Monday, August 21, 2006

The Bible as a Weapon

I don't have time to offer any insightful commentary on this, and I suspect that none is needed. Anyone who bothers to read my blog probably already understands just how misguided a totally literal approach to the Bible, with no appreciation of context, is. That said, I saw this, from the AP, as I got on my computer to check my email before a meeting this afternoon:

Church Fires Teacher for Being Female

WATERTOWN, N.Y. (Aug. 21) - The minister of a church that dismissed a female Sunday School teacher after adopting what it called a literal interpretation of the Bible says a woman can perform any job - outside of the church.

The First Baptist Church dismissed Mary Lambert on Aug. 9 with a letter explaining that the church had adopted an interpretation that prohibits women from teaching men. She had taught there for 54 years.

The letter quoted the first epistle to Timothy: "I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent."

The Rev. Timothy LaBouf, who also serves on the Watertown City Council, issued a statement saying his stance against women teaching men in Sunday school would not affect his decisions as a city leader in Watertown, where all five members of the council are men but the city manager who runs the city's day-to-day operations is a woman.

"I believe that a woman can perform any job and fulfill any responsibility that she desires to" outside of the church, LaBouf wrote Saturday.

Mayor Jeffrey Graham, however, was bothered by the reasons given Lambert's dismissal.

"If what's said in that letter reflects the councilman's views, those are disturbing remarks in this day and age," Graham said. "Maybe they wouldn't have been disturbing 500 years ago, but they are now."

Lambert has publicly criticized the decision, but the church did not publicly address the matter until Saturday, a day after its board met.

In a statement, the board said other issues were behind Lambert's dismissal, but it did not say what they were.


Update: 9-22-06, 12:07 pm

For the sort of commentary and analysis that I just don't have the energy to provide at the moment (along with a level of Biblical expertise that I'm not likely to ever have) see Ben Witherington's take on this story here.


Brian Cubbage said...

I saw this, too. Disturbing, but not nearly as uncommon as churches whose settled policy has always been to exclude women from all positions of authority. There are many such congregations here in Kentucky. This story is newsworthy, I guess, precisely because it shows a congregation willing to accept the consequences of literalism, regardless of just how nonsensical and callous they might be. In reality, the vast majority of Christian churches would have closed years ago if it weren't for the contributions of women.

Sandalstraps said...

In reality, the vast majority of Christian churches would have closed years ago if it weren't for the contributions of women.

Amen to that! As someone who spends far too much time trying to start up adult education programs in my church, let me just say that often, if women didn't teach Sunday School classes, there would be no Sunday School classes.

Tom said...

Please tell me this was a farce.