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Why Would Any Woman Want to be an Evangelical Christian?

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Repost from 2015. Edited, rewritten, and corrected.

Why would any woman want to be an Evangelical Christian? If the Bible is the inspired Word of God and every word is true, why would any modern, thinking woman ever darken the door of an Evangelical church?

Over the past hundred years women have continued to gain rights and privileges kept from them by men, law, and social propriety: the right to vote, equal pay for equal work, the right to use birth control, the right to have an abortion, the right to divorce. While women do not yet have equal rights and privileges in this country, huge progress has been made toward that end.

Why don’t women have true equal rights and privileges in America? Don’t deceive yourself into thinking they do. There are still places in our society where the signs say Men Only. The primary reason women are denied basic civil rights and social privileges is that Christian patriarchal thinking still permeates our society.

Evangelical Christianity teaches that women are inferior to men. The Bible calls women weaker vessels. The Bible teaches that women are to be married, keepers of the home, bearers of children, and sex partners for their husband (unless the husband goes Old Testament and has multiple wives and concubines). Simply put, the Bible teaches that the world of women revolves around husband, food, children, and sex.

If the Bible is meant to be taken as written, women have no part in the governance of society or the church. Women are relegated to teaching children, and as women age, they are given the task of teaching younger women how to be good wives.

1 Timothy 5:14 says:

I will therefore that the younger women marry, bear children, guide the house, give none occasion to the adversary to speak reproachfully.

Titus 2:2-4 says:

That the aged men be sober, grave, temperate, sound in faith, in charity, in patience. The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things; That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children,

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The Bible teaches women are to keep silent in the church:

For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints. Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience as also saith the law. And if they will learn any thing, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church. 1 Corinthians 14:33-35

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. 1 Timothy 2:11,12

The Bible also regulates how women are to dress and wear their hair:

In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array; But (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works. I Timothy 2:9,10

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.

For if the woman be not covered, let her also be shorn: but if it be a shame for a woman to be shorn or shaven, let her be covered. 1 Corinthians 11:5,6

Judge in yourselves: is it comely that a woman pray unto God uncovered? Doth not even nature itself teach you, that, if a man have long hair, it is a shame unto him? But if a woman have long hair, it is a glory to her: for her hair is given her for a covering. 1 Corinthians 11:13-15

The Bible teaches that women are to be in subjection to their husband:

For after this manner in the old time the holy women also, who trusted in God, adorned themselves, being in subjection unto their own husbands: Even as Sara obeyed Abraham, calling him lord: whose daughters ye are, as long as ye do well, and are not afraid with any amazement. 1 Peter 4:5,6

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

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. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing. Ephesians 5:22-24

The Bible teaches that having a wife is a sure way to avoid fornication:

Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote unto me: It is good for a man not to touch a woman. Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband. Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence: and likewise also the wife unto the husband. 1 Corinthians 7:1-3

And finally, the Bible says women were created for men:

Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man. 1 Corinthians 11:9

And this is just the New Testament. The Old Testament portrays women as chattel, not much different from livestock. Women should be thrilled to have all the liberties the New Testament gives them (this is sarcasm, by the way).

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Liberal and progressive Christians try to make all these verses go away by saying they are no longer applicable or that they must be interpreted in their historical context. Fine, let’s do the same with Jesus. A case can be made for Jesus being no longer applicable, and surely we must interpret the teachings of Christ in their historical context. Of course, this would result in Jesus being more irrelevant than he already is. I am all for people moving away from Evangelical Christianity. I do, however, wonder if liberal and progressive Christianity is the long-term answer. A halfway house? Perhaps. But a long-term solution to the continued subjugation of women? I have my doubts.

Millions of women attend Evangelical churches that believe the Bible is the inspired Word of God. The churches they attend proudly claim themselves to be bible-believing churches. Some churches follow the above-mentioned verses to the letter while other churches pretend the verses are not in the Bible. The latter are bible-believers lite. If they taught these verses as written, there would be empty houses and beds by nightfall.

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Many Christian women, those not indoctrinated by Bible-thumping pastors and husbands, ignore the verses mentioned above. They tend to love Jesus and say screw the rest. Many women are not into theology. Theology is what men do, their male overlords tell them. Best to let men do the hard thinking. Cook the meals, clean the house, do the laundry, and spread your legs whenever your husband asks. That’s your calling, Pastor Blowhard says.

I am of the opinion that many women embrace Evangelical Christianity and continue in the church because of the social and family connections they have with others in the church. They are willing to put up with being considered second class citizens as long as they can maintain those connections. I suspect this is due to the maternal instinct that most women have. Others have been so indoctrinated by the men in their lives that they actually think they are inferior to men and meant to be their husbands’ slaves. I’ve had more than a few conversations with women who cannot or will not see that they deserve far better lives than they now have.

