Friday, July 28, 2017

When should women be subordinate?

When someone knocked on my door wanting to explain the Bible to me, I told him that I was already a student of the Bible, at which point he enthusiastically suggested that he come in to compare notes. As I was thinking about how he would not enjoy that, he quoted St Paul to me. I responded saying, “St Paul didn’t like women.” He looked shocked and quietly left. I wonder if he has been studying 1 Corinthians ever since to try and work out why St Paul speaks about women the way he does.
Take this verse for example:
"the women should keep silence in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be subordinate, as even the law says. If there is anything they desire to know, let them ask their husbands at home." 1 Cor 14:34,35
How can such a doctrine stand today when the importance of gender equality is broadly recognized? A closer look at the actual Greek words St Paul uses reveals quite a different meaning, especially if we apply them to what goes on within our consciousness. After all, it is within our consciousness that we recognize gender equality.
The Greek word translated as church is ekklesia from ekklÄ“tos meaning called, from ekkalein to call out, from kalein to call. In what circumstances do we call out? We can call out for help, we can call out to get someone’s attention, or we can make a call to challenge in some way. Behind the word ‘call’ is the activity of bringing attention or awareness to something.
What are we called to become aware of? Primarily, we are called to become aware of the activity in our soul; our feelings, thoughts, and intentions. So many thoughts, feelings and intentions are active in our consciousness in a robotic, impulsive way. It can be quite a shock to become aware of them. When we call them out (ekklesia) we gather or assemble them in a focussed way. This sounds like a church doesn’t it?

Now we must ask: what is the wife and the husband within us? In a very basic, generalized way we know that the feminine nature is the nurturer, filled with feeling. The male nature is more practical, more pragmatic, based on thinking. Our task is to encourage these two to work together so that feeling warms the coldness of our thinking and thinking guides our feeling to be practical.
With these ideas in mind, a new picture of what St Paul is saying emerges. When St Paul used the word ‘subordinate’, which in Greek is hupotasso where hupo means under, and tasso means to arrange, we can understand that he is saying we arrange our feelings under our thoughts and in this way we keep our emotions under control.
Then St Paul says,
“If there is anything they (women) desire to know, let them ask their husbands at home."
Continuing on with the idea that Paul is speaking about the activity in our consciousness; we can ask questions of our thinking in the privacy of our own home, i.e. our inner being. This should always be the case, to question our thinking, which in turn makes us aware of our thoughts. This is when we can discover how often they are negative, fuelled by our emotions. With this awareness, we can keep them silent, “not permitting them to speak.”
What does this say about knocking on people’s doors with our own ideas about what the Bible means! Unlocking the Bible is now up to each individual person. Asking the husband-thoughts within us to assist us to make sense of sacred texts, and not letting our wife-feelings run away from us, is important work for every human being.
As published on Huffington Post