Saturday, October 20, 2012

Why Women Especially Should Accept Christianity

Monday, Harry McCall wrote a piece at Debunking Christianity entitled "Why Women Especially Should Reject Christianity." 

Tribal Village in N Thailand
meets a missionary: what impact
did Christianity have on
Why, in McCall's view, should women reject Christianity?  Is it because Roman society taught the Double Standard, that the pater familia had a Zeus-given right to sleep around (like Zeus), while his bride would be in big trouble for doing the same, and Christianity challenged that double standard? 

Should women reject Christianity because Greeks and Romans usually tossed second daughters outside to die, and Christians called that a sin?

Or should women turn their backs on the Gospel because Christians allowed girls to mature a few years longer before getting married, unlike pagan Romans?  Of course every 12 year old girl is fully mature and ready to assume the responsibilities of marriage. 

Rodney Stark mentioned these and other such facts in The Rise of Christianity, which he wrote before he became a Christian, as reasons why most early Christians were, in fact, women themselves.  In addition, the early Church took care of widows.  It nursed the sick.  It discouraged dangerous abortions, which often killed the women who underwent them on the command of their men-folk. 

Does McCall think Roman women were too dumb to realize the terrible harm Christianity was doing them, despite these apparent advantages? 

Or does McCall think women should reject Christianity because missionaries challenged the practice of burning girls on funeral pyres in India, throwing out babies in Nigeria, or foot-binding in China?  Is the problem that Christian missionaries introduced womens' education that has benefited BILLIONS of women around the world?  Too much homework, maybe? 

Did McCall argue that the many girls I met in Asia whom missionaries had saved from prostitution were thereby deprived of a fulfilling vocation?  That they might miss their pimps and customers? 

Or did he claim that men in our society who follow the Bible's commands to marry one woman, not cheat, love her self-sacrificially, and treat her with respect, do women more harm than, say, a Teddy Kennedy or a Jacques Rousseau? 

No, such questions somehow escaped the range of McCall's curiosity. 

When I reminded the gang at DC of my series of articles on "How Jesus Liberates Women" (Part I, Part II (my story), Part III (sociological overview), Part IV (history), Part V (Jesus and women in the Gospels), and Part VI ("Lamest Rebuttals Award")), written in response to John Loftus' earlier fulminations on this subject, quite a few came over to read the articles.  But they simply blew all such historical and sociological facts off.  No one made any substantive attempt to refute my points, here or there.  Yet I show how the lives of billions of women have been palpably improved by the life, example, and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth. 

But Harry did have an argument.  It was a biblical argument.  Like many fundamentalist-minded Gnus, McCall thinks cherry-picking Scripture for proof-texts provides a more persuasive argument than the lives of billions of people that have been blessed by the teachings of Jesus.  (Loftus says McCall's article has already become the second-most-read article in the history of Deconstructing Christianity! (Post-script: McCall and Loftus later fell out.) 

Harry wanted to talk about the Bible.  But even there, he ignored EVERY verse in the four gospels.  Instead, he focused exclusively on a few Pauline, or allegedly Pauline, verses in I Corinthians and I Timothy. 

Because, of course, the heart of Christianity is I Timothy, not anything Jesus Christ might happen to say or do!

Skeptics have written hundreds of attempted rebuttals of my "Jesus Liberates Women" series in various forums.  Few of the responses so far have been even mildly substantive.  Harry's myopic proof-texting, his seemingly total disinterest in history, and his shameless cherry-picking, have so far proven par for the course, and in fact, more substantive than some.   

But, you might ask, what about those verses?  They are in the Bible, aren't they?  Don't they prove that God has it in for women?  Don't Christians hold the Bible to be the Sacred Word of God?  Didn't those verses have any influence on Christian history? 

I am loath to fight the battle on those terms for several reasons:

(1) Skeptics so far have shown remarkable reluctance to deal fairly and honestly with the history of liberation I and others have detailed.  Why should we follow them into their Cavern of Navel-Gazing and Cherry-Picking, and ignore all the real live women who have been so palpably blessed by Jesus' life? 

(2) Since the effect, as I show from UN surveys, is that the highest status of women correlates strongly to societies where the Gospel has been influential, one should look for a cause to THAT effect, not to imaginary ones.  If one out of ten rivers is full of fish, the others nine sterile, it is more reasonable to ask why that one river has fish, not why it doesn't have even more of them.  Our primary question must be, what is it in the Bible that can explain the effect that is visible -- a higher status of women -- rather than imaginary effects? 

(3) Jesus, not Paul or pseudo-Paul, is the center of Christianity.

(4) In Part V of my series, I examined every single passage in the gospels that deals in some way with the status of women.  McCall not only ignores the gospels completely, he baldly cherry-picks Paul, too.  He ignores the fact that Paul did, actually, have female colleagues, whom he praised.  He ignores such passages as "In Christ, there is neither male nor female."  He ignores all attempts to contextualize even the passages he does attend to. 

This is not honest exegesis, nor does it deserve to be treated with respect. 

(5) Anyway, NT scholars have debated these verses extensively.  Like Paul, I am by inclination a pioneer: I hate to repeat other peoples' arguments.  Given the wealth of empirical data from history, and from the gospels, these few, relatively obscure passages just don't interest me enough to go through old diggings in search of a new nugget or two.  (Though I welcome references by readers to good arguments about Paul's views of women.  I don't find the argument interesting enough to follow much myself, since I am not under durress to do so, but others may find them profitable.) 

Let skeptics come to grips with the larger facts I cite in the "How the Gospel Liberates Women" series, first.  Let them earn the right to wax geeky on I Timothy, by showing that they are honest enough to deal fairly with the primary facts of Jesus' life and influence on the world, and on women.  Then we can discuss smaller issues, as how to reconcile Paul's moods. 


Laura said...

I told them that atheism doesn't have Mary. Someone claimed she was "raped by god (improper use of capitalization, so much for that education)"
He also asserted she and Jesus were fictitious to which I replied, "extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence." The "Christian Conspiracy" delusion is Gnu woo few will apply a shred of skepticism to. It conflicts with their religious tenets, ya know.

David B Marshall said...

Laura: Yeah, I noticed that. "Jim Jones" is living up to his name.

steve said...

Here's another example to illustrate David's point: Christian missionaries valiantly tried to stop female genital mutilation. They failed, due to the intensity of local opposition, but it was a noble cause, a worthy effort.

Scottish Missionaries and the Circumcision Controversy in Kenya
File Format: PDF/Adobe Acrobat - Quick View
by K Mufaka - 2007 - Cited by 1 - Related articles
Christian missionaries were allowed exclusive .... the Christian Missions must impress upon the natives that .... banish female circumcision from native life.

steve said...

Years ago the great Yale church historian and missions prof. wrote a classic monograph on the civilizing influence of the Gospel:

David B Marshall said...

Thanks, Steve. That particular book looks hard to locate, but I may look for some of Kenneth Scott Latourrette's other books on related subjects. I've read him on China.

steve said...

I also read his book on China, as well as his book on Japan.