‘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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  • MikeJ

    Not the least bit surprised to see 27% show up in there.

  • Baby_Raptor

    They do that with pro-equality Christians as well…They just completely ignore them, only talking about them if they absolutely have to, and only then to say how wrong and misled they are.

    My theory is that its because forced birth and marriage equality are their big money makers, so they don’t want people knowing that there are Christians out there who disagree. Then dialogue might start, and opinions might change, and then they lose money.

  • indifferent children

    > Christianity Today likes to pretend that a third of its readership does not exist.

    Perhaps CT knows that most of their readership comes from the conservative end of the Evangelical culture. So just because a third of Evangelicals believe something does not mean that a third of their readership believes it.

  • Digger

    The author implies that the one-third who “deny women the right to lead”, are ALL men. For it to be bigotry in every case, they would all have to be men. Not the case.
    Is in not even possible that some people who believe that the Bible says that men and women have different roles to play believe so out of pure motives? Must they all be classified as evil or bigots? Really, who is harming the Church; those who try and obey the Word of God or those who write hateful, horrible words about Christians?

  • It doesn’t have to be all men for it to be bigotry. Not all women accept feminism, many women actively work against women. Beverly LaHaye and Phyllis Schafly are bigots against women.

    If Christians are getting tired of being called, excuse me, “classified” bigots, well stop acting like one. Believing 1/2 the human race is lesser, is bigotry. Believing that any human is not entitled to love and happiness with the partner of their choice is bigotry.

    Critiquing Christianity is not “hateful” or “horrible”. It is necessary. All power structures must be challenged and critiqued, and Christianity is one of the most pervasive and powerful structures in our society.

  • I was just about to say, what about the Ladies Against Women organization? :p

  • JustoneK

    Those who continually use the Bible to justify behavior they would have done outside the Church anyway are definitely harming the Church.

  • In addition to Aeryl’s interjection, one must note that Fred doesn’t write “hateful, horrible words” about “Christians.”

    1) Fred himself is Christian.

    2) These words are hardly “hateful” or “horrible.” They’re actually extremely mild, likely owing to point number one. Unless you disagree that quashing women’s rights and their callings reinforces evil in the world, in which case, I disagree quite a lot (and with language far less mild than Fred’s).

  • Wednesday

    (1) Internalized sexism is a thing. (So is internalized homophobia.) Plenty of women engage in and contribute to their own oppression. Others have an “I’ve got mine” attitude and are perfectly happy to throw other women under a bus in order to increase their own power and fortune.

    (2) Try to “obey the word of God”? I don’t see anything in the NT where Jesus says women are unfit to teach or Preach. That all comes from passages that are attributed to Paul but most likely not actually written by him.

    Also, (3), you do realize Fred is a Christian, right?

  • P J Evans

    Some of the writings that are pretty surely Paul’s are more inclusive – he certainly knew women who are teaching and preaching, and didn’t speak against them.

  • Alas, Junia.

  • Baby_Raptor

    Nothing about what Fred said is hateful or horrible. At the very worst, it might be wrong. “Hateful” and “horrible” do not mean “something I disagree with.” I’d suggest you buy a dictionary, but Conservative Christianity as a whole seems to have issues with these concepts. That’s how you end up with calling for the death of gays and depriving them of basic civil rights being “kind ” and “loving,” while an honest critique from a differing point of view is somehow hate.

    And even in your fake hypothetical, the people “trying to obey (their version of) the word of God” are doing more harm. They’re actively repressing people and denying the church something it could benefit from. Fred typed some words on the internet that a few people might get indignant over. Big whoop.

  • Baby_Raptor

    I don’t think 3 quite matters, Wednesday. Fred disagrees with Digger, therefore he cannot possibly be a RTC.

  • Ah, I see. You get around (1) by suggesting that progressive Christians are actually Satanists and Antichrists. How sweet of you.

  • JustoneK

    There is also that mention of motives, as if purity or motives themselves were quite as important as actual actions taken. We can only infer motive. We can measure action.

  • Heheheh. Invisible ink.

  • Carstonio

    There is no moral justification for requiring the sexes to conform to roles, no matter what any religion’s holy book says. It’s an injustice no matter what motives are involved. If you have a young daughter, I defy you to look her in the eye and tell her in good conscience that your god says boys are better.

