Saturday, August 6, 2011

The Curse of Eve

In Part 14 of The Joke Was On Me, I spoke about how when confronted about his beliefs, MFFFIL hemmed and hawed and gave my ex some bullbutter about "The Curse of Eve" - which he couldn't really explain other than to infer that because of "The Curse", my ex had to be in submission and obedience to a man, which at that time, he felt should be him.

A conversation elsewhere brought this to the forefront of my mind yesterday, so I want to examine it for just a bit. The entire idea is based on this passage from Genesis 3...

And you will desire to control your husband,
      but he will rule over you.

To P/QF types, this seems pretty black and white - and I suppose it is...if you're willing to ignore the new covenant and NT texts (and when convenient, P/QF fundamentalists are more than willing).

"The Curse" was the result of sin. Period. Sin for which there was, at that time, no appropriate atonement. It was also nailed to the cross of Christ, so, any woman who still lives "under the curse", or any man who still oppresses the female gender with "the Curse of Eve", obviously has accepted, at best, only part of the work of Christ. At best. 

The work of Christ, and the torn veil, were like a "reset button" to restore original design, to make us all equal before God. As was once discussed in the comment string of Imbibled Marriage, everything about "the Curse", and its impact on interpersonal relationships, was turned upside down by the cross of Christ. As Paul wrote in Galatians 3:28...

There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus.

God doesn't play favorites. It's fascinating, and at the same time frustrating, how people who dwell so much on "the spirit vs. the flesh" build the foundation of their lives around thinking and relational structures which, according to Paul, aren't "in Christ Jesus", which would, by default, place them "in the flesh", and how they only want to accept a part of the work of Christ. Christ spoke against lording it over one another, yet P/QF organizations like Gothard are built entirely around an "Umbrella of Authority" - emphasizing the weakness of the female gender, and invoking "the Curse" to do so, and then you have groups like Vision Forum utterly obsessed with the authority of human fathers over their wives and children. I once wrote about their Patriarchal Apostasy, and if you've ever read their "tenets of biblical patriarchy", you'd see how most of the BS is culled from the OT, prior to the work of Christ, almost willing followers to remain under the curse for the sake of a culture.

When they only accept a PART, at best, of the work of Christ, maybe you can understand how I don't really consider them brothers and sisters in the faith. We don't share the same faith.

Something else that I loved reading recently, cause this is something I bumped heads with my former future grandfather-in-law on regarding "gender roles", and something that spoke a lot more about him and his beliefs than he probably wanted it to...Mara wrote a great piece about Deborah.

Most of us have probably heard fundamentalists rationalize and explain away Deborah's leadership over Israel with something like "when there were no men worthy or qualified to lead, God raised up Deborah in their absence." Total BS. MFFGIL even argued that Deborah wasn't representative of "God's high purpose for woman" - whatever that religious tripe meant. You can read the account of Deborah in Judges 4 every single way including nekkid and standing on your head, and you won't find so much as a suggestion within the book that Deborah was only chosen because no man was capable, or there was a lack of qualified men, what have you. There's as much "biblical" evidence that Deborah was chosen over half a million FULLY qualified and capable men as there is evidence that she was chosen from a lack of capable men. Judges 4 doesn't even touch on whatever dynamic may or may not have brought Deborah to power - it simply identifies Deborah as who the Israelites went to for judgment, i.e., their leader. The rationalization is a fundamentalist presupposition, reading into the story a dynamic that the relevant scripture doesn't begin to support. Without it, everything about the narrow-minded, black and white fundamentalist interpretation of gender roles crumbles. Really, that's the foundation of pretty much every fundamentalist presupposition.

If MFFGIL so easily accepted this rationalization of Deborah (which he obviously heard from other fundamentalists - probably from his own father), it makes you wonder just how many of his beliefs he's arrived at by taking the cup of Kool-aid and gulping away.

God forbid a fundamentalist would ever have to actually think about what they believe and why they believe it. 


  1. "The rationalization is a fundamentalist presupposition, reading into the story a dynamic that the relevant scripture doesn't being to support. Without it, everything about the narrow-minded, black and white fundamentalist interpretation of gender roles crumbles. Really, that's the foundation of pretty much every fundamentalist presupposition."

    That is the main way they come up with most of their doctrines. Like when the apostle John says Jesus is the logos of God made flesh, the define "logos of God" to mean the KJV bible- not the true meaning "the whole of God's wisdom" but "the Bible" made flesh. This interpretation so limits and demeans Jesus, and at the same time lifts up the bible (which I can't bring myself to capitalize anymore) to equal status with the Son of God!!!

