Women Shouldn’t Say Amen in Church? (Putting the “Mental” in Fundamentalist)

Women Shouldn’t Say Amen in Church? (Putting the “Mental” in Fundamentalist) March 24, 2014

Steven Anderson is at it again.

If you don’t know who he is, I rank him near the top of the list of most obnoxious fundamentalists ever.

He’s the guy who says he carries his wife around the house each morning to prove that if she doesn’t want to go somewhere he could carry her.

And, also the guy who prayed for Obama to die and who has said God didn’t change his mind about stoning gay people.

He’s also a 9-11 truther.

Basically, he puts the mental in fundamentalist.

In a sermon he’s posted on his Facebook (picked up via the Raw Story) he’s now saying that he doesn’t want women to say “Amen” in church because it violates Paul’s teaching for women to learn in silence. However, in a stroke of sheer irony, while women aren’t allowed to say “Amen” to a sermon in church, the video version of his sermon is getting a few “Amens” from the ladies on Facebook.

Here’s what I think we can learn from this:

1. If you don’t give consideration to the grammatical/historical context to a biblical passage, you’re going to come up with some CRAZY ideas. The Bible is a collection of 66 ancient books, not a church rule book that was written in the context of our time and our place. It must be contextualized before it can be applied.

2. If we do not value legitimate theological educations, we’re going to be dealing with a lot more of this nonsense. Anderson’s church website boasts that he doesn’t have a college degree and that church is where you learn truth. There are still plenty of unaccredited “Bible Schools” that exist to “train” when all they’re doing is reproducing fundamentalist culture-soldiers. We need to be pushing back against the acceptability of having ministers who have not been properly trained with a theological education. When it’s time for your church to hire a new pastor, you need to be demanding that he or she is educated.

3. We must recommit ourselves to praying for and helping people who are stuck in oppressive churches such as Faithful Word Baptist Church where Anderson is the pastor. It is easy to make fun of or dismiss fundamentalists, but let’s remember– they need our help. We must find ways to come alongside the oppressed and help usher them to freedom.

4. We need to get educated on what the Bible actually teaches about women. This, I believe, is the most important thing we can do. We need to be able to articulate a better narrative about gender than the one that was handed to us by folks like Anderson. If you’re ready to take the next step in that area, I highly recommend Jesus Feminist by Sarah Bessey. Jesus Feminist will both challenge and encourage you as we endeavor to carry this Jesus movement forward. I highly recommend it!

Ironically, Anderson reminds me a lot of Dr. Evil:

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  • Riley

    This is more than just a bit ridiculous. Education IS important for ministers. OTOH, I’d be careful about painting all unaccredited seminaries with the same brush. Some don’t apply for state recognition based on principle. I know of a few that are excellent.

  • I hear you- I’m sure there’s some that are good schools. I’m typically leery of them. In my context in the North East, it’s quite common for churches to hire pastors who have no education, or at best were just trained at one of these “bible schools” in New England or New York, which are almost all dispensational training grounds. I think it’s a dangerous practice. As I’m sure you also experienced, the one thing you learn at seminary is just how much you don’t know.

  • Mia

    Oh man. I read his wife’s blog every once in a while and my head usually explodes after five minutes.

  • Donna

    I guess I should be grateful he thinks it’s okay if I “chat” before the service and sing along with the hymns.

  • Kerry Thomas

    I’m an alumni of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Ft. Worth….today’s SWBTS is not the same seminary I graduated from in the 1980s. Many times I won’t tell people I went to school there due to the radical changes in both my denomination and the seminary…..am I for a seminary education for ministers? Absolutely. Trouble is, just what are these “preachers” learning at the fundy seminaries, and bible colleges?

  • Riley

    I can think of one unaccredited seminary that I would recommend over GCTS.

  • Lynne

    Why assume it’s education that’s needed? The reason anyone fails at truly bible-based Christianity of any “kind” is a lack of holy spirit in their hearts. And there are seminary “educated” ministers all over the planet who don’t even begin to pass on, support, or themselves understand the real Jesus Christ. Yet I’ve also met people so uneducated they were functionally illiterate who still shined with the true great of Jesus Christ. I stopped trusting anyone – including the seminary educated to tell me anything about Jesus if they didn’t shine with Jesus’ love and humility before we even began to talk.