  • Studies like these remind me of how I managed to remain Catholic (more or less) for decades in the light of unrelenting bigotry towards gays and misogyny on the part of the Catholic higher-ups- however much they insist, they haven’t even convinced a _majority_ of their own, self identified congregation to go along with them on it. And while I eventually felt like the contradiction between what I felt and what was being taught (though almost always by the bishops and up, and almost never by the priests and deacons) grew too wide for me to affiliate myself with Catholicism, studies like these also demonstrate how inaccurate and outright stupid it is to assume that ‘Catholics’ believe something just because a guy like Timothy Dolan insists that they ought to.

  • Carstonio

    When hearing any explicit doctrine barring women from leadership roles, or explicit claim that women aren’t suited to such roles, I have a WTF reaction. Almost like the person is talking about walking into school cafeterias and taking food away from the kids. But I also wonder if having that reaction is a sign of self-righteousness, since I don’t know if I would have reacted that way before my daughters were born. I might be able to understand someone who simply accepted those sexist concepts without questioning them, but not someone who took the step of promoting them or defending them.

  • JustoneK

    I found myself checking that name via biblegateway just now. Junia appears in all their English translations I’ve seen, even the KJV. Romans 16 intro?

  • Gender is not necessarily tied to anatomy, and I would very much prefer if you did not write as though it were

  • Carstonio

    No question that gender is a social construct. I’m frustrated by the word “sex” because it refers to not just the anatomical difference but also the act of copulation. (So I suppose I have sexual frustration.) I want an alternative word that means only the former. Otherwise, the old Equal Rights Amendment could be read as meaning that rights can’t be denied to someone just because he or she refuses another’s advances.

  • Where does he do so? The only reference to anatomy I see in the piece is where Fred characterizes the argument of the patriarchal jerks as being reducible to penis=good, and I think it’s fair to assume that _from their viewpoint_ gender and anatomy have a strong relationship. That doesn’t mean that Fred is making the same assumption.

  • The_L1985

    “For it to be bigotry in every case, they would all have to be men.”

    No they wouldn’t. I’ve encountered black people who are racist against other black people. You can be bigoted against a group of which you are part.

  • P J Evans

    Who are you speaking to?

  • The_L1985

    Not to mention, if I meant to stop a child from running into a busy street, but didn’t actually do it, the child would be just as dead as if I’d wanted that death to happen.

    If you never act on your good motives, then that inaction can itself be evil if it causes harm.

  • Kent

    You have to use heat to make it visible.

  • Digger

    So many replies to my post. I choose your reply to address first. Gotta start somewhere.
    1. I don’t suggest REQUIRING anything of Christians, male not female. My DESIRE is that men fullfill their God given role voluntarily, and that women fullfil their God given role voluntarily. If you say those roles are identical, I disagree. I believe they are complementary.
    2. I would never tell my daughter that boys are better than girls, nor have I suggested so here.
    Is it your claim that preaching makes a person better than those who don’t preach? If so, again I disagree with you. If not, on what did you base the implication that I thought boys are better than girls?

  • JustoneK

    o/ Thank you.

  • JustoneK

    How does one have a role and not have it as a requirement of behaviors?

  • Agreed. I am guessing that most of the evangelicals who support women’s ordination, marriage equality, and/or legal abortion tend to get their news from a broader spectrum of sources and are more interconnected with people outside the evangelical subculture, and tend to subscribe Christianity Today more sparsely. In contrast, most of the same evangelicals who are against such things are more likely to only interact with other evangelicals who share their opinions and only get their news and interests from more “trusted” sources who will not risk alienating them. Hence, why the editors at Christianity Today feel the need to dance around the “issue” a bit more than they would otherwise.

  • I remember reading something, somewhere, (the origin escapes my memory to take this for what it is worth) that women tend to have higher rates of religiosity than men tend to, being more enthusiastic about going to church, being bigger donation givers, being more willing to participate in church organized events, etc. I have to wonder if much of this insistence on not recognizing female clergy is due to male church leaders afraid of losing their power. They can influence women from the positions that they have, but allowing women in the clergy will allow women to influence them, and more importantly, they would actually have competition from people who are often more devout than they are.

  • I wonder if that’s holdover from the Cult of Domesticity, which emphasized piety as one of women’s virtues. Several generations of women being brought up where the Bible was one of the only books they were expected to be able to read could very well have a lasting impact on women being “more religious” than men.

