Telling religious to Get Over It is the wrong message.

In a video message addressed to “religious people who use the Bible to justify their anti-gay bigotry,” Dan Savage says, “there’s so much in the Bible that we’ve learned to ignore: the anti-female, anti-woman stuff…the stuff in the Bible that forbids us to eat lobster…that justifies and defends the institution of slavery…we’ve learned to ignore what the Bible says about pork, and…about polyester. We’ve learned to ignore all of that. We can also get over the anti-gay stuff in the Bible.”

As a Christian, I’m deeply sorry for the attitudes and behavior of those who use the Bible to discriminate, shame, belittle, or dismiss the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered) community. It’s indefensible.

Savage’s call for religious people to ignore the Bible, however, divides Jewish and Christian communities and the LGBT community even further; and it stems from a misunderstanding of what the Bible actually says.

For the record:

I do not choose to ignore the “anti-female stuff”. It isn’t there. Men use the Bible to justify their anti-female bigotry, sure. But I don’t see it in the Bible. I see in the Tenach (Jewish Bible and Christian Old Testament), Deborah, the prophet, ruling over Israel, and leading in wartime1, Ruth taking charge of her own destiny2, and Abigail preventing a massacre by wisely going against her husband’s wishes.3 I see God providing for women4, protecting women5, and warning men not to deal treacherously with them.6 The Ten Commandments require respect of both father and mother.7 The ideal woman is described as a decisive, assured, powerful, working property owner.8 An entire book is devoted to sexual love between husband and wife, where the wife is equal throughout, and receiving as much as she gives.9 In the New Testament, I see the teaching, “there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.”10

I do not choose to ignore the stuff that forbids us to eat lobster and pork, and wear polyester. Those laws were always intended to be temporary. In the Bible, Levitical laws forbid eating certain foods11, and wearing blended fabrics.12 God intended these laws to be temporary. He didn’t give them until over 3000 years after the creation of mankind, and he put them aside after the coming of Jesus.13 According to the New Testament, we have freedom to follow or to not follow them, as we choose.14

I do not choose to ignore the parts about slavery. I admit that I stumble over them, though. Under the law of Moses, God commanded masters to treat slaves with respect, as hired workers.15 He commanded they get a day off once a week.16 If a slave owner harmed a slave—for example, knocking out a tooth—God commanded them freed.17 Still. According to the Bible, humans could be bought, sold, and inherited as property under the law.18 Perhaps God established laws requiring humane treatment of slaves, because slavery already existed. Perhaps not. I don’t say I understand it, but I don’t ignore it. We are no longer under that law, and slavery was never required, so I can argue and work for the abolishment of slavery without violating the Bible.

Both Testaments say, “Love thy neighbor as thyself”19   Savage says that the New Testament says to “Love thy neighbor as thyself.” Actually, both Testaments say that. Maybe instead of calling upon religious people to ignore the very book that we stake our eternity on, Savage, and others concerned with equality, should call upon us to stop ignoring parts of it. We, as religious people, need to get over our pride, and recognize that we are called to serve and to love.

Please watch the following video for a truly Christian perspective on the treatment of LGBT people.

Copyright 2011, Kathryn A. Frazier. All rights reserved. Shevarim.com


13 thoughts on “Telling religious to Get Over It is the wrong message.

  1. “In the New Testament, I see the teaching, “there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.””

    If this is all you see, then either you are deliberately ignoring what the New Testament says elsewhere, or you are unfamiliar with the relevant passages. In case it’s the latter, here they are:

    “Every male that openeth the womb shall be called holy to the Lord” (Luke 2:23). Women apparently don’t get this privilege.

    “But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God.” (1 Corinthians 11:3)

    “Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonoureth his head. But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoureth her head: for that is even all one as if she were shaven.” (1 Corinthians 11:4-5) An entirely arbitrary discrimination between the sexes.

    “For the man is not of the woman: but the woman of the man. Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man.” (1 Corinthians 11:8-9)

    “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body.” (Ephesians 5:22-23)

    “Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression.” (1 Timothy 2:11-14)

    “Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel” (1 Peter 3:7)

    1. Keith- I didn’t say that’s all I see. You may see the little numbers next to comments. Those are footnotes to Scripture references.

      Thank you for giving me the opportunity to address some of the verses that men have used to exploit women. I guess I’ll just jump in and answer them one by one.

      “Every male that openeth the womb shall be called holy to the Lord” (Luke 2:23).
      You said, “Women apparently don’t get this privilege.”