  • I’m with you on that– if someone has bad fruit, who cares what credentials they have.

  • Bekah

    True, Jesus’ teachings in love and reconciliation are the main point, and Christ-followers should reflect that. But if you are going to be a pastor as Anderson is claiming to be, I think a good understanding of biblical exegesis and hermeneutics is helpful. I affirm the idea that Christianity is for everyone, whatever their education level, but I do believe it is important for leaders of the church to have a good education that allows them to adequately interpret scripture and lead the church.

  • Jackie Heaton

    Ran across a pastor up in Washington who was trained in a Bible college in Eastern Washington, former football player and I’m sorry I don’t remember his name. He’s against gay marriage because it’s “unbiblical” but he didn’t have any problems hitching Rush Limbaugh to his third or fourth wife. :-/

  • I agree with the article that being educated about what you are teaching is important, but formal education isn’t all there is… And book knowledge doesn’t necessarily a good leader make.

    So I’ll push for good bible teaching for sure, but with the understanding that there is much more to leading a church than a degree.

  • John Thomas

    wow, just wow. Sadly, I know of men who act like this and women who marry men who act like this.

  • gapaul

    How big is this guy’s congregation? Has he merely stumbled on the Fred Phelps maxim: “Say outrageous stuff (or give away a gun) and you’ll get lots of publicity even if your church on Sunday morning is basically your own family?”

  • Wendy Babiak

    I listened to him in the video, and I have to say that Mr. Anderson really sounds like he needs to come out of the closet. No wonder he’s such a macho idiot: he’s not secure in his own masculinity. He’s got at least a pound of sugar in his tank.

  • JenellYB

    In context of down here in Texas, pastors with no formal training at all have always even from my childhood in the 50’s, remember well how many were actually openly proud, boasted, of not being ‘bile college or seminary educated idiots.’ How clearly rings in my memory’s ears, “now I may not have some fancy bible school education, I’m just a poor old country boy, but…” I’ve run across some in more recent years, even though I’ve really not ventured much into the churched community. They are really most everywhere, at least the churches without any affiliation with any major or formal overseeing denominational organization. Such ‘independent’ churches with uneducated preachers easily outnumber denominationally affiliated churches in my area here in se Texas, by at least 10 to 1. Most are very small, but a few have a pretty good following that rivals most denominational affiliated locally.

  • Jon Fryer

    May I also recommend ‘Equals’ by Jenny Baker as an excellent theological exploration of gender equality: http://www.amazon.com/Equals-Doing-together-Jenny-Baker/dp/0281070695

  • Anderson is a perfect example of the how a belief in Biblical inerrancy and a lack of understanding about the context and time that the Bible was written leads to toxic theology. A pastor often has great influence over his flock so it is importance that they have some form of accreditation and that there is some way of holding them accountable. One of the things Calvin got right was church government. I also know a few pastor wives, my mother being one of them, who would have taken their husbands to the theological woodshed for preaching a sermon like Anderson did.

  • Riley

    There are men with gifts and calling that surpass and make up for a lack of academic knowledge. Lloyd-Jones, Spurgeon, and Bunyan come to mind. But it should be the exception and not the general rule. As a general rule, a lack of an educated ministry wreaks havoc on the church.

  • The Homeschool Apostate

    How can any self respecting woman sit and listen to this?

  • Matt Blackmon

    From their web site: “We believe that the King James Bible is the word of God without error.” http://www.faithfulwordbaptist.org/generalinvitation.pdf

  • dherbert53@aol.com

    This isn’t the occasional fundamentalist talking; whole denominations with names like “Orthodox Presbyterians” and “Reformed Baptists” and others have serious discussions about the propriety of women saying ANYTHING in church. I even recall very reverent solemn conversations questioning whether it was proper to say to some indiscriminate person that “God loves you.” No wonder my ex wife was always crying in church! I should have cried too. Deano

  • Sterling Ericsson

    Personally, from even an interpretation and modernization standpoint, I don’t think anything Paul wrote should be listened to. I think it should be purposefully disregarded, really. I mean, it’s fairly clear that he was misogynistic, racist, and a number of other things. At least from what he wrote in the Bible, he doesn’t seem like he was a very good or nice person.

