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A Woman's Place

Gender Bias In The House of God

In His image

First of all, the actual scripture reads like this:
And God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.  —Genesis 1:27

Male and female. Mankind, humanity, created in two genders. Many of our pastors have been hanging their hats on literalism, a plain-text reading and modern definition of a common word, rather than examining the context in which the word occurs and understanding its definition not in today's terms but as it was defined in the language in which it was written in 1450 B.C. (3600 years ago) or translated to the King James (1611, 500 years ago). Conservative Christians are especially good at playing this game where we selectively inquire of scripture, appropriately defining the word knew in the King James  English for had sexual relations with, while stubbornly clinging to a literal plain-text reading of the gender-specific word man where it actually stands for mankind.

These are the games Church Folk play when we rely on our own sense of righteousness to interpret scripture. Our sense of righteousness is of not much use to God [Isaiah 64:4-9], and interpreting the bible properly ("rightly dividing" the Word of truth) requires a heart submitted to God and a completely open mind. The bible can, frankly, be made to mean almost anything by almost anyone (including me, so be careful). For reasons only He understands, God did not create the bible as a talking book which requires no investment from us. It can be argued God did not create the bible at all. God inspired men (and, by syllogistic argument, likely women) to write things down, but it was man who assembled these thousands of diverse passages into the volume we have today. The word "bible" actually means many books. To bring these many books to your living room coffee table where they're gathering dust right now, those words passed through many, many hands. We do not know the names of a single one of them, what their relationship with God was or even understand much of the process by which passages were admitted or omitted from the biblical cannon. Most of us, and until recently myself included, simply accept the bible on faith. It's the bible. God created man in His own image. Liberating God's truth from the restrictions of paper and ink requires prayerful investigation not into only what the words say but what those words actually mean.

From cover to cover the Holy Bible is terribly repressive of women (so is the Holy Quran, in case you're thinking of shopping around for a better religion). Yet women flock to church, filling the pews, typically outnumbering men by a wide margin. Why? I have no idea why enlightened, thoughtful, educated black woman would come to a place that treats them like children. Where their sexuality is treated like a curse, and where God’s truth remains subjugated to the time and culture in which it was revealed. Scripture is inerrant. Translations are not. God’s truth never changes as God Himself is never changing. But the bible also speaks of the sun revolving around the earth [Ecclesiastes 1:5, Ps. 93:1, Ps. 19:1-6, Joshua 10:12-14], that it is flat [Job 26:7, Dan 4:10-11], immovable and mounted n pillars [1 Samuel 2:8 and Ps 75:3] and of God hanging the stars in the sky [Genesis 1:16]. The bible has absolutely no problem with slavery [1 Timothy 6:1-2]. In even purist, so-called “Full” Gospel doctrine, we selectively ignore things inconvenient to us, like slavery, while holding fast to cultural norms more than two thousand years old.

There is a school of theological thought, known as The Documentary Hypothesis or JEPD (Jahwist, Elohist, Priestly, Deuteronomist), which suggests the first five books of the bible (the Pentateuch) were not, in fact, written by Moses (who could not possibly have written about his own death) but were derived from originally independent, parallel and complete narratives, which were subsequently combined into the current form by a series of redactors (editors).  Outlaw theologian and former Episcopal Bishop Shelby Spong further hypothesizes the Creation story was an invention of these editors, or Masoretes, Jewish scribes out to discredit Christianity. According to Old Testament scholars such as Gordon Wenham, the Creation story bears the marks of a carefully contrived literary creation, written with a distinct theological agenda the elevation of Yahweh, the God of Israel, over all other gods, and notably over Marduk, the god of Babylon.  This is neither here nor there to an examination of Genesis but is worth noting. Whether a biblical story is literally historical or is simply allegorical (like Jesus' parables, a narrative intended to reveal a greater truth) is ultimately not relevant: the story reveals God to us.

The story in Genesis 1 & 2 concludes with the account of the creation of Adam, which the Septuagint translates with the Greek word anthropos. This is significant because the Hebrew word for man as male is ish and the Greek word for man as male is andros. The words used here (Adam and anthropos) are gender exclusive and literally mean "person" or "human." Genesis 1 & 2 refer to the creation of the human species, not to man as male

The translation of the words Adam and anthropos as man and the references made with the pronouns he, him, his etc. make it difficult for this generation to understand that the scripture is not speaking to males but to all human beings
. [God’s Word To Women]

What God Looks Like: Mankind was created in God’s image: Male and female created he THEM; and blessed THEM, and called THEIR name Adam, in the day when THEY were created (Gen 5:2, emphasis mine).

In His image

Sister: you are not an afterthought. You are a human being, and all human beings were created in the image of Almighty God. The Holy Bible, as translated into the Latin Vulgate and subsequently into English included masculine pronouns “he,” “him,” “his,” because the King James version was written in the 17th century and was translated from the Latin Vulgate, written in 382, itself translated from the Vetus Latina, old Latin translations dating back to the second century. The King James bible is riddled with places where the English word “man” (as in “male”) is used where the Greek word anthropos (as in “human”) should be. Modern translations have addressed many of these problems, frequently substituting the more accurate "mankind," but this is what many of our pastors grew up with: this archaic distortion of God’s creative process and progressive self-revelation.

Additionally, God is not a “Him.” We call God “Him” because the bible assigns a gender to God, but even that is not entirely accurate. God invented gender. Assigning a gender to God, as if God has a penis, limits God and denies His omnipotence. Jesus came as a man, likely because of our ignorance, because we could never accept a female Messiah. But God is beyond gender. When we call God “Father,” we are speaking of “father” in the sense of the Creator, the Progenitor. In that view, referring to God as “Mother” or “she” is just arch. It sounds wrong because it is wrong. It is more accurate and right to refer to God as “Father” but not because He is male or that He is limited by gender, but that is the Originator of all process.

God created a companion for Adam and endowed His creation. with the gift of gender. He made her a unique reflection of Himself and His glory, a work of unadulterated beauty with a smile to light up the world and strength to help build it. He gave her emotion and intellect, wisdom and warmth, humor and compassion. He gave her those hips, the beguiling virtue of femininity. God put power and truth into her eyes. She is wonderful and unique in her creation. She is not an afterthought, a compromise, a robot. She is not Miss Celie or Hazel the maid. Although he is physically stronger, she is his equal in mind and spirit. She is an amazing creature, the appreciation for which is all but lost on Man who either exploits her, abuses her, oppresses her or lusts after her.

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The truth is every woman—no matter what age, no matter her height or weight or ethnicity—is a work of pure genius. Appreciating her requires discipline and restraint on our part, but man's traditional purism distorts God's purpose with veils and crinoline layers designed to teach women to be ashamed of their own sexuality lest we fall into temptation by lusting after her. This is more about our weakness than hers. It amuses me that Islamic culture typically covers women from head to toe while revealing her most potent and alluring attribute—her eyes. There is enormous power in a woman's eyes. It's a lot like staring into the sun, those eyes which elicit truth, hypnotize and bedazzle. Our warped sense of piety (which has me nervously censoring Mr. Mogul's brilliant work) has us honoring God by obliterating His masterpiece, painting mustaches on the Mona Lisa, the unmitigated beauty of women.

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