“Never Underestimate Me!”

Stand+Up+Women

 

When I walked into the school lunch room to find my Lunch Buddy, I was met by one of his classmates – a girl – 4th grade.  She gave me a hug, stepped back, and with her hands on her hips, said, 

“Phillip, I broke up with my boyfriend!”

“Oh?”  I replied.  “How do you feel about that?”

“I had to do it,” she explained.

“And why is that?” I inquired.

“He disrespected me.  He told me I couldn’t run as fast as him. So we raced and I beat him.”

“Good for you!!” I congratulated her.

“Thanks!” She said, before adding this clincher:

“I told him, ‘Never underestimate me!’  Then I broke up with him.”

We’ve seen over the last several months hundreds of women stand up and shout out, “He disrespected me!  Never underestimate me.”

Maya Angelou wrote, “Each time a woman stands up for herself without knowing it, possibly without claiming it, she stands up for all women.”  

My 4th grade friend stood up for all the girls at her school.  Standing up and speaking out sent a message to all the boys in the school to get rid of the stereotypes, to treat the girls as equals.  She gave me hope that her generation will be better than previous generations.  

That mutual respect will replace disrespect.

That there will be “justice for all.”

Kyle Stephens was the first gymnast to confront Larry Nassar at his sentencing.  He was a family friend.  He began sexually assaulting her when she was in kindergarten. I can’t bring myself to describe what he did to her and in front of her.   Her parents did not believe her when she told them what was happening.  She said she replayed the abuse “so I didn’t forget that I was not a liar.”  She was forced to babysit Nassar’s kids to pay for her own counseling.  Years later, in 2016, Kyle’s dad committed suicide after coming to believe his daughter.  

Kyle Stephens’ words reverberate throughout the country: “Little girls don’t stay little forever. They grow into strong women that return to destroy your world.” 

Little girls and grown women bear within themselves the divine image.  A spirit of strength. 

Let’s join girls like my Lunch Buddy’s classmate and women like Ms Stephens to destroy an old world of disrespect and injustice and build a world of love.  

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Fatwa, the Bible, and Us

muslim-woman
 

Would you join a religion that permitted men to have sex with the women they captured in war? What if this religion codified this behavior in its holy book?

 

In a raid last spring on ISIS in Syria, a document was uncovered which outlines 15 points related to the keeping and raping of women captives.

 

The document, released to the public in the fall of 2015, had the authority of a “fatwa.” Do you have a question about a moral/religious issue? Is the teaching unclear? Call a religious expert who will give you a legal ruling – a “fatwa” – on the issue.

 

It’s Fatwa 64. You can read it here. A theology of rape.

 

Disturbing. Disgusting. Sickening. Shocking.

 

It is so repulsive I won’t put it in print.

 

Here’s my dilemma. There are in print, in another holy book, guidelines for the treatment of women captured in battle.

 

“When the LORD your God lets you capture the city, kill every man in it. You may however, take for yourselves the women, the children, the livestock, and everything else in the city. You may use everything that belongs to your enemies. The LORD has given it to you. That is how you are to deal with those cities that are far away from the land you will settle in. But when you capture cities in the land that the LORD your God is giving you, kill them all. Completely destroy all the people…” (Deuteronomy 20:10-16).

 

“When you go out to battle against your enemies, and the LORD your God delivers them into your hands and you take them away captive, and see among the captives a beautiful woman, and have a desire for her and would take her as a wife for yourself, then you shall bring her home to your house, and she shall shave her head and trim her nails. She shall also remove the clothes of her captivity and shall remain in your house and mourn her father and mother a full month; and after that you may go in to her and be her husband and she shall be your wife. It shall be, if you are not pleased with her then you shall let her go wherever she wishes; but you shall certainly not sell her for money, you shall not mistreat her, because you have humbled her” (Deuteronomy 21:10-14). I underlined “humbled” because the same Hebrew word is used in Judges 20:5 where it is translated “rape.”

 

“Now kill all the boys. And kill every woman who has slept with a man, but save for yourselves every girl who has never slept a man” (Numbers 31:17-18).

 

So Moses and Eleazar the priest did as the LORD commanded Moses. The plunder remaining from the spoils that the soldiers took was 675,000 sheep, 72,000 cattle, 61,000 donkey and 32,000 women who had never slept with a man” (Numbers 31:30-31, 35). Like the animals, the virgins are property to be divvied up.

 

 

In keeping with the guidelines set before them, it is recorded that the Israelites, to make up for a deficit of women in the Hebrew tribe of Benjamin,

“sent 12,000 fighting men with instructions to go to Jabesh Gilead and put to the sword those living there, including the women and children. ‘This is what you are to do,’ they said. ‘Kill every male and every woman who is not a virgin.’ They found among the people living in Jabesh Gilead 400 young women who had never slept with a man, and they took them to the camp at Shiloh in Canaan…So the Benjamites returned at that time and were given the women of Jabesh Gilead who had been spared. But there were not enough for all of them” (Judges 21:10-14).

 

Not enough women for all of them? What to do? What to do?

 

“So they instructed the Benjamites, saying, ‘Go and hide in the vineyards and watch. When the young women of Shiloh come out to join in the dancing, rush from the vineyards and each of you seize one of them to be your wife’” (Judges 21:20-21).

 

Well, at least this time, they only took the virgin girls without slaughtering everyone else.

 

Do you have the same dilemma as I?
We rightfully condemn Fatwa 64. So, what do we do with these guidelines and accounts found in the Christian’s holy book, the Bible?