Some Evangelical women realize they’ve been taken captive by the Bible, a book men use to dominate and control them. Remember the “hell hath no fury” line that talks about a woman scorned? Once a woman realizes she can be free from the control and domination of men . . . watch out! Many women, once free, leave Christianity altogether. Others make their peace with God and the church, often seeking out expressions of faith that are not demeaning to women. If their marriages survive, they adopt an egalitarian way of life. Marriage becomes a shared relationship. Gone are the religious and social strictures meant to keep women in their place.

For those of you who have left Christianity, how did your marriage and the relationship with your husband change?

Bruce Gerencser, 63, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 42 years. He and his wife have six grown children and thirteen awesome grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

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25 Comments

  1. Avatar
    Suzanne

    After a bumpy patch during the leaving our church behind where I was blamed for not keeping my husband believing in God the right way things are glorious. Equality is a beautiful thing. I enjoy not having to worry about if every little thing he does is going to send him to hell. We were taught that God viewed a married couple as one person, so that wife had better be repenting and praying for every sin the husband committed. Oddly enough it was never preached for the husband to cover the wife’s sins.

    • Avatar
      Brian

      Well, Suzanne, the dear Lord did not require that of men because the wife’s sins were too large, too all-encompassing for one man to manage. Therefore, God took that on, bless his heart! 😉

  2. Avatar
    Erin

    To be honest, Bruce, I could write a freakin’ book about it. That’s why I have a (no longer available) blog with 1075 posts about trying to work through it.

    I was raised in Christianity, but was an atheist by the time I was 18. Then, I married into a fundamentalist family (although the true breadth of their fundamentalism was hidden from me until I was married) which is a long story. I tried for 15 years to make everyone happy, and then I gave up. I left church 10 years ago. I deconverted 5 years ago.

    My husband is still a Christian. He rarely attends church, he just clings to religious values and conservative politics. We’ve been together 25 years, and so far we have weathered our differences, I have grandparents who had major religious and political differences, and they were happily married for 65 years before they both passed away.

    The social connections were part of it. But, when I left church I lost all but one friend, and if that had mattered to me more than the fact that I was living a lie, I could have just gone back — I never considered it. My wellbeing was worth far more to me; I knew I could no longer survive the cognitive dissonance and still remain mentally stable.

    Bottom line is pretty much what you said; I couldn’t reconcile loving god vs. oppressive bible. I tried really hard – I spent 5 years searching for the place where I could be a Christian and a feminist. It didn’t exist. Logic would dictate that if one believes in the biblical god, they have to accept that the bible was written by that god, one god who never changes. Except he does change, but we make up excuses for that.

    Some people can stop at the excuses and justifications and be OK with them — they just don’t think it through any further than is comfortable for them. But, every justification I heard made no sense to me, because it always required me to suspend my intellect in order to embrace it. (That’s the other side of the equation – god gave me a brain, I chose to use it, god ceased to exist.)

  3. Avatar
    Appalachian Agnostic

    I think some women feel comfortable in Christianity because they are uncomfortable making decisions for themselves.

    • Avatar
      Heather

      Bingo. That’s what it was for me. It has taken me a long time to become confident in making decisions. I feel proud now as someone who can own my decisions and the consequences.

    • Avatar
      Suzanne

      That was the hardest thing for me because I was used to making decisions and doing things thought to be ‘masculine’ chores by the church, such as research and decide on stocks and long term investments or deciding how to landscape the yard. Giving up decision making was even harder than submission.

  4. Avatar
    Bruce Gerencser

    Thanks to everyone for sharing their perspective. As a man, I can write about this issue from my vantage point, but I think it is important to hear from women themselves. I think a lot of Evangelical women lurk in the shadows desperately trying to find a way out of the mind numbing, soul sucking bondage called Evangelical Christianity. It’s important they read the stories of women who had the courage and strength to break free. It’s not about atheism or religion. Equality and respect….for who they are….that’s what matters.