    They further use Pauls words, "when that which is perfect has come, that which is imperfect will pass away" out of context to declare TWO new doctrines: the collection called the bible is that which is perfect (wth?) and so the work of the Holy Spirit through individual gifting and personal revelation has passed away. Seriously, they claim the bible is so perfect that the church doesn't need the Holy Spirit and any gifts of His anymore!

    And these preachers, who learned all this at seminary so they KNOW it's true, spout this so confidently and calmly that new Christians just...accept it.

    What a slap in the face to the Son of God and the Holy Spirit!!

    And that is the entire shabby foundation of the fundamentalist doctrine that God doesn't speak to people today through anything but the bible, and all parts of the bible are equally important (meaning the life and words of Jesus are merely part of the mix rather than THE EXPRESS REVELATION OF GOD IN HUMAN FORM.


  2. Now that's weird. I just posted some comments along this line on my FB page.

  3. Lewis, I've heard some teach that Deborah was actually a curse to Israel because a nation is under a curse when a woman leads them.

    There is an awful lot of scripture twisting and warped imposing on the text by those men who cannot let go of their own self-importance.

    We gals so appreciate the men who aren't stuck on their own pride and perceived position.
    Thanks for the mention.

  4. Lewis, I'm a new reader and found your blog a while ago through the wonders of internet blog links as I was casually reading about the Quiverfull movement. Your (and others') writing has been such a balm to me.

    This revelation about female submission being the curse has really freed me. I grew up in a fundamentalist environment, although my parents were sort of liberal fundamentalists (not QF/P or anything close, but still basically fundamentalist.) For years, I bought the female submission teaching, but in sort of a watered down version, thinking that it meant something like, "Men and women are partners, but men get 51% of the vote." As I grew up and actually started having nuanced male-female relationships and thinking for myself, I grew so uncomfortable with the idea that women were somehow inherently weaker that I dismissed it altogether, but couldn't really put my finger on how I could justify that "Biblically" (and believe me, plenty of people wanted me to.) This post and another I read a few days ago have literally freed me--I can't believe I didn't see this truth before, that not only are we equal in Christ, but to revert to the Old Testament Curse "authority and submission" roles is actually rejecting Christ's work. It is like a lightbulb went on inside my heart.

    Also, even in my "moderate" fundie Christian HS, I definitely heard that teaching about Deborah. I remember even as a 14 year old being like, "What?...ok I guess..." and just accepting it since it seemed to fit with all the other teachings about female submission. Now when I think about how much of this I was fed, I get really upset. It's the opposite of freedom in Christ.

    Thanks so much for your honesty and good work.

  5. Thank you for this post. Growing up, when I was surrounded by people who subscribed to "reformed theology" and patriarchy, I would bring up Deborah to try and defend my own ambitions. Over and over, they dismissed Deborah as being "an exception." I'm not sure why they thought this was a good argument - they must have heard it from some pet theologian. I always thought that being an exception was a good thing - that God had a heart for exceptional people.

  6. Lewis said: "The entire idea is based on this passage from Genesis 3...

    And you will desire to control your husband,
    but he will rule over you."

    Perhaps Lewis, you could make a great article even better by emphasizing that "And you will desire to control your husband, but he will rule over you." is not even a good translation? The more common and literal way is " thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee." Bossiness from the woman's side is not even predicted in that prediction verse.

  7. The way this was explained to me was that "the curse" was not necessarily the fact the women are to be submissive but rather that the women would from that day foward fight against this and not only that but try to place themselves in a position of authority over their husbands or men in general. This is what "the curse" was. Women's refusal to accept their place and their fighting against God's given order. This was supported by the fact that Paul, when explaining submission went back to Genisis and commented on the fact that Man was created first, then woman. He makes this the basis for why husbands ought to be the head of the wife.

    I just wanted to share the way it was explained to me and maybe add to the discussion. Does anyone have any thoughts on this?

  8. Anonymous 10:59...I can't explain Paul's commentary on it, other than to note there were some pretty strange and contradictory things in some of Paul's writings - such as him saying that nature itself suggests that it's shameful for a man to have long hair, when nature in no way suggests this and God had once used a long-haired man (Samson) to champion His people, with the source of his strength found in his long hair.

    I think some of Paul's writing has to be considered as just a man writing some of his own thoughts, not from inspiration, not from anything divine, but merely as he understood things in the context of his time and world.

  9. Actually, in that passage, Lewis, Paul was repeating back to that church what they had written to him "Women must wear headcoverings, her hair is her glory" etc... at the end of quoting it back to them he tells them "Don't cause trouble over this, the apostles and other churches have no such tradition.

