by Libby Anne cross posted from her blog Love Joy Feminism
Created To Be His Help Meet, pp. 118
Debi starts this next section with a quick overview of what is required of a help meet:
God tells us that we are to be help meets: We are to submit, obey, and even reverence our husbands. He also tells us WHY we are assigned the role of helper.
Submit, obey, and reverence. No mincing words, that’s for sure. So let’s get into Debi’s why.
1. We came forth from man’s ribs and were created for him. We are a part of him.
“For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, for as much as he is the image and glory of God: but the woman is the glory of the man. For the man is not of the woman, but the woman of the man. Neither was the man created for the woman, but the woman for the man” (I Cor. 11: 7-9).
Debi has already proven that she is really good at taking things out of context. Set alone like this, this scripture passage looks really stark. But this is what comes next:
Nevertheless neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord. For as the woman is of the man, even so is the man also by the woman; but all things of God.
I’m going to go out on a limb and say that these two verses seriously undermine what Debi is trying to do with this passage. In fact, while I haven’t seen a Christian feminist tackle this passage in particular, I’m going to guess that they would argue that these two verses suggest that in Christ men and women are equal, and old hierarchies are no longer valid. Also, you know what’s curious? I remember hearing I Corinthians 11: 7-9 emphasized quite frequently growing up, and I never—and I do mean never—remember hearing the verses that follow it even given a mention. Curious, very curious.
2. Our position in relation to our husband is a picture of the Great Mystery, which is Christ and the Church. We, as the body of Christ, are for him, our living Head. It can be no other way!
“But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God” (I Cor. 11: 3).
“This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church . . . and the wife see that she reverence her husband” (Eph. 5: 32-33).
The first verse Debi cites here comes right before the passage she cited before, ignoring the following context, and the second passage omits “nevertheless let every one of you in particular so love his wife even as himself.” Convenient.
I’ve mentioned that, as someone who no longer identifies as Christian, I try to avoid stepping too far into battles over Biblical interpretation. There are so many passages that seem to be in conflict with each other, and so many different interpretations that can be made, that in general I’d rather let those who take that label fight it out amongst themselves.
What Debi is doing here, though, is a problem. She says that women are assigned the role of help meet . . . because they were created from Adam’s rib, and because the Bible uses the husband and wife as a metaphor for Christ and the church. The thing is, I missed where these passages connect the one of these things to the other—there’s nothing about being created from Adam’s rib that means that women must obey, submit to, and reverence their husbands. The Christ and the church example only works if you assume that the author of those passages meant the metaphor to go that far, and if you assume that Christ wants the church to mindlessly submit to and obey him—an idea not all Christians ascribe to—and if you assume that Christ would want the church to mindlessly reverence him irrespective of whether he loved the church or treated her well—something else I’m pretty sure not all Christians ascribe to. The point I’m making is that Debi leaves out a step here, leaping from A to C without ever establishing B.
God tells us WHY our husband is to be the one who rules the home. God explains why it is never his will for the wife to rule.
Rule. Yes, Debi uses the word “rule.”
1. The fall into sin was due to a woman’s inherent vulnerability.
“For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression” (I Timothy 2: 13-14).
“For a man indeed . . . is the image and glory of God: but the woman is the glory of the man” (I Cor. 11: 7).
We heard this before, remember? God created women without armor, created them to stand behind their husbands’ armor. I’m seriously unsure what the second passage she cites here has to do with the idea that women are inherently vulnerable, though. And as for the first—I don’t think Debi has a very good grasp on exactly what actually happened at the fall, but then, I don’t think the author of I Timothy did either.
2. Curses were placed on the guilty in the fall.
“Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee” (Genesis 3: 16).
And here is where Debi’s interpretive work seriously goes off the rails.
It was God’s design, before the fall, that the woman’s desire would be to her husband and that he would rule over her. This relationship was not punishment, but after the fall it would be a source of suffering for the woman. God created the woman to be the helper of the man—a sinless man. Now that she has led him into sin, she is still his helper, her desires are still focused on him and his goals, and he will still rule over her as before—but now he is sinful, selfish, and carnal.
Um. No. Actually, this is wrong.
Nowhere does the Bible say that it was God’s design before the fall for women to submit to their husbands and their husbands to rule over them. And in the context of Genesis, this relationship actually is meted out as a punishment. (As a side note: If God required Eve to submit to, obey, and reverence Adam when he was a sinless man, shouldn’t we expect that to change when Adam becomes “sinful, selfish, and carnal”?)
Look, the only—and I do mean only—verse that suggests anything other than complete equality between Adam and Eve post-fall is this:
And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.
If we read into this short verse everything Debi says is entailed in being a “help meet” (which by the way she turns into a noun, even though in the actual text it isn’t), then yes, the submit/ruler relationship was indeed God’s design. But that’s reading things backwards and into the text rather than simply looking at what the text actually says.
And then, after the fall, comes this:
14 And the Lord God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life:
15 And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.
16 Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.
17 And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life;
18 Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field;
19 In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.
This passage makes no sense unless we assume that each of these curses—each of these punishments—implies a change of some sort. In other words, Adam is told that he will have to work hard to farm the land, and will encounter thorns and thistles in the process. This section is generally taken to mean that before the fall, there were no thorns and thistles and there was no need to exert effort in farming the land. And as to the serpent, we would also assume that the curses he receives are new and different from how things were for him in the past. Likewise, any normal reading would conclude that Eve did not previously face labor pains, and that her husband did not previously rule over her. Otherwise it wouldn’t be a curse! Debi’s suggestion that all that has changed is that the man ruling over her is no longer perfect but sinful makes no sense, because that’s not actually what the text says.
You know what? It would be nice if Debi actually read and grappled with the holy text she claims to hold in such high esteem rather than just deciding it says what she already made her mind up that it says even when it doesn’t. But then, I suppose, she wouldn’t be Debi.
Comments open below
Spiritual Abuse Survivor Blogs Network member, Libby Anne blogs at Love, Joy, Feminism
Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the religious right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving fundamentalist and evangelical religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the problems with the “purity culture,” the intricacies of conservative and religious right politics, and the importance of feminism. Her blog is Love, Joy, Feminism
NLQ Recommended Reading …
‘Breaking Their Will: Shedding Light on Religious Child Maltreatment‘ by Janet Heimlich
‘Quivering Daughters‘ by Hillary McFarland
‘Quiverfull: Inside the Christian Patriarchy Movement‘ by Kathryn Joyce