Sunday, June 20, 2010


I read Ron Hendel's critique of the Society of Biblical Literature a few days ago. I have not attended SBL but I do follow its meetings with interest. I then read this response. I don't myself think that there should be any place at SBL for faith committments, as long as these include an attitude which subordinates, or denounces women, queers and any other natural class of human beings.

I particularly take exception to the ongoing critique of feminist and queer hermeneutics as being "clubbish." First, I have no doubt that some of it is unattractive. So here I wish to address what I have found to be "clubbish" among evangelicals, and why I would not go anywhere into any physical space where there is a danger of their attitudes about women being given voice.

I am acquainted with a very vocal and well-known SBL theologian of the evangelical leaning. I sat and listened to him lecture 200 young people on how the cause of contemporary divorce is that women will not accept their role. This was his interpretation of Gen. 3:16 and this view is widely held by evangelicals. He is an influential theologian.

I questioned him on this since I was in the process of divorcing because I had suffered ongoing violence, being controlled by being shut in my room, hit and sworn at, combined with having Bible verses used to condemn me to hell.

The theologian in question did have any interest in this situation, but he vociferously questioned my right to remarry. I had no interest in remarrying, I simply wanted to be safe.

I found his lecture, his commentary on Gen. and his response to a woman wanting a divorce for violence to be incrdibliy callous and yes even "clubbish." But he gets rave reviews by evangelicals for being so "reasonable" and open-minded.

Unless one has actually been beaten, as many women and queers have been, for reasons relating to being a woman or a queer, then I suggest that using the term "clubbish" for the hermenuetic of feminists and queeers is not appropriate.

The appeal of Christianity is that Christ actually experieced being beaten, he did not claim a privilege not open to women and queers.

However, Paul did claim a privilege not open to women, slaves, and non-Roman citizens. He asked, as a Roman citizen, not to be beaten.

That women have not had such a legal privilege until recently, that they may experience this for much of their life, that being beaten can be just a normal consequence of being a woman, is still to fresh in my mind.

Perhaps feminists and queers are clubbish, but [some] evangelical Christians are callous to the most outrageous suffering in their midst and should clean out their own stables first. I firmly believe that any space where people are free to express their faith commitments, in such a way as to denigrate even the tiniest bit, women, homosexuals, or those of another religion or race, is not an appropriate place for academic exchange.


Jim said...

i wish you had said 'some' or 'a few' evangelicals are disinterested in the suffering of the victims. i think you'll admit that i tend to take the side of the victim whenever there is violence or ill treatment.

and i certainly don't wish to be lumped together with the idiots who misread the bible for their own machismo agenda.

Suzanne McCarthy said...

RIght you are! And I have edited it.

Anonymous said...

I was married to a minister and suffered all sorts of mistreatment, from name-calling, insults, to violence. When, after 14 years, I filed for divorce, most people blamed me for the divorce. He even turned my three young children against me. For thirty years, he has taught them to shun me and call me names. I have absolutely no respect for the church or ministers. No, it is not a reaction to him and his mistreatment. Even the church members who saw how he treated me would have nothing to do with me. Later, churches preached from the pulpit how women should submit, do anything to keep a marriage intact, that divorced women were going to Hell. Well, this would fill a book, so I will stop here.

Suzanne McCarthy said...

Hi Anonymous,

I am sorry for your experience. I hope that you know others who have gone through the same experience to share with you. My own experience was not so harsh, but I can see that as a preacher's wife, it would be important for some to put all the blame on you. I am sorry.

Anonymous said...

No, I don't know anyone who through the same experience, no one at all. Is there a group of "abused ministers wives?" I am about to lose my home as some of the continuing fallout from his harrassment after the divorce. No one is willing to help me. No one seems to want to help me. One church said, "We are not going to help YOU!" That seemed like a personal rebuff and hurt greatly. Of course, without support from my children and at age 63, the burdens become greater all the time. At this point in time, no one knows the despair I am going through or the depths of my anguish. Please don't suggest I pray.