up to heaven; we get a picture of heaven coming down to earth! And Yeshua invites people who encounter Him to encounter heaven now–to begin living in the Kingdom! We are able to enter into the world to come–the olam haba–in this life. What a privilege and a blessing–and the only truly Godly reaction is to want everyone to experience that! To want to hoard and covet this would be an expression of sin–a violation of God’s Law!

I love how clearly Bell presents God’s judgment as being against everything that is a violation of His Law–He judges rape, murder, sickness, violence, pride, division, etc. Because those are in opposition to Him and His Kingdom–those things cannot exist in His presence. And as much as those things might be within us, we are challenged to rid ourselves of them. As much as we retain them, they will be burned up in His presence when the fullness of heaven-coming-to-earth arrives.

I do appreciate that Bell acknowledges that there will be a time to come when heaven is fully united with earth, and that we are able to experience heaven on earth now as we partner with God in what He has planned for this world. I think he walks the tension between what is available now and what will be to come very well–though his ending is a slight slip off one side of the rope and if you haven’t paid attention to everything said and supported with Scripture up to that point it might seem he is making an argument for everything already having been accomplished. Because of some strong and clear points made prior to the end of chapter two, I do not believe that to be the case.

A few things that I noted:

I think he to strongly states the case of a woman author for the book of Hebrews. I happen to agree with him! I do believe the strongest argument is for a woman and I admit I smiled and was very impressed he would take that stand.

While I agree with his sentiment, and am a huge supporter of the social gospel in conjunction with the salvation gospel, I think he overstated his point on page 45 when he said, “Around a billion people in the world today do not have access to clean water. People will have access to clean water in the age to come, and so working for clean-water access for all is participating now in the life of the age to come.” The way he worded this could be argued as suggesting that our efforts towards these ends is bringing about the age to come and only Messiah can do that and in the timing that is not in our hands. Yet while we wait, I do agree it is in line with living as the Kingdom People of God.

Especially since just this last week I was teaching on the idea of the narrow gate and the idea that a limited number of people get to go to heaven, I really appreciated Bell’s critique of the attitude all to prevalent within the church today–the idea that a select special few (us) get to go to heaven while the rest of everyone (you) won’t. Throw in the descriptions of where everyone will be and magnify their Greek and Roman Mythological details and I’ve long abandoned the primary eschatalogical ideas of the majority of the church. I’m not a fan of the Left Behind theology and I find it wonderfully ironic that in Hebrew the word used for those “left behind” is only ever used about the righteous! When the Lord sends the harvesters to take the weeds out first I pray I may be left behind!

I don’t think Yeshua could have made it any clearer than he did in the gospels that we aren’t to be considering ourselves above others, or bickering over who gets to be first, or bragging over our status, or thinking any of this is ultimately about us. We were not created to be independent. We were created to live interdependently–with God, with our neighbors, and with the earth that is a beautiful home created for us. Both of the extreme positions–that we have the ability to destroy everything, and that we have the ability to save everything–are modern day presentations of the tower of Babel that was being built to reach up to heaven. Rather, how we live today reveals both who we are and who we think God is. I believe it’s important we try to convey as accurate a picture as we can–that we be made over into the image of God.

I really appreciated Bell’s admonitions to not speak as authoritatively as so many do about salvation and who gets to be with God. I am not a universalist–while I believe that salvation is made available to all I do not believe that all will want it, and I don’t believe God is going to force anyone to spend eternity with him who doesn’t want to be there. I am also not an exclusivist and if God chose to bring everyone into eternity with him and to give them blessings then it would reveal a lot about me if that upset me. I love that Paul echoes ancient Jewish sages when he speaks of believing husbands and wives possibly saving their unbelieving spouse. Though the ancient sages would express it that sometimes those who lack understanding will recognize righteousness even if they do not possess it within themselves. If, in response to that understanding, they attach themselves to the righteous person, then that person’s righteousness is accounted to them. Isn’t that what we’re holding out hope for in the message of salvation? That we might attach ourselves to Yeshua and His Righteousness would be credited to us? Can we not leave room in God’s Kingdom of God’s design for the Master Author of Grace to extend that to whom He chooses as He chooses? I fully maintain that it is because of and through Yeshua that anyone and everyone who receives salvation has received it. I trust God to be just, good, gracious and loving to work out the details beyond my comprehension.

