“Bad” women often advance God’s work in the world. Or so the bible tells us.
Here are just a few: Tamar, Rahab, ruth, Bathsheba, and Mary mother of Jesus.
These women would not be considered “well-behaved” or fit the role of what many Conservative Christians today would consider a “proper woman.” Four or five of them had improper sexual relations according to the standards of their time and could have fallen victim of dangerous consequences. Four were the “wrong” bloodline. All of them fell outside the societal norms for what a woman should be.
Why do I bring this up? Because there is a strong belief in many conservative circles that woman are limited to a specific role. It includes being submissive to their husbands even to the point of enduring abuse. Some claim that women are unhappy today because they are given too much of a role outside this tradition.
When she found out she was to be an unwed mother, Pastor Desiree Allen found herself considered about the judgment of her congregation: “If you’ve been in church for any period of time you’ve heard or witnessed the aftermath. Shunning, slut shaming, being sat down from your position, having to go up in front of the church and confess your sin, etc. etc. No one can be naïve enough to say this type of stuff doesn’t happen in church.”
Here concerns are justified. She lists types of control over women’s behavior. This patriarchal noose around women’s bodies has tried to tighten in forms of restrictions on their rights to proper health care.
Now in the name of full disclosure, I was raised by a devout feminist. My mother was a devout feminist because she had to be. A single mother in the 1970’s of four children forced to work multiple jobs and denied things like insurance because she was a single, divorced woman. The fact that her first husband was an abusive and controlling alcoholic who literally almost shot my mother and my siblings with a shotgun did not matter. She did not fit the role of a dutiful housewife and mother. Society continued the abuse her husband attacker started.
It is from here that I have learned that forcing gender roles upon women is an infringement of their rights; it subjugates them to a misogynist worldview, it forces them to inequality; it puts them at risk to abusive husbands; it requires them to relieve sexual assault without justice; it ignores their contribution of the Christian lineage.
We cannot continue to abide by the misinterpretation of certain scriptures calling women to be submissive when our Christian lineage celebrates those who stand outside of societal roles.
May we be as brave as those women in Christ’s family.