Browsing Tag



Introduction to the Review Series: "Lies Women Believe"

[update on me: I know it’s been quiet around here for a couple weeks– between period week and an IBS flare-up, I’ve been sort of miserable. I have been developing some ideas for blog posts, though, and I think we should have some interesting conversations over the next little while. I’ve also been watching Parks and Rec and reading David Weber’s Honor Harrington series, and both have been highly entertaining. The Honor of the Queen was especially interesting to read– the main plot revolves around a complementarian and benevolently sexist-patriarchal society where the fact that they have to deal with a woman in command throws them all into a tizzy.

Anyway, we’ll be leaving on vacation next week, and then it’s period week again, so I’m not sure how regular posts will be. My goal is to write a bunch this week and schedule them to go up, but I’m trying to go easy on my body, so we’ll see.]


How to Win Over Depression and Redeeming Love were neck-and-neck in the last poll I did, but since my friend Dani Kelley is doing a review of Redeeming Love, I decided that my next review series would be the runner-up: Nancy Leigh DeMoss’ Lies Women Believe and the Truth that Sets them Free. In the comments, a lot of you mentioned how toxic this book was for you both personally and in your marriages. I received it as a gift when I was still at Pensacola Christian, and I remember feeling vaguely uneasy about it, although at the time I chalked up that reaction to “being convicted.”

In fact, as I flipped through it today, I discovered sections I’d highlighted, and it made my stomach sink all over again. The first time I read this was after I’d become engaged to my abuser and rapist, and the fact that I needed to mark “Every married couple is incompatible” (156) and that submission is a “gift we voluntarily give” (151) is disturbing in retrospect. I will continue screaming this until the cows come home: books that command “submission” from wives keep women in abusive relationships. End of story.

It’s a fairly popular book– the cover I have shouts “OVER ONE-HALF MILLION SOLD”– and over 70% of the people who reviewed it on Goodreads gave it 4 or 5 stars. Reviews generally follow along these lines:

This is one book that I will always go back to for a right and true perspective on God and His ways for me. Nancy’s insight gives genuine hope for all of us women who need perspective that is true and holy… some of it is not easy to hear but often what is best. November 2007

This book challenged me from the first word to the very end. So many of us don’t realize how many of Satan’s lies we are believing and acting upon day after day. Nancy Leigh DeMoss is candid, to the point, and unapologetic as she writes truths and supports them with scripture. I believe that every Christian woman could benefit from reading this book. August 2012

This is an excellent book for those women who actually care what the Bible says, and want to renew their minds to think more Biblically. Eve’s diary entries at the beginning of each chapter were really thought provoking and helped me to see the differences between what God’s plan was and what we fallen humans now have to live with. I went through this with the ladies Bible study at my church and I value it so much that I’m going to be facilitating a study using this book with college-age girls who want to live their lives in line with a Biblical worldview. I highly recommend it, and I even bought 2 more copies to give to my sister and my best friend! December 2014

This is one of the best books that I have read regarding women in the church. DeMoss makes no apologies for telling it like it is, and she doesn’t shy away from difficult topics. Some of the issues she addresses have been accepted practice within many churches, and though some may have a problem with what she says, she is right- on. I recommend this book to my Christian women friends often. June 2004


As you can tell, one of the most common reactions to this book is that it is eminently biblical and should be received as God’s Own Truth. Even the title contributes to that notion, which claims that this book contains the truth that will set you free. It seems as though many of the women who read that took it at least somewhat literally– the hundreds of reviews I skimmed over echoed the idea that Nancy has repackaged The Truth in an accessible format, and that if you reacted poorly to this book, it’s only because you’ve accepted Satan’s dirty feminist lies.

Many reviews contained kernels like “hard to swallow,” or “she pulls no punches,” or “unapologetic,” and I find that response oh-so-interesting, because they tended to attribute this not to her writing style or voicing, but to the veracity of her content. These women had the same reaction to this book I did in college– we assumed any negative reaction we had was ultimately due to her being right. If we found something “hard to swallow,” it wasn’t because we thought something was illogical or unhealthy, it was because we were being convicted. God was using Nancy to tell us how wrong we were to believe things like “I get to have a say in the course of my life.” I think this is going to be an interesting dynamic to explore as we move through the series.