      This passage tells about when Jesus’ parents took him to the Temple as a baby. Because Jesus was a boy, the Old Testament laws for males applied to him. According to Old Testament law, all firstborn creatures, both humans and animals, within Israel belonged to the LORD. (Exodus 13:2) Children were not to be sacrificed, but rather redeemed (purchased from God) by the offering of a lamb. (Exodus 13:12) The commandment to set apart firstborn human males, redeeming them with an offering, was a visual aid for Israel to remember their exodus from Egypt. “In days to come, when your son asks you, ‘What does this mean?’ say to him, ‘With a mighty hand the LORD brought us out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. When Pharaoh stubbornly refused to let us go, the LORD killed the firstborn of both people and animals in Egypt. This is why I sacrifice to the LORD the first male offspring of every womb and redeem each of my firstborn sons.’ ” (Exodus 13:14, 15)

      Since two of the verses you quoted bring up the same issue, I’ll put them together with the same response:


      “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body.” (Ephesians 5:22-23)

      “But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God.” (1 Corinthians 11:3)

      What you perceive as oppressive, I see as order. Not all women are subject to all men. A married woman answers to her own husband. The husband answers to Christ. (And also to his own wife—Ephesians 5:21) Christ answers to God, but Christ is not inferior to God. Christ and the Father are one (John 10:30, 17:11). In marriage, husband and wife become one (Matthew 19:5-6).

      God gives the husband the responsibility to love and nurture his wife as Christ does the church. (Ephesians 5:25) Love like Christ is sacrificial. Nurture involves creating an environment that encourages growth and individuality. Think of it like nurturing a plant. You can’t make the plant grow into anything it isn’t supposed to be, and it will not grow if it doesn’t have the right environment. When a husband nurtures his wife, he’s giving her freedom.

      In life, compromises can’t always be reached. Sometimes a decision has to be made that favors one opinion over another. God commands the wife to submit to her husband’s decisions. If she’s being loved and nurtured, her individuality and good are part of the decision. God tells the wife to avoid disorder by giving in on these matters. I see this played out in non-Christian relationships all the time. People sacrifice for one another and for the good of the relationship. They just don’t use the word “submit”. That’s what healthy relationships look like.

      So what happens when the husband does not fulfill his command to love and nurture, but uses his position to bully the wife? The wife’s responsibility to submit to her husband is secondary to her first priority to obey God first. (Acts 5:29). If a woman sees someone oppressing another, her responsibility–putting God first–is to rescue the victim. (Psalm 82:3-4) If a wife sees herself becoming the victim of an overbearing husband, her first responsibility to God is to rescue herself. Depending on the husband’s reaction, by rescuing herself, she either helps her husband get back into the line of order that God commanded and repairs the relationship, or she relieves herself of the responsibility to submit, because the marriage ends.

      What happens when the wife does not fulfill her command to submit? No remedy is offered. No where in the Bible does God command or give permission to the husband to restrict his wife’s freedom or to make her do anything. The husband is still commanded to love and nurture. He is still responsible, as the wife is, to rescue himself if he becomes victimized by the wife.

      “Every man praying or prophesying, having his head covered, dishonoureth his head. But every woman that prayeth or prophesieth with her head uncovered dishonoureth her head: for that is even all one as if she were shaven.” (1 Corinthians 11:4-5)  You said, “An entirely arbitrary discrimination between the sexes.”

      Just because you don’t know the reason does not make it “entirely arbitrary.” The Jewish tradition of head covering, as mentioned in this passage, symbolized a wife’s position in the line of family order (like a wedding ring is a symbol of commitment to a spouse). We know the passage refers to the tradition, because of Paul’s complement to the church “for holding to the traditions just as I passed them on to you.” (v.2) So this head covering would only apply to a married woman.

      We can see examples of this custom throughout the Bible. When Rebecca traveled with Isaac’s servant, she remained unveiled. In the presence of Isaac, her husband, she took a veil and covered herself. (Genesis 24:64-65)

      When an Israelite husband accused his wife of adultery, they would go to the temple to ask for a sign. While the wife appealed to God to vindicate her, she removed her head covering, symbolizing she was submitting directly to God, not her accusing husband. (Numbers 5:18)

      The tradition of head covering, by the way, has nothing to do with how stimulating men find women’s hair, as is often cited. Luke records an unmarried woman who honored Jesus by wiping his feet with her hair. (Luke 7:38)

      “For the man is not of the woman: but the woman of the man. Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man.” (1 Corinthians 11:8-9)

      Yes. The first woman was created from a part of the first man’s body, because “it is not good for the man to be alone.” (Genesis 2:18) The Bible teaches that men need women.

