The Equality of Women

Pastor Ralph Drollinger, who used to be a minister associated with Grace Community Church in Southern California, was quoted in 2004 as writing that a woman is scripturally and specifically “prohibited from leadership in the institutions of marriage, family and church.” Furthermore, he wrote, “She is not explicitly prohibited from leadership in government or commerce—that is, so long as she does not have children at home.” Otherwise, according to him, she is sinning. (His relationship with Grace Community Church ended in 2009.)

Many years ago I briefly taught at the Master’s College. This was during the first year after Grace Community Church took over what had formerly been called Los Angeles Baptist College. While I was teaching there, I came across a copy of a little anonymous booklet that Grace Community Church had printed and distributed called, The Role of Women. Drollinger’s comments are consistent with what that booklet argued. One particular passage from the booklet stands out to me in this regard:

The biblical pattern for raising and instructing children in God’s truths was established in Deuteronomy 6 where children are to be taught by parents “when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up.” Parents are responsible for the spiritual education of their children, and mothers who work full-time outside their homes usually lack the quality time to instruct their children adequately. Nor can the responsibility for this instruction simply be transferred to someone else. (The Role of Women, p. 10)

I’ll ignore the odd leap from “parents” to “mothers” in the passage. More significant is the author’s interpretation of the repeated use of the word “you.” “You” is who the passage in Deuteronomy 6 is directed. Since I can read biblical Hebrew I couldn’t help laughing at the booklet’s incredibly bizarre interpretation of Deuteronomy 6. Something that neither that author nor Grace Community Church apparently know is that the passage from which they are deriving their warped ideas about what women can and cannot do is not even addressed to women at all! You see, the words of Deuteronomy 6 are written exclusively to men. In Hebrew there are four forms of the pronoun “you” available: masculine singular, masculine plural, feminine singular, feminine plural. Guess which is used in Deuteronomy 6? Masculine singular. The role of women is simply not being addressed by this passage. Instead, it is addressing the role of men and only men.

Drollinger’s whole argument, as well as that of Grace Community Church, is based on a ludicrous and incredibly ignorant misreading of the Bible.

In fact, if the author of The Role of Women wants to argue, based on this passage, that a particular parent shouldn’t be working outside of the home if there are children in that home, then he better start tongue-lashing most of the men. They are the awful sinners since they aren’t home with their kids. They abandon them and go off to work on a regular basis. For shame!

Frankly, I have found that many of those who argue against women working outside the home believe that the world has corrupted women with worldly, sinful notions. Somehow, they think that when women want to work outside the home, get careers and the like, it is because the feminist movement has filled them with wrong-headed dreams and aspirations. Those darn feminists are the ones who’ve made women unhappy and dissatisfied with their “proper, God-given roles” in the home. They’ve decided that the world of the 1950’s era sitcom is scriptural, and they don’t like uppity women–so they try to find a scriptural justification for their bigotry and hatred.

Those who believe in the oppression of women frankly remind me of the slave holders of a different era, who complained that “If it weren’t for those durn abolitionists filling the slaves with wool-headed ideas they wouldn’t be near the trouble; getting them all riled up about liberty and equality and who knows what other gosh durn foolishness!”

The reason a woman might like a career and be dissatisfied fulfilling the role of a slave is because she is a human being, created in the image of God, with the same common ideals and aspirations, hopes and fears, that fill the male half of humanity, since a woman, too, is as much a part of humanity as a man. People like Drolinger and the leaders of Grace Community Church just don’t get it (besides not even knowing how to read Hebrew and spouting nonsense as a result). Abraham Lincoln told people to ask themselves a simple question: would you care to be a slave? If the answer is no, then clearly slavery is obviously evil. I would suggest that those men who believe women should be excluded from positions of authority, who must not work outside the home, and so on should ask themselves the same question that those who wondered about the goodness of slavery asked: would you want to be treated the way you think women should be treated? Would you care to have such restrictions imposed on you? Would you like being told what jobs you can and cannot have simply by virtue of your gender? When you think certain people, certain groups, must be restricted, must behave, must do certain things that don’t apply to you—then probably you’re wrong.

“Do to others as you would have them do to you,” said Jesus (Luke 6:31). And likewise, Jesus said that all the laws and regulations of the Bible come down to two things: to love God and love people (see Matthew 22:36-40; Romans 13:8-10; Matthew 7:12; Colossians 3:14). Grace Community Church’s position on the status of women–and those who agree with them–are interpreting certain biblical passages so that they violate the rest of the Bible: both the Golden Rule and the primary commandment to love others. Here’s a clue: when your interpretation of scripture leads to a violation of “love your neighbor as yourself” and “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” then you have misinterpreted the text. Go back and try again.

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About R.P. Nettelhorst

I'm married with three daughters. I live in southern California and I'm a deacon at Quartz Hill Community Church. I spent a couple of summers while I was in college working on a kibbutz in Israel. In 2004, I was a volunteer with the Ansari X-Prize at the winning launches of SpaceShipOne. Member of Society of Biblical Literature, American Academy of Religion, and The Authors Guild
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