  10. "I think some of Paul's writing has to be considered as just a man writing some of his own thoughts, not from inspiration, not from anything divine, but merely as he understood things in the context of his time and world."

    Yes, the thoughts of a man whose life had been invaded by a Divine Encounter on the road to Damascus, that left him forever changed, and yet, still only just a man.

    Paul never claimed equal status with Christ, and I personally think he would be horrified to know that people equate his words (and Moses, and James, and the prophets, and Luke's)-his testimony if you will- with the words of Christ!

    Paul told those who attempted to worship him (in Acts) that he was a man just like them. The fundamentalists didn't get the memo, apparently.

  11. After reading and reflecting upon this post, it reminded me that there are not too many verses in the bible that pertain to commandments simply for "women only." There are only a few, and these few should not be taken out of context or twisted in order to be manipulated into a "full bible." Also, look at 1 Chronicles 7:24, where it mentions a daughter named Sheerah, who built two cities. There is no mention of her needing her father or brother's permission to do so. I wonder how she managed that? (grins)

  12. DJ Pomegranate and Anonymous 10:59--
    I was already going to post. You may find the following particularly relevant...

    Lewis, you are aware that so MUCH of this type of thinking has made its way into more mainstream (if not outright mainstream) denominations now, right? Like the Presbyterian Church in America and the Southern Baptists. They twist the word "complementary", adding to its meaning a dash of hierarchy that does not exist in the dictionary definition of the word, and call themselves "complementarian." I suppose that sounds better than "sexist", but that's what they are, having adopted the secular status quo into their religion and claiming it comes from God.

    Retha's comment above regarding translation is correct. Google "God's Word to Women" for some good information. Also check out the website of the Christians for Biblical Equality for some good basic information on different understandings of scripture.

    I can tell you the biggest problem with that teaching, Anonymous, as I was taught the same thing as a newbie christian. In my opinion, at least. The observation in scripture that husbands will rule over wives is turned by "complementarians" into a command, or at least an instruction. It isn't. It's something that happens as a result of the Fall. Context is key here for proper understanding.

    And as far as the man being created first, and therefore in charge, that's speculative to base the subjugation of roughly half the world upon. Check out Genesis and note the number of times God chose for the inheritance of the firstborn male to go somewhere else. Also check out the sites I recommend.

    Best wishes on your journey, and peace.

  13. 9 “Very well,” she replied, “I will go with you. But you will receive no honor in this venture, for the Lord’s victory over Sisera will be at the hands of a woman.”

    Based on this verse, i was taught that Deborah was placed as a leader to shame all the men who weren't stepping up and doing what they were supposed to do. My dad always said the story was an example of what happens when men fail in their Godly duties. Women will try to lead and bring entire countries to shame.

    Thanks for writing this. The bible still frustrates and confuses me. I haven’t learned how to read it without the Patriarchal filter yet. Posts like this give me hope that one day i'll be able to call myself a Christian again.

  14. I've been reading this blog for awhile now...delurking because when my favorite Bible character (Deborah) is being discussed, I can't help but jump in :o).

    while it is true that Barak was intended to lead the army, DEBORAH WAS ALREADY LEADING in the capacity of a judge when God spoke to her about defeating Sisera's army.

    I know I am preaching to the choir here - it just grates on my nerves when the patriarchs conveniently "forget" this teensy weensy detail!!

  15. "This was supported by the fact that Paul, when explaining submission went back to Genisis and commented on the fact that Man was created first, then woman. He makes this the basis for why husbands ought to be the head of the wife."

    This passage is not about husband-wife relations at all. The context is a personal letter from Paul to his deputy Timothy, whom Paul had left temporarily in charge of a church that was rife with false teaching. In this context, the main point of Paul's words at this point is "let a woman learn." The rest of the passage must be viewed in light of that command. Paul then gives an example (he says himself in 1 Corinthians 10 that the Old Testament stories are given for an example to us-- not as a basis for what we ought to do today!) that Adam was created first and then Eve, and Adam was not deceived. The inference is that Adam was not deceived because he was created first. Eve was deceived because she was created later-- she lacked learning that Adam had; just as the women in ancient Ephesus lacked learning that the men had! Paul is saying that "a woman" should learn so that she will not spread false teaching. Those who are learning should not usurp the place of their teachers. It's not about women being created to be under male authority at all! This interpretation is only obtained by reading Paul's letter back onto the Genesis text with patriarchalist glasses on. Paul was addressing a specific, temporary situation in one church, and using the Genesis passage as an example of deception, not some sort of legal precedent for male control.

