Sunday, July 24, 2011

It's First Anniversary of the Freedom For Christian Women's Demand for an Apology from CBMW

One year ago today, I proudly penned my name on the document that was sent to the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW), demanding an apology for the inestimable effects of their teachings and their denial about the harm it has done.  At the very least, I hoped that the Council would make some gesture to address the issue concerning the physical abuse of women.  Many churches and individuals use CBMW's twist on theology to exonerate men who physically abuse and sin against their wives, and even just a small gesture of appointing a committee would be a very postmodern thing to do, even if it only meant to make it look like they were concerned about the problem.

I would say that we haven't heard a peep from them, but we did hear a single "tweet" from Al Mohler, a Council Member:

Egalitarian group demands that CBMW apologize. Their argument seems confused and not quite together. Interesting.
Late Blog Entry 26Jul11:
Please CLICK HERE to link over to his blog.  Perhaps he will notice the traffic and will come visit, a subtle prompt for him to again reconsider the issues posed in the Demand for an Apology Letter and the FreeCWC's Response to the Danvers Statement.

First, the Freedom for Christian Women Coalition (FreeCWC) rejects the term egalitarian as a descriptor and includes a variety of people who are classified as "soft comps."   I do not consider myself either egalitarian or complementarian (which allows CBMW to control the discussion through black and white fallacy) but agreed with the Demand Letter.  Second, I would say that Al Mohler is the confused party, if indeed there is one. In the event of some early confusion on the part of CBMW and affiliates, much has been written and stated since this tweet in addition to the original letter, and the conference can be viewed online.  The FreeCWC YouTube Channel even features a statement concerning hermeneutics.

The letter was significant enough to warrant a "tweet" from someone affiliated with the group, perhaps one of the most influential within the Southern Baptist Convention which adopted CBMW's Danvers Statement, their position statement which was drafted at a meeting held in the same town where the famed Salem Witch Trials took place.  (I suppose it's best that CBMW has never made any statement regarding the significance of that locale!) 

In celebration of the First Anniversary, please enjoy the writing of Adele Hebert, independent scholar.  She contributes to the God's Word to Women website, she's lent her work to the Overcoming Botkin Syndrome site and the Quivering Daughters book, and she's also served as editor and contributor to Leonard Swidler's Jesus was a Feminist.  May the discussion continue!

Jesus Gave Women A Voice
by Adele Hebert

After researching the women in the bible, I discovered that countless women in the Old Testament were very abused; they were taken, given, raped, killed, belonged to men; they rarely spoke and had little protection. Amazingly, there were some very strong and courageous women of old, who, at great risk, chose to speak out. These women saved many lives, even the nation of Israel more than once. They were midwives, sisters, queens, prophets, daughters, wives, prostitutes, widows… I cherish them all.
When I examined the New Testament, it was very obvious that women were still in hiding, living in fear, ostracized and oppressed by society. Only a few women are named; very few words are spoken.

Although there are not many accounts of these women, there are some extremely valuable teachings which have been overlooked, misrepresented, and trivialized – especially what Jesus did for women. These four gospels have unspoken messages, hidden meanings, and much compassion for women, which have been undermined or gone unnoticed. It is important to study the dynamics in the relationships between the men and women in the gospels, and particularly how the Lord dealt with those situations. Even the voiceless and nameless women were so valued by Jesus, and should be observed, as they played extremely central roles.

For millennia, women were only shadows living in the dark world of patriarchy. They were at the mercy of the men who they belonged to, with only fringe rights and privileges. Women had almost no control over of their lives; all the decisions were made for them and they had no choice but to obey. Their main value in society was in their ability to produce sons. Women could not own property, especially if they became widows. They could not learn to read and write, especially not the spiritual things. It was believed that women were the property of a man in life and death. Legally and socially, women and children had little status or security.

Spiritually, women were considered sinful and unclean; therefore they were not allowed to enter the inner court of the Temple, to worship God. Women were also deprived of the Word of God as most of them were not educated. Approaching Jesus in person was a huge risk. It was forbidden for women to even speak to men in public, and they could never touch a man while menstruating. Women were to be seen and not heard; they had no voice, no rights, and no value.

Most women tried to remain quite invisible in the gospels, but some had great faith and courage to go beyond their given boundaries. One woman crawled through the crowds to touch the hem of His garment, but trembled with fear when Jesus asked her to identify herself (Mark 5). Another woman had a conversation with Jesus at a well, but she ran away when the men arrived (John 4). One woman dared to sit at His feet but she was silent (Luke 10); later she anointed Jesus before He was crucified, but she did not speak then either (Matt 26, Mark 14); she only wiped her tears off of His feet with her hair. In most cases women were terrified to speak in public, yet Jesus called them, against all cultural traditions, against religious rules, against the minds of men, even against their own wishes. Generally, the women followed in the background and listened to Jesus. The most common sound you hear from women in the gospels is their weeping.

