A Christian Nationalist Versus a Woman Voter: Reading the Bible Differently

Pastor Joel Webbon, a fervent supporter of Christian Nationalism, told his audience on The Standard podcast plainly and clearly that:

  • Christian Nationalism opposes women’s right to vote.
  • Christian Nationalists want to repeal the Nineteenth Amendment (women’s right to vote).
  • When Christian Nationalism attains its goals, women will be represented in government by men (men who “love” them, of course).

What makes him and other Christian Nationalists pursue this goal? The Bible says so. At least that’s how he reads it.

Governor Emmett D. Boyle signs the ratification bill for the 19th amendment on February 7, 1920

I am a Christian woman who, with equal fervor, defends a woman’s right to vote, the Nineteenth Amendment, and the wisdom of having women and men represent all people in government.

What makes me feel this way? The Bible says so. At least that’s how I read it.

Joel Webbon and I claim to rely on the same source of authority, so why are our conclusions diametrically opposed? I did hear in Webbon’s interview what sounds like a sincere desire to do what’s right, to strive for an unselfish service to God and his family. (I confess it’s hard for me not to take his dismissal of women’s public voices as selfish, but that’s his understanding of unselfishness.)

In the fourth and subsequent centuries, when the Roman patriarchal system began to crumble, the Western elements of the Christian Church subsumed the ruling system and reinstated the Roman-style patriarchal structure as their own. By the sixth century, for example, Pope Gregory the Great had completely silenced the leadership voice of Mary Magdalene by inventing a mythology for her as a saintly repentant sex-worker.

So, there is precedent in Christian history for such male-dominating attitudes.

But since that time, scholars, thinkers, healers, priests, nuns, ministers, and lay people have looked deep within the Bible and found evidence that not only were women created equal to men, but that women served in leadership roles. Mary Magdalene, Mary, the mother of Jesus, and others are but a few important examples.

As I thought about Webbon’s point of view, I began to wonder whether our fellow Christians who live so faithfully in accordance with their patriarchal convictions would even want to follow the Bible if they found convincing evidence that their source of authority actually proved the opposite of their claims.

We all tend to cherry-pick our proof-texts, and those of us who try to see all of what’s there recognize that the Bible can and has been used throughout the centuries to defend anything certain people want. It’s not even that hard to do.

I wondered:

  • What if the first chapter of Genesis were true? That male and female were created at the same time, and God proclaimed this to be “very good”?
  • What if the story of Adam and Eve was interpreted differently? That, as a myth, its purpose is to depict the way evil works in human hearts?
  • What if the proscriptions against women’s roles in church were not written by Paul after all? That these ideas came later than Paul and were written into the text by men who wanted to reverse the practice of egalitarianism that already existed?
  • What if Paul really meant that Jesus expected no divisions between Jews and Greeks or male and female? That our oneness is in Christ Jesus?
  • What if the first person to convert a community to Christ was a woman? After all, the unnamed woman at the well in Samaria convinced “many Samaritans from that city to believe in Jesus.”
  • What if Jesus’ kingdom is not about ruling “in this world?” Jesus told Pilate if the kingdom were of this world, his followers would be fighting on his behalf.
  • What if Jesus meant that his kingdom did not make sense to the rulers of this world when he said, “my kingdom is not of this world”? In other words, the divine ruling authority was not the model of the Roman patriarchal world they lived in, but one where women did have equal roles with men.
  • What if the first person to acknowledge Jesus’ resurrection was a woman? Martha affirmed to Jesus that he was the resurrection, the Messiah, the Son of God.
  • What if “witnessing resurrection” really identified apostleship? In that case, Mary Magdalene would therefore be the first apostle.

These are some of the reasons I find it difficult to believe biblical authority mandates that men be given divine authority over women. Do men really find strength in holding power over women? Do men really feel that this makes the world a better place for everyone?

The biblical interpretation embraced by Christian Nationalists, that women are to be subordinate to men, raises a few more questions for me:

How should women be prepared for the afterlife if they are suddenly without men making their decisions? If Jesus thought that “those who are considered worthy of a place in that age [to come] and in the resurrection from the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage” (Luke 20:35), then what human experience will prepare them for the future age without marriage? Will women miraculously become men in the resurrection?

Or, if the Bible is not talking about “that world” of resurrection, and if men are designed for fighting in “this world,” why did Jesus never ask his male followers to fight the Roman state on his behalf? In fact, he told his disciple to put down his sword in Gethsemane.

Was Jesus, a male, too busy nurturing by dying on the cross? Maybe Jesus’ followers were living in some kingdom other than the Roman state?

I am not convinced that the removal of my right to vote will enable me to be a better Christian, or my country to be a better place. Nor do I think it will inspire anyone to live more graciously together as one caring group of people.

At least that’s how I read it.

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