How the Household Codes Justify Racism

(#10 in a series)

There is a group of white moms in this nation who call themselves “Moms For Liberty”. In Tennessee, one of the most vocal leaders is a nasty woman whose only school-age child attends a private school. Nevertheless, she has made a name for herself attacking public school curriculum that tells the truth about race relations in the founding and building of this nation. I’m not talking about #CRT. This is not about teaching the naked, murderous triangle trade to second graders. This is about “The Story of Ruby Bridges”.

Six year old Ruby Bridges.

If you just dismiss this as more privileged white supremacy in the South, you are making a mistake. It is not just in the South. It’s more pernicious, with implications nation wide.

One of the main criticisms of The Making of Biblical Womanhood is that it exposes the oppression of white women within what is a predominantly white and privileged faith movement. Barr speaks to African American Protestantism briefly in chapter 7, and to the Iglesia movement in the US not at all. To her credit, she now realizes this and has acknowledged her narrow focus. I think her work is so important that we should give her grace—her focus was narrowed by her upbringing in the Southern Baptist church, and on purpose. She is waking up to many realities of the world outside that experience. The good news is that she is growing, as all white feminists—including myself—must grow.

I wrote to the book as she presented it—sans race—because I believe that more white women need to understand what they have to gain from clinging to their own oppression, so that we can stop being a roadblock to ending the oppression of others.

I’ll say that again—white women have something to gain from their oppression. And we know it.

If you read the Household Codes in Paul’s letters, you may have noticed something besides the call for women to submit to their husbands. In Ephesians 6, Colossians 3, Titus 2 and 1 Peter 2, the exhortation for wives is followed by one for slaves: Slaves, be subject to your masters with all reverence, not only to those who are good and equitable but also to those who are perverse (1 Peter 2: 18). These very verses were used to justify the ownership of slaves in the Southern US through the Civil War. For example, the Presbyterian Church of America (formerly  the Presbyterian Church of the Confederate States of America):

At the start of the Civil War, southern Presbyterian churches split from northern presbyters and formed the Presbyterian Church in the Confederate States of America. This southern wing of Presbyterianism explained their defense of slavery in a theology that emphasized a literal reading of the Bible. This reading saw a support for slavery (where does the Bible say slavery is a sin?) and for racial differences (often in the story of Babel).

Presbyterians who opposed slavery were cast as deviating from a literal, faithful reading of the Bible. These were viewed as deviations from true Christianity; abolitionists were using theological arguments, not Biblical texts, to make their case. (, 6/10/2016).

In fact, the PCCSA released a letter to all Christian churches in 1861 exposing their embrace of Original Sin (hierarchy):

“Human rights are not a fixed, but a fluctuating quantity… As you go up, the

number of rights increases, but the number who possess them diminishes. As you

go down the line, the rights are diminished, but the individuals are

multiplied….Before slavery can be charged with doing him injustice, it must be

shown that the minimum which falls to his lot at the bottom of the line is out of

proportion to his capacity and culture.” (Richards, John Edward, The Historical Birth of the Presbyterian Church in America)

I use the PCA as an example, but I could have used the Southern Baptists, whose Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, founded by slave owners, “backed a white supremacist ideology” (Oldest Institution of Southern Baptist Convention Reveals Past Ties to Slavery, 2018). Or even my own Catholic church, the dominant faith in Spain and Portugal, whose ships initiated and perpetuated the Triangle Trade, and whose Jesuits priests sold 272 slaves from that trade to save the University of Georgetown from bankruptcy. All of them used a strict reading of scripture to justify their participation in one of the greatest sins of humanity, reading justification for enslavement into the bible, just as they did patriarchy, in service to themselves and at complete disregard for the Gospels.

It was—is—a triumph of Original Sin, seeded in our houses of worship.

So here is my confession: as a white Catholic woman, I knew my church had a patriarchy problem. But I didn’t see the racism problem until it sat up next to me in Mass and shouted out during the elections in 2008, 2012, 2016 and 2020. And the reason is not that it didn’t exist, but that I didn’t have to see it. As a white woman, I had that choice.

And that’s what made me realize that white women have something to gain from their oppression: status.

After all,  if the Bible is inerrant in Colossians 3:18, then it must be inerrant in Colossians 3:22. White Christian women  who follow biblical womanhood are expected to submit to their husbands, but the trade off is that they will be held higher than those “down the line” whose “rights are diminished”.  History has borne this out—plenty of violence has been inflicted on people of color in the name of “protecting” white women.

And while Barr is right that the sin of hierarchy has made some white Christian women victims, the trade off has made many more willingly complicit in the sin of inflicting oppression on others. Like the “Moms of Liberty” demanding that the world can only been seen through their eyes and experience, we exchange nominal freedoms for the right to feel better than everyone except the white men in our lives.