  • Matthew Bade

    Is he an actual human being, or just a composite sketch (think: boardwalk caricature artist) of all the worst fundie stereotypes on offer in the North American fundamentalist movement? Or perhaps he’s a cyborg. (And, no, I don’t intend this as a pejorative: I think it might be actually kinda neat being a cyborg.)

  • Hi Benjamin,

    I enjoy reading your blog. And I side with you in your criticism of “Pastor” Anderson. I felt a little uncomfortable with the phrasing in this sentence (and the general portrayal of “crazy” in this post):

    “Basically, he puts the mental in fundamentalist. And, I don’t mean that as a pejorative, I mean that I think he’s probably certifiably crazy.”

    I felt uncomfortable because I have friends who have been ostracized because they have mental health issues. The choice of staying in Fundamentalism or saying or doing extremely Fundy things is not a matter of mental health-related issues. Its usually either one of maintaining power or surviving in the only environment you have ever known. Let’s not stoop down to exclusive language and stigmatize believers who face being labelled “crazy” or unsaved because they aren’t “happy” enough.

    Anyways, thanks for your time.

  • Proud Amelekite

    So they worship King James and the False Apostle Paul. Not a surprise. Both of those sources offer one the widest and easiest road of all so many will find that attractive, I suppose.

  • Proud Amelekite

    I always tend to hate making such assumptions, being a gay guy myself, but I definitely got that feeling when I heard him talking and watched his mannerisms in the video. Suddenly, carrying his wife around the house is less about showing her he can carry her anywhere she doesn’t wish to go and more a cry of “LOOK HOW STRAIGHT I AM! I AM SO BIG AND STRONG! HURRR CARRY WOMAN!”

  • Good point, thanks for bringing that to my attention.

  • The post has been updated to remove the reference.

  • Matthew Bade

    Thank you, Rod, for being the first person I’ve ever witnessed online to take a stand for what most people innocently see as an innocuous element of our common vernacular. The careless use of certain words and phrases can be very painful to some people; worse still, they engender and perpetuate our societal insensitivities towards, misunderstandings of, and stigmas about mental illness. Words like “crazy,” “mental,” and “insane” top the litany of terms that can be very hurtful to people suffering from mental illness, and it saddens me to have witnessed them morph in our informal lexicon from pejoratives into various and sundry colloquialized subspecies of banal and everyday idioms. These sorts of adulterations are a lamentable byproduct of the shallower end of our sometimes callous contemporary culture, but once a word has metamorphosized, it’s difficult to shed its new clothes and impossible to purge from the culture at large. Now, having said all that, I will admit to being just as guilty as everyone else, perhaps more so. Most people simply don’t realize the attendant pain these words carry, but my complicity is inexcusable because hypocrisy is the natural fallout from my laziness of language. I should know better, and I vow to try harder. And I hope I didn’t offend you, Benjamin. You seem to be a very humble, genuine, and caring person who puts out an amazing blog; the last thing I want to do is slight what was an otherwise wonderful and insightful piece. My intention is not to criticize you, but rather to praise Rod.

  • Ruaidhrí Ó Domhnaill

    That would have been Ken Hutcherson. Wikipedia says he went to Livingston University – now University of West Alabama – but there is no mention of what he studied. He was a “Pastor” of a large, very conservative church near Seattle, Washington. Hi died of cancer in December 2013.

  • I think it’s a good thing that Mr. Anderson brings this Biblical teaching into the public eye. Of course I believe in equal rights for woman, but thats not what the Bible says. The Bible is clear on this point; it says women should not speak in church. If we believe that our morals have changed since the Bible was written, then we need to agree that the Bible may have some out dated rules. That doesn’t mean we should throw away our Bibles and stop reading it. It means we need to accept the Bible for what it is, an ancient document with laws written by ancient people. The writers no doubt had a connection to God, but whos to say we don’t still have a connection with God today.