Chapter 4

Bell on Hell

Sorry, I really couldn’t resist, I love a pithy rhyme. (Unfortunately now I don’t remember what chapter it is!)

And I mostly appreciated Bell’s thoughts in this chapter. A few times I cringed at his choice of how to present something and once or twice I understood, because of his style of communicating, the point he was trying to make but felt he was in error in the details of how he made the point. Though probably not for what you might think.

Basically, his point is that “hell” as presented in much of Churchianity is little more than a repackaged Greek or Roman underworld controlled by Satan–the modern Church name for the god Hades. With this I agree 100%. He does not believe such a “place” is presented in Scripture. I don’t either.

He explains the reality of the garbage pit in the Valley of Gehenna, though he leaves out one point I think is incredibly relevant. Yeshua speaks of fearing the one who can send you there, but never explains who that is and if you don’t understand how the Jewish legal system worked this can be lost in translation. See, the bodies that went to the garbage pit in the Valley of Gehenna were the ones that had been found guilty of a death-deserving offense against God’s Law. They had been warned by two individuals who were aware of the sin about to be committed; they had been witnessed by two separate individuals who saw them actually commit the crime; charges had been brought; no witnesses could be excluded as false witnesses; and death had been the God-commanded penalty for that sin. After that person was put to death, their body would not be buried, or put into a tomb. Instead, their body would be thrown out into the garbage heap where Josiah, centuries before, had cleansed all of Israel by burning the pagan priests and their pagan junk in that spot. That’s why it was the garbage pit and nothing good went there. So the warning to avoid Gehenna (often translated “hell” or “hades”) is a warning to avoid a life that will cause your fate to be that of being thrown into the heap with all the pagans and the trash. Or, put another way, live according to Torah and God’s commands.

I think that the way Bell presented God’s punishment conveyed the way that the word is used in Biblical texts, but I’m not sure if Bell himself understood what he was presenting. I say that because the takes so many things to that next level, that next step, and this he let hang there in midair. Rather than recount his entire discussion of the purpose of punishment, let me highlight the pieces of the text that I think are very important for making sure you walk away with a more Hebraic understanding of the word.

Pg 90:
“His [Paul’s] assumption is that giving this man over to “Satan” will bring an end to the man’s “sinful nature.” It’s as if Paul is saying, “We’ve tried everything to get his attention and it isn’t working, so turn him loose to experience the full consequences of his actions.”

He then concludes, farther down on the same page:
“The point of this turning loose, this letter go, this punishment, is to allow them to live with the full consequences of their choices, confident that the misery they find themselves in will have a way of getting their attention.”

THAT is what punishment is in Scripture. It is God letting you do what you insist on doing. It is God no longer holding back the consequences of your choices. It is God saying to Israel through the prophets that the reason He is sending them out from the Land is that He loves them SO MUCH that He can’t let them stay–because to stay in the Holy Land and continue to live as they are will bring them full destruction and death. THAT is love! And what the Bible is speaking of when it speaks of “punishment.” (pg 91)

Bell also touches on something I think he could have developed a bit more with an explanation of the Jewish understanding of the idea he presents–though I understand why he may have held back. For all he is accused of being a heretic about, this idea might have pushed some critics into full on apoplexy! When Bell presents the separating of the sheep and the goats he explains that the phrase for where the goats get sent off to, that is often translated “eternal punishment” is really a phrase that can mean, “‘a period of pruning’ or ‘a time of trimming,’ or an intense experience of correction.” In Hebraic thoughts about death there is a belief that those who die and are unrighteous from in this life will have their soul put through a time of trial and testing while it is separated from the body that hindered it with sensual desires in this life. While separated from the flesh their soul has an opportunity to learn lessons unheeded in life and they have the opportunity to grow in righteousness in response to the trials and tests they undergo in death. The belief is that at the resurrection of the flesh the body will instantly, upon being restored with the soul, change to the place that the soul has ascended to in righteousness and it is in this state that the individual will stand before the throne of Judgment. This is the understanding that a Jewish audience of mature Torah teachers and Pharisees would have understood upon hearing of an aion of kolazo or “period of pruning.”