After long years of waiting for the prophecies to be fulfilled, suddenly redemption was at hand! For centuries women had been silent. No more outbursts of praise such as from Hannah, Miriam or Deborah. At last God sent His Son, to set us free. From oppression to liberation; from bondage to blessings; from silence to shouts of praise! The New Testament is a new era – Jesus came “to preach the gospel to the poor, to heal the broken-hearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, recovering sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised.” (Luke 4:18). Indeed, Jesus taught like no other man. It became immediately clear that Jesus treated women with justice and mercy; He didn’t ignore them; He taught them; He even took time to bless their children. Jesus acknowledged women, He defended them, and He summoned them to use their voice.

The way Jesus treated women was not easily accepted. Whenever women were present, Jesus usually had to shield them, because the men became furious, wanting to silence them and to send them away (Matt 15:23). Quite often the men were very disturbed when Jesus gave women or children any attention at all, but Jesus always protected them. Not only did Jesus treat women with respect, He elevated them, by making a public display of how they should be treated equally, and with dignity. What is really shocking is how Jesus treated the men. In every encounter where there was an interaction with women, whether it was outside, in the Temple or if a woman came into the same room, the men got extremely agitated. Jesus called the men names, pointed out their wicked traditions, exposing their motives and sins. He was never harsh with women, though. The roles were turned upside down - the men were silenced and the women were given a voice.

There is something quite reversed in the New Testament – the opening scene begins with an old man (Zechariah), who was a priest, being made mute for nine months (Luke 1:20) because he did not believe the angel. Then a young virgin (Mary) says ‘Yes’ to the angel (Luke 1:38); she becomes the Mother of our Lord Jesus, “I am the servant of the Lord, let it be to me according to your word.” Next an old woman (Elizabeth) shouts in a loud voice (Luke 1:42); she is the only person to comfort and confirm to Mary, “Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb.” Mary then sings her glorious song of praise – the Magnificat. Finally, an old woman prophet, a widow for close to sixty years; Anna was the first evangelist; she “spoke of Him to all who looked for redemption in Jerusalem” (Luke 2:38).

Jesus taught in new and revolutionary ways, mostly outdoors and in people’s homes. He welcomed all who would listen: the blind, the lame, even lepers. Not only did He make women come out of hiding, Jesus all but forced them to have a voice. He treated women honorably; He included them in the family of God; He healed them and their children, also Gentiles (Matt 15:21). Jesus touched women, even bleeding women, even a dead girl, and He let them touch Him. Jesus gave radical new teachings on marriage and divorce, warning men not to even lust after women (Matt 5).

Through Moses, the laws, and the prophets, God was training men to provide for and to protect the women, especially widows. Jesus knew the burdens and restrictions put upon women; He was especially concerned for widows. One day, just as Jesus arrived at the gate of the town called Nain, he saw a funeral procession (Luke 7:11). The dead man was the only son of a woman who was a widow. When the Lord saw her, His heart was filled with pity for her. He was moved with compassion, and told her not to cry. Without being asked, Jesus restored the young man back to life. Then He gave him “back to his mother.” Jesus knew that this widow needed her son for survival. He knew that she had no one else to support her financially – he was the only son of a widow. If the son died, the mother would die also.

Never before did a man pay such attention to widows. Jesus even revealed the cause of women’s poverty. We have all heard the story, how Jesus points to the widow who put two coins in the Temple treasury (Mark 12:41). Unfortunately, the real lesson is usually missed. In the very verse prior to it (Mark 12:40), Jesus had just finished warning the large crowd in the Temple, about the scribes, the teachers of the law, and how “they rob widows of their homes.” Contrary to what we have been taught, Jesus was not trying to make an example of a generous widow; He was exposing the evil men who had just robbed her of her home, plus all that she had, and now this was “all she had left to live on!” (Mark 12:44). 

Never before did a man encourage women to learn the spiritual life (Luke10). Jesus entered Bethany, where Martha received Him into her house. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at Jesus’ feet, listening to His words. Martha complained that she was left with all the work. Jesus gently reminded her not to worry about so many things, that one thing was necessary, and Mary had chosen to hear the Word of God. Later on Jesus was consoling Martha, and gave her a profound teaching, which He revealed only to a woman, “I am the Resurrection and the Life” (John 11:25). Martha replied, “Yes Lord, I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God.”