And then we call ourselves “oppressed”.

Realizing that my feminism is privileged and part of the problem has been hard for me. But our favorite guy Paul makes the way forward pretty clear:

“Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality. At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. The goal is equality, as it is written: “The one who gathered much did not have too much, and the one who gathered little did not have too little” (2 Cor 8:13-15).

Sacred Oppression

(This is #8 in a series).

After everywhere we’ve been in this book, Chapter 7 starts with some surprising facts: Women preached in evangelical churches for a century prior to WWII. Barr cites Timothy Larson’s “Evangelicalism” Strong History of Women in Ministry” (2017), in which he characterizes “women’s involvement in public ministry ‘a historic distinctive of evangelism’” (175). From Methodists to Calvinists to—yes—Southern Baptists, women have been allowed to preach. The SBC even ordained a woman, Addie Davis, in 1964 and sponsored a conference on women’s role in ministry in 1974 (175). Barr spends pages laying out the history.

So what changed?

Barr lays it at the feet of two events. The fundamental-modernist controversy in the early 20th century churches “split evangelicals into liberal and conservative camps, laying the groundwork for the modern culture wars. Liberals wanted a more ecumenical approach to missions and the freedom to modernize traditional beliefs; conservatives wanted to protect traditional beliefs against encroaching cultural pressures” (188). The “central drama” was over biblical inerrancy, with the fundamentalists firmly in the camp that believed “not only that the Bible was without error, but that it had to be without error to be true at all” (188). Barr says “the…emphasis on inerrancy went hand in hand with a wide-ranging attempt to build up the authority of male preachers at the expense of women” (189). A side benefit of inerrancy was “an atmosphere of fear. Any question raised about biblical accuracy must be completely answered or completely rejected to prevent the fragile fabric of faith from unraveling” (190).

The second event was the rise of the Arian heresy in evangelical churches. This heresy, discarded by the church in 325 CE at the Council of Nicaea, stated that within the Trinity, the Son and Holy Spirit are subject to the Father, making the power structure between the three uneven. The council rejected this idea and confirmed that the Trinity is one God in three persons, light from light, true God from true God. To suggest that the Son submits to the Father is to deny the heart of Christianity.

Barr shares the opinion of Kevin Giles that the resurgence of Arianism in the American evangelical church is a failure of education: “’In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, conservative evangelicals were among those with a very weak and sometimes erroneous grasp of the historically developed doctrine of the Trinity’” (195). Without a strong grounding in theology that would have helped them understand that we should be more like God, these preachers “fought to make God look more like us” (195). If the Son submits to the Father, then too the congregation to the preacher, the wife to the husband, the child to the parent, the slave to the master, the poor to the rich, and so on.

Barr presents this information objectively, but it is impossible to read it that way.

And honestly, I don’t know where to begin.

Catholics do not read the bible literally, because there are textual errors in the Bible. For example, the earth is not flat; the sun does not revolve around the earth; dinosaurs were real and the earth is older than 7000 years. The folks who wrote the Bible did the best they could with the information they had. However, we do believe that the truth of the message of salvation is inerrant. For example, when Jesus said “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you” (John 6:53), this was not open to interpretation. For 2000 years, we have proven that it is possible to hold these two ideas—that the Bible has errors in it AND the Bible is the Word of God—without our faith wavering or God being diminished.

Also, the idea that the Word is frail is ridiculous. The Word is God. God is not frail. That’s the kind of thing Satan would have us believe.

However, these two events in the evangelical church underscore the point from two weeks ago—the Word is vulnerable. It can be manipulated by those with human and sinful intentions. The truth will out because God can’t be contained, but in the meantime, the Word can be used by those who would make themselves into gods. Barr doesn’t go this far, but I will–to suggest that the Bible in its entirety is inerrant and must be accepted literally is to ask people to accept that the world is flat, the sun orbits the earth, dinosaurs never lived, science is fake—

Do you see? It is a direct line from these two events to where we are today. Evangelicals have been trained to not believe what their eyes see, their ears hear, and their minds know.

None of this—not biblical womanhood, or biblical inerrancy or the emphasis on Greek and Roman hierarchical structures—is about God’s kingdom on earth. It has nothing to do with Gospel.

Last week, I taught my 4th and 5th graders to judge a tree by its fruit. We talked about the fruit that shrivels on the branch and the kind that falls to the ground. We talked about how a healthy tree produces healthy, life-giving fruit and we talked about what that fruit—the fruit of the Spirit—looks like in people: Kindness. Love. Goodness. Gratefulness. Patience. Joy. Peace. Self-control. Gentleness.

