Earlier this year, I caught up with someone from my old Accelerated Christian Education school who has come out as gay. He recognises that the schooling we had was harmful and abusive, and that the church’s teaching about gay people was incorrect and damaging. He also thought that evolution was only a theory and creationism was still a respectable position.
I was quite frustrated. I ranted to my partner (henceforth to be known on this blog as Bigfoot) about it in the car.
Me: How can he still be a fucking creationist?! That’s like… like a black person opposing gay rights.
Bigfoot: What are you talking about?
Me: Well, black people and gay people are both groups that have been systematically oppressed by society. So if you’re black and oppose gay rights, you’re contributing to another group of people experiencing the same kind of discrimination that has personally affected you.
Bigfoot: Yeah, I know all that, but what the hell does that have to do with creationism? That’s just the belief that God made the world in six days. There are Christians who accept gay people. Why not creationists?
Me: Because creationism is inherently homophobic. Creationism is based on the belief that the Bible is the complete, literal Word of God, and that same ideology is used to campaign against gay marriage and deny gay people their rights.
OK, so my analogy didn’t quite work. But I still think I was onto something with this:
If you are a woman or LGBTQ and you are also a creationist, you are supporting your own oppression.
In my previous post, I argued that creationism depends on Biblical literalism, and Biblical literalism is misogynistic and homophobic. But in this post, I’m going to argue more than that. It’s not just that the Bible contains some homophobic and misogynistic verses. If that were the case, creationists might simply cherry-pick and ignore the discriminatory parts. I’m saying the creation myths, when you read them the way creationists do, are themselves are intrinsically anti-gay and anti-woman. The literal reading is oppressive. If you find a creationist school, you’ve also found a school where, at least implicitly (and probably explicitly), children are taught to believe in a God-ordained patriarchy.
For decades, creationism was also used to justify racism, but you’ll rarely hear about that now. It’s comparatively easy to ignore biblical racism, because it is mostly buried in parts of the Bible that evangelicals rarely mention. Sexism and the denial of gay people’s identity, on the other hand, are right there in Genesis 1-3 (at least the way creationists read it). So while conservative white evangelicalism has been able to move away from explicit racism fairly easily, I think the same transition with homosexuality would be more difficult.
Let’s get to the scriptures.
So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.
Are you genderqueer? Sorry, you don’t exist. Are you trans? Nope, you’re just rebelling against the way God made you.
Ever heard the justification for homophobia, “God made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve”? To a creationist, that’s not a metaphor.
And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man. Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.
This is the root of conservative Christianity’s opposition to gay marriage. To them, the natural order of marriage between one man and one woman was established at the foundation of the world. The notion that homosexuality is unnatural and abnormal is not just something a lot of creationists happen to believe. It’s integral to their reading of scripture.
What about misogyny? Well, first of all there’s Genesis 1:28 (“the dominion mandate”), the rationale for the Quiverfull movement and also for dominion theology. This is the justification for an ideology that gives women no choice but to become domestic servants cum baby factories. And, of course, for generations Christian writers have argued that women are the cause of all the evil in the world, because it was Eve that ate the fruit first:
God’s sentence hangs still over all your sex and His punishment weighs down upon you. You are the devil’s gateway; you are she who first violated the forbidden tree and broke the law of God.
—Tertullian, church father, c160-225
God created Adam master and lord of living creatures, but Eve spoilt all, when she persuaded him to set himself above God’s will. ‘Tis you women, with your tricks and artifices, that lead men into error.
Even when I was a creationist, I would have said that these men went too far, and that Adam and Eve bore equal responsibility for their sin. But I would have agreed that God ordained specific gender roles, and this included husbands ruling over their wives. That, too, came directly from my creationism.
If you take Genesis 2 literally, woman was created for the purpose of meeting the needs of men (“And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make an help meet for him”). Thus we have Christian marriage manuals like Debi Pearl’s Created to Be His Help Meet which encourage abusive relationships and the subjugation of women (and yes, that’s the Debi Pearl of To Train Up a Child fame).
And then there’s Genesis 3:16, which the Bible’s editors really would have been better off leaving out:
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.
To the creationist, patriarchy is not a social construction that we can change; it’s the way things will be until Christ’s return.
There is a glimmer of hope with this last verse, though: Genesis 3 is the curse. It’s not what God originally intended. You could equally, therefore, use this to argue for gender equality. Sadly, though, fundamentalists don’t read it this way. I think this is for two reasons. The first is that they seem to feel that the curse is now the way things should be until Christ returns. I have books which use Genesis 3:19 to argue that government welfare is ungodly (because God commanded you to get bread by the sweat of your face, not someone else’s. Seriously.). The second is that other Bible verses seem to support this “husbands rule over wives” scenario. Biblical literalists take the verse “by two or three witnesses shall any thing be established” as a guide for how to use the Bible. If you’ve got one Bible verse that supports your point, it’s a strong argument. If you’ve got three, you have absolute proof. And here they are. (And more! Bonus!)
It’s not some mystery why organisations that oppose women’s rights and trample on LGBTQ people also frequently happen to be creationists. The foundational texts of creationism, read literally, point to a world where men rule over women, where people who don’t fit into the gender binary don’t exist, and marriage is between one man and one woman. Creationism is evil because it encourages discrimination and oppression.
To avoid being anti-religious, organisations like the National Center for Science Education, which campaigns for evolution education in schools, usually insist that the argument is purely about science. Don’t get me wrong: it is partly about science. As science, creationism is junk. But most people are not professional scientists, and it’s possible to be creationist and also have an adequate understanding of science for many purposes.
Creationism matters, and not only because of science. It matters because it harms people in society who are already marginalised. Teaching creationism in school means teaching homophobia and misogyny. That’s why it needs to be opposed.
Thanks to my PhD supervisor, Michael Reiss, who gave me feedback on a draft of this post even though it’s not part of his job to help with my blog. His comments were very helpful, but that should not necessarily be taken to mean that he endorses this post.
- Why creationism matters
- The scientific method, according to Accelerated Christian Education
- Christian fundamentalists and Mötley Crüe would get on great