Bible

Mark Driscoll (Re)Invents Patriarchy

Once again, Libby Anne puts words to my thoughts about a certain segment of Christianity, this time in response to a recent sermon by Mark Driscoll titled “Real Men: Men and Marriage”:

Patriarchy has never been about all women being somehow in bondage to all men—it has always been the individual level Driscoll is talking about. Think of the law of coverture—upon marriage a woman legally ceased to exist, subsumed into her husband. Patriarchy was always about individual women being under individual men. A wealthy noblewoman was not “under” the footmen who waited on her—she was under her wealthy nobleman husband. Under patriarchy, individual women obey and are subject to individual men, obeying and submitting to them in return for protection from other men.

Preach it, my atheist sister.

Homosexuality Under the Reign of Christ

J.R. Daniel Kirk, author of Jesus Have I Loved, but Paul? responds to the many questions he has received regarding the chapter of the book that addresses homosexuality:

There have been times in the history of the church when God decided that what was unequivocally required earlier was no longer needful. Indeed, Paul depicts as enemies of the gospel those who would require gentiles to comply with the eternal, covenantal sign of circumcision. Repeatedly in the New Testament the presence of the Spirit comes in to demonstrate to the church that the old stipulation has been overturned.

I suggested that we should be aware of the possibility that the Spirit might make such a demonstration today.

Evangelicals tend to be uncomfortable with this kind of thinking because we like to consider ourselves “people of the book”—meaning that the Bible is the ultimate authority for our faith—and we perceive appeals to the Holy Spirit or new revelation to the Church as thinly-veiled attempts to just ignore the Bible and believe whatever we want. But that isn’t actually very biblical.

♀ The State of the Weblog

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This is my last long post of the year. Next Thursday is January 3, 2013, so next time you hear from me (probably talking about Chapter 6 of The Feminine Mystique), we’ll be starting a new year.

I’ve been writing Jesus & Venus for over four months, which doesn’t seem like a very significant marker, but it’s the end of the year, so I feel like doing a wrap-up/state of the union post.

I’m burned out.

I know that sounds like a dumb thing to say after only four months of activity, but I read so much terrible news on a near-daily basis that it really gets me down sometimes. Even worse, such a staggering amount of blind drivel or outright misogyny comes through my RSS reader every day in the form of anti-feminist op-ed pieces, rape culture apologia, and even friendly fire, that I’ve found myself more and more frequently getting so angry that sitting down to process the news for all of you has taken every bit of determination and stamina I can muster. Good news or unadulterated awesomeness shows up far less regularly, and the victories are often small.

Anyway, as whiny as this may sound, here are by far the four greatest contributers to my burnout.

Ease of Burnout

I burn out quickly on nearly anything that isn’t going perfectly, and frequently even on the things that work out well. I’m a generalist; I have a wide array of interests, and this is only one of them. It’s all too easy for me to abandon things that don’t charge my batteries at the moment and move on to another project I’m more excited about. I also get easily bored with ongoing projects once I’ve gotten into a regular rhythm, particularly if they don’t have a foreseeable end date. 10 years post-college, I’ve come to terms with this character flaw, and I think it’s healthy to acknowledge it from time to time.

Abuse of the Bible

Many or most of my Christian friends are not feminists or egalitarians, and I read several Christian websites that are indifferent, or passively or actively hostile, toward the goals of feminism. I try to be open-minded, so I recognize that some parts of the Bible could, fairly legitimately, be interpreted in opposition to egalitarian views. 1 Timothy 2:9–15 comes to mind first, of course, and the dearth of women holding positions of spiritual or political authority—exceptions notwithstanding—could easily trouble me absent my views on progressive revelation.

But people rarely employ the strongest arguments when opposing feminism from a biblical platform, and when they do, they almost never seem interested in an actual dialogue on the subject. Instead, they tend to stick with the same three tactics: Interpreting The Curse as prescriptive for women (but not for men), universalizing and canonizing the mythologized version of the 1950s sold to them through film and television of the day, and selectively applying Old Testament law. When I (or others) disagree with these practices or try to engage them on a hermeneutical level, they nearly always respond by questioning our commitment to the authority of the Bible, conveniently ignoring the many components of the Christian feminist platform actually based on the Christian scriptures. When other theological disputes can be politely handled without these sorts of accusations, I begin to wonder just how scared of sexual equality these people must be to behave so reactively.[1]

Rape. Rape, rape, rape, rape, rape, rape, rape.