There’s twelve sections to the book, but some are significantly longer than others– and I think some sections (like chapter six, “About Marriage”) might take us even longer to get through. I’m going to do my best to keep this down to three months, although that all depends on things like how angry I feel like being on any given Monday. I’ll be working with the original version published in 2001, although I believe it’s been slightly updated since then.

As always, if you have a copy of the book on hand and would like to read through it with me and and your thoughts in the comments, please feel free! The best part about doing these series is hearing from y’all.


"Real Marriage" review: 65-85, "The Respectful Wife"

With a chapter title like that, you just know how much I loved it. I probably should have expected this chapter to be more infuriating than the one devoted to men, but I didn’t. My marginalia has a lot more “WTF” and “BS” (which stands for both bullshit and benevolent sexism; nice how that one worked out) than the last chapter did– and I wish I could talk about a lot more than I have the space for.

But, today, we’re going to start of with Significant Problem #1:

Mark and Grace twist Scripture to the point of deceit. Or they proof text in order to mislead. Or they use footnotes as if the verses they’re referencing have anything at all to do with their argument. In short: Mark and Grace use the Bible to lie, and it pisses me off. What they’re doing isn’t at all unusual in complementarian circles, because the “biblical” argument for complementarianism is incredibly weak so they are forced to rely on manipulative tactics like these. Unfortunately, these deceptions work on far too many people.

The first time I threw the book today was when I got to page 71, and Grace quotes 1 Cor. 11:7-9 in order to support her argument that women need to be “companions” and “helpers” in the complementarian sense. I have actually written about this exact problem, in a post I’m particularly proud of.

Grace quotes this:

“Man is the image and glory of God; but woman is the glory of man. For man is not from woman, but woman from man. Nor was man created for the woman, but woman for the man.”

And then she stops. Because, if she kept going, she’d eventually run into this:

Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man nor man of woman, For as woman came from man, so also man is born of woman.

Grace purposely omits this part of the passage, even though from a grammatical stand point the passage climaxes here. Stopping where she stops would be a bit like me stopping a sentence right before a but. After what she quotes is nevertheless. Nevertheless, (πλήν) as in, “in spite of what has just been said” or “but rather, except.” Quoting a passage in order to prove your point when the author himself says “but” right after the section you’re quoting is … well, I threw the book across the room. Now I just want to type out curse words. It’s wrong and misleading and dishonest and she’s doing this to the Bible, a book they both claim to live their lives by. This isn’t the only instance (she does something similar at least four times), but I have to keep going.

On to Significant Problem #2!

Grace and Mark put all of the responsibility for a healthy marriage and productive life onto wives. In the chapter Mark addressed to men, all he basically said was “don’t be a monster”; he never once uses the word “abuse” even though he describes emotional, verbal, and physical abuse. He didn’t even really take it beyond that into “here’s how to be a decent human being”– he just talks a lot about all the ways men can abuse their wives and then says “don’t be that guy.”

In this chapter, though, Grace has got a lot to say about all the things that a woman has to do.

  • She prays for her husband about every single thing he has to do all day long.
  • She touches him affectionately, romantically, and sexually.
  • She texts him through the day.
  • She makes sure the prepare healthful meals.
  • She takes up his interests.
  • She reads the Bible (71-75).

And while when she’s talking about learning to communicate she indicates this is something husbands and wives have to learn how to do together, “dudes, talk to your wife about what you think a problem is” is something Mark never tells husbands to do. Communication is a two-way street, but they’ve missed that.

And, lastly, Significant Problem #3:

Grace uses the “except if you’re being abused” line.

I wish I could tell you how much I hate that line. I hate it. I hate it more than any other single phrase I’ve ever heard come out of a spiritual leader’s mouth. I have gotten up and left church services because of it, and at this point if I hear it uttered in a sermon and I talk to the pastor afterward and their reaction is nonchalance, I’m never going back to that church. I am done with this phrase.

It is worse than useless. It is dangerous.

It is especially dangerous because of the context of this book. Chapter three spent a lot of time describing abusive behaviors– and not just verbal and emotional abuse, but physical coercion and violence as well. But, Mark never once says “this is what abuse looks like.” He spends the entire chapter minimizing it– personally, I think he has a vested interest in minimizing abuse, because he’s an abuser. There’s no way in hell Grace isn’t going through at home what Mark has been putting his church and staff through for years.

