‘Quench not the spirit’ still not white evangelicals’ favorite Bible verse

‘Quench not the spirit’ still not white evangelicals’ favorite Bible verse April 18, 2013

A Public Religion Research Institute survey last month found many Christians still opposed to allowing women and/or LGBT Christians to follow their calling or to exercise their spiritual gifts in the church.

Majorities of every major religious group favor ordaining women, including 73 percent of white mainline Protestants, 71 percent of minority Christians, 70 percent of Catholics, and 63 percent of white evangelical Protestants. More than three-quarters (76 percent) of religiously unaffiliated Americans also support ordaining women as clergy.

On the one hand, it’s encouraging to see overwhelming majority support here. Most people no longer seem eager to deprive the church of the gifts, talents and leadership of half of its members.

That Catholic response is particularly encouraging when you consider how long the males-only leadership of the Catholic church has rigorously enforced and relentlessly reinforced it’s males-only leadership rules. For all of that — the hierarchy’s best “arguments” and its endless repetitions and reassertions of its rules — seven out of 10 Catholic laypeople still think it’s a dumb and indefensible rule.

But on the other hand, these survey results are disappointing in that 27 percent of white mainline Protestants, 29 percent of minority Christians, 30 percent of Catholics, and 37 percent of white evangelical Protestants still cling to patriarchal rules stunting the church and its potential. Because, their argument says, penis.

That harms women who are called to lead. It harms the church as a whole, which is being deprived of that God-given leadership. And it harms the witness of the church in the rest of the world in at least two ways. First, to much of the world, the church’s male-only leadership bias  is clearly and simply seen  as exactly that — bias. Looking like a bunch of gender-discriminating bigots isn’t a winsome and compelling testimony to the world — except to other gender-discriminating bigots. And that’s the second kind of harmful witness that results here. When the church rejects the God-given leadership of half of its members, it reinforces evil in the world — reassuring oppressors who would deny rights, dignity and humanity to half of the world as well.

(Just to be clear: The church isn’t supposed to be reinforcing evil in the world and reassuring oppressors. That’s kind of the opposite of what the church is supposed to be doing.)

Another note on that 63-37 split among white evangelicals. That’s a lopsided difference of opinion, roughly 2-to-1, but since more than a third of white evangelicals still oppose women’s ordination, the matter is classified as “controversial” and always discussed gingerly, cautiously and ambiguously by mainstream evangelical publications like Christianity Today. Due to the opinions of that minority third of its readership, CT is always very careful not to seem like its taking sides or like its suggesting that all Christians ought to believe one way or the other. But when it comes to another subject with that same 2-to-1 split, Christianity Today likes to pretend that a third of its readership does not exist. While only two-thirds of white evangelicals agree with the official, 30-year-old “doctrine” of criminalizing abortion, CT presumes that all Christians, everywhere, share a single, identical opinion.

Same 2-to-1 split. Not the same response. When the one-third minority favors patriarchy, its views are accorded a disproportionate respect — treated as equivalent to the two-thirds majority. When the one-third minority challenges patriarchy, its views are disproportionately disrespected — treated as non-existent.

That’s … interesting.

From the same PRRI survey, more evidence that “Quench not the spirit” is still not white evangelicals’ favorite Bible verse:

Majorities of religiously unaffiliated Americans (69 percent) and Catholics (54 percent) favor allowing gay and lesbian people to be ordained as clergy, compared to half (50 percent) of white mainline Protestants, 4-in-10 (41 percent) minority Christians, and less than 1-in-4 (24 percent) white evangelical Protestants. Nearly 7-in-10 (69 percent) white evangelical Protestants say they oppose such a policy.

Yes, well, read literally, 1 Thessalonians 5:19 really means “Quench not the spirit among straight males.”

Just because that last part isn’t written out doesn’t mean it can’t be part of white evangelicals’ “literal” reading. That’s the wonderful thing about learning to read the Bible “literally” — discovering all the inerrant and authoritative claims written there in invisible ink.

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  • So, what you’re saying is… throw the Bible in the oven?
    Ben & Abigail: NO!

    Thanks, Kent. That’s the first time I’ve ever gotten anything out of seeing “National Treasure.”

  • Carstonio

    Late reply…Yes, the problem is not about individual couples deciding for themselves how their individual skills complement each other. The complementarianism that Digger is pushing is all about gendered boxes. The false but widespread belief that having certain genitalia automatically gives one certain skills but not others. I often say that the only things women can do that men can’t are bearing and nursing children, and the only thing that men can do that women can’t is peeing standing up.

  • . I often say that the only things women can do that men can’t are
    bearing and nursing children, and the only thing that men can do that
    women can’t is peeing standing up.



  • And the chair trick, where a woman can lift a chair from a certain position but most men cannot.

  • Carstonio

    Even better. See there, gender essentialists and complementarians?

  • Digger

    I never intended to say, I never actually said, nor did I ever infer that there are roles that men can do that women cannot. I ONLY said that there ARE different roles for men than for women according to the Bible, and Christian men and women ought to voluntarily confine themselves to those roles.
    By failing to try and understand the meaning of my side of the argument, and by subsequesntly assigning meaning to my words that don’t exists, YOU are hampering any meaningful dialog. YOU are making it less likely that the two sides get any closer. YOU are furthering the divide between men and women. YOU are harming equality.
    Not me. I am trying to convince people to live according to God’s plan; not man’s plan (oh–sorry–people’s plan. I know how hurtful it is to your feelings to use “non-gender nuetral words”.). When we live according to God’s plan, that’s when men and women are truly equal. Anyone who tries to convince women that they can or should takes man’s biblical role is holding women back from their full potential.

  • Digger

    And by the way, women can pee standing up.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Excuse me, but my full potential is not realized by saying that I can only try for half the world’s positions and none of the prestigious, well-paid, or leader-like ones.

  • Carstonio

    You wrote that “some people who believe that the Bible says that men and women have different roles to play.” That’s a belief that those roles are for everyone, not just Christians.

    Two sides? You’re presuming that you have a right to an opinion about things which are none of your business, and this includes how individuals choose to live their lives. One doesn’t have a right to an opinion, only to an informed opinion. The default position of any society should be individuals having the freedom to pursue happiness in ways that don’t interfere with others’ pursuit of their own happiness.

    There is no “we” in “when we live according to God’s plan.” Billions of people have religious beliefs that differ from yours. And millions of Christians disagree with your notions of gender roles. There is only “you” choosing to live according to what you believe is your god’s plan. That shouldn’t have anything to do with how others choose to live.

    The problem with using “man” as a noun for humanity is not that it hurts anyone’s feelings, but that it embodies the immoral ideology of male supremacy. Even if we assume you’re right that your god intended for men to rule over women, that would still be immoral. Equality means people of both sexes have the same freedoms to pursue happiness.

  • EllieMurasaki

    *cough* People of all genders.

  • > man’s plan (oh–sorry–people’s plan. I know how hurtful it is to your feelings to use “non-gender nuetral words”.)

    How would you recommend I interpret a statement like this, where you claim to know your choice of words hurts someone and choose to use those words anyway?

    My interpretation is that you’re knowingly choosing to hurt someone. Am I mistaken?

  • Carstonio

    Very true. I edited the last sentence of my post to reflect that.