  5. Avatar
    Unah

    Oh I never believed in any of it. I was 12 years old when we had a Sunday school lesson on the biblical view of women. All of my peers sat there with their eyes glazed over like they were being lectured on cleaning their room. I was the only one who questioned it. I didn’t make any friends that day. The others had already been conditioned to accept as truth anything in the bible. I don’t know what happened to me. I spent many hard years trying to understand how God wasn’t a douchbag. But there wasn’t much hope for me, and as the years passed, other teachings crushed me into submission. I believed awful lies about men who weren’t Christian, and if I wanted a healthy family I needed to get it right. I eventually married a wonderful man who wasn’t looking for a helper, but a partner. Being an equal partner was never an issue. That’s just what we are, and always have been. Today is our 10 year anniversary, and we have both refused to let the church mess our family up with their screwed up marriage teachings. Some of the other women I see in the church doubled down on this lifestyle when they married and had kids. Unfortunately, when they had daughters they eagerly placed that burden on the poor girl. In some cases the daughters have it worse than their mothers did. I think these moms are very afraid that their daughters won’t be taken care of, or something will happen to them without all of this. Something is happening in the church right now that wasn’t happening 20 years ago. The leaders are putting out these very paranoid teachings that are putting parents on high alert, and making them think that everyone is going to molest their kids or something. I don’t feel totally free from the sexism and paranoia of evangelicalism because my family is so heavily involved in it. I’m just so sick of seeing seeing girls raised to be second class, and there is nothing I can do about it.

  6. Avatar
    Robin

    I’m glad I found your site. I had the misfortune of having my brain nearly poisoned by Larry Solomon’s fascist Biblical gender roles. How refreshing to find a Christian who doesn’t hold such paranoid neurotic views on the genders. My faith is restored.

  7. Avatar
    Theresa Moore

    I’m struggling being a Christian and a Woman. When I read the Bible, I feel like it does not include me. My daughter will be marrying a Lutheran pastor and a doctor son. The couple has chosen a female ordained minister who they went to college with. His family is thrilled with their choice. My husband’s family are sharpening the pitchforks. How do I balance family harmony and support my daughter

    • Avatar
      Bruce Gerencser

      The Bible, if literally believed, is anti-woman. Millions and millions of women attend churches that devalue them as human beings, saying that they are less than or inferior to men; that men are to be their heads and women are to submit to them. While these beliefs were the norm centuries ago, they have no place in our modern society.

      I would advise you to love your daughter and son-in-law and avoid discussions about religion. Your daughter is choosing to marry a Lutheran pastor. You must respect her choice. This can be hard, especially when someone we love embraces harmful beliefs. Internecine warfare between family members never ends well. Better to not talk about religion than have constant conflict and upheaval.

      • Avatar
        Brian

        “I would advise you to love your daughter and son-in-law…”
        What is this, Gerencser?! Are you some kind of radical Atheistic? Love, you say? Bah! I say go all-out Christian and submit to the churching, the suffering for torturing Christ on the Cross. Tell the daughter she did that to Jesus and she is dirty, fallen thing.. Tell her to be thankful she has good man to keep her submissive and quiet under the rule of Almighty God. Bah! all this hogwash about Love, as if the non-believer has any idea at all of what it means. A good scourging, I say!
        -may the peace, the deep peace of the almighty be with you! BURP

    • Avatar
      Bruce Gerencser

      *sigh* Yet another Evangelical with a one track mind. According to your “logic”, the Christian God has murdered more babies than anyone. Billions of babies have been murdered by your God. I assume you are ready to admit that, based on his murderous ways, your awesome God has no credibility. Think, Eddie, think, and then let’s have a reasonable discussion about abortion.

    • Avatar
      GeoffT

      Children are foetuses that have been born, so the phrase ‘unborn children’ is an oxymoron. You can’t murder an entity until it has been born.

  8. Avatar
    JEAN FRANCIS

    PAT ROBERTSON IS A FOOL WITHOUT A CLUE ABOUT TRUE WOMANHOOD…A SUPERIOR CREATURE TO MAN AND CLOSER TO GOD

  9. Avatar
    Bob

    Anyone can spin scriptures, especially when you do not give the background of what was taking place during that particular time as to why it may have been written as it was.

    Why in your cherry picking did you not add these other couple scriptures?

    21 Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

    25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her

    28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.

    • Avatar
      Bruce Gerencser

      Cherry-picking? Give me a break. Millions and millions of American Christians believe these verses say exactly what I stated in this post. Don’t believe all of the Bible, Bob? Fine. Want to explain away the verses that you find inconvenient or uncomfortable? That’s fine too. Believe what you will. That’s what’s neat about the Bible. You can make it say anything or prove anything by quoting a few verses. But not you, Bob, you are a r-e-a-l Bible believing, rightly interpreting Christian, right? You are, praise be, a True Christian.

      Your comment is a classic example of Fundamentalist misdirection. Instead of actually dealing with the verses I quoted and how they are interpreted by scores of Christians, you appeal to what is commonly called “whataboutism.” Ignore the verses under discussion and say what about THESE verses?