He gets away with it, though, because hardly anyone in our culture understands what abuse actually is. We have the vague thought that it’s black eyes, broken arms, women who “fall down stairs.” But the reality is that my abuser called me Goddamn fucking bitch every single day for almost three years and I never thought it was abuse because he wasn’t hitting me. He would pinch me and twist my fingers like he was playing “Uncle,” and I never thought it was abuse because there were never any bruises.

It is extraordinarily rare for a person in an abusive relationship to understand that’s what is happening. When someone says “oh, if you’re in an abusive relationship, none of this applies to you,” there is basically not a single fucking person who’s going to hear that and think “oh, that means me.”

If you’re about to say something that you think needs to have that disclaimer slapped onto it, then you need to think about it really, really hard. If you know that something you believe could be twisted by an abuser or a victim in order to trap them, then that belief must be re-evaluated, period. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit.

But, Real Marriage makes it so much more worse than that. She tells women that they are commanded to submit to their husbands, even if he makes an irresponsible decision that could be detrimental to both of them (80). She compares a woman submitting to her husband to a child obeying their parents (82). She says that “if your husband isn’t working on his part of loving, you are still called to work on your part of submitting” (84).

But, worst of all, she says this:

If your husband is verbally or physically abusing you, he is not loving or respecting you. If this is an ongoing issue, it should be addressed and stopped immediately by a pastor or trustworthy leader who will listen to you both.

There is so much wrong with this. First of all, if you realize that you are in an abusive situation, leaving should be your end goal. Not reconciliation. Not redemption. Not forgiveness. Getting yourself (and children if you have them) safe is your first and only priority, however you need to go about doing that.

Second, Grace’s idea that someone in an abusive marriage should go to a leader “who will listen to you both” is beyond wrong. It is worse than wrong. That “advice” can, has, and will kill people. Anyone who is willing to listen to both a victim and their abuser is an unwise person who should not be sought out or listened to. If they are willing to “listen” to the abuser, if they want to “hear both sides,” they will be used by the abuser to further ensnare their victim. A wise and properly trained counselor who hears “my husband hits me” will not be interested in hearing from the person willing to hit their spouse.

That Grace (and, presumably Mark), think this is a good idea is horrifying.


complementarianism and Crete


According to the online Merriem-Webster’s, a polemic is “an aggressive attack on or refutation of the opinions or principles of another.” When most people use the term, it’s to describe how someone uses their words, whether written down or spoken aloud. If we describe something as polemical, what we usually mean is that an argument is a sort of an exaggeration– the person making their argument took a more hardline stance than they actually believe in order to get their point across through shock or strong reactions. When someone is polemical, it means they’re a controversial figure.

Paul is probably one of the most polemical writers in the New Testament, and that’s saying something, because Peter contributed to it, too. When many evangelicals describe Paul, polemical is probably not one of the first words that spring to mind. For many theologians, Paul is regarded as the scholar of the Bible; educated Roman citizen, bordering on lawyer, trained by the Pharisees, intimately familiar with the Law and the Prophets.

However, if we’re being honest, Paul gets . . . well, excited. And I don’t blame him. Frequently, it’s to get passionate about Jesus, which I love, and sometimes, well, he gets carried away with his fervor, and we end up with this:

One of the Cretans, a prophet of their own, said “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.” This testimony is true.

Titus 1:12


It was a common ethnic slur, originating in the logic puzzle made famous by the Labyrinth Certain Death Riddle. This is also known as the Epimenides paradox, and it was originally stated as “How can a Cretan’s statement, ‘Cretans always lie,’ be either true or false?” This conundrum appeared in the 6th century B.C., and the perception persisted; that Cretans were always liars, and Plutarch extended it when he said that Crete had no need for predatory animals because it had predatory people. Paul, writing a letter to Titus on Crete, used an ethnic slur in order to contrast the behavior of the Christians on Crete with what they should not have been doing.

Not cool, Paul, not cool.

However, I’m not really going to be dissecting that today (it’s already been done spectacularly here), because I’m going to be focusing on the second chapter of this epistle– but it’s important to keep the nature of this letter in mind. Paul was writing a letter to a young pastor who was facing some frustrating issues, and his response is true to Paul’s shoot-from-the-hip style. His tone is steeply exaggerated, and he builds and works on extreme contrasts.