It’s time to apply these same ideas to our churches.

The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing Christians that oppression is godly. That God ordained some people, simply because of their sex or skin color (or both), as belonging under the power of other people (173).

Gut Check

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This picture. It’s from the Women’s March in 2017, but the message resonates even after a year. Maybe more, after Charlottesville and Roy Moore and #metoo and all the other mind boggling crap that happened this year.

I didn’t vote for Trump, because I’m a pro-life Christian. But I’m white and I KNOW that with those lame ass pink hats and the Sisterhood of the Traveling Persistence, we made the women’s social justice movement Pinterest-able, and then acted like we invented the damn thing.

It’s not that #metoo isn’t important, because it is and, #metoo.

It’s not that women are not marginalized, not abused, not underrepresented, not all of it.

But there’s something off about the pampered and privileged white women of Hollywood taking a diamond-laden and perfectly coiffed stand against sexual abuse in the workplace while still clamoring to act in movies that objectify women, glorify violence and desecrate marriage.

It’s in this picture too, where white women stand with carelessly curled hair and memorialize their “social justice girls weekend” with selfies.

As if this is the first moment, the first rally, the first battle.

As if this outrage didn’t exist until we felt it.

That black woman with the bored look on her face and the searing truth on her poster? She is LITERALLY keeping it real. God bless her, because that’s the business. And she’s probably been doing the business, like her mother and her mother before her and back and back.*

She’s also been waiting on us to show up. She is our dose of humility. This is not about a girls weekend or stylized pink ear pictures on Instagram. It’s not supposed to be fun. There won’t be wine later, for the love of God.

Show up. Be humble. Change the world.

*Turns out, she has. Her name is Angela Peoples and she was the director of GetEQUAL before leaving to start her own consulting group called MsPeoples. Her friend Kevin took that picture. You can follow her on Twitter at @MsPeoples.

She Shamed Herself, and Other Thoughts


Maybe, like me, you had no idea that the latest Bachelorette had sex with one of her suitor/contestants, and then sent him home.

Maybe, like me, you think the Bachelor/Bachelorette franchise is one of many examples of troubling but ultimately unimportant immorality in society today, along with Justin Bieber, the Kardashians and Rush Limbaugh.

But then I saw this headline: Who is Responsible for the Slut-Shaming of the Bachelorette?”

Facebook has been rocking this week with posts and counter-posts promoting “I don’t need feminism because” and the satirical responses “I don’t need feminism because…” and “Confused Cats Against Feminism”.

We know this issue is a hot button, because when I wrote the piece about conservative feminists and arrogance, it struck a cord with some of our readers.

I was working from the place that feminism means that women are equal to men and should be treated as such under the law.

Not that women are better than men.

Not that women can take the place of men.

Not that men are an inferior, violent and dangerous species and women should bring back Amazon warriors to guard us all in some utopian, female-only bastion of moon cycles and extended breast feeding.

But that is how the conservative half of the culture views the political face of the feminist movement today. I looked at the anti-feminists statements, and agreed with the sentiment of many—that being a woman is not a disadvantage, that we should work for equality, not entitlement and supremacy, and that we are able to take responsibility for ourselves and our actions.

But these young women, with their signs?  They’re feminists. How come they don’t know that?

The movement has a problem these days: ready, fire, aim.

Like this Bachelorette slut-shaming thing.

Bachelorette Andi agreed to find a husband on TV, picking from a pool of men chosen for their good looks and/or professions, in only eight weeks. This after she volunteered to be one of the pool of women chosen for their good looks and/or capacity for drama on the last Bachelor. So we already know that she is not a paragon of integrity.

But more than that, the way she behaved deserves censure from women everywhere. This is not about her sexual freedom. And this is not about the double standard. Yes, its’ true that men are treated differently for the same behavior, but I for one appreciate the good ol’ boys from the simple standpoint that it makes the a-holes easier to identify. I’m sure men would say the same about some sub-culture of women.

This is about Bachelorette Andi buying the true anti-feminism, that her worth only goes as far as her looks and her willingness to put out will take her.

Should the male anchors at FoxNews be popping off about her, as if they have no moral skeletons in their closets?

Of course not, but humility is not a strong point over at Fox. Those guys are good ol’ boys, so we know what we think about them.

What should be happening is that instead of defending her behavior by accusing others of “slut-shaming”, feminists everywhere should be hanging their heads in despair.

The goal used to be freedom to raise daughters strong in their heads, hearts and bodies, who dream big and do big things wherever their sphere of influence might be.