      You have had your say, Bob. I won’t approve any further comments from you. Go with God, but just go.

  10. Avatar
    missimontana

    Even when I was religious, I never fell for that crap. All those Evangelist women on TV with their big hair, tacky makeup, and fancy jewelry “teaching” women to be submissive while they made a fortune doing it. Phyllis Schafly was the worst, along with Dr. Laura. And now, all those fundie women with their blogs “teaching” women to be silent help meets? And Trump’s spiritual advisor? Don’t see her at home with the kids. Hypocrites, all of them. While regular women struggle and suffer, they rake in the bucks and bask in the glory of fame.

  11. Avatar
    BJW

    Bob and I both grew away from our conservative Christian sect at the same time. So our lives are better because we don’t have to feel bad about doing stuff that strict Christians demand. My “religion” is, try to be kind to my fellow man. If that isn’t enough, oh well.

  12. Avatar
    Karen the rock whisperer

    I tried very hard to escape the lessons my mother taught about women’s inferiority to men. We were Catholic, but she’d been raised in a very conservative, rural environment. Men’s work was glorified; it required physical strength, careful attention to scheduling, and (for a poor family farm) very, very careful money management. Men did the Important Things like going to the bank and begging for the next loan to keep the farm running. Women’s work was just work; cooking, baking, cleaning, doing laundry in a wringer washer, raising chickens/gathering eggs, butchering, miking, churning butter, canning, managing cold storage of root vegetables. Nothing to see there, move along!

    No, really, that’s what she believed. So in her mind, all the amazing work she did preserving food, putting every meal on the table, cleaning house (which became my job as soon as I could do it), handling billing and accounts receivable for Dad’s accounting business, all that was trivial by definition because a woman did it (and it was done at home). I was lucky to attend an all-girls Catholic high school where the instructors were determined to turn out classes of women superheroes who would save the world, more or less. Those wonderful women mitigated the worst of my mother’s teachings.

    Dad supported my “man’s job” choice of engineering as a college major; if it were up to my mother, I would have been sent to beauty school to learn to cut hair, or only allowed a major in whatever was appropriate to become a K-12 teacher, or perhaps be allowed to become a nurse. (NOT that I’m dissing any of those professions, but that wasn’t where my interest was leading me.) I went off to college with serious self-esteem issues that I’m only now getting a handle on at age 60. However, I did get that engineering degree.

    I had the enormously good fortune to meet a fellow engineering student who was looking for an egalitarian relationship. He came from an Evangelical background, but was mostly an atheist even then. He’s an extremely rational person, raised mostly by a strong, sensible mother, while his father was at sea in the US Navy. In his mind, women were most definitely not “weaker vessels” in any sense other than physical strength. We married after graduation, but during the first years of our marriage he had to keep reminding me that I was not supposed to be deferring to him in subjugation of my own interest. It took me awhile to get the hang of an egalitarian relationship, and I was even working on it after I’d become an atheist myself. The crap you learn as a child has a nasty tendency to stay lodged in the back of your mind, ready to sneak out and derail you at the most awkward moments. But I finally figured it out. We’ll be married 40 years this June. It’s still a strong partnership.

  13. Avatar
    Scott

    I’m working my way through the series “Mad Men”, which is set in the early 1960’s. It is doing a fascinating job of showing the sexism of the time as well the efforts to make changes. The second season extras on the DVD set include a 40 minute documentary on feminism and the reality and changes during the ‘60’s.

  14. Avatar
    ObstacleChick

    Am I allowed to curse here? You couldn’t f$%#ing pay me enough to be an evangelical Christian woman. In fact, our church teaching “Biblical Manhood and Womanhood” was the straw that broke the camel’s back for me, and I knew as an 18-year-old young woman I had to get out.

  15. Avatar
    MJ Lisbeth

    When I was an altar boy in the late 1960s, I noticed that the weekday morning masses were attended entirely by women. Almost all of them were my grandmother’s age, or older, so I chalked it up to the fact that there are more old women than old men.

    But later, when I was “trying on” different churches in an attempt to preserve something like religiosity (mainly to appease other people in my life), I usually far more women than men.

    Now I realize that they were there because they had so internalized their subservient role: Some were widows, while others had husbands who were off doing “bigger and better things.” Or their marriages ended, one way or another. Whatever their stories, they did most of the real work of making their marriages and families–and, in some cases, family enterprises–work. Yet they still had not developed any sense of self-worth other than in submission to actual human males or “the big man in the sky.”

    Interestingly–and disturbingly–as I progressed through my gender-affirmation process, two people who are important in my life told me that I should go to church because it would make me “more of a woman”–whatever that means.

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