I’m going to be talking about this passage today:

Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.

Titus 2:3-5

This portion of chapter two is pretty much the only one I heard preached on growing up. If a pastor was going to Titus, he was probably going for this one. It’s the passage that has been used to found and encourage mentorship ministries because “older women” are to “train the young women.” And what are they supposed to train them in? To be “keepers at home” (as the KJV puts it) and submissive to their husbands.

As a teenager and young woman, the charge that I was intended to be a keeper at home was probably one of the single most influential teachings I received, because it strongly affected many of the choices I made. It practically decided for me where I was going to college (which, *gasp* I went to college), and it most certainly decided what I was majoring in. I became a Secondary Education major with a concentration in music, so that I could be a piano teacher out of my home, and organize my schedule around my children.

Even today, this teaching determined a lot of my decision making. Today, I’m a freelance editor, and I work from home. This works out for me, and it’s been a life-long dream of mine, but that’s the thing– it’s been a life-long dream to be an editor. Even my big, grand, what-if dreams were shaped and molded by the only option I had: to be a keeper at home. Now, though, years later, I no longer believe that there’s anything wrong with pursuing a career– any career.

Interestingly enough, that belief is based on Titus.

One of the most important questions we keep at the forefront of our thoughts when we study any part of the Bible (or any book, for that matter) is Why? Why did Paul write Titus? Why did he say the things he did? Why did he choose the way he said it? What was he trying to accomplish?

The answer: he wanted to help Titus, a young pastor who was struggling with the lifestyle his church had embraced long before he got there. The Christians on Crete were behaving in such a way that they were being judged by the citizens of the island– citizens with a Greco-Roman moral code, a code based on shame and honor. The Christians Titus pastored were bringing shame on themselves in the eyes of the other islanders.

We can see this in two ways through the letter: that Paul emphasizes the need for the Christians to be respected (1:5-7, 1:11, 1:16, 2:5-7, 2:14-15, 3:8). He repeats the idea that their behavior should be so far above reproach that they “cannot be condemned”– by the citizens who would judge them by the Greco-Roman moral code. We can also see this by how Paul also emphasized self-control (1:8, 2:2, 2:5, 2:6, 2:12),  the moral cornerstone of Roman society. Self-control was the most admirable and necessary quality for any Roman citizen. If there’s a message to be pulled from Titus, it’s basically Paul shouting “Get ahold of yourself, people are watching!”

So how does “being submissive” and “working at home” come into play?

Because, like the men, women had a very specific role to play in Roman society, and if they didn’t conform to that role, they would bear the heavy shame of their community. Two primary components of this role was to be under the husband, and the other was to manage their home. However, “managing their home” was a hugely different thing than how we think of it today. Today, a stay-at-home-mom runs errands, cooks, cleans, takes care of the children, and is fairly industrious, but all of it is unpaid and unprofitable in a commercial sense. At this time, however, as Gaston Boissier notes in Cicero, “women appear as much engaged in business and as interested in speculations as the men. Money is their first care. They work their estates, invest their funds, lend and borrow.”

A Roman woman ran the family business while her husband engaged in community service and other things that couldn’t be run from home. A husband and wife were considered, in Roman society, to be a single economic unit, working toward the same goal. In the culture, where men were frequently away from home for up to years at a time, the wives were responsible for everything. They were the COO’s of Roman days.

That’s a bit of a different picture than what I was taught about being a “keeper at home.”

Also, it’s important to keep in mind what Paul was doing in the letter: he was telling Titus that it was monumentally important for the Christians on Crete to have a good reputation by Greco-Roman standards. That the islanders would have “nothing evil to say” about them. That’s the main point of Titus– that Christians should be aware of what their behavior looks like to the world around them. It’s not a prescriptive book in the sense that Paul was laying out a bunch of rules for what every single last Christian should always do, everywhere, for all time– he was writing down the principle that Christians need to examine the priorities of their culture, understand what that culture will judge them for, and adapt (within reason). A possible subtitle for Titus could be: When in Rome.

So, in a limited sense, what does the “moral standard” of American society say about the value of women?

