Confession: I can’t figure out what God thinks of women.
I was cruising blissfully through 1 Timothy last week and suddenly hit a speed bump.
Let a woman learn in silence.
Full stop. Frown.
Let a woman learn in silence with all submission.
And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence.
Um… Silence, Mr. Paul, is a strong word.
I gnawed that one for a while, and then read on, into the two clearest reasons I have ever heard.
- For Adam was formed first, then Eve.
So there are first things, and then there are second things. I take it I am—er, a Second Thing.
2. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived fell into transgression.
Hmm. This “woman” item is easily led astray. Call it a strength, if you will—a tender open-heartedness, a willingness to learn, so unlike the solid unmoving stubbornness of a man. Eve cared a lot about being smart, and free, and was willing to do what it took to get there.
So either as punishment or as prevention of repetition, her voice was silenced.
Am I okay with that?
Unfortunately, neither Paul nor Christ asked me what I thought. Sometimes I am really angry about it, but after my last post on the silence of Jesus I found myself asking—
Is silence a bad thing?
What if it wields a perfect, open-handed strength of its own?
Now I wonder about the practical side of this. In our church, women are invited to take an active role in teaching (to women and children), in public prayer and testimony, in singing and giving thanks, and in making decisions.
There are a couple of good men in my congregation who would like ladies to be more involved in discussions and decisions. (Hi, MH and GZ…) Do I agree or disagree? I am honored by the way they honor women. But I wonder. Is that what we need?
If the issue is that women don’t care and are therefore silent, I object. All good things in the world start with caring!
But my small experience says that we Mennonite women are not so much cowed-into-submission as good-at-getting-what-we-want-by-pulling-strings-behind-the-scenes.
That’s called manipulation.
If the antidote is to speak up, I’m in favor. But what if the antidote is to be silent?
What if men are at their best when they learn to catch hold, and women are at their best when they learn to let go?
What do you think?