I was recently confronted with the accusation that I constantly find misogyny in the Christian bible. Not only that, the misogyny that I find is supposedly taken out of context, turned upside down or otherwise twisted from its original message of “love.”
My most handy references for accosting apologists are usually the Pauline Epistles and 1st Peter:
For a man … is the image and glory of God: but the woman is the glory of the man. For the man is not of the woman: but the woman of the man. Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man. [1Cor 11:7-9]
Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. [Eph 5:22]
Ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands. [1Pet 3:1]
I applied these in my argument with my most recent accuser.
When I mentioned Paul, the first thing I heard was, “Paul said, ‘In Christ there is neither male nor female, Jew nor Greek, slave nor free.'” This was meant to demonstrate, of course, that Paul thought everyone was equal. What was necessary to point out was the actual words used, that little “In Christ” part: as in not here on earth. (Paul was very focused on the distinction between this world and his concept of the next.) In the face of this fact, I was met with the assertion that the quote was a clear, even unmistakable, declaration of equality. I didn’t seem to be making much headway.
I was forced to reply that this was, in fact, not an unmistakable statement of equality. I explained that “men and women are equal” would be an unmistakable statement of equality. Rather, I found Paul’s thinking more akin to much of the later Puritanical thinking of the visible and invisible church. Viz., by accepting that no human can achieve the perfection of the invisible church in heaven (Christ in this case) it is a backhanded enabling of continued subjugation of women in the physical world (the visible church). Did I mention I didn’t seem to be making much headway?
The next quote I got was, “Love your wives as Christ loved the Church, who loved her and gave himself up for her.” The defense here was that because Christ was to have died for the Church (which I find an odd ad hoc interpolation as there was no “Church” at the time) husbands must be willing to die for their wives. I wondered, was this supposed to be a vindication? If I have it rough it’s ok for me to expect you to yield to my will? I answered, “This doesn’t justify anything; it makes excuses for corporeal suppression in deference to some sort of dominant ‘spiritual’ largess.” I was met with narrowed eyes.
I relay this exchange as evidence of my contention that the misogyny in the bible is disregarded, evaded and avoided to such an extent, that it exhibits itself to the believer in everything they see. It is as if such aberrant and offensive indoctrination cannot help but reveal itself in subversive influence if it is ignored upon the open page. Slowly, this intuition started to take shape and gain momentum as my would-be apologist gave me the real definition of misogyny.
Real misogyny, I was told, was the image of women as displayed on magazine covers–scantily clad and in suggestive poses, they stood at the grocery lane poisoning the minds of society. Real misogyny, as it turned out, was the aggressive marketing of pornography as a means of stimulation. In fact, real misogyny was Viagra; necessary for marital relations after the unattainable fantasy women viewed in said pornography spoiled men’s appreciation for their wives’ beauty.
It was at this point that I feared my challenger might be a bit imbalanced. I realized, however, that doctrine might have been working on his thought-processes even without his knowledge. I sent out a sanity probe by stating the following: “I expect adults to have the basic intelligence not to take life direction from supermarket checkout lines. I even go so far as to expect those adults with children not to allow their kid’s gender education to come from the front page of the Enquirer. If this is considered a parental norm, we have much larger issues to face. Yet I do not see such problems being solved by supernatural intervention. I will contend that it exacerbates the problem.” Hoping for a glimmer of reason, I went on, “I know of no person or group ever telling me that I need pornography or other photos for stimulation, although I have heard religious representatives relay to me that ‘someone’ is telling me this very thing. I also don’t compare my wife to models any more than I compare her to anyone else. I just don’t have the training to see women that way.” My theory suddenly crystallized, my probe crash-landed and I finally lost my apologist.
I don’t have the training to see women that way. Seeing something like erectile dysfunction as a symptom of marital disinterest only supported my suspicions. Medications have allowed thousands to recapture a cherished element of their relationships. To treat them as tawdry porno pills does a grave disservice to those who are actually helped. I am not naive about misuse, but I am not blind to propriety either. But where would this idea come from?
I conclude that it is a product of the very verbal gymnastics required to blind scripture’s adherents to the haggard face of female subjugation. This misogyny is the stillborn child of a 2000-year-old flesh-mongering creed. Such spite-filled phrases cannot but leak their venom past the eyes and into the brain of the unsuspecting congregant. Each fundamentalist carries a cancer, each apologist a parasite, each missionary a latent disease.
I hear many versions of the No True Scotsman fallacy. In its original form it runs, “Liam says to Duncan, ‘No Scotsman puts sugar on his porridge.’ To which Duncan replies, ‘My friend Angus puts sugar on his porridge and he’s a Scotsman.’ Liam retorts, ‘Ah, but no true Scotsman puts sugar on his porridge.'” In the case at hand, Christianity is laudable when it’s done “correctly” and Christianity that’s iniquitous isn’t being practiced the “right” way. “Bible Contradictions” are brought about by poor scholarship, but real scholars read it the right (insert sect here) way. Biblical marriage–the way it was TRULY meant–is not misogynous.
No matter how many forms this argument takes, no matter how many arguments are written in ALL CAPS, it will always fail in logic and succeed only in faith. I choose the former, as the latter is an assault to my intellect and decency.