      “Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence. For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression.” (1 Timothy 2:11-14)

      This is an example of a (deliberate?) mistranslation. Anyone can look these words up in any Greek concordance, such as can be found at http://www.blueletterbible.org or a public library.

      The word translated silence holds more of the idea of not prone to arguing, peaceful. The words translated usurp authority mean dominate. Notice it says a woman and the man. That’s because the word translated man here means husband.

      This passage says a woman should not stir up arguments in church, and she should not dominate her husband. Husband and wife are commanded to “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” (Ephesians 5:21) Neither should dominate the other.

      One thing that is often overlooked in this passage is that the men and women were together for teaching and discussions in this church. This was not the custom, where men and women were separated. It may be that women who had been silenced and segregated their whole lives did not know how to react to the new freedom that Christianity gave them. Perhaps they were testing their limits, or even pouring out long-standing resentment. Whatever the reason, they were admonished not to stir arguments or dominate their husbands in church, which suggests they were crossing the line, disrespecting others.

      “Likewise, ye husbands, dwell with them according to knowledge, giving honour unto the wife, as unto the weaker vessel” (1 Peter 3:7)

      Another beautiful example of how God honors women. The husband who obeys this command educates himself (“according to knowledge”) about the complexity of women’s bodies and honors his wife’s body. For a time, during the US feminist movement of the 1960s and 1970s, we pretended as if women’s and men’s “vessels”–bodies–were the same. We feared that if we admitted to physical differences, one gender would prove “better” than the other. Today, we feel more comfortable with the truth that an average woman’s body is physically weaker than an average man’s body, according to our usual definition of strength (able to lift and pull, etc.). Of course, there are exceptions, and women have some physical attributes that out-perform men’s bodies. If only more men would live with their wives according to knowledge, honoring the ever-changing female body!

  2. Thanks for the detailed response. I’ll try to keep my follow-up comments brief, so that we don’t get bogged down in too many details.

    1. Your defense of wives submitting to their husbands basically amounts to arguing that it’s something that is necessary for a relationship to function, and that it’s in the interests of both parties. But even if we grant this argument, why does it have to be women submitting to their husbands, rather than husbands submitting to their wives? Do you honestly believe that women have some special quality that makes them better at being subservient?

    2. Concerning issues that are difficult to resolve. I can’t help thinking God could have come up with a better rule than simply giving the man the final say. Why didn’t he give the wife the final say instead? Or why didn’t he simply encourage partners to be good at compromising with each other? Once again, the choice of the man as final arbiter seems entirely arbitrary – a result of pure sexism rather than anything real.

    3. Your suggestion that women have a responsibility to rescue themselves from situations in which the husband abuses his power, appears to me, to be divorced from the reality of such situations. First of all, abused women are not usually in an emotional state conducive to self-rescue. That’s just the plain fact of the matter, and explains why abusive relationships often persist for so long. (Was God not aware of how human psychology works?) Furthermore, I’m not sure how you would envisage an abused a wife in Biblical times rescuing herself. Would she run away from her husband and become a social pariah? Finally, I think it’s all backwards to claim that the victim should be responsible for putting the abusive situation to an end. It should be the perpetrator’s responsibility. And yet he’s not going to stop what he’s doing if he knows that his wife has been commanded to submit to him. And why should he listen to any other woman?

    4. A quick note on this passage: “For the man is not of the woman: but the woman of the man. Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man.”

    This says, very specifically, that the woman was created in order to fulfill a need in the man. It also says, very specifically, that the reciprocal is NOT true: the man was not created in order to fulfill a need in the woman. But why this asymmetry? Why wasn’t it the other way around? Or why doesn’t it work both ways at once?

    5. “This passage says a woman should not stir up arguments in church, and she should not dominate her husband. Husband and wife are commanded to “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” (Ephesians 5:21) Neither should dominate the other.”

    I’m not sure where your argument is coming from here. I followed the link you posted, and had a look at all the available translations of 1 Timothy 2:11. All of them talk about women being submissive and silent. Are *all* of these deliberate mistranslations?

    Furthermore, even if we concede your argument, you still have not explained why the asymmetry between men and women exists (quoting an entirely different scripture doesn’t help, it simply highlights the inconsistencies that appear across scriptures)? Why are women singled out in a rule about making arguments in church? What about men?

    6. Finally, you make some good points about the males being blessed, the wearing of veils, and the “weaker vessels” referring to the physical body – these seem like pretty reasonable interpretations.

