Feminism

“Lies Women Believe” review: 27-44

This chapter introduces us to the methodology that Nancy will be using through the rest of Lies Women Believe. If you’ve read the book before you’re probably familiar with “Eve’s diary,” where Nancy fictionalizes an autobiographical telling of Eve’s life, starting with the day she’s exiled from the Garden. The first time I read this in college, I actually skipped these sections because I found them boring– Nancy’s strength isn’t narrative writing.

Today, though, what jumped out to me in this diary entry was this:

Then he offered me some things I had never had before– things I’d never thought I needed. Independence–from God and from Adam. Position– I had always looked up to God and Adam; this creature said they would look up to me. (28)

Nancy’s extrapolation of Eve’s experience includes her never being looked up to by Adam. In our culture “looked up to” is synonymous with words like appreciate and respect. Nancy believes that Eve had never felt respected, had never thought she needed to feel respected by her husband, and intrinsically ties this to the single worst thing that has ever happened in the course of human history (according to evangelicals): Original Sin.

A woman feeling the need to be respected caused the Fall. Women wanting to be respected is a Lie. We’ll see this become glaringly apparent later on, but before we get to that, I want to take the time to point out a common misunderstanding about Genesis 3.

Many conservatives point to the order of events in order to bolster their position that women are “created to be more vulnerable to deception,” that we are “inherently more temptable” (33), because the serpent chose to target Eve first. There must have been some strategy on the serpent’s part, some reason. What they are blithely ignoring is that Genesis, like other ancient texts like Beowulf, is a recorded version of an Oral Tradition.

I don’t know of a culture that didn’t create storytelling in some form. Before writing, stories were preserved by some mnemonic trick– a rythm, poetry, a pattern of some kind. In this particular segment of Genesis, this pattern is called a chiastic structure, our best examples of which come from Homer and the Bible. These structures allow oral storytellers to easily remember all the events and characters of story– and that structure was preserved here. “Eve was deceived first” is a result of this structure and doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with the serpent’s motives.

If you haven’t read Man and Woman, One in Christ by Philip Payne, I highly recommend it– he goes into depth on the faulty conservative renderings of Genesis 3 from the perspective of someone who believes in the inerrancy of Scripture, and lays out the chiastic structure clearly here.

All of Nancy’s talk about how the serpent deceived Eve reminded me of a question I’ve had since I was a child:

The Serpent further deceived Eve by lying to her about the consequences of choosing to disobey God. God had said, “When you eat of it you will surely die.” Satan countered: “You will not surely die.” He flatly contradicted what God had already said. (31)

This has always bothered me because the serpent was right. They didn’t die. This passage is usually accompanied by some mumbo-jumbo about how God meant a spiritual death and how Adam and Eve were immortal but at that moment they started aging yada yada … but the question that always niggled at me was that it seemed that God hadn’t been particularly forthcoming or straightforward. At the very least it seems obvious to me that Eve took God at their word: if she ate it, she’d be dead. As in dead. Not spiritually dead, but the six-feet-under-pushing-up-daisies sort of dead.

I know this means I’m “judging God,” which is a big evangelical no-no, but I can’t help it. It seems purposely obtuse to tell Adam and Eve “eat that and you’ll die” if you mean something else entirely. The blasphemous, sacrilegious parts of me go on to wonder if Eve didn’t deeply regret this decision (36), but shouted “No regrets, you lying, manipulative asshole!” as the angels with the big flaming swords tossed them out of Paradise. I mean, if Eve literally existed, which I doubt.

However, the most horrifying part of this chapter isn’t Nancy’s interpretation of Genesis 3, linking women to being inherently morally inferior to men, or arguing that a desire to be respected led to Original Sin. It’s her list of “Lies”:

Their teachings help justify

  • anger (“healthy expression of your feelings”)
  • selfishness (“You’ve got to place boundaries between you and demanding people”)
  • irresponsibility (“You are dysfunctional because you have been deeply wounded by others”)

At the same time, they make “the righteous” feel “sad” or guilty

  • for taking personal responsibility (“You’re codependent”)
  • for demonstrating a servant’s heart (“You shouldn’t let others take advantage of you”)
  • for being faithful to their vows (“God does not expect you to stay in that marriage”) (34-35)