  16. Regarding Gen. 3:16

    God was not cursing Eve or leveling a curse upon her. God cursed first the serpent and then the ground. While I'd agree that mandated female submission is indeed like a curse upon women, it is not something that God ever mandated. Gen. 3:16 is God describing how things would be after they have sinned. It is descriptive, not prescriptive and it is said to the woman not the man.

  17. Anon 6:57,
    Thank you for weighing in and providing some sites. I will definitely check them out! Again, I was taught that "the curse" was not that women are to be submissive. It is or was that women would always be prone to fight against submission. In some books I've read it has been explained that these "roles," husband: the head or leader, woman: the submissive helper were always functioning in this capacity even before the fall.

    Thank you for your input as well. Your explaination was a little difficult for me to understand. Mainly because I feel that you would have to read all those things into the text as well. I am in no way attacking your position. I'm just being honest and I hope that you can see my honesty. If you read and accept those Scriptures at face value, you have to come away with the conclusion that Paul is saying that "he does not permit a woman to teach or exercise authority over men." I know that you have to take in consideration the audience the letter was intended for and the time period but as a layman reading the Bible, that is what I get from it. This becomes troubling for me because I do see in other instances Paul explaining how a woman is permitted to pray and prophecy but must use a head cover. We also read about sisters in the church who prophecy as well. The Bible has become very confusing to me as of late. It is painful to admit this. My personal struggles with the Bible and how certain people have used its words to abuse and manipulate people have driven me far from it. I'm slowly coming back to it with some help from great women by the way! But it is subjects like this that send me for a whirl.

    I also was taught that Deborah was basically a huge judgement on the nation of Isreal like many others have commented. This is seeming more and more trite to me and lacking support by the way.

    Thank you for participating and giving your findings and thoughts.

  18. Anonymous 3:38, you say " If you read and accept those Scriptures at face value, you have to come away with the conclusion that Paul is saying that "he does not permit a woman to teach or exercise authority over men."

    I like your honesty in telling how you struggle with the text. Me too! I think that the passage 1 Tim 2:11-15 simply cannot be taken on face value. On face value, it contradicts too many things in the New Testament: female prophets, Priscilla teaching Apollos,Christ's atonement, not being blamed for the sins of your fathers, warnings against endless geneologies, etc.

    It was written to an individual, Timothy. And my theory is as long as that friend, Timothy understood his cryptic message, Paul was happy. And because of that, I listen to people like Kristen who don't read it on face value.

  19. Annonymous: There are two issues here. One is that word translated "exercise authority." The word there is, in the original language, "authentein." The KJV renders it "usurp authority." It was an unusual word that had, at the time Paul wrote it, strong negative connotations. The NIV translators chose to render it "exercise authority," as if some ordinary, legitimate use of authority was what Paul had in mind-- but Paul didn't use the word "exousia," which is the normal word meaning "exercise authority." He used "authentein," which did indeed carry the meaning of usurping or dominating. So was Paul really saying a woman could not exercise any legitimate authority over a man? Or was he talking about something else?

    Then there is the very basic question of why Paul's words "I do not permit a woman to teach" are read as meaning, "God says no woman must ever teach." The fact is that saying "I do not permit" is not the same thing as saying "This is a universal, timeless command of God."

    If I owned a company, and I wrote a letter to the supervisor of that company saying, "I do not permit employees to work overtime," is that the same as saying, "It is prohibited by the highest authority for an employee in any company ever to work overtime"? The church has traditionally read Paul's words as if they were universal and timeless commands of God, but what is the justification for doing so? If it's because Paul then referred back to the Creation story, the fact is that in 2 Cor 11, Paul referred to the deception of Eve while dealing with a specific, timebound situation occurring in one certain church. And in 1 Cor. 10, Paul specifically says that he normally uses the Old Testament stories as examples, not as authoritative bases for rules he makes -- and certainly not as a way to make his words into universal, timeless commands of God!

    We can't get away from the fact that Paul was writing about a church he himself had pastored for several years, to a deputy whom he had left in charge in his absence. The letter has to be looked at in that light.

    May I submit that the reason the "face value" seems to you to say a certain thing, is that this is the way you were taught to read it? Try reading the words in several translations and in an interlinear (Scripture For All is a good one), and see if the "face value" is really what you think it is. One way or another, male-ruled churches and male-only translation committees have for generations managed to read these passages in the most restrictive way possible for women. But was that what Paul really meant? It's high time the passages were re-examined with that question in mind.

  20. I'm enjoying the ongoing story, Lewis. When's the next installment of "The Joke was on me" coming out?