Popular Female Evangelist Claims That What God Really Wants Is For Women To Shut Up

Illustration for article titled Popular Female Evangelist Claims That What God Really Wants Is For Women To Shut Up

Great news, ladies! According to God/a new ideological movement, it turns out that the best thing a woman can do is submit and let her husband do all of the hard, thinky stuff. How novel!

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In the tradition of Phyllis Schlafly, Priscilla Shirer has made quite a name for herself talking about how women shouldn't talk so much.

She's part of a group of people who call themselves "complementarians," which is not an alien race from The X Files, but rather a philosophy of gender roles as gleaned from Biblical text. Complementarians believe that women and men have strict, Biblically defined gender roles that are non-negotiable and natural and that women were designed to submit to their husbands, that the only path to true holiness is to let him make all of the decisions. A New York Times Magazine profile describers Priscilla Shirer thus,

(Shirer) is an evangelical Bible teacher who makes her living by guiding thousands of women through the study of Scripture in her books, videos and weekend conferences - in which she stresses that in a biblical home and church, the man is the head and the woman must submit. She steers women away from the "feminist activists" who tell women to "do your own thing, make your own decisions and never let a man slow you down," as she puts it. "Satan will do everything in his power to get us to take the lead in our homes," she wrote in her book "A Jewel in His Crown: Rediscovering Your Value as a Woman of Excellence." "He wants to make us resent our husband's position of authority so that we will begin to usurp it. . . . Women need to pray for God to renew a spirit of submission in their hearts."

Women can only be powerful by submitting to another person? Is this opposite day? And how is this line of thinking in any way new or different? It sounds like the same "women should let men do all of the thinking" bullshit that certain sects of organized religion have tried to normalize since forever, now in a shiny new package. With Powerpoint presentations.

Other Christian theologians aren't particular thrilled by Shirer's prescription for female submission.

"There is a sense in which their identity as a Christian is tied to first not who they are in Jesus as a human being, but their gender," says Mimi Haddad, president of Christians for Biblical Equality, an organization that takes an egalitarian stance toward men and women. In Haddad's view, "In Scripture, it's your humanity" that matters.

Hey, if Priscilla Shirer is happy in her submission-based relationship with her husband, good for her. If that's what she needs to do to find happiness, then far be it from me or any other person to infringe on her right to make that choice. However, I'm leery of anyone who uses dubious source materials to claim to know the divine meaning of gender and thus what I must do as a woman, and I'm doubly-side-eyed toward anyone who tells me that Satan wants me to think for myself. And I'm triple-y leery of someone whose grasp of irony is so weak that they don't understand how goofy it looks to lead-by-opposite-example. Speaking up to tell women to shut up and the doctrine that women must submit in order to be powerful sounds like it requires a fair amount of mental gymnastics to deliver with a straight face.

Reading about movements like the complementarian movement make me think that it's really too bad that Jesus never said, "Keep your hands to yourself" or "Mind your own damn business, My Children."

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Housewives of God. [NYT Magazine]

[Image via Pawe Michakowski/ Shutterstock]

DISCUSSION

CassandraSays
CassandraSays

It always seems to me that this way of reading scriptures is actually weirdly sacrilegious, in that it seems to be putting a woman's husband in the place that should theoretically belong to God. It's essentially replacing the position of authority held by God with another human being. Regardless of gender that seems a bit dicey, theologically speaking, since it should be an assumed given that humans are fallible and likely to make bad decisions.

I'm an atheist now, but I did grow up with this stuff, and I've always thought doctrines in which women are supposed to completely submit to men are dicey for this reason. What if you know your husband is wrong, and you pray, and still conclude that he's wrong and that God wouldn't approve of what hubbie is telling you to do? Are you really supposed to ignore your duty to God? Theologically speaking it's kind of a mess.

Also...so God is in theory infallible and all seeing, right? And he made us? So, if he really wanted women to be naturally submissive he could have made us that way. In which case none of this preaching would be necessary, since women would be naturally inclined to submit to their husbands. But clearly this is not the case, which is why the campaigns attempting to enforce submission exist. So one could in fact argue that people like this are going against God's plan, since if he really wanted 100% submissive women then women would already be that way, so the fact that we are not that way is clearly part of his divine plan.

(And arguments like this are why I got kicked out of Scripture classes in high school.)