Pullquote: The Christian teachings on submission and divorce cause immense suffering for many Christian women.
“I’m going to be a youth pastor,” my teenage girlfriend said. I was shocked. Women were not allowed to become pastors. “Honey, that’s silly. You know the Bible says women are supposed to be in submission, not authority. I don’t even want you to work outside the home — women should be at home, not at a job.”
The rest of the conversation didn’t go so well.
Christians make much ado about their commitment to family and marriage. They label themselves “pro-family” and “pro-life,” and think of those outside their cult as “anti-family” and “pro-death.” Yet the Christian teachings on submission and divorce cause immense suffering for many Christian women.
Biblical Teaching on Women and Divorce
Pullquote: [Women] are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission.
Jesus, when asked about divorce, said, “whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery” (Matt. 19:9).
The Apostle Paul, when discussing women, said they “should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission” (1 Cor. 14). He also commanded women to be submissive to their husbands — in the same section he commands slaves to be submissive to their masters (Titus 2), making what most enlightened people would consider an uncomfortable parallel.
Trapped in Terrible Marriages
Pullquote: She is trapped because she is commanded to be submissive to her husband and is not allowed to consider divorce.
Make no mistake: there are many women trapped in terrible marriages due to these teachings. A friend I know, for example, is married to a man who is very harsh with her and their children. He is unkind and unjust. They are both Christians and are very involved in a small church. She is kind and submissive to him and does all she can to make him happy. Not only does she do all the housework and meals, but she also makes all the money — he doesn’t have a job. Yet he is one of the unhappiest people I know.
She is trapped because she is commanded to be submissive to her husband and is not allowed to consider or threaten divorce. In a normal marriage, she would tell her husband to get his act together or face the consequences of divorce. But instead, she tries to cheerfully serve him, be kind to him, and turn the other cheek.
He gets off the hook. There are no consequences for his actions. He gets to be a jerk, and still gets a woman who serves his every whim because she is commanded by God to be submissive to him. By doing this, she believes she is obeying God and pleasing him. She has no way out without disobeying her God and committing a great sin.
A Christian might respond, “But the husband isn’t fulfilling his biblical role of being a servant-leader. If he did, the marriage would be healed.” That is irrelevant — the husband is not a “servant-leader” and is unlikely to become one. He has no incentive to change, and in the meantime, it is he who benefits and the wife that suffers.
I Once Believed This
It is to my shame that I once enthusiastically agreed with these teachings. For many years I commanded my wife to not have a job and kept her home alone to “take care of the house” even though we had no children. When she did not do something I requested, I would lecture her on God’s commandments on submission. “I didn’t choose to be a man,” I’d say, “but God put me in charge and you must obey me.”
Yes, I was thoroughly brainwashed.
The Bible Is the Wrong Guide
Pullquote: It was not the Bible that gave us equality for women — in fact it commands the opposite.
This suffering is caused because a group of people blindly follow an ancient book written by sheep herders and fishermen that is full of lies, bigotry, contradictions and violence. It is not an infallible guide to morality and life, as we have seen over and over throughout history.
Let us remember that it was not the Bible that gave us equality for women — in fact it commands the opposite. It took almost 2,000 years after the New Testament was written for women to have the same basic rights as men.
The Bible calls women the “weaker vessel,” and forbids them to speak in church or to be in authority over men. It also commands them to wear head coverings, to have long hair, and to be at home. Is it any wonder women were not treated as equals when people believe these are commands directly from God?
Christian marriage can be a trap. And not surprisingly, it is men who benefit and women who suffer.