And what does Christian society say about the value of women? And could that message earn us the disdain, judgment and condemnation of the world we live in? Is there anything in the messages we loudly proclaim from the “rooftop” of a hundred different books on “true womanhood” that could cause a non-believer to see how we treat our own as ethically, morally wrong? If there isn’t anything sinful about integrating well with our culture (which 200+ years after Titus was written, the decadence of Roman society could have made this problematic), why do we insist on gender stereotypes that haven’t existed for longer than sixty years and a mode of living only available to the privileged? 

Feminism, Theology

complementarianism and the genesis fall


As a young teenager, I had an immense respect for my cult leader’s wife. I was best friends with her daughter, which meant that I was one of the few people who were frequently invited into their home. I spent many weekends having sleepovers at their house, watching John Wayne movies until the wee hours of the morning, playing army in the backyard for hours on Saturday. The first time I ever had grits was in her home, the first time I made cookies she taught me, the first time I went garage sale-ing I was with her. I admired her– her frugality, her work ethic, her constancy in her faithfulness to her husband in all things, the sacrifices she made for her family, her earnestness in raising her children… she was a large part of what I pictured in my head when I envisioned the ideal wife. My parents marriage was, and is, healthy, but my cult leader’s wife fit more easily into the mold I was being taught was the biblical role for a wife. Even to this day, when I’m reminded of the Proverbs 31 woman, I think of her.

One Sunday morning, after the cult leader had disbanded any kind of “youth group” and told the teenagers that our regular Sunday school was canceled and we were expected to attend Sunday school with the adults, the cult leader preached a message on marriage. I don’t exactly remember the context of the entire sermon, but I do remember feeling relieved that his wife hadn’t been there to hear it– she had been keeping nursery that morning. My mother leaned over to my father and whispered “thank God Miss Dianne* wasn’t here to listen to that.” But, in church, he said the exact same thing:

“Husbands, you know how it is, you know what it’s like. Sometimes, you just really don’t want to be married anymore. Nothing about marriage seems worth it, and it would be better if you were just alone. Can I get an Amen?”

While a few men in the congregation muttered an unenthusiastic amen, I looked over at Miss Dianne, and I will never forget the look on her face. She was crushed, devastated– destroyed by the husband she submitted to.


Growing up, I didn’t know the word complementarianism, officially, but what I did know was that a wife was intended to “complement” her husband. A husband and wife, united, made up for lacks in each other. They filled out each other’s strengths and weaknesses. Even today, I can appreciate the core of this idea, even though it is frequently over simplified and reduced down to ideas like “opposites attract.” There’s a certain beauty in two people meeting together and becoming stronger because of each other. That’s what I find most stunning in the imagery of becoming one flesh.

However, in conservative religious environments, there are limitations and boundaries to what complementing your husband can look like. I grew up with this idea that women were to be “keepers at home,” that there was a universal standard of femininity I was expected to live up to, that my role and responsibility was in being a wife and mother. I was taught that envisioning a role for myself that included roles in addition to a maternal one was sinful and selfish. If I attempted to be a wife, a mother, and a career woman, I would most definitely become depressed, maybe suicidal, my marriage would be ruined, and I would fail as a mother.

On top of that, I was also taught that there is one biblical structure for marriage: a husband is the head of his wife as Christ is the head of the Church. I am called to obey and submit to my husband in all things, regardless of how my husband might behave toward me. If he was treating me badly, I was taught that it was probably because I was not practicing biblical submission. All I had to do, in order to ensure a beatific marriage, was be a submissive wife, and the rest would fall into place.

I can’t really deconstruct everything that is wrong with those particular set of teachings, but I want to talk about where these teachings come from, and why complementarianism is exalted as the “only form of biblical marriage,” and why the egalitarian position is frequently dismissed because, supposedly, we don’t read our Bibles.

The first place that many complementarians will go to in order to argue that complementarianism is biblical is Genesis 2 and 3. They begin with God’s decision to create Eve:

“Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.”

The key word there is helper. There’s a lot to be said about this word (‘ezer, or עֵזֶר). At its most basic, “helper” really is probably the best translation for the word, although “help meet” is used as well. Many complementarians argue that this means that women were created to help men. That was the reason for Eve’s existence, and continues to be the definite, primary purpose of women today. This passage seems to “very clearly and plainly say” that this is why God created women. We are helpers, not leaders.