    1. Re #3: I never meant to suggest that anyone in an abusive relationship is in any way to blame for her situation. Thank you for letting me know that I came across that way. I believe the opposite. I believe in every case of abuse in any relationship, the abuser is always to blame.

      That understood, an abuser is not likely to stop on his own. If a woman does not have practical resources to rescue herself, or if she learned helplessness from emotional abuse, there isn’t much she can do. But more often than not, she can tell someone. That act of telling is a bold act of self-rescue. It is up to all of us inside and outside of the church to create an environment where she feels safe to speak, and which will help her and her children. And yes, far too many situations exist where victims have no immediate hope.

      Mainstream Christianity fails to teach women when they should submit to their husbands, and when they should bypass their husbands and submit directly to God. We all know that unscrupulous men use their place in the family line to bully their wives. We need to teach women that when a wife feels devalued as a person, she does not have to put up that in order to obey God.

      A good example of a woman in Biblical times is Abigail. She remained married to an abusive man while he lived, but she took control of the situation. She did not allow herself to be helpless. (1 Samuel 25)

      Re #1-2: Why did God command the wife to submit to the husband, and not the other way around, in decision-making? I don’t know, but maybe because when this command was given, there were so many marriages with multiple wives and one husband.

      Re #4: You said, “This says, very specifically, that the woman was created in order to fulfill a need in the man. It also says, very specifically, that the reciprocal is NOT true: the man was not created in order to fulfill a need in the woman. But why this asymmetry? Why wasn’t it the other way around? Or why doesn’t it work both ways at once?”

      I don’t know; but maybe because the man was created first with the need for a woman, whereas when the woman was created, she had no need for a man, because the man was already created.

      Re #5: 1 Timothy 2:11, you asked, “Are *all* of these deliberate mistranslations?”
      Whether deliberate or not, yes, they are. The link I posted gives access to the original Greek words and their meanings. Anyone can look them up.

      You asked, Why are women singled out in a rule about making arguments in church? Why not men?

      Because women had never been allowed to participate in the congregation before Jesus and Christianity. Co-ed congregations were new. The fact that Paul felt the need to tell women not to dominate their husbands suggests that the husbands hesitated to stop the women, and allowed an unbalanced situation in the church. Even while women bickered and dominated, the command was not given to men to control their wives. The Bible never tells men to control women. The command is given to women to control themselves.

      1. “I don’t know, but maybe because when this command was given, there were so many marriages with multiple wives and one husband.”

        So would you agree that in today’s society, in which polygamy is no longer common, it would be acceptable for a husband to submit to his wife, instead of the other way around?

        “I don’t know; but maybe because the man was created first with the need for a woman, whereas when the woman was created, she had no need for a man, because the man was already created.”

        OK, but again this is entirely arbitrary: it is not based on any inherent characteristics of the individuals, but merely on the order in which they happened to be created. Why would God rely on something so arbitrary? Unless, of course, the order of creation was *not* arbitrary, and he created the man first because the man was the best human he could create, while the woman was made to be in his service. And that lands us right back into the realm of chauvinism.

        “Re #5: 1 Timothy 2:11, you asked, “Are *all* of these deliberate mistranslations?”
        Whether deliberate or not, yes, they are. The link I posted gives access to the original Greek words and their meanings. Anyone can look them up.”

        I’m sorry, but I’ve studied the link you sent and I can find no alternative interpretations or translations of 1 Timothy 2:11. Could you help me out?

      2. So would you agree that in today’s society, in which polygamy is no longer common, it would be acceptable for a husband to submit to his wife, instead of the other way around?

        I think it’s both acceptable, and commanded by God for husbands and wives to submit to one another. (Ephesians 5:21)

        I also think that as long as a husband submits to his place in the family order—loving and nurturing his wife—the wife should agree to the husband’s judgment if they both feel strongly and cannot find a compromise. If the husband removes himself from the line of authority by failing to love and nurture his wife, the wife answers to God directly, bypassing the husband. (Ephesians 5:22)

        I’m not saying that I understand it all, or that I always do what I believe is the right thing. I’m only saying that as far as my fallible understanding goes, I think this is what the Bible says.

        OK, but again this is entirely arbitrary: it is not based on any inherent characteristics of the individuals, but merely on the order in which they happened to be created. Why would God rely on something so arbitrary? Unless, of course, the order of creation was *not* arbitrary, and he created the man first because the man was the best human he could create, while the woman was made to be in his service. And that lands us right back into the realm of chauvinism.