I quite literally cannot read a single day’s worth of news without seeing a horrific account of a rape or a story about miscarriage of justice in a rape case or perpetuation of rape culture through legislation. Women everywhere are having their sexual autonomy taken away from them, and hardly anyone seems to actually care; the most common responses seem to be some form of victim-blaming or decrying human nature, or both. The occasional meting out of justice or positive institutional or political change brings hope for a future culture of consent, but our present reality bears little resemblance to the ideal.

Evangelicals—my people—are among the worst. We struggle to not conflate behavior we consider “sinful” with behavior that mitigates the injustice of rape; the former is and will probably always be up for debate, but the latter is a flying unicorn, and we need to stop believing in those. As much as we may not like it when young people get drunk and rub up against each other, a woman who does this is in no way at fault if she gets raped—the end, full stop.

But Evangelicals—and nearly everyone else—think that we can keep talking this way about women and still effect change. We can’t. We can’t perpetuate modesty culture without contributing to the perpetuation of rape culture. We can’t keep teaching our youth that sex is shameful and dirty without putting girls (and boys) at risk for un-reported sexual abuse. We can’t train women in rape-avoidance techniques without subtly communicating that rape, when it happens, is a little bit their fault.[2]

Believe me when I tell you that I struggle with empathy. I’m a cold-blooded, callous bastard when it come to anyone but my own kith and kin, but this issue still makes me—again, quite literally—scream out loud at my desk on some days.

Ideological Snobbery Among Feminists

This one is probably going to anger people, but I’m putting it in anyway. While many feminists I read and interact with online are lovely people, most are mean-spirited, flippant, or dismissive at best when encountering ideas that conflict with feminist dogma.[3] While I understand that nearly everyone tires of saying the same things over and over, as a relative newcomer I have repeatedly observed that feminists are largely preaching to the choir because the congregation is tired of being harangued.

Now, some websites or individual bloggers have no interest in reaching non-feminists. Some do not even intend to persuade. I think of Sarah Moon, who has made it quite clear that her blog is an emotional outlet, not a news source or platform for debate. I also continue to derive a semi-guilty pleasure from the steady stream of snark flowing out of the Jezebel writers, who fall loosely into the category of “pundit”. On the more journalistic end of the scale, Feministing and The Feminist Majority Foundation Blog, while newsy, seem to be aimed entirely at existing converts.

I’ll cite a specific event as an example: The Good Men Project’s recent series of posts on rape culture, which many (rightly, I believe) categorized as rape apologism. You’ll notice that the link above leads not the Good Men Project website but to an article for The Guardian by Jill Filipovic, and that is because Filipovic was the only feminist writer I heard of who responded to the event with a reasoned, balanced commentary befitting a journalist.

The near-universal reaction from the rest of the femisphere boiled down to: “Screw GMP. No one should ever read them again; they’re terrible people.” An entirely legitimate reaction for writers who just want to blog about personal experience or vent their emotions, this is not at all tenable for anyone who wants to consider themselves a journalist or news source. Ignoring the opposition, even when they write something so wrong that you have to spend half an hour cooling down before you can respond, is not an option for a journalist. If, as they say, most of the feminists I follow really no longer read The Good Men Project, they are abdicating any claim to the title.

And that is fine, but where are the feminist journalists? Where are the serious, well-reasoned op-ed pieces defending our positions? Seriously: where are they? I feel like they must exist; I just haven’t found them yet. Someone point me in the right direction. Drop me a line in the comments, using the contact page, or on Twitter. For now, though, the feminist corner of the internet seems very closed off to dialogue. This alienates people who are open to feminist ideas but put off by our unbending dogmatism.[4] I know, because I have conversations with these people. As a perpetual evangelist, this troubles me.

Why I’m Not Giving Up

Firstly, I don’t want to be a quitter. I’ve quit a lot of things in my life; I don’t want this website to be another one. In any case, it has more inherent value than most other things I’ve attempted.

Secondly, people. As much as I may occasionally (or frequently) disagree with some of them, I’ve met several wonderful people since I started collecting the feminist news. Despite never meeting any of them in person, I feel like some of my new friends could turn into lifelong friends. Their various individual brands of feminism—and Christianity—make me feel happy, and more importantly, they expand my thinking and push me to be a better feminist and a better Christian.

Finally, the goal. The Goal. Slightly expanded from the About page, The Goal of Jesus & Venus is, through a steady stream of news carefully peppered with opinion, to persuade Christians who aren’t quite sure they are feminists or egalitarians that they really are, or should be. No one else that I know about is doing what I’m trying to do, and I feel like I’m doing it well. I could do it even better, and if my readership continues to expand, I think I can achieve that goal.

