One day I was leaving my Christian Ethics class, having just discussed masculinity, industrialization, and lots of other great stuff. On my way out, in the most casual way, a classmate said the simplest yet most brilliant thing:
“If women were weaker and more easily deceived, why would we trust them to teach our children?”
This immediately led me to think of this quote from Grace Driscoll:
“As daughters of Eve we are more easily deceived, but like Ruth under the security of our husband and our God we are safe. Doesn’t it limit our ability to demonstrate our gifts? No. We can lead children and women, which is what a Titus 2 woman should desire.”
I don’t agree with Driscoll, but let’s assume I do.
If I believed that women were more easily deceived, would I want a woman teaching my children about God? Nope, I would want my children to have the best teacher possible. And if I believed that women were inherently weaker than men, that means I would only want men teaching and leading my children.
So sorry ladies, my children will only be taught by men. I want the best!
For those of you who don’t know me, I think this is bologna. But I don’t want to get into that now. I simply want to point out the contradiction at work when people simultaneously believe that women are more easily deceived and that they can and should teach our children.
And while we’re on the topic of women teaching children…
I’m led to another important question: Women are allowed to teach boys who will grow up to be men. Right? But wait, this is a problem. At what age do boys become men? 13? 16? 21? When are males too old to sit under the teaching and authority of women? And, are boys supposed to forget everything they learned while under the authority of a woman once they become men? How does that work?
Back to allowing the weaker vessel to teach our precious children…
I don’t know why this logical contradiction has never occurred to me. The next time I hear the “But women can use their gifts to teach other women and children” line, I’m going to scream. You know why? Because our children deserve better than weak-minded teachers, darn it! (Imagine Stephen Colbert saying that and it’s super funny. Oh, if only I had an alter ego of my own. She’d be so entertaining!)
If you truly think the Word of God requires you to believe that women are weaker and more easily deceived than men, you’re still my brother or my sister in faith and I love you. I vehemently disagree with you, but I respect your right to have this opinion.
But if you do, you better back up that belief by forbidding women from teaching children.
No really. I’m serious! It doesn’t make sense otherwise.
I put this together a little bit differently. “If women were weaker and more easily deceived, why would we trust them to teach our children?” The answer of which I’m afraid is that a culture that is comfortable degrading women’s roles and abilities isn’t too concerned with the defense of any “lesser” group: women, children, the poor, the sick, the counter cultural. Rather than seeing this scenario as a sign of hypocrisy, I fear it is something worse: a toxic combination of pride, insecurity, and antipathy. I bring it up in response to the end of the article, “It doesn’t make sense otherwise.” There is a way (unfortunately) it can make sense. The author is setting up a logical argument as follows: IF children deserve the best, AND IF women aren’t the best teachers, THEN you cannot logically support women teaching children. Valid logic. But non-applicable when someone does not hold the first “if” condition to be true. It’s sad, but it makes me wonder the depth of what is sacrificed to the alter of male supremacy.
I’ve started thumbing through Marion Taylor’s “Handbook of Women Biblical Interpreters” recently. Along with the great resources on pretty rocking feminist figures like Josephine Butler, it also contains the stories of many women whose writings come out of teaching children at home and at church throughout the centuries. Marion has done a lot of work in this field, and exposes the more recent power struggle regarding women’s interpretation and teaching.
I think the biggest challenge in this whole argument is where people are coming at their interpretation of scripture. I’ve written about this elsewhere on a related issue (http://bit.ly/14VLe1i) but basically, this will demand that some people disassemble their understanding of how scripture’s authority works. Until that disassembly takes place, it may become difficult to win folks over.
The only problem I can see with this reasoning is that technically, someone could turn around and say “Well, the book of Titus specifically instructs older women to teach women/children. So we know from the Bible that they’re capable of that. We also know from the Bible that they aren’t capable of teaching men. Even if it doesn’t make sense to us, the Bible explicitly states both, so it’s a case of God’s ways being higher than our ways.”
I, obviously, believe in egalitarianism (so it makes sense to me that Titus would give permission for women to lead other women…because women are totally capable of leading anyone!) Does anyone have thoughts about how we might respond to the hypothetical counter-argument I’ve proposed?