Remember how I said earlier that “Nancy doesn’t think women deserve respect” will become apparent? Well, here it is. This made me so angry I could choke. If I came to this book vulnerable, trusting, and looking to Nancy for guidance or counsel … I know I say this practically whenever a conservative Christian opens their mouth on mental wellness, but I could literally be dead now. That’s not an exaggeration. If I had continued believing these filthy lies that feeling angry because I was raped is a Sin, or that I needed to “admit the part I played” in being raped, or that my PTSD and triggers and are a result of being “irresponsible,” or that being a “righteous person” meant being treated like a doormat, I think it’s likely I would have killed myself.

I couldn’t keep carrying the burden of believing that I was to blame for being raped, or that my PTSD was a moral failing. It was tearing me apart and destroying my life. It was taking away my ability to do anything but curl up into an extremely inebriated ball and sob. I was failing classes and unable to work. Because of how I agreed with Nancy. It wasn’t until I could say things like “my rape isn’t my fault” or “having PTSD doesn’t make me a bad, weak-willed person” that I started recovering and putting my life back together.

Right now I am grieving for every woman who’s ever believed Nancy’s lies.

 

 

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  • This can’t be real surely? The book actually says that it is wrong to create healthy boundaries? To protect yourself from others taking advantage of you? To communicate your feelings? To recognize the impact other people’s damaging actions have had on you?

    This is insane! All those steps are essential in creating healthy relationships and patterns of living. How did this book even get published?

    • SamanthaField

      Well, it’s from Moody, soooo….

  • Sometimes I think I need a trigger warning for “BS you believed for way too long that ate away at any chance you had to be happy.” Not that it was a surprise after the last installment. It’s so interesting to me how the issues of personal responsibility and empowerment get confused. I think this was a major problem for me growing up. I was held responsible for my own (lack of) happiness but I wasn’t allowed to change the situation that was contributing (heavily I believe) to my unhappiness. Maybe “victim mentality” is a bad thing but in some situations we lose personal agency and are, in fact, victimized.

  • CynicMom

    Does anyone have any idea what she was trying to communicate by the “taking personal responsibility (“You’re codependent”)” line? In what sense could it look like you were codependent but really you were taking personal responsibility? Those seem like opposites.

    • Stefanie Musser

      maybe since she believes that women need to have a spiritual covering she thinks that women who submit to the rule of their husbands take personal responsibility, but look co dependent to the world. That’s what I can make out of that statement.

      • Timothy Swanson

        I believe the way DeMoss means it is that a woman in an abusive relationship need to “take responsibility” for causing the abuse. (By not being properly submissive.) The teaching of DeMoss and others like her is that a woman stops abuse by being loving and submissive, and that the man will eventually see the error of his ways if she is just submissive enough. So, an “outsider” seeing a woman blame herself for being abused, and (correctly) deem the relationship to be codependent. But DeMoss considers this to be “taking responsibility” when the woman blames herself for being abused.

        • Stefanie Musser

          yeah I guess that makes sense since later in the book she actually exactly says that.

  • I’ve heard the argument that the Original Sin was denying your gender roles, since Eve made a decision for herself and Adam stood by passively and then accepted her decision. That’s plenty messed up on its own and is seriously reading into the text that makes clear that the Original Sin was something else: Knowledge of Good and Evil, i.e. taking the role of God as judge over others. I haven’t heard that it goes back further to Eve wanting respect that she was wrong for her to have to as a woman. I don’t even know how to wrap my head around that.

  • Beroli

    What a vile book. What a vile philosophy. I’m glad you got away from that culture, Sam.

    Does anyone have any idea what she was trying to communicate by the “taking personal responsibility (“You’re codependent”)” line? In what sense could it look like you were codependent but really you were taking personal responsibility? Those seem like opposites.

    I think she means that by her metric, it’s “personal responsibility” for a woman to stay in an unhealthy relationship.

