In an effort to grow in faith and in my relationship with God, I have committed to reading the bible, journaling, worshiping, and praying for 90 days in a row. A couple of weeks ago, on day 67 of my commitment, I had a major setback. The truth is that I was already struggling, but then I heard the worst, most ridiculous, sexist, and simply illogical sermon I have ever heard in my life. This sermon caused me to reconsider this commitment, to even reconsider the desire to align myself with the Christian religion.
The sermon was on Judges chapter 4. Because it is the policy of the church I attend to teach verse-by-verse through the Bible, the teaching doesn’t always have a logical application to the congregants’ daily lives. Sometimes this causes the pastor to reach wildly for connections that do not exist. I think this was the case for this particular sermon. This section of scripture is about Deborah judging Israel and how she reminds Barak that God had commanded them to deploy troops at Mount Tabor. Barak responds by saying he would only go if she went with him. She says she will go with him, but that there will be no glory in it for him since they will be delivered into the hands of a woman.
Now to me, this sounds like this woman has authority over the men. She in fact is “judging” them, commanding them, counseling them, and most definitely, leading them. To counteract this contradiction that women should never have authority over a man, the pastor went on to explain that Deborah was not leading them, but being a “helper.” At this point, I was shaking my head at the obvious misreading.
Next, the text describes Jael, the wife of Heber the Kenite, and the pastor explained how she was a woman who showed a different aspect of the woman’s role. Jael lets Sisera, who fled the massacre and sought to hide in her tent, hide there. She comforts him and tells him not to fear. She covers him with a blanket, gives him warm milk when he asks for water. When he falls asleep, she drives a tent peg into his brain with a hammer. At this point, the pastor seems frantic to try and make this story make sense of this scripture in context to the Christian dogma that insists women must be under the authority of a man, so the only application he turns to is yet another aspect of stereotypical roles of women, which is in complete opposition with what the text actually says.
So while I am sitting there, shocked and appalled by the horrific behavior of Jael and the idea that all this was endorsed by God, my ear catches something about dirty diapers. Yes, I said dirty diapers. This refocused me on what the pastor was saying. He said something to the effect that Jael was the kind of woman who took care of the daily, mundane tasks, and the killing of Sisera was like a mother changing dirty diapers! Wait, wha–I couldn’t possibly have heard that correctly. Driving a tent peg into someone’s brain with a hammer while he slept, and while she was pretending to give him shelter and telling him to not be afraid is like a mother changing dirty diapers? He went on to say the Jael was a godly woman by doing the ordinary tasks that fall to a woman in order to help her man.
Sickened, I sat through the rest of the sermon, shocked and ashamed that I was a part of this religion. Is the Bible so illogical that one has to make these crazy leaps just to make sense of it? Unfortunately, it made even less sense than just taking the story on face value. To me, it had more of a “All’s fair in love and war” type theme. If anything, it showed that women and men are equally violent and capable of doing anything for their perceived “righteous” cause. But because this was all endorsed by God, a pastor could never have that take on the story.
Actually, I believe the pastor has a good heart, and he really believes what he is saying. But I can’t. I struggled through the next several weeks of Bible reading, finishing up the gospels and moving on to Acts, trying to reconcile the loving, sacrificing Jesus with the ideas of condemnation and punishment and pre-destination, the idea of God’s justice seeming so unjustified from the perspective of humanity’s version of it. From my own view of it.
Finally, I flipped over to Proverbs for a more axiomatic view of the scriptures. This was a refreshing reprieve. At last, logical wisdom. Advice that actually makes sense. I am honoring my commitment to seek God through the Bible, worshiping, and praying daily until the end of the 90 days (I’m on day 83), but the God of the Bible is moving farther and farther away, and a new view of spirituality is emerging within me, one not steeped in patriarchal and war-loving cultures, a Creator who is not petty and vengeful, a God who created humanity for better things than this, who values men and women equally, who doesn’t arbitrarily choose who will be given faith and who will be used as villains in His plans. A God who sent His son to show His love to all men and women equally, who is probably looking down at us in dismay for perverting His words and meaning, creating dogma He never intended and attributing to Him atrocities never condoned. This is the God I will continue to seek earnestly after when my commitment has been met, and I doubt my quest will involve much of the Bible or sermons like this.–Christina Knowles
UPDATE: After completing my 90-day quest for God, and exhaustively searching and studying many different versions of spirituality and an in-depth study of evolution, I have become an atheist. I am open to the possibility of a creator, but as of now, see no reason to believe there is one.