I really dislike the gender wars in our culture at large, but when they come into the Christian world and then proceed to try to step in and edit scripture to make it conform better with our desired personal worldviews, I get downright cranky about it.
So, feminism has marched through the church, not always in a good way, and in some quarters we have now edited the bible to try to conform to non gendered language and political correctness. That’s nothing, where I live we have taken it even farther, we have churchians that decided to edit Christ out of the picture entirely, since He Himself can apparently cause offense. From there on out we than proceed to the new fangled idea of the atheist church. Now you can actually have your religion without God in it at all. This is also a real thing in my world.
First the very word “man” is deemed offensive, then the very name of Christ, and eventually we decide to kick God Himself out entirely. Yeah, like any of that is the least bit rational.
When I say “feminism,” I do not refer exclusively to women at all, many of these “improvements” have been instituted and promoted by men, too. And liberalism and politics and culture. It is a misnomer to perceive these issues and oddities as belonging to only one gender, as if one can just blame women for the entire decline of Western civilization. Needless to say, that is ridiculous and illogical, too.
In response to what is falsely perceived as the complete collapse of Western civilization and the march of female superiority throughout the church, there are numerous men who now seek to make arguments against the validity of scripture when it comes to women and their value to Christ. So, frequently being questioned and challenged in the blogosphere is the story of the woman at the well, the story of the woman with the perfume, and the story of the adulteress about to be stoned.
For context, one of the more intelligent bloggers is Wintery Knight who writes, Is the story of the woman being stoned for adultery in John 7-8 authentic? It is a theological argument that has been around forever, long before I was born even. Sometimes I think of men and women being a bit like siblings engaging in rivalry competing for their parent’s attention, in this case, God’s. It’s like singing that old tune, “anything you can do, I can do better!” Also, “God loves my gender better than yours!”
These little games can be kind of fun when they’re set to music and done in the context of romantic love, but they just aren’t so pleasant when they begin to dominate the world at large.
The stories about men and women in the bible are beautiful, they are both simple and intricate, they are complex and dynamic and they are just as relevant today as ever. The lessons to be found in those ancient words can be absolutely phenomenal, how they can apply personally and to the world at large. I’ve said this before, it is almost as if the bible were deliberately written and tailored to apply to human nature. And when I say “almost as if it were,” I mean it most definitely was. There are remarkable treasures to be found within those pages.
As to the adulteress about to be stoned, a much maligned bit of scripture, often misused to attempt to promote both male superiority and female superiority, depending on how one wishes to pervert it, I can understand the discomfort it could cause either gender. It is a most inconvenient piece of scripture bound to trigger someone. The thing is, those are often the best kinds of scripture of all! How tragic that we would seek to simply erase those parts that cause us discomfort.
So does the story of the adulteress somehow demonstrate that Christ approves of men’s authority to sexually judge and condemn women?? Say what?? Are you serious?! Does it prove that Christ likes women better and condones adultery?? Are you people for real??! Some days there are just not enough brown paper bags for me to hyperventilate into.
The truth of the matter is that the story of the adulteress about to be stoned contains so many beautiful messages about who Christ was, about gender relations, about the nature of our own selves, about shame, mercy, and redemption, that I cannot even imagine how anyone could miss it. But miss it we do, apparently.
It is a passage designed to make us think, parts of it left vague but so carefully written and affirmed so that we know they are no accident. But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.
What did he write on the ground? What does it mean to be without sin and casting stones? Why did the crowd set down their stones and slowly disperse? What is the nature of the trap the pharisees are trying to set? Where is the other adulterer? Does it matter?
It is rather tragic to watch this bit of scripture get so mangled and distorted, but such is human nature. In the ultimate twist of irony, this passage says so much about the importance of not focusing on another’s sins, but rather your own. It validates and reaffirms the entire spiritual principle of “judge not least you be judged.” It is so not a good idea to try to plea bargain your own sin away by pointing fingers at someone else. Have men been trying to do this to women all through the millenia? Oh yes, and more recently women have attained just enough power to start returning the favor. Is this a good thing? Not at all. It is what it is, however.
I beg those who seek to challenge the validity of scripture when it comes to those stories about women, to reconsider. The beauty of the lessons to be found there are just too valuable. There is something else rather remarkable in those stories and speaks well to the Divine intent and purpose of scripture. One reason those stories have been so well preserved even during a time when women were thought to have little or no real value, is because each one is closely linked to proving the Divinity of Christ. It is almost like a built in fail safe, erase the stories of these women and you will erase the evidence of the Divine nature of Christ Himself.
In regards to the woman with the perfume, it is written, Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached in the whole world, there shall also this, that this woman hath done, be told for a memorial of her.
There really are no accidents in scripture, only human frailties and misunderstandings.