by Libby Anne cross posted from her blog Love Joy Feminism
Created To Be His Help Meet, pp. 144—46
Guess what? We’re halfway through the book! We’ve finished the entirety of Part 1! And guess what? I’ve only been at this for 11 months! Another 11 months to go! Woot!
Part 1 was called “The Help Meet.” It included 14 chapters with titles ranging from “A Merry Heart” and “The Gift of Wisdom” to “The Nature of Man and Woman” and “King and Kingdoms.” I went through it page by page rather than chapter by chapter. Part 2 is called “Titus 2.” It includes 10 chapters. The first 8 focus on the specific recommendations laid out in Titus 2 while the last 2 focus on when not to obey (you can look forward to sections with names like “Sodomite Predator” and “Cross-dressing” and “My Husband Doesn’t Want Me to Go to Church”) and the coming reward to be reaped.
This week we’ll cover the introduction to Part 2.
Eight Practical Game Rules
This latching onto some number of specific rules, generally based in some individual Bible passage, is actually quite common in fundamentalist and evangelical circles. It reminds me of all those magazine and internet articles detailing the five things you need to do to win your man or the seven things you just have to understand about women. It’s very formulaic and more than a little simplistic.
When I was a child, the word blaspheme struck terror in my heart. My parents were new Christians and did not know much about the Bible, but somewhere along the way, one of our preachers was able to stuff into my little brain the verse on blaspheming the Holy Ghost. As far as I knew at the time, there was only one verse with the dreaded word in it, and it reads like this, “but he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost hath never forgiveness, but is in danger in eternal damnation” (Mark 3:29).
Today, now at a much riper age, the word blaspheme still causes me to shudder—-as it should.
I’ve written before about the unpardonable sin and the terror it inspired in me as a child. I’m not surprised that Debi, too, grew up with that same fear. It makes me sad, though, for child Debi.
This is a woman’s book about wives and mothers, so you must be wondering what blasphemy has to do with the subject. A lot! As I began to write this book in earnest, my mind was constantly filled with Scripture. I woke up one night with the passage of Titus 2: 3—5 running through my head. As I lay in my bed, I tried to recall the list of eight things that aged women were told to teach the younger women. It occurred to me right then that God had given me the perfect outline in those eight simple instructions.
“The aged women likewise, that they be in behavior as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things; That they may teach the young women  to be sober,  to love their husbands,  to love their children,  To be discreet,  chaste,  keepers at home,  good,  obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed” (Titus 2: 3—5).
The word blasphemed jumped out at me, “. . . that the word of God be not blasphemed.” Aged women (that’s me) are commanded to teach the young women so they will not blaspheme the word of God! Are young mothers in danger of blasphemy? This passage says they are—not of blaspheming the Holy Ghost, which is the unpardonable sin—rather, of blaspheming the word of God. Even though it is not the unpardonable sin, it sure is a scary thing for Paul to say about young wives.
Enter the fear tactics! Do what (Debi says) Titus 2 says you have to do or you are blaspheming! While Debi does say that this isn’t the same thing as committing the unpardonable sin, she led with the unpardonable sin and makes it amply clear that blaspheming is something that is very very very bad—even scary.
The word blaspheme in this passage had always seemed to be an overstatement—an emphatic exaggeration. How can a woman be causing the Word of God to be blasphemed if she is not discreet? Does a woman really cause the Word of God to be blasphemed if she doesn’t obey her husband? What if he is wrong? What if she dresses a little sexy and is not as chaste as she should be? Should that be judged as blaspheming? What does it mean to be keepers at home? Why are these eight things so critical to young wives that refusal to do them would be termed blasphemy?
These are rhetorical questions. Debi’s not actually questioning what the Bible says—i.e., whether it’s true or not—but rather trying to find a way to make sense of it. Still, what Debi’s doing here is a good step—she feels this passage is too harsh and is grappling with that. Unfortunately, rather than forming an understanding that allows her to tone down the immediate harshness of the passage, she concludes instead that she’s not properly appreciating how serious women’s crimes are.
As I lay in my bed that night pondering these things, I asked God to give me a glimpse of his mind and heart concerning this passage, so that I might know how to teach the young women to keep his Word from being blasphemed. He did. And, his answer broke my heart. I could never have dreamed the sad horror that would teach me just why the word blaspheme is the right word. But first, we will examine the eight characteristics, one by one, that God commands aged women to teach young women.
Sad horror? Really?
[Edited to add]
A commenter just reminded me of an earlier section of Debi’s book in which Debi railed against women claiming that they’d heard directly from God. Here is what she said in that passage, which I addressed in an earlier installment of this series:
You rarely hear a man say, “God told me to do this,” or, “God led me to go down there.” The few men I have known who talked that way did not demonstrate that they were any more led by the Spirit than other Christian men. I know that when God does speak to my husband and leads him in a supernatural way, he will not speak of it in public. He doesn’t feel the need to promote himself in that manner, and furthermore, he believes that if he has truly heard from heaven, God doesn’t need his publicity. God will vindicate himself. But many Christian women habitually attribute nearly every event to divine guidance. Experience proves that women are prone to claim God as their authority, when God had nothing at all to do with their “leading.” It really is quite appalling to see this shameful behavior still in action today.
Huh. Pot calling kettle black anyone? Why does Debi get a pass here when others don’t? Why does Debi expect her readers to believe and accept her word when she claims to have heard directly from God when she herself earlier stated that “experience proves that women are prone to claim God as their authority, when God has nothing at all to do with their ‘leading’”? Does she see herself as immune from this? Does she expect her readers to question every woman who claims divine guidance . . . except for her? And I should point out, Debi has a history of arguing that women shouldn’t be spiritual or attempt to hear from God on their own. Except for her, apparently.
Debi is doing her best to strike terror into her readers’ hearts. She’s been doing that throughout, though her general method of operation has been to tell women that if they’re not properly submissive their husbands will leave them and they will find themselves confined to dumpy duplexes (her term) and perhaps even slipping into lesbianism—and that if they’re not properly reverent toward their husbands, their husbands will never amount to anything, hog-tied by the lack of reverence. Here Debi is shifting her angle and telling women that if they’re not properly submissive (et al.) they are blaspheming the Word of God—and of course, she is simultaneously emphasizing just how serious and horrifying and scary blasphemy is.
Debi is laying the groundwork for what is to come. She is making sure that readers are prepared to listen to what she has to say in the rest of this section—and by that I mean that she is ensuring they will be motivated by the sheer terror of what will happen to them if they don’t do what
God says Debi says.
This is how Debi’s words make the former evangelical/fundamentalist in me feel:
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