Absent from this chapter as well are the two things I hear Bell most criticized for–Universalism (he acknowledges that some will reject God) and Preterism (he continues to speak of future plans from God). What he does do is caution against taking every verse that speaks about future events and hurling them all to some future date and some eschatalogical horror story. I happen to appreciate that level of restraint.

Last Two Chapters

Love Wins – Ch. 5 – “Dying to Live”

After explaining sacrifice (after talking about Eminem . . . these are the jump arounds that I think lose some people) Bell explains where some of the explanations for what Yeshua accomplished on the cross come from in Scripture. He sums up:

“What happened on the cross?

is the cross about the end of the sacrificial system
or a broken relationship that’s been reconciled
or a guilty defendant who’s been set free
or a battle that’s been won
or the redeeming of something that was lost?

Which is it?” (pg 127)

His answer is “yes” to all of the above. Though I have to disagree with him a bit as he has (probably unknowingly) slipped into a traditional Christianese understanding of the sacrificial system. His explanations of what sacrifice was all about come from the pagan world and do not at all resemble God’s stated intent, purpose or experience of sacrifice within the ancient Israelite’s world. For one thing, the early believers continued offering sacrifices until the destruction of the Temple in 70AD. In the book of Acts Paul pays for the sacrifice of some young men who had taken a Nazirite vow (and some have suggested he also had taken the vow with them). The book of Ezekiel speaks of the sacrificial system existing in the Millenial Kingdom (another reason I don’t believe we are in it yet).

Yes, Yeshua is the *end* of the sacrificial system–in the same way he is the *end* of the Law. He is the ultimate goal, what they both point to, the final destination of the journey. But neither *ceased to be* because of him. Neither was ever the way to receive salvation, or atonement. They were the means through which one came to understand salvation and atonement. They were done so that the person participating in both would be walking in the practices of pictures that regularly refreshed their hope in Messiah to come. And just as Yeshua admonished his disciples to celebrate every Passover seder they ever participated in from that night on “in remembrance of” him, so any sacrifice offered after his ultimate sacrifice on the cross, when done in remembrance of him, would be a worthy sacrifice.

Of course who you understand the author of Hebrews to be (who Bell is referencing as saying the sacrificial system is ending), and when you believe they are writing, will determine a lot about what you believe of their message. I agree with Bell that it was most likely a woman, but I also believe it was written after the destruction of the Temple in 70AD and that one of the purposes was to encourage the Hebrews (the Messianic Believers, more specifically) that it was okay that they could no longer offer the commanded sacrifices they had continued to offer. The author presents a beautifully Hebraic picture of the interconnection between the sacrifices being offered up until that point in the earthly Temple by the Levitical Priests and the ongoing sacrifices being offered in the heavenly Temple by the High Priest in the order of Melchizadek, Yeshua HaMashiach! The comfort is given that Yeshua has accomplished what every single one of those sacrifices was a picture of him accomplishing and since he was the *end* of them–the goal, the aim, the bullseye, the destination–when you have received him as your savior, and his ultimate accomplishment on the cross is applied to you, then you do not need to offer the actual sacrifices in the actual Temple (that you cannot offer because it doesn’t stand). You are covered; you are good. What peace that must have given the readers of the letter to the Messianic Hebrew Believers.

What Bell is attempting to tackle with all of this, however, is the reality that the authors of the Epistles presented diverse metaphors for Yeshua’s death on the cross and what it accomplished. They used images that were meaningful to their audience and they used lots of different ones to explain the same things. At different times and in different parts of the world there has been preference for one image over another. Even within different individuals it is okay if one metaphor holds more meaning. An attorney may best understand the legal imagery while someone working in the world of finance may be relate to a debt being paid/cancelled. And that’s good.

He is also trying to make the point that there isn’t one “better” metaphor. All of the metaphors used in the epistles are good and meaningful. We do not have to feel obligated to stick with one over the others–especially if there is not as much cultural understanding for the meaning as there was in the time the letter was written using that metaphor. In the modern Western world we don’t really get the meaning and heaviness of living in a culture that offers regular sacrifices. Unless and until we study these things, it’s perhaps the hardest metaphor for us to relate to. This is one reason why I teach about the sacrificial system so that we can understand what the authors are talking about when they reference it.