  • Yeah, that might have something to do with it, but not just because piety was held as a virtue for women to hold. When some is limited to domestic roles only, they end up with more free time than someone actively employed. Absent the social contact a job would bring or the time demands it would place, an alternative social network to occupy oneself and socialize becomes needed, and for many that was where the church came in.

    Maybe the anti-feminist stance of a lot of churches is because they do not want to lose the free labor they get from female congregants, and the anti-feminist female congregants themselves do not want to lose the mutually supporting social network they are accustomed to?

  • That was kind of the point of the Cult of Domesticity allowing it, actually. To quote, Piety – Religion was valued because unlike intellectual pursuits it did not take a woman away from her “proper sphere,” the home, and because it controlled women’s longings


  • Turcano

    How is “complementary” different from “separate but equal,” again?

  • P J Evans

    I feel like pointing them at the great-great-grandmother who raised several children while her husband was out trying to make a fortune (one or another legal way), gardened, and also wrote religious pamphlets (none of which I’ve ever seen). And at one time the farm was in her name, not his, which has to have been unusual for that period.

  • I will note how that only applied to white, middle and upper-class women. Why is it that any values system which espouses sexual unavailability as a core virtue seem to go hand in hand with a broad class of people who are excluded from that virtue, simultaneously being available to be used and looked down upon by the users for it? We see that in the abstinence-only culture today, the Cult of Domesticity over a century ago, heck we see it with the Romans back during the height of their empire.

  • Carstonio

    It cannot be said often enough that there should be no such thing as a “proper sphere” for women. Or for men. A woman’s sphere is wherever she damn well wants it to be. The same for a man’s sphere.

  • Carstonio

    If you can’t prove that your god desires certain roles for all women or all men, then it’s not appropriate for you to claim this as fact. Turcano is right that complementary is just as deceptive and Orwellian as separate-but-equal. You many not be explicitly requiring roles for the sexes, but you’re saying it comes from an authority that can never be challenged, which amounts to the same thing. And saying that only makes can or should be leaders is the same as saying that women are inferior.

    Identical roles? No, this is about having no preset roles for the sexes at all. A person’s role is whatever she or he wants it to be regardless of sexual identity.

  • Lunch Meat

    It was said often while I was growing up that if we let women into leadership roles, men will be too lazy to lead and then they won’t go to church because they won’t go to church if they can’t lead. Implied is that then they’ll quit working and watch TV porn all day eating junk food and probably have an affair. Because men are petulant children that we have to humor and flatter and make sure everything they do is as easy as possible.

  • As a man, I would be insulted if such insinuations were made against me. Laziness is not something inherent to a man’s character because he is a man.

    If the problem that a society has is that the men are lazy gits, then the solution is not to “tame” men by putting social leashes on them, but to raise a new generation of men who need no cajoling.

  • Hm. “The Real True People class are petulant children we must humor and flatter at all costs so they will deign to keep the world working for us.” I think I see a pattern here.

    How long until only “Job Creators” are allowed to hold positions of authority within the church?

  • It’s weird how we feminists get called man-haters, but the bulk of real anti-male commentary comes from anti-feminists.

  • And I’ve even heard the argument that says we have to have the men be leaders and the women be submissive because it’s a model of Christ’s love, an example to the world… (or something? not clear on the details of this argument because it makes no sense…) uh… yeah “the world” is going to look at that and think the church is sexist and stuck in the 1700s.

  • lowtechcyclist

    “Looking like a bunch of gender-discriminating bigots isn’t a winsome and compelling testimony to the world — except to other gender-discriminating bigots.”

    As Jesus said to the Pharisees (Matt. 23), “after you’ve got your converts you make them twice as fit for hell as you are yourselves.”

  • EllieMurasaki

    I take your point–in fact it’s usually my point–but how many transgender men do you think the Catholic Church permits in positions of authority?

  • EllieMurasaki

    I can see a difference if we presuppose that nobody’s put in a box. One couple might have the complementary roles of John stays home with the kids and cooks dinner, Mary works for money and cleans up after dinner. Another might have the complementary roles of Anne’s paid work is mornings while Beth is home with the kids and Beth’s paid work is afternoons while Anne is home with the kids. Each half of the couple does important things that the other half of the couple can’t–that is, they complement each other–and no separate-but-equal gendered boxes to put John in one and Mary, Anne, and Beth in the other.

    Of course, Digger wants people put in one of two gendered boxes, so.

  • I’m-a guess “Way more than they think they do”