I’m going to push through this period of burnout. Four months is a very short time, considered with proper perspective. 2013 is going to bring plenty of raw material, and I’ll be here to digest it into a form you can consume in just a few minutes a day. This may sound kind of hollow after all of the above complaining, but I’ll say it anyway: Thanks for reading.





  1. I should clarify that many of my complementarian friends are wonderful people who do not engage in any of these tactics.  ↩

  2. At least, not using the type of language and logic we’ve been employing up until now.  ↩

  3. I use “dogma” here in the non-judgmental sense of “doctrine considered central to the movement”, not in the pejorative sense of “beliefs held irrationally in despite of evidence to the contrary”.  ↩

  4. This time, I am being pejorative.  ↩

Santa Isn't Real

Krista Dalton recounts how she realized not everyone is ready to have their illusions shattered:

Once upon a time I took a biblical Aramaic class at a local seminary. Consequentially, much of our time was spent translating portions of the book of Daniel. One day, forgetting I was the only “non-seminary” student in the class, I referenced the text with the words “written by the author of Daniel.”

Cue the shocked expressions from my classmates. I had deviated from the set “as Daniel says” expression, choosing to go with the view that the author is unknown. With confusion in his eyes, one student asked me what I meant.

Generally, I prefer to favor the truth over comforting lies, and seminaries owe it to their students to force them at least to explore textual and historical criticism, but as Dalton goes on to explain, not everyone is ready to make that journey.

It's About the Bible, not Fake ideas of Progress

N.T. Wright rejects the argument from “progress” in favor of female bishops:

It won’t do to say, then, as David Cameron did, that the Church of England should “get with the programme” over women bishops. And Parliament must not try to force the Church’s hand, on this or anything else. That threat of political interference, of naked Erastianism in which the State rules supreme in Church matters, would be angrily resisted if it attempted to block reform; it is shameful for “liberals” in the Church to invite it in their own cause.

I love that “liberals” is in scare quotes, and lest you think that Wright opposes female bishops:

The other lie to nail is that people who “believe in the Bible” or who “take it literally” will oppose women’s ordination. Rubbish.

Exactly right. The scriptures themselves provide the strongest argument in favor of ordaining women, and to base our arguments on cultural norms is to cede the hermeneutical high ground to the patriarchy.

The Danger of Calling Behavior "Biblical"

For the rationale behind the experiment that resulted in Rachel Held Evans’ A Year of Biblical Womanhood, look no further than her piece today for CNN’s “Belief Blog” on the inconsistency with which every Christian interprets and applies the Bible:

When we turn the Bible into an adjective and stick it in front of another loaded word, we tend to ignore or downplay the parts of the Bible that don’t quite fit our preferences and presuppositions. In an attempt to simplify, we force the Bible’s cacophony of voices into a single tone and turn a complicated, beautiful, and diverse holy text into a list of bullet points we can put in a manifesto or creed. More often than not, we end up more committed to what we want the Bible to say than what it actually says.

"He's Just Not a Spiritual Leader"

Marlena Graves at Her.meneutics critiques this common complaint from women about the men they’ve just dumped:

I started wondering about all the godly men who may have other spiritual gifts—just not the ones traditionally considered “male” spiritual gifts. For example, what about men who have the gift of mercy or hospitality or service or encouragement, and who are full of the fruits of the Spirit? Do we devalue them simply because they’re not at the helm or out in front but rather operating alongside their partner? Is initiating devotional activities within a relationship really what it means to lead?

Even the Dogs Eat the Crumbs

Another great post from Kristen of Wordgazer’s Words, this time about Jesus’ interaction with the Syro-Phoenician woman who begged him to heal her demon-possessed daughter:

For years I didn’t know what to think of this story. It looked like Jesus was first ignoring, and then insulting, a poor, desperate woman—for no other reason than that she was a Gentile. It looked like she obtained healing for her daughter only after submitting to humiliation by agreeing that she and her people were little more than “dogs.” If Jesus is really the compassionate Savior of all mankind, how could He be so racist and cruel?

After doing her homework, she proceeds to unwrap the story and give us all the gift of falling in love with Jesus and the Bible (again).

Who Wins the Equality Contest?

Marg Mowczko compares Paul’s views on marriage and the role of women with those of his contemporary, Roman writer Plutarch:

It struck me how different Plutarch’s and Paul’s views were about the relationship between husbands and wives. It also struck me that many Christians sound much more like Plutarch, rather than Paul, in what they think and say about marriage and women.

"Merely a Stricter Version of the Old Covenant"

Kristen of Wordgazer’s Words delves deep into Old and New Testament history and culture to analyze Jesus’ and Paul’s teachings on divorce. Even if you disagree with her conclusions, the information is fascinating.

Via Tell Me Why the World Is Weird.