But let’s take a quick look at where else this word is used. First of all, Genesis 2 is one of only three places that ‘ezer is used to describe a person or a people; the other fifteen times ‘ezer appears, it’s to describe God. It’s used twice in Deuteronomy, where God is described as someone who “rides through the heavens to your help” and as a “shield of help.” It’s used again in the Psalms, where the God of Jacob is called upon for protection, for him to send “help from the sanctuary.” In other places in the psalms, God is a “help and a deliverer,” or as the one responsible for all of creation.

If God is helping Israel, if we’re going to be consistent in our hermenuetic, it means that he is in a subservient position to Israel. He is not leading, or directing. He is not the one making the decisions. He’s helping, that’s all. Israel is the leader, God is the helper.

I think it’s also interesting that when this passage eventually comments on what their relationship is going to be, it’s in the directive for men and women to become one flesh. To me, that doesn’t say hierarchy, or that one is to be dominant over the other. That doesn’t make any sense, really. My body is one flesh. How does any part of my body have dominance over another? In fact, when, a “part” of me does have dominance over another “part” of me, it’s usually to my detriment. When my head rules my heart, or when my heart rules my head, there’s imbalance, and it’s dangerous. I’m not operating in a way that is true to all of me, to every part of me.

Complementarians also use Eve’s deception to show her up as weaker, as more fallible, than Adam. Some have even claimed that the serpent went to Eve because he knew that he wouldn’t have been able to deceive Adam. Except, Adam was with her. He was there, listening to the same deception. Some have argued that Adam only ate the fruit because he knew that God would send Eve out of the garden, but he loved her too much to let her go alone.

I don’t have to space to tackle all of that right now, especially since the biggest argument that complementarians pull from this passage is after the Fall, when God is cursing Adam and Eve. When God curses Eve, he tells her that her pain in childbirth will be multiplied, that her desire shall be for her husband, and that he will rule over her.

Those five words provide much of the foundation for complementarian ideals; they argue, over and over again, that it is God’s design for men to rule over their wives. That’s the way it should be, that’s the way it’s supposed to be. If women violate this God-ordained order by not allowing our husbands to have the rule over us, we are inviting our own destruction. We will be unhappy. We’ll be miserable. Because, deep down, we know that submitting to our husband’s headship is the way it’s supposed to be.

Except… morphine exists, as do C-sections, and epidurals.

Why is it that women are “fighting against the natural order” when we want equality with our husbands (note: complementarians frequently argue that a husband and wife are equal-we have equal, but separate roles. This is a problem, because complementarians are not defining “equality” the same way, because women in the complementarian role are to submit to their husband’s headship. If there’s a hierarchy, they’re not equals), but there isn’t a problem with reducing our pain in childbirth? Or, while we’re on this subject, why is it that no one talks about “violating God’s ordained order” when we try to get rid of weeds, or when we develop reapers and irrigation to help combat our difficulties?

I’d like to highlight something that is present in this passage: when God sends Adam and Eve out of the garden, it’s to send them to work the ground. He’d just finished cursing the ground, but he still sent them to till and harvest it, to survive– and to eventually thrive.

Yes, the Genesis passage curses Eve with a husband who will “rule over” her. But it also includes the hope that this is not the way things are supposed to be. God didn’t create our relationships to work this way– he created us to be “one flesh,” in complete unity. And he sent Adam and Eve out into a world that would be hard, and full of struggles– but struggles and trials they could defeat together.


reading and other reasons why my jaw hits the floor. also, snark.


I’ve had a few conversations recently about my new-found feminism. Well, not new-found to me, but I’ve suddenly become very public about it, so people I’ve known for a long time are curious. Understandably. These responses have varied– most have just been honestly curious, and our conversations have been that pleasant exchange of directly opposing ideas where no one flies into a terrible violent rage and limbs are severed. A few have gotten mildly tense, but nothing distasteful, all in all.

To answer some of the questions, I had to go back and do some reading. I found Rachel Held Evan’s amazing post on women in the Bible. To be honest, her description of Deborah . . . it rocked my world. I had never thought of her in this context:

As both prophet and judge, Deborah exercised complete religious, political, judicial, and militaristic authority over the people of Israel. She was essentially Israel’s commander-in-chief, said to issue her rulings from beneath a palm in the hills of Ephraim.


What. The. Hell.

Son of a biscuit.

