I spend five or six hours every day exploring Christianity with non-Christians. Doing that—being someone whom non-Christians trust enough to do that with—necessarily means being consistently honest about those aspects or practice of my faith that I have every reason to understand will be difficult for non-Christians to accept.
One thing I never do when talking to non-Christians about Christianity is employ as final proof that something is true the fact that it’s in the Bible. Christian theology desrves better than that; Christianity is, if nothing else, absolutely rationally supportable. Believing in the reality of Christ does not mean checking one’s brain at the sanctuary door. Newton, Erasmus, Descartes, Bacon, Kierkegaard, Pascal, Faraday … it’s just not reasonable to claim that the endless number of such people were Christian in spite of their intellectual prowess.
As Galileo said, “I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use.”
Bottom line being: We’re not idiots.
And not being idiots means we can’t shy away from manifest, obvious incongruities about our faith or the way it’s practiced. Doing that would be dishonorable to God; it would mean acquiescing to the idea that Jesus has bequeathed us something of which we need to hide or be ashamed. And of course that’s unacceptable to us Christians; surely each of us holds as our own Paul’s proclamation (at Romans 1:16), “I am not ashamed of the gospel.”
It is in this spirit of honest, forthright engagement with God and his word that I’d like to ask a question that couldn’t help but come to me as I was reading the Bible this morning. I was in 1 Timothy 2, when I read this: “I also want women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or expensive clothes …. A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent.”
Now how in this world could I read that and not think of Sarah Palin? I didn’t want to think of Sarah Palin. I didn’t want to think of anything besides the glory of God’s word. I hardly waded into my Bible this morning looking for trouble. But (alas) there it was.
So I’m honestly and truly asking, simply because I don’t understand and want to: How do Christians who embraced and supported Sarah Palin in particular for her adherence to “traditional” Biblical values reconcile how utterly she violated Paul’s injunctions to women to not wear expensive clothes, to stay quiet, to remain submissive, and to have no authority over men? If vigorously campaigning for Vice President of the United States (while, as we all know, wearing expensive clothes) isn’t in direct, overt, purposeful, and sustained opposition to all four of those things, then … then King Kong was a leprechaun. I would think evangelicals and Biblical fundamentalists would reject Ms. Palin for … well, for one, so ambitiously seeking authority over men.
What do I say to non-Christians when they assert that Christians are being blatantly hypocritical and even opportunistically bigoted when they use Paul’s words as justification for the condemnation of homosexuality, and at the same time ignore Paul’s very explicit words when doing so suits their own personal desires and ambitions? How do we use Paul to argue for California’s Proposition 8, but not use Paul to argue against Sarah Palin?
As a believer in the gospel who is constantly engaging with non-Christians about Christ, I’m sincerely asking my fellow believers: What should my answer to that fair question be? I’m pretty good at logic, and at a single thought can be filled with the liberating, redemptive power of the Holy Spirit. But for the answer to this one question I’m afraid I have to rely upon the wisdom of others. Please help out a brother if you can.
(Oh, and please don’t say that 1 Timothy 2 was meant by Paul only as instructions on worship. I know that many of our Bibles say “Instructions on Worship” right before 1 Timothy 2. But that’s an utterly people-inserted title. There is virtually nothing in the text itself to indicate that Paul isn’t prescribing proper behavior for all Christen women at all times.)
Extremely pertinent post o’ mine: Ecclesia Reformatat Semper Reformanda.