 

Despite what some may think, I’m not trying to undermine the Bible or mess with anyone’s faith.

 

But, is it fair to think that anyone who is a serious student of Scripture has to face these passages and the issues they raise head on?

 

Isn’t it our Christian responsibility to take this on and not avoid it.

 

Since the Constitution demands that “no religious test ever be required as qualification to any office or public trust…” I’m not going to give a test. But I did learn a couple of lessons from a test given to Trump.

 

Candidate Trump was asked what his favorite Bible verse was after he said it was his favorite book.

 

“Well, I wouldn’t want to get into it, because to me that’s very personal. You know, when I talk about the Bible, it’s very personal, so I don’t want to get into verses.”

 

“There’s no verse that means a lot to you?” the questioner asked.

 

“The Bible means a lot to me, but I don’t want to get into specifics,” Trump answered.

 

Another question: “Are you an Old Testament or a New Testament guy?”

“Probably equal,” Trump said. “I think it’s just an incredible, the whole Bible is an incredible-“ Trump then trailed off for a brief second before joking that the Bible is his favorite book while his book, “The Art of the Deal” comes in second.

 

But, we do need to get into “specifics.”

We need to carefully, diligently analyze the Bible – both Old and New Testaments – to understand and determine how we’d answer the question: “Are you an Old Testament or a New Testament guy?”

 

There is disagreement, obviously, on how this issue should be handled. But maybe we can all agree on this: “…whoever claims to belong to him, must live as Jesus did” (1 John 2:6).

 

Biblical Woman??

The week after I finished a two-part teaching series in which, in honor of Women’s History Month,  we “Focused on Females,” I saw a news article about a website’s post from my alma mater, Southwestern  Baptist Theological Seminary, in Ft. Worth.   The timing was ironic.  The seminary, on its BiblicalWoman.com website, released a statement by women for women clarifying their position on “biblical womanhood.” You can see the seminary’s statement here.

Speaking for the folks at the seminary, Katie McCoy, editor of BiblicalWoman.com, said, “…we’re excited to share the ‘Biblical Woman Statement’ with you!”

“Biblical Woman statement”
“BiblicalWoman.com”
“biblical womanhood”

The word “biblical” makes me nervous.  When it is used, it comes across as one-dimensional; like there is only one right way to look at something, which just so happens to be the way that the user of the term looks at it.

So.  What exactly is a “biblical woman”? Is she Deborah – a woman who held the highest position of spiritual authority in Israel.  She was “President” of Israel, a prophet who heard from God and spoke for God to the people (even men). She was a judge making rulings over matters concerning all people – even men.  She was a General, leading men into battle (Judges 4:4-9). Or, is a “biblical woman” one that follows Paul’s counsel to Timothy and does not “teach or hold authority over men” (1 Timothy 2:11)?

The bw.com website seems to come down on the latter.  Under the “ministry” section of the statement, we read, “We believe…that women are exhorted to instruct and mentor other women.” Not men, but “other women.”

Interesting.  There are some other interesting records showing how Southern Baptists viewed and treated women.  Interesting and instructive.

At the 1885 meeting of the SBC, a total of seven messengers came from Arkansas.  Two of them were women.  Uh oh.  For two days the convention scratched their heads trying to figure out how to handle the women.   “I got it.  Let’s change the constitution!”  So they amended Article III which stated that the convention was composed of “members who contribute funds,” to, “brethern who contribute funds.”  In the middle of the deliberations one man said, “I love the ladies, but I dread them worse.”  Hmmm.  I wonder what he was afraid of? I wonder if that fear still exists.

After the Women’s Missionary Union was formed in 1888, the WMU prepared an annual report to the convention.  Women wrote the report, but weren’t allowed to read the report – to the men.   For 42 years the report was read to the convention by a man.   The first time the president of the WMU, a woman, gave her own report, several men walked out rather than have a woman stand in a position of “authority” over them.  Slowly, things changed.  Men quit running out in protest when the WMU report was given by a woman, but for several years, when the WMU report was given, the convention moved from the church sanctuary to a Sunday School assembly room so that a woman would not stand in the pulpit!  I know.  It sounds too crazy to be true. You gotta love history.
Is the seminary’s statement an accurate expression of what the Bible tells us concerning women in ministry?  Before you answer check out 2 Kings 22:11-16, Acts 2:17-18, Acts 18:26, Acts 21:8-9.

Women today cut their hair, wear jewelry and expensive clothes, and pray in a church gathering without a hat, all of which seem to be forbidden by some passages in the New Testament. Are these ladies “unbiblical”?  At times in Christian history, many Christians interpreted the Bible to justify slavery.  We no longer understand the Bible that way.  Are we “unbiblical”?

My dad, a Southern Baptist pastor since he was 18, had on his staff at First Baptist, Little Rock, a woman worship pastor!!  She stood in authority over men.  Was she “unbiblical”? Was dad “unbiblical” for empowering a woman to use her gifts to lead women and men?

My dad invited to speak in the churches he pastored in Joplin, MO and Little Rock, Bertha Smith, a Southern Baptist missionary.  Wait. Miss Bertha didn’t just speak.  She preached!   To men.  Standing very much in authority over them.  She even shook her finger at them.

I’ve always respected my dad for getting out of the box on this issue.

Jesus loving, Jesus committed people disagree on this topic.  So, instead of claiming that we have the  final word on the definition and description, of a “biblical woman,”   let’s be willing to talk with each other, to wrestle with those passages.  Talking, questioning, wrestling.  That’s good church.