Why aren’t Christians more sexist?

Or to put it another way, why do we apply such double standards to Paul’s letters.

I have been recently reading through Paul’s letters [and suffering my traditional irritation as I think he is self-righteous and self-obsessed.]

I was unsurprisingly (yet again!) annoyed by his various diatribes on women. I think the gist of them are offensive to men and women of today’s society.

To take a case in point; see 1 Timothy 2:
A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. But women will be saved through childbearing–if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety.

My point however is not that Paul should just get over himself but rather that his various views on women do not seem to hold sway in today’s society and most interestingly in today’s Christian society.

Now I know the arguments why…Paul was a product of the time, you need to take the comments in context..bla,bla.

But this is where the double standards seem to come in. Many of Paul’s comments about women are followed by various qualifications of his right to make statements.

However women are not the only topic Paul makes pronouncements on to take an obvious example is his views on homosexuality. How come a large majority of Christians support Paul’s comments on some topics for example homosexuality but ignore the comments on women? Why are the other comments not contextualised to the point where they can also be side-stepped?

What is the rationale for taking such selective views of Paul’s letters?

7 Replies to “Why aren’t Christians more sexist?”

  1. Why aren’t Christians more sexist?
    From my experience, many of them are quite sexist enough thank you, as perhaps you can tell from reading my posts.

    Why a lot of Christians aren’t sexist is because there are obvious explanations for why Paul and people said what they said…and also because it is quite obvious nowadays that women aren’t intellectually/morally inferior etc, and that they have gifts and talents. So it just blatant prejudice to bar them from certain things or treat them as second class citizens. NOT that I’m suggesting that ANYONE should be treated as a second class citizen anyway!!!

  2. I think lots of people find Paul irritating sometimes, smudgerama. In fact, I sat one of my church elders down the other day and said to him, “Look, one of the issues we’re going to have to honestly face is that many people don’t like, or even can’t stand, certain parts of the Bible. How are you going to address this?” It’s something we need to be honest about in our churches, and work out together.

    Personally, I tend to get very excited about Paul’s letters – I think I find them the easiest part of the Bible to get to grips with, partly because I find one of their main themes to be God’s mercy. And I find Paul’s personality very intriguing; a curious mix of desperately caring and loving the people he’s writing to, and being extremely blunt. I agree with you that he sometimes seems self-righteous or self-obsessed – but I think that goes with the territory of being God’s messenger. Jesus sounds like this sometimes, too.

    I guess I treat what he says about the submission of women in the same way as I treat his statements on any other controversial theme – I agonise over what he says, and try to figure out what it’ll mean for today. Sometimes it will mean something very counter-culture and scandalous; sometimes it will turn out to be less radical, and I try to follow my conscience as to which issue is which. I don’t think I’m falling prey to naive double standards, although I’m sure I’m falling prey to more subtle double standards! Anyway, I’m not going to get into this in detail, for the same reason as on the discussion board – I don’t want to open old wounds in this community.

    Very interesting subject – thanks for posting this.

  3. Alice, I agree with what you said about judging that women aren’t inferior and hence deciding Paul’s words shouldn’t be taken literally.

    I guess the thing I am struggling with is that to me Paul’s opinions (if taken totally literally) on women are wrong. But what other things do I look at less critically for instance his attitudes to gifts or being celibate?

    I guess another point which always hits me about Paul’s letter is that I think I would have found him objetionable if I knew him.

    I find it interesting what Davidb said about seeing parallels in what Jesus said. Personally I feel Jesus sets himself apart from the conceit I feel I can detect in Paul’s letters. However I do think that I have come across many ministers who are very gifted teachers but have this conceit – almost as though you need it to have the confidence to speak.

    I also agree with Davidb that Paul has a lot of good things to say (which is big of me!) but often find it hard to get past his style.

    Obviously all the bible needs to be deciphered to a degree but I find it very hard to get past this in Paul’s letters.

    Do others struggle with this?

  4. I agree completely that it’s obvious that women aren’t inferior etc. Ie Paul appears to be talking rubbish. Something I’ve been thinking about recently is homosexuality. How can we judge whether Paul is talking rubbish on this issue?

    On Paul’s personality, I’m in the “we hate Paul” camp.

  5. As people here are probably familliar with, and perhaps bored of me saying 🙂 : I guess my practical starting point (which I often re-examine) is that Paul is speaking fully from God. So when I read his work, I’m often keenly aware that he says things that sound offensive to me, or strange, and certainly could be speaking mainly to a certain culture; but I never suppose it’s actual rubbish. In fact, the opposite – I think my beliefs drive me to see it all as gold-dust, even though often hard to swallow! I try to figure out what he’s saying that’s talking to particular 1st century individuals, ie God’s particular directions for their lives which aren’t directly applicable to me, and what he’s generalising about for all time – then I try to align my opinions with that (which is typically uncomfortable).

    Ah, poor old Paul, it’s a shame so many people hate him! Next time you read something by him, perhaps you could have a think about the love and concern that’s driving him; maybe you’ll see him in a more positive light. I think he’d have been really scary to meet, and very blunt, but I think you’d also have a sense of an amazing care for you that most pastors couldn’t match.

  6. This may be a good thing – I’ve had the same feeling with some of the Old Testament Law recently. I like the idea of the Bible as a deliberate scandal written by God, tripping us up, making us cross, shocking us and offending us, then changing our minds or attitudes on particular issues. I’ve started thinking that it’s the bits that make me cross that are perhaps the most important for me to dwell on at that given moment.

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