And, Bell goes on to point out, his death wasn’t anything unusual or special. He died the way thousands of people died at the hands of Rome. Naked on a cross. What is unique about Yeshua is that he rose from the dead. I do understand that Bell is going with convention at one point–which I find ironic considering his almost obsessive need to challenge convention at most other points–but the cross was not accomplished on “Friday” with a subsequent resurrection on “Sunday”. Yeshua is clear earlier in the gospels that he would be “three full days and nights in the tomb” and Friday at sundown to Sunday at sunrise barely accomplishes a day and a half. Now, I know the general come back is “he just had to be in the tomb part of each of those days for it to count.” Which sounds like a good argument–except that it’s ridiculous. First, a day for the Jewish person would start at sundown and end at sundown; Second, it was not until the person had been dead for three FULL days that they were pronounced truly dead. My understanding is that something close to 80-90% of coma cases come out of the coma within the first 3 days. In the ancient world without our modern day medical technology it would be impossible to determine if someone was in a coma or dead–and since it was observed that lots of people woke up within 3 days, they waited 3 days to pronounce them dead. This gives a lot of background to all of the stories where Yeshua brought people back from the dead after seeming to intentionally wait three full days. So if Yeshua only spent part of 3 days in the tomb then he didn’t die and thus he wasn’t resurrected–in which case those of us who pin our faith on him and what he accomplished have a real, serious problem. Plus, this whole Friday to Sunday picture misses the whole connection between Yeshua’s resurrection and the Feast of Firstfruits that he was fulfilling in his resurrection. But since that isn’t where Bell goes, I suppose I digress . . .

Only Bell then goes on to try to make a point using John that is . . . I’m sorry to say after loving the book so much up to this point . . . juvenile and revealing how much Bell is missing in his study of the Gospel of John. Bell points out that Yeshua turning water into wine is called the first sign by John, and that healing the official’s son is the second, according to John, and then Bell starts numbering things so that raising Lazarus from the dead becomes number 7 and he talks about 7 being the number of the days of creation, etc. Except that the number 7 and its reference to the days of creation in the book of John is culminated in the miracle of turning water into wine–not begun there. Now I’m okay with layers of 7’s in John, especially because John is writing in the Sod level (the 4th level, the highest level, the secret level reserved for learned rabbi’s at least 30 years of age and found worthy of studying this level), but to then skip to the end of the gospel and make the 8th sign Yeshua’s resurrection and claim that is the “beginning of a new week” . . . it sounds good, but it does NOT work. Nice try, but missed the boat. Because in order for Yeshua’s resurrection to be the “8th sign” in the Gospel of John we have to jump ahead a LOT of chapters and ignore miracles and “signs” being done in each of them.

All to make a point that I partially agree with. NO–the old has not gone and the new come. The new is the same as the old–just interpreted correctly, explained, lived out instead of only hoped for. But *it* is the same. And, yet, I do agree that the story John is telling is “one about God rescuing all of creation.” (pg 134)

I do agree that when the Gospel message is presented only in terms of Yeshua coming to reconcile man to God via death on the cross for our sins we are making humans the center of the story. And I agree this is missing the bigger point. And it is true that Scripture presents Yeshua acting to reconcile all of creation to himself! Yes, our reconciliation is part of that–but the bigger picture is the bigger point.

And with all I’ve disagreed with Bell about in this chapter, I do agree with this:

“A gospel that leaves out its cosmic scope will always feel small.
A gospel that has as its chief message avoiding hell or not sinning will never be the full story.
A gospel that repeatedly, narrowly affirms and bolsters the “in-ness” of one group at the expense of the “out-ness” of another group will not be true to the story that includes ‘all things and people in heaven and on earth.'” (pg 135)

I also agree with Bell that the intimately personal part of this whole story is that we are called to die to self in order to live with Messiah. We are called to die to our pride, our sin, our egos, our old selves, our ideas about how things should be . . . and then to live with the reality that Yeshua presents of how things are. Life comes through death. In fact, that is one of the reasons I love that the Hebrew days is sundown to sundown is that the day begins with night–death–and in the morning there is new life–resurrection; a picture of the Gospel is built into each and every new day–sort of gives new depth to choosing this day whom we will serve.

Chapter 6