  • Stefanie Musser

    While I was reading this chapter there were also two things that really jumped out to me. (besides all the crap that you talked about in your post). The first thing was that in Nancy’s view man seem to be helpless little babies. Eve gets blamed for her sin and then for Adams too, because she made him do it. I know she says that she thinks Adam is “held responsible” (33) but really she just talks about how women will lead men into sin and men are just so helpless and will ultimately be seduced. She doesn’t sound like she likes women very much to be honest.
    The second thing that jumped out to me is that she basically tells her readers not to read, watch or listen to anything that goes contrary to strict christian believes, because that will lead them to sin. Because Eve listened to Satan’s lie if I read anything that makes me think about stuff (like your blog I guess 🙂 ) I put myself in danger of sinning and being deceived. So basically stay in your bubble and follow the rules.

    “Listening to counsel or ways of thinking that are not according to the Truth is the first step in developing wrong believes that will ultimately place us in bondage…”(40)

    And the sad thing is when you do listen to other people who actually give good and healthy advise and you start following that advise Nancy will see it as proof to her point. Because now you are setting boundaries (so you are sinning), you think you should be respected (so you sin). It’s so crazy!

  • Timothy Swanson

    My personal favorite explanation of why Eve was tempted first is that she was a harder nut to crack. After all, it took the universe’s most talented liar to fool her. All it took for Adam was one woman…

    (Obviously, this is tongue in cheek. I too have doubts about their being a historical Adam and Eve, and loathe the idea that we are to draw gendered conclusions from the story of the Fall.)

  • Jenny Mingus

    Plus as Mark Twain pointed out, how would people who have no concept of death understand a threat like “If you eat this fruit, you will die.” It’s really cruel when you think about it.

    • a Frog At Large

      ^THIS^ is what makes me think that the conservative Christian concept of life and death is wrong. Leaving aside the historicity of Adam and Eve, I am of the opinion that there was death in those early days and that there is no soul that goes on to live forever etc, as is widely taught in many Christian circles. It makes no sense for God to introduce the concept of death as an incentive to stay away from the tree unless they knew what He was talking about.

  • Cythraul

    I’d always figured the “you will surely die” had an implied “eventually”. That is, Adam and Eve were immortal before they ate of the tree.

    Romans 5 seems pretty confident that death “entered the world” at this point; the writer presumably had access to Genesis, and saw no contradiction.

    (Though, huh. It’s suddenly occurring to me to wonder when exactly Genesis was cobbled together from its source documents.)

    • SamanthaField

      The scholarly consensus seems to be during the Babylonian exile.

    • The scholarly consensus seems to be during the Babylonian Exile.

    • ReverendRef

      I’d always figured the “you will surely die” had an implied “eventually”. That is, Adam and Eve were immortal before they ate of the tree.

      That is certainly a common understanding of that passage, but one that I believe is incorrect. The problem, I think, is that people read that verse and stop, and don’t continue to read the rest of the story. The reason God evicted Adam & Eve from the garden comes in vv 22-24:

      22: The the Lord God said, “See, the man has become like one of us, knowing good and evil; and now, he might reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life, and eat, and live forever” —
      23: therefore the Lord God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from which he was taken.
      24: He drove out the man; and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim, and a sword flaming and turning to guard the way to the tree of life.

      Based on those verses, it certainly seems that death did not enter through the sin of Adam & Eve, but that they were mortal to begin with and God wanted to keep them from becoming immortal.

      • Cythraul

        I’d always read the bits about the tree of life as being about regaining immortality, but I don’t have any textual evidence for that. It’s a post-hoc explanation.

  • Victoria

    I know I’m late to the party here, but this really resonated with me. I have recently been diagnosed with PTSD from a situation that sounds really similar to yours, and I was going through this with my therapist. I live in a really conservative/fundegelical area and so I am somewhat of a pariah in certain social circles because I have left the mindset. People like Nancy just cannot grasp that I am SO MUCH HEALTHIER mentally since I changed this way of thinking. If I had stayed where I was, blaming myself for my “sins” like being raped and then being upset about it and ultimately choosing to marry my abuser because of this, that I would very likely ACTUALLY BE DEAD right now either from him or suicide. People do not realize how dangerous this way of thinking is, and I think you spell that out very eloquently on your blog, so thank you.

  • Ysolde

    I’ve always wondered how we could even blame Adam and Eve to begin with. If they truly had no knowledge of good and evil then how could they possibly know that disobeying God was wrong? It would only be after eating the fruit that they would be like, “Oh well now I know that was bad”