I mean, I’d always known that Deborah was a judge over Israel. But what I’d always been taught was that Deborah didn’t really lead Israel. She played second fiddle to Mr. Manly General Barak.* She was only called upon to be a judge because “a good man was hard to find” (and yes, I’m super proud of myself for working a Flannery O’Connor reference in here. It needs to happen more often). Basically, God was proving a point to Israel: “See, Israel, SEE! You’re so screwed up, I had to go find a WOMAN to lead you!”

So, I did a tiny little bit of digging. First, I read the Bible. And do you know what I discovered?

It doesn’t say ANY of that.

I know, right? Spoilers.

I’ve read it before, of course. I’ve read the Bible through at least ten times. At least. But, somehow, my fundamentalist indoctrination laid down on top of Judges chapters 4 and 5 and told me to read it this way.

And then I went onto The Intrawebs, and inside of 30 seconds, found a few gems for your consideration. One woman starts off her description of Deborah with this amazing little object lesson:

A small congregation in Alabama had one man who would lead singing; but, the poor guy couldn’t carry a tune. So, each time he began, a godly, elderly woman on the second row chimed in with the correct notes. She did not stand and act as leader. She remained seated in a submissive position, while helping him fulfill his God-given responsibility.

My head just landed on my desk. Like, hard.

This is personally frustrating, because this has happened not only to me, but to many women I know. Talented, capable women– but, they’re not men. So even though the men suck at a particular responsibility, or just have straight up have no talent for it, women have to sit on the side-lines, and support men in their “God-given responsibility.” Just… yuck. Because we don’t live in a system where people with competence and ability are recognized. Nope, that would be insane.

But, oh she goes on. She starts talking about how Deborah wasn’t a “power-hungry career woman,” but proudly described herself as a wife and mother. And then, she says that “Israel’s men were weak, spineless, and lacked leadership. They looked to a godly woman.”– and she’s pulled this interpretation from… wait, not from the Bible. No, she quoted a commentary that finished with “This witness [passage]  is an instance of strength in weakness. The witness is only a woman. A sign of the decay of the heroic spirit.”

“Strength in weakness.” That’s sounds familiar. Oh, riiiight. It’s basically every single complementarian discussion of submission ever.

But, she wraps up her lesson with this:

What role did Deborah—the prophetess, wife, mother, and judge—play in Israel’s deliverance? She did not lead its army. God commanded Barak to take charge. When he feared the responsibility, Deborah went with him.

This is just . . . so nonsensical to me. Because Deborah is a leader because there weren’t any good men left, but God put Barak in charge, for realsies? He just had Deborah be “fake” in charge to prove a point? Because that’s… consistent  (*sarcasm). Seriously, guys– this just ignores common sense. She was a ruler, a judge– just because she wasn’t a general doesn’t make her somehow “not really the leader.” It made her… I dunno, not a general?

Then, there’s the Thankful Homemaker, who wants us to know that it’s important not to take Deborah out of context. We need to make sure that women don’t think they can get all uppity and thinking they’re capable leaders, because, y’know, Bible. It’s so clear that God wants men to be leaders, because, after all, all the apostles were men. But we’re going to ignore Junia, the outstanding apostle, because… well, hmm, we’re ignoring her.

And Deborah, well, good ole’ Deborah only “encouraged a man in his role.” We’re also going to ignore that she was also the Judge, and responsible for the entire nation of Israel. Because, well… uhm… right. We’re ignoring that bit. After all, Deborah described herself as a mother. Obviously that’s the only part we should be paying attention to. Let us ignore that Deborah WAS THE VOICE OF GOD ON EARTH FOR THE PEOPLE OF ISRAEL. Because that’s just… fuzzy. Super unclear, that whole… being a judge… thing.

I found others, but I think I’ve made my point, with much snarkiness, which I haven’t let loose in a while, so thank you for that. What’s disturbing is the lengths these women will go to in order to defend their status as unequal citizens. It reminds me of a book I read once– what was it? Oh, right. Uncle Tom’s Cabin. The one where Uncle Tom thought chattel slavery was just epic, and completely justified?

Also, I’m thinking about starting a possible super-snark series on Women in the Bible, Loud and Proud. (Or maybe not super-snarky. But I like snark, so we’ll see.) Thoughts?

*It’s also not lost on me that this is our President’s first name. Muslim name, people? Really?