Jesus even taught Gentile women. After leaving Judea, it became urgent; Jesus “had to go through Samaria.” (John 4:4) There He had a lengthy conversation with an (unnamed) woman at a well. Finally, Jesus informed the Samaritan woman that He was the Messiah (John 4:26). She ran and evangelized her whole village and many believed because of the words of her testimony (John 4:39). Amazingly, Jesus did not condemn this woman for living with a man.

Never before did a man defend a woman caught in adultery. The scribes and Pharisees were looking for ways to trap Jesus, so they could lay a charge against Him. They brought in a woman caught in the act of adultery (John 8). Jesus responded, “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.” Then, Jesus bent down and began to write on the ground with His fingers. Being “convicted by their own conscience,” they all left, from the oldest to the youngest. Jesus did not accuse the woman for committing adultery, “Neither do I condemn you.” Then He released her, and told her she was free, to go and sin no more.

Never before did a man give a woman priority before a man. A certain ruler of a synagogue, who had a name (Jairus), fell at Jesus’ feet; his daughter was at the point of death (Mark 5). You would think that his position would mean something, and, after all, death was imminent, and he did approach Jesus first. Yet Jesus put him on hold when an (unnamed) woman, who had been bleeding for twelve years, touched the hem of his garment. There was a crowd of people pressing all around Him, but He stopped and asked who touched Him. Trembling with fear, she knew she had to speak in public and confess her action.

It was not because Jesus needed to find out who touched Him; Jesus needed to make a public declaration that her issue of blood did not make her, or anyone else, unclean. This was unprecedented! Until then, men believed that only women were unclean. Later on, Jesus explained, “The things that come out of the mouth come from the heart; these things defile the man.” (Matt 15). Jesus did not scold her for touching Him; rather He called her “Daughter” and gave her a blessing.

Never before did a woman enter the inner court of the Temple. On the Sabbath, Jesus was teaching (Luke 13). There was an (unnamed) woman who was so bent over that she could not lift up her head, crippled for eighteen years. She was in the women’s court, which was fifteen steps lower than the inner court, ten feet below the men’s area. It’s a wonder that any women came to the Temple at all.

Remarkably, Jesus saw her. Then Jesus did the unthinkable: “He called her come to Him.” She would have had to climb those steps ...and enter the forbidden place. Jesus spoke to her, laid his hands on her, and she was made straight. Then this woman was able to use her voice, and “she glorified God.” The ruler of the synagogue was angry, moved with indignation. Jesus upheld the woman, calling her a “daughter of Abraham” in front of all those men. Then Jesus called the ruler a “hypocrite.” Not only did Jesus bring a woman into the inner court, He gave women a new title, affirming their status as children of God, equal with men.

A week before Jesus was crucified, Jesus overthrew the tables of the moneychangers. “My house shall be called a house of prayer for all people.” (Isaiah 56:7) “Then the blind and the lame came to Him in the Temple and He healed them.” Jesus must have called them inside as they were also labelled unclean, forbidden to enter. That was bad enough, but “when the high priests and the scribes saw the amazing things He had done, and the children shouting in the Temple, “Hosanna to the Son of David,” they became furious” (Matt 21:15). Jesus said, “Out of the mouths of infants and nursing babes, you have perfected praise.” There is only one reason why the high priests and scribes became so furious – that was because, again, Jesus brought women into the temple. Only mothers would have nursing babes with them.

Never before did a woman anoint a man. Six days before Jesus was crucified, a woman anointed the Anointed One. Twice she is named. “It was that Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment and wiped His feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was sick” (John 11:2) “Then Mary took a pound of ointment of pure spikenard, very costly, and anointed the feet of Jesus, and wiped His feet with her hair.” (John 12:3) When the disciples saw this, they were filled with anger, accusing Mary of wasting money. Jesus admonished them, “Truly, I tell you, wherever this gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will also be told as a memorial to her.” A woman had anointed Jesus! This was never performed by a woman. Not only did Jesus accept it, but He declared that her anointing must be remembered forever! Jesus proclaimed that women can anoint.

After Jesus was arrested, the men all ran away. The women followed Jesus as He was led to His crucifixion; they wailed in the streets; they stayed at the cross; they went to the tomb and took note of the body, how Jesus was laid; they bought and prepared spices to anoint Him. The women went to the tomb early that morning...