        I don’t believe the order of creation was arbitrary. Nor do I believe that first means best and second means servant. I believe that all of creation was planned by an all-knowing and all-powerful creator. I believe he has reasons for everything he does. Whatever his reasons, whatever people think of it, he did what he did.

        I’m sorry, but I’ve studied the link you sent and I can find no alternative interpretations or translations of 1 Timothy 2:11. Could you help me out?

        Sure. Try the interlinear at http://www.scripture4all.org/OnlineInterlinear/NTpdf/1ti2.pdf

      3. Just one more question: why should the wife submit to the husband’s judgment rather than the other way around? Would it be wrong for a couple to agree always to defer to the wife as final arbiter for intractable issues?

      4. I don’t know why God set it up that way. I trust he has a reason.

        If the husband and wife agree to always defer to the wife as the final arbiter, I see no violation of Scripture. I see that as an act of submission by the wife. Even though she’s calling the disputes, she has that authority because of their mutual agreement. By the definition of the agreement, it is her husband’s judgment that she call the dispute.

        On a personal note: In my marriage (of 27 years), my husband and I generally share the load. But we have at times taken turns calling all the shots, when the other becomes weary of grown-up responsibilities. I believe that sometimes the best help a wife can be to her husband is to shoulder the load for him, and give him a break.

  3. Why do you believe Levitical laws were meant to be temporary? The entire reason for them, as I can see it, was based on the biological characteristics of the animals (i.e. pigs have a parasitic worm, lobsters and other shellfish eat shit off the ocean floor, birds of prey eat carrion, etc. etc.) and how we wouldn’t want to put those toxins into our bodies. Just a thought.

    1. Thanks for stopping by, Motherof2. I’m a mom, too. 🙂

      For the record, I keep a Biblically kosher diet and I observe Biblically appointed days. Not because I think I have to, but as a way to bring the sacred into the everyday, to keep the lessons of the Bible a part of my home and my life. Also, for the record, I am a Christian, so I believe the New Testament is part of the Bible.

      It seems from this vantage point in history that part of the way God protected the Israelites from the diseases of the nations was in dietary law and the laws regarding washing, handling of body fluids and dead bodies, and marital restrictions. I don’t believe, however, the entire reason for Levitical laws has to do the biological characteristics of animals.

      Because…Most of the Levitical laws have nothing to do with animals. Most of the Levitical laws have nothing to do with what goes into the body. And no evidence suggests that the biological characteristics of animals were different during the 3000 years before Moses—when the Levitical laws were given.

      The big elephant-in-the-room characteristic of Levitical laws is the order of the Levitical priesthood. It was a detailed system of heritage, burnt offerings and sacrifices, lifestyle, pomp and ceremony, provision for the family and for the poor, property allotment, and judging disputes.

      The reason I say I believe it was temporary is because it had a clear beginning and a clear end, according to the Bible. The beginning, 3000 years after the creation of mankind, Moses received the laws directly from God. The end, when Jesus declared a new covenant, using spit to heal, touching a woman with an issue of blood, healing on the Sabbath, and allowing his disciples to eat with unwashed hands, declaring, “Listen and understand. What goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them.” (Matthew 15:10)

      Hebrews explains, “For when the priesthood is changed, the law must be changed also. He of whom these things are said [Jesus] belonged to a different tribe [not the tribe of Levi], and no one from that tribe has ever served at the altar. For it is clear that our Lord descended from Judah, and in regard to that tribe Moses said nothing about priests…The former regulation is set aside because it was weak and useless (for the law made nothing perfect), and a better hope is introduced, by which we draw near to God…Because of this oath, Jesus has become the guarantor of a better covenant.” (Hebrews 7)

  4. Kathryn, your logic behind the wife being submissive in her role as arbiter seems a little twisted to me. If submission is not recognizable in the wife’s day-to-day actions, but authority as final arbiter is, then it seriously stretches credulity to claim that her position is really one of submission.

    And, if I may be so bold, it doesn’t sound like you are practicing wifely submission in your own life in any obviously recognizable sense – your marriage sounds like most modern ones (both Christian and non-Christian) in which couples share responsibility with no significant asymmetry between the authority of the participants.

    Anyhow, I think we’ve probably discussed this as much as we can! Thanks for engaging with me, I appreciate it.

    1. Yes, you may be so bold as to notice that the day-to-day workings of my faith are not obviously recognizable to strangers.

      Your logic seems flawed and prejudicial to me, also. Yet, I appreciate you sharing your point of view, since others share it. I think the important take-away from this conversation is that, for all of our differences, we share some common values. It is that commonality that begins to break down walls, if we discuss and explain, rather than accuse and belittle.

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