Now the movement seems to defend a woman’s right to a complete lack of sexual or moral boundaries, but ridicules women who believe in marriage, motherhood, religion and country. We defend Bachelorette Andi’s right to demean and devalue herself, instead of worrying how it is that she grew up with all the advantages of over 100 years of feminism and STILL DIDN’T GET THE MEMO.

My grandmother went to college in the ’30s, when 26 states still had laws prohibiting the employment of married women. She joined the Navy as an RN and served in the Pacific during WWII. Then she spent the next 50 years providing the economic stability in her family that sent my mom to college in the 60s.

Is this why she did all that? So women today could sleep around?

Today’s feminism is messing with my grandmother’s legacy.

And that’s not cool.






Conservative Feminists and Arrogance


Dana and I are Feminists from way back. Maybe you’ve noticed.

So we take issue when a group of powerful and important women trash Feminism, which is what happened last week at the Heritage Foundation’s celebration of Women’s History Month, “Evaluating Feminism, Its Failures and Its Future”.

These women have some serious hubris. Do they even know what the word Feminist means?

Feminism is a collection of movements and ideologies aimed at defining, establishing, and defending equal political, economic, and social rights for women  (

The Conservative Right would have us believe that Feminism only serves liberals. That’s not true. Sarah Palin is a product of Feminism. Condolezza Rice. Michelle Bachman. Bay Buchanon. Michelle Malkin. Even, and sadly, Ann Coulter. The only reason Karin Agness, Mona Charen and Mollie Hemingway even had a microphone to speak in front of the other day is because of Feminism.

And yet these women blithely turn their backs on the path forged by our grandmothers and great grandmothers, a path that says that every woman born to freedom in this great nation can be anything she chooses to be. Like a presidential candidate, Secretary of State, political pundit or even character assassin in a nodding relationship with the truth.

I am pretty sure that Mona Charen who “called the glass-ceiling a ‘supposed barrier’ and said Feminists and the Obama Administration often use “much debunked statistics” to argue their points” didn’t get where she is by sleeping her way to the top. But 70 years ago, who knows if she would have had the opportunity to run her mouth as a syndicated columnist? Maybe some cigar smoking editor with girlie pictures hanging all over his office would have sent her home to her husband and babies with a smack on her bum, or even invited her to “discuss” her career on his couch.

But that’s not allowed anymore, because of Feminism.

And Mollie Hemingway? It’s odd because I cannot find much specific information on this lady on the internet. Beyond that she’s a highly educated and decorated writer who lives in DC. I know she’s married because she wrote a defense of submissive wives after the whole Michele Bachman thing. But I don’t think she has kids. Which makes this statement all the more puzzling: “ ‘We’re telling women they should delay marriage, ‘lean in’ on career, focus on themselves,” Hemingway said. “And we know these things don’t lead to female happiness.’ “

I have no idea why this submissive wife doesn’t appear to have kids but does have a nationally important voice in the political debate. Or does have kids that are well hidden from an intrusive media, but still travels the country for her day job.

Oh wait, yes I do: Feminism.

And either way, I’m not judging her choices, even if her life seems to give a lie to her words. I don’t judge working moms and stay at home moms and single moms and two moms and dads who are moms and grandmas who are moms again. Because it takes a damn village, and there but for the grace of God go I, and no one should have to feel abandoned and alone before anyone else has walked a mile in their shoes.

You know where I learned all that?

Jesus. And Feminism.

So here’s the thing. If you think your daughter would make a great lawyer, you’re a Feminist. If you think your daughter would make a great wife and mom, you’re a Feminist. If you think your daughter is going to earn a scholarship to play soccer at Stanford or become a Rhodes scholar and get into every single Ivy League school she applies to, you’re a Feminist. If you proudly take her to vote the first time after she turns 18, you’re a Feminist. If you raise your sons to treat the women around them with respect and if you married a man who treats you with respect, you’re a Feminist.

Heck, let’s make this bottom line easy: if you teach your daughter to read and write, you’re a Feminist. And thank God, because in places where they don’t believe in Feminism, girls die on the way to school, shot by men who think they should never leave the house. Their. Entire. Lives.

So come on ladies. Where’s your humility? Maybe you don’t like the tone of womanhood today. I don’t, either. Too much sexuality, too much photoshop, too much divorce, too many babies born out of wedlock, too much abortion. But that’s not Feminism. That’s a crooked culture, and if we could just stop flailing at each other, we could band together like the Women’s Christian Temperance Union and put the crooked straight.

(Well, maybe not just like them, because I do enjoy a good vodka tonic)

The point is that history shows us that women’s voices are strong and powerful and sensitive and maternal and compassionate and unyielding when we have something to protect.

You know how I know this?