Never before did a man bestow such a great honor on womankind – to be the first witnesses of the Resurrection, and the first proclaimers of the Risen Lord. Interestingly, all four gospels end with women being told to “Go and Tell” that “Jesus is Alive!” Then Jesus said to them, "Don't be afraid! Go, tell my followers to go to Galilee. There they will see me." (Matt 28:10). The angel said, “Go and tell His disciples and Peter that He's going ahead of them to Galilee. There they will see Him, just as He told them." (Mark 16:7) The women were Mary from Magdala, Joanna, and Mary (the mother of James). There were also other women with them. They told the disciples everything. (Luke 24:10) Jesus said to her, “Mary!” Mary from Magdala went to the disciples and told them, "I have seen the Lord." (John 20:16, 18)

Organized religion has long ignored and suppressed the fact that Jesus appeared only to Mary Magdalene and the other women at the empty tomb. The overlooked point is - Jesus could just as easily have appeared to Peter when he arrived at the tomb, but clearly and deliberately He did not. This little known contrast has been concealed. We will never know all the reasons why God chose only women to be the first to tell the greatest information the world has ever heard, but the evidence is solid, in all four gospels. One clear message is that Jesus wanted women to be proclaimers of this great news. Mary Magdalene was the first to announce, “I have seen the Lord!”

The men weren’t going to believe any woman. If this was real, then why didn’t they know about it? Women in first century Palestine were not considered people who could give their testimony; only men could be witnesses in court. There are times when men should listen to their wives; Pilate was one of them. The men were not used to thinking that women would say anything of value. Their words seemed to them as pure nonsense, idle tales, and they did not believe them. “But Peter got up and ran to the tomb. He bent down to look inside and saw only the strips of linen. Then he went away, wondering what had happened.” (Luke 24:11,12) “They didn't believe her when they heard that He was alive and that she had seen Him.” (Mark 16:11)

Jesus specifically told the women to tell the men that “they must leave for Galilee” and that “He would go before them.” (Mk 16:7). Evidently, the men did listen to the women and went over there, but Galilee was far away; it took all day to get there. The point is: the men only saw Jesus After they got over there, in Galilee. “It was Late that evening, they were behind closed doors, for fear of the Jewish authorities. Jesus came...” (Jn 20:19)

The Resurrection message was a privilege reserved for women. Jesus appeared only to the women, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary, who were “sent” (apostellein), to tell the news that He had Risen. Acts 10:41 says, “Not everyone saw Him. He was seen only by witnesses chosen by God.”
On Resurrection morning, God Chose Women, Only Women, and gave them the most profound message this world has ever heard. Women had to use their voice; they were chosen by God to announce the most outstanding news ever!! Mary Magdalene proclaimed the very first Easter message!  “Jesus is ALIVE!!”

Still today, women are marginalized; they feel they don’t have much of a voice, especially in marriage and the religious world. Women are told they are not allowed to divorce or to preach or to teach. Contrary to what Christians have been taught, Jesus never told women to submit or to be silent; rather He empowered the women to speak and many times silenced the men.

Jesus’ words are crucial and life giving for women, helping them to know they are loved and that they have a right to speak. Jesus went out of his way for women; He saw them; He called them amidst the crowds, in front of men in the Temple, in homes, alone at a well, or caught in a trap. Jesus enjoyed speaking with women, listening to them, blessing them, teaching them; He was moved by their tears. There is not one incident where Jesus ignored or put down a woman; He always treated them equally and with respect. Jesus encouraged women, informed them of their rights, and of their valuable place in the kingdom.

The Resurrection of Jesus Christ marks the most significant event the world has ever known - Jesus rose from the dead!! There has never been a greater triumph; no other achievement is comparable. Every detail about this magnificent occasion was planned and prophesied from before the beginning of time. All four gospels recount specific information about that exceptional morning. There are many details describing the death and Resurrection, all pointing to the credibility of the witnesses, most of whom were women.

Jesus made women come out of hiding, and He made them speak. The curtain in front of the Holy of Holies was torn in two, from top to bottom, and now all can enter boldly, to obtain mercy, and find grace in time of need (Heb 4:16). Jesus declared that women are clean; they belong in the sanctuary as much as men. Jesus taught women the most wonderful truths; He appreciated women glorifying God and babies praising Him. Women still have a valuable role in spreading the Gospel, standing up for what is right, overcoming fears and cultural restraints. Women were chosen by God to tell the most important message the world has ever known; they have a right to preach, to use their voice. Jesus showed the ultimate love and respect for women and children. Women are still called to use their voice.

Thanks and blessings to Adele
for her diligent work
and support of her efforts on behalf 
of Christian women!