When I was a kid, we attended a church that didn’t allow women to preach. They relied on the teachings of Paul to support this theology. Men led everything from the Sunday sermon to Sunday school.
One week a group of us all went to hear Joyce Myers speak (judge me, it wasn’t a free-will decision, y’all). Anyway, it was what it was, and we heard what we heard.
After the whole ordeal was over, I asked an innocent question, “if women aren’t allowed to preach, how come she is?” The answer?
“Because it wasn’t in a church.”
Funny how those loopholes work in every way but the right way.
Unholy Sh+t: An Irreverent Bible Study
Third Sunday of Lent
Today’s reading: John 4:5-42
As a progressive Christian, folks often say to me, “you keep trying to make Jesus woke.” I’m sorry to tell ya, honey, but I’m not the one doing that. Jesus was a weird little radical who just didn’t quite fit in whenever he was. He took every opportunity to push boundaries and step over the lines in the sand.
One day Jesus was thirsty, which is notable because he was usually hangry, always cursing fig trees and sh+t. And don’t get me wrong, I understand. Nothing will get you more bent than when you really want a fig, and then there aren’t any figs, but he didn’t have to go all avacadava on the poor tree. Anyway, the point is Jesus wanted something to drink. Fortunately, a lady was standing by the well, and he said, “can I have something to drink?” And she gives him something to drink. Now, by today's standards, that might sound really innocent, but back in the day, this was a f+cking scandal. This would be like Jesus asking for sandal picks on his verified Insta.
Needless to say, Jesus and the woman have a long conversation, mostly about race relations in the Middle East. Jesus is breaking multiple rules all at once; he’s not just talking to a lady but a Samaritan one.
When the apostles arrive, they are shocked to see Jesus talking with a woman. What’s particularly fascinating about this verse is it says that they didn’t ask Jesus why he was talking to her. But it does list what they were thinking about him talking with a woman, and it basically boils down to, “Jesus isn’t thirsty; he is THIRSTY.” Because why else would he be hanging out with a woman?
Jesus was not abiding by the Billy Graham Rule.
The woman runs into her village and tells everyone in town, “you’ve got to hear this guy! He knew everything I’ve ever done, and I’m pretty sure he is the Messiah.” Everyone leaves the village to go hang out with Jesus.
What’s fascinating is that when the woman returns, Jesus doesn’t yell at her for preaching the gospel to the village. It appears that Jesus and Paul have very different opinions about where women belong in the Church. Paul thinks they should be silent, and Jesus is over here asking them questions, soliciting their opinions, sending them to preach the gospel, and always has a woman by his side every step that he takes.
The big gotcha verse used to silence women is when Paul tells Timothy, “I don’t permit a woman to teach or have authority over a man” (1 Timothy 2:12). But why does Paul say this? Because *drum roll please* he’s sharing an opinion. Listen, Paul had no idea that what essentially amounts to a glorified tweet would become the Bible. Paul constantly says, “this is just my opinion, man.” And the reason he states it is because this opinion isn’t the norm, it’s in contrast to the other apostles.
Peter doesn’t seem to take this same approach. While visiting a town, he goes and raises a woman disciple named Dorcas from the dead (Acts 9:36-43). The early church absolutely had women as preachers, prophets, and deacons. And you know who has to get in line with that? Paul.
In Paul’s letter to the Romans, he expressly talks about Phoebe, a deacon of the Church. He goes so far as to say, “I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a deacon of the church in Cenchreae. I ask you to receive her in the Lord in a way worthy of his people and to give her any help she may need from you, for she has been the benefactor of many people, including me.” (Romans 16:1-2)
Paul is the reason that many churches today only allow for male clergy, but what I find fascinating is that Paul rebukes the idea of listening to him over Jesus. During his own time, people began to use Paul’s words as gospel and debated amount themselves. Paul addressed this in his first letter to the Corinthians not once but twice. First, saying, “some of y’all say you follow me, others say you follow Apollos, and others say Peter. But was Paul crucified for you? Are you baptized in the name of Paul? No!” (1 Corinthians 1:10-17)
He doubles down on this later by saying, “No one can lay a foundation other than Jesus Christ.”
The foundation we see laid out by Jesus is one of acceptance regardless of race, creed, or gender. A loving man who accepts all people for who they are. Yes, Paul had some opinions, but those were simply that, an opinion. Something that Paul seems keenly aware of over and over again.
Jesus wasn’t just building a church on the foundation of Peter and Paul but also of Mary, Martha, Dorcas, and Phoebe. If you want to know why the Church has become so violent and nationalistic, it’s because it’s leaned into the masculine teachings of Paul instead of being balanced, as Jesus was, by always having the divine feminine with him in everything he did.
Do I follow Paul? Or Peter? Or Apollo’s? No, I’m going to follow Jesus, and he’s over there with the woman at the well, preparing her for ministry.
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This just my opinion, man...but I think probably the main reason anyone was against women in the Church (initially) would have been their own hangup somewhere. Where it came from, we can only speculate. Maybe a woman once issued Paul a particularly sick burn, and he never got over it (go find some aloe, dude). This makes me think, also, of the Marvel series, She-Hulk, where Hulk's cousin "catches" his "Hulkism," and he pulls out the binder with all the sh*t he had to figure out for himself, and locks her in his little containment cell and everything so he can teach her how to control this new monster within her...and she's totally chill and fully under control in her Hulk form, right out of the box. WTF, mate?
Why? Because women, on a daily basis, are forced to put with so much more nonsense, bullying, harrassment, indimidation, and abuse that, just to get by in the world, they basically have no choice but to gain a level of emotional mastery that a man, typically unchallenged in those regards due to the power and privilege society affords them, is light-years behind a woman in that regard. Women know more than they let on, because, as we have seen, they are so often punished for speaking up. As a consequence, women are now overlooked by men. And that's too bad for the Patriarchy. Its overinflated sense of security will be its downfall.
Did the old white guys actually think this was going to be their gig for all eternity? Yeah, I guess they probably did. Great post, as always. You rock the liturgical stylings of my world.