I contiue to be amazed when I see Christian women defending a bible that denigrates women. And recently, I found myself in another discussion with a devoutly Christian mother of five who defiantly brandished her faith and lamented my own fall from grace.
I presented her with a form letter I sometimes use in these discussions, customizing a few lines to fit her specific situation. In my opinion, the letter is a powerful tool, because it briefly presents scenarios regarding women (and children) based on directly-quoted-from-the-bible scriptures.
Feel free to cut, copy, paste, alter and otherwise use the text of this letter in your own discussions, or perhaps use it as inspiration to construct one that is a better fit in your particular situation.
This is a difficult letter to navigate, but I’m convinced that difficult questions shouldn’t be ignored simply because they make us uncomfortable. Ultimately, our end-goal is to discover truth and to pledge ourselves to live good, productive, moral and fulfilled lives.
I suspected that your (Baptist) church’s doctrine lined up with most protestant Christian churches. To be sure, I pulled up the church website and verified. I highlighted a few of the words and phrases, to make sure we could refer back to them. Again, this is pasted directly from the website of the church you attend.
I. The Scriptures
The Holy Bible was written by men divinely inspired and is God’s revelation of Himself to man. It is a perfect treasure of divine instruction. It has God for its author, salvation for its end, and truth, without any mixture of error, for its matter. Therefore, all Scripture is totally true and trustworthy. It reveals the principles by which God judges us, and therefore is, and will remain to the end of the world, the true center of Christian union, and the supreme standard by which all human conduct, creeds, and religious opinions should be tried. All Scripture is a testimony to Christ, who is Himself the focus of divine revelation.
Exodus 24:4; Deuteronomy 4:1-2; 17:19; Joshua 8:34; Psalms 19:7-10; 119:11,89,105,140; Isaiah 34:16; 40:8; Jeremiah 15:16; 36:1-32; Matthew 5:17-18; 22:29; Luke 21:33; 24:44-46; John 5:39; 16:13-15; 17:17; Acts 2:16ff.; 17:11; Romans 15:4; 16:25-26; 2 Timothy 3:15-17; Hebrews 1:1-2; 4:12; 1 Peter 1:25; 2 Peter 1:19-21.
So. God is the author of scripture. And as Jesus/God is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8), his nature is unchanged throughout the expanse of time. The God of today is the same God from before the universe began. And Christians declare that God is omnipotent, omniscient and worthy of our allegiance and praise.
So let me ask you:
- If God came down and commanded you to drive a knife into your son’s chest, as he did to Abraham regarding Isaac in Genesis 22, would you obey? Would you have agreed to execute your own son? And would this have been a moral act? (And even though the story stipulates that God pulled the plug on the whole operation at the last second, does that excuse any deity that would ask a parent to execute his child?)
Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, whom you love—Isaac—and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on a mountain I will show you.” – Genesis 22:2
- Does your conscience allow you to love a deity that divides households?
“Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to turn ‘a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law – a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.’ Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” -Matthew 10:34-38
- Does the idea of being silenced because you’re a woman offend you?
A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet. – 1 Timothy 2:11
- Should your voice be muted in church because you’re female?
“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 14:34-35
- Are you comfortable being a second-class citizen?
- After all, even in the Old Testament, female slaves are worth HALF that of male ones (Leviticus 27:3-7). Women get their hands hacked off at the wrist for attempting to even help their husbands escape a fight (Deuteronomy 25:11-12). Pity the poor Levite’s concubine in Judges 19 who is tossed like garbage into a sexually-crazed mob (to spare the more valuable males in the home) and literally raped to death.
- How would you have felt as the Israelites taught the Benjamites how to kidnap women to keep as their own wives (as in Judges 21)? What would you have done if you had been one of the female abductees?