That’s a great point Rachel. Here are my two cents:
I think reading through different translations brings a bigger picture of the conversation in Titus.In the 2011 NIV, for example, Titus 2 seems to be saying that women should guard their conduct so that younger women can look up to them as examples on how to live, as opposed to the command to “teach younger women”. Int hat translation, at least, the passage doesn’t seem to be about who can and cannot teach, but rather how everyone should live. I would also say to that point that I disagree that the Bible is “clear” that women should not teach men. As an example, I would guide people to Acts 18 and point out that Priscilla taught Apollos and was thanked by the Apostle Paul for doing so.
I would love to hear other answers. Anyone have other thoughts?
Oh, that’s very good! And now I think of it, Titus doesn’t actually mention older women teaching and/or setting an example to children, specifically. So there’s that.
It’s all so much simpler if one just accepts the truth of equality in gifting, no? 🙂
I completely agree Rachel 🙂 haha
Also, the content of the instructions in Titus 2:4-5 concern basic living skills designed to make sure the young (lazy?) Cretan wives did not give cause for the Word of God to be maligned by their pagan neighbours. The older women were not instructed to teach the younger women theology. Priscilla, on the other hand did teach theology, as did Anna, and other godly women.
Excellent point Marg! Thank you!
First off, I’d like to express my disappointment that you edit snarky comments. Snark is my mother tongue!
Secondly, I always wondered the same thing (even as a child being taught by many godly women in a Fundamentalist patriarchal church), but I wasn’t able to articulate it.
Our church put the cut-off for women teaching boys at 5th grade. It was fantastic realizing a 6th grade boy had more “spiritual authority” than I would ever have, due to my egregious oversight of being born female.
Kreine, I too am baffled that people can think that a 5th grade boy has more spiritual authority than a grown woman. It is a very confusing line of thought! Thanks for sharing!
truth be told… men overlook this because then teaching kids would be all up to them.
I love that at our church a lot of men do volunteer for teaching kids on a regular basis, but how funny it would be if all the women didn’t show up one day!
I snarkily mentioned this to a Complementarian friend, and it backfired on me. He agreed that men should be teaching their children too, but we can’t get enough of them to step up. True story.
He topped it all, though, when he said it’s a problem when “women teach each other too much.”
That is too funny Greg. Don’t you just love it when people claim to take scripture literally (women should teach other women), but then they put their own parameters around it(but they shouldn’t teach each other too much). Too good.
Yep. It has been 40 years now since, as a high school senior, I was shocked that my suggestion that we start a high school Bible study was met with the news that I could not lead that group … because there would be boys older than 13 in it.
I called a meeting with the Elders (which was pretty interesting on its own) to ask them to explain this rule. And there I got, for the first time, the stunning news about what women can and cannot do. I could teach boys from cradle to their 13th birthday … and then, all of a sudden, I couldn’t.
I don’t remember everything in the conversation — mostly because my mind was totally blown away — but I do remember how the meeting ended. I leaned in and said “Fine. You give me these young boys for the first 13 years of their life — and then try to undo what I have taught them.”
Yeah … didn’t go over all that well with the Elders. But we had the Bible study. There was no man willing to lead it, so I did. We just didn’t do it at the church. And we didn’t ask their permission. Oh, and lives were changed as young men and women were introduced to a God who loves and gifts everyone for works of service.
Pretty unbelievable, this kind of simplistic thinking. Gotta follow the logic all the way to the end and see what you end up with! It’s all good — we just have to relax and trust the Spirit more….
I am so sorry you went through that Peggy! Yup, many times we just have to continue on with our ministry, despite what others think. Many women end up using their gifts outside the church for those very same reasons.
This same confused argument was used when African Americans were kept as slaves, ostensibly because they were inferior and yet they raised many of the children whom they cared for. ugly ugly ugly
Wow, great point Bev! Thanks for the important reminder!
Love the way you frame this inconsistency!
Great point, I never thought of it that way, but I did always find it inherently demeaning that women were restricted to teaching/learning with children and other women. There are all sorts of problems people run into when they try to avoid the mutuality concept. Either you’re equal or you aren’t, and if women are easily deceived then lock us up and shut us up, but then it would be a lot harder to keep up the separate but equal facade. It’s like throwing us a bone saying oh, but you can teach children. You are so right, though, why would you have weaker vessels teaching your children?
It is demeaning, and I firmly believe it cannot just come from interpreting the ONE verse that says women shouldn’t teach men. We should never build doctrine on one verse, and especially a verse that contains a word used only once in the Bible and with a questionable meaning (authentein, mistranslated as authority). I think it has more to do with negative attitudes towards women that have been passed down through the ages. Marg does a good job making this point in this post: http://newlife.id.au/misogynist-quotes-from-church-fathers/