They told the men of Benjamin who still needed wives, “Go and hide in the vineyards. When the women of Shiloh come out for their dances, rush out from the vineyards, and each of you can take one of them home to be your wife! And when their fathers and brothers come to us in protest, we will tell them, ‘Please be understanding. Let them have your daughters, for we didn’t find enough wives for them when we destroyed Jabesh-gilead. And you are not guilty of breaking the vow since you did not give your daughters in marriage to them.'” So the men of Benjamin did as they were told. They kidnapped the women who took part in the celebration and carried them off to the land of their own inheritance. -Judges 21:20-22
- What about the kidnap and rape of the Midianite women, as commanded by Yahweh in Number 31? As a mother, you would have been executed. Any virgin daughter(s) would have been taken as plunder and raped.
Now kill all the boys and all the women who have slept with a man. Only the young girls who are virgins may live; you may keep them for yourselves. – Numbers 31:17-18
- On the issue of rape, would you support God’s edict that a rape victim be required to marry her rapist? What if you had been the victim?
If a man is caught in the act of raping a young woman who is not engaged, he must pay fifty pieces of silver to her father. Then he must marry the young woman because he violated her, and he will never be allowed to divorce her. – Deuteronomy 22:28-29
- Would you support the execution of a rape victim because, according to the law, she didn’t scream loud enough?
If within the city a man comes upon a maiden who is betrothed, and has relations with her, you shall bring them both out of the gate of the city and there stone them to death: the girl because she did not cry out for help though she was in the city, and the man because he violated his neighbors wife. – Deuteronomy 22:23-24
- Would you support God’s edict that the wives of enemy soldiers could be kidnapped, altered in appearance and released like animals after a month if the soldiers felt dissatisfied with them? What if you had been the kidnapped woman in this scenario?
“When you go out to war against your enemies and the LORD, your God, delivers them into your hand, so that you take captives, if you see a comely woman among the captives and become so enamored of her that you wish to have her as wife, you may take her home to your house. But before she may live there, she must shave her head and pare her nails and lay aside her captive’s garb. After she has mourned her father and mother for a full month, you may have relations with her, and you shall be her husband and she shall be your wife. However, if later on you lose your liking for her, you shall give her her freedom, if she wishes it; but you shall not sell her or enslave her, since she was married to you under compulsion.” –Deuteronomy 21:10-14
- Would you execute a child if your God commanded it?
“Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy all that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.” – 1 Samuel 15:3
- Would you praise God for the act of baby killing, as is seen in the Psalms?
“He struck down the firstborn of Egypt, the firstborn of people and animals.” – Psalm 135:8
- Do you honestly look with admiration and allegiance to a deity that threatens infanticide and rape to those against him?
Whoever is captured will be thrust through; all who are caught will fall by the sword. Their infants will be dashed to pieces before their eyes; their houses will be looted and their wives violated. – Isaiah 13:15-16
- After the walls of Jericho fell, would you have participated in the execution of women and children if God had given you the same command as he gave to Joshua’s army?
When the trumpets sounded, the army shouted, and at the sound of the trumpet, when the men gave a loud shout, the wall collapsed; so everyone charged straight in, and they took the city. They devoted the city to the Lord and destroyed with the sword every living thing in it—men and women, young and old, cattle, sheep and donkeys. -Joshua 6:20-21
- Or at the city of Ai? 12,000 men and women killed? -Joshua 8:22-25
- Or the Gibeonites? – Joshua 10:10-27
- Or the city of Makkedah, totally destroyed, the armies leaving “no survivors?” – Joshua 10:28
- Or Libnah, where everyone in the city was “put to the sword”? – Joshua 10:30
- Or Lachish? With every man, woman and child executed? – Joshua 10:32-33
- Eglon? (Joshua 10:34-34) Hebron? (Joshua 10:36-37) Debir? (Joshua 10:38-39) Merom? (Joshua 11:6)
These are just a drop in the ocean. Yet many, many defenders of the (perfect and true) bible have no idea that these passages exist. Or…they’re content to cherry-pick the happy verses about joy and bliss and a life mission showered with the glowing love of God. And the reason is obvious, as “For God so loved the world” is so much more comforting and inspiring than “for I have come to turn a mother against her daughter.”
When I was a Christian, I was baptized in the Roman Road, the Love Chapter and empowering verses like 1 Thessalonians 5:18, “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” Our Sunday school teachers skipped over the verses containing God’s rules on how intensely one can flog slaves (Exodus 20:20-21), or Jesus’ threat to kill Jezebel’s innocent children (“I will strike her children dead” Revelation 2:21), or the Lord helping David to create a foreskin wedding dowry by slicing off the tips of 200 dead Philistine penises (1 Samuel 18:27). The blood-drunk tyrant of scripture was ignored in favor of a gentle but firm paternal savior figure.
But if God never changes, then God remains the tyrant, the rapist-in-chief, the baby killer, the blood-drunk thug. And the warm feeling of purpose, family, community and mission that the bible-based church gives us cannot negate the very real problems within scripture. The Christian church is built upon a document that would be, that must be, rejected by good, upstanding and moral people, and if Christians had seen Yahweh’s atrocities depicted under the name Allah in the Qur’an, they would no doubt be recoiled in horror and wailing in protest.
But Christians don’t protest. They blink a few times until the uncomfortable attributes of Yahweh fade from view, and they treat their faith like a cafeteria lunch, scooping up the tasty morsels and passing over anything and everything that doesn’t please the palette. Their mouths say that the entire bible is perfect, moral and true, but their actions declare that they’re happy to glaze over and/or ignore the unpleasant, the unjustifiable, the toxic.
Finally, this email hasn’t even begun to address the contradictions within scripture (and with recorded history) that definitively debunk it as a perfect book. We haven’t covered the evidence that the bible was largely plagiarized and forged, co-opted by individuals and cultures for their own ends, mis-transcribed and mis-translated throughout the ages and ultimately discredited as anything other than a fascinating product of a primitive and superstitious era. No…that’s another discussion for another day (but if you’re curious, I recommend starting with Bart Ehrman’s “Forged,” the works of John Loftus and Dr. Richard Carrier’s, “Proving History: Bayes’s Theorem and the Quest for the Historical Jesus.”)
There’s so much out there beyond the narrow walls built for us by our religious churches and cultures, and there are more morally and intellectually satisfying answers out there as well. If we can only overcome our fear of the unknown (and perhaps the long-ingrained fears of Hell), we might just discover a whole new world.
Now, at the end of this letter, I’ll wager that you’re feeling guilty and somewhat nervous for any doubts that the above content might have generated. You’re uncomfortable with the topic and uncomfortable with the ramifications. Mostly, you just wish you didn’t know about it, didn’t have to think about it, didn’t wrestle with it. It was so much better when things were simple, when everyone reinforced your cherished faith, and when your own innate morality and goodness wasn’t charged to defend a baby killer.
As a woman attending your church this Sunday, will you still sit easily in the congregation and praise a being who, according to your own bible, has committed so many atrocities against your gender, against the young and innocent, against humanity throughout the ages? Will you charge your pastor to address the whole of scripture instead of merely the happy, catchy, bumper-sticker verses handed out like candy? And will you baptize your children, figuratively and physically, in a church built to honor the greatest tyrant in recorded history?
Whatever your decision, just remember that I’m merely the messenger. The heinous deeds mentioned above came from your own book…the very book you’re promoting to the world.
For the record, I received a reply to this letter, stating that God designed women to be under the mastery of men and that our fallen world is the reason for the instances of Yahweh’s (apparently justified) wrath. She punctuated the response with nebulous talk about “personal experience” with a “loving God.” The specific scenarios I presented remain unaddressed, and the woman has asked that we not talk about it anymore.
I suspect that, even as a lifelong believer, she was unaware many of these passages existed, and perhaps even now, she refuses to accept them as part of (according to her own church’s doctrinal statement), the supreme standard by which all human conduct, creeds, and religious opinions should be tried.