Friday, August 6, 2010

335: Women Must Cover Their Heads

1 Corinthians 9-11
"If a woman does not cover her head, she should have her hair cut off; and if it is a disgrace for a woman to have her hair cut or shaved off, she should cover her head. A man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of man." - 1 Corinthians 11:6-7

Paul starts chapter 9 by again asserting that he is an Apostle (i.e. one of the twelve), and saying that he's seen Jesus. Both of these claims are only backed up by his own eyewitness account. I've said this before and I'll say it again, by Paul's definition of apostleship, anyone could claim they've seen Jesus, write a few letters, and then expect to be taken seriously by everyone for the next 2000 years.

Paul goes on to say that those who spread the gospel should expect material reward for their efforts. He says in the same way that those who spread seed expect to reap profits, that those who spread the gospel should expect to reap rewards. This, indeed, seems to be the philosophy that the twelve are currently operating under. Considering they get all the money from the church and decide when/where to distribute it. But does this, in any way, align with the message of Jesus? The Jesus who blatantly told everyone to give away all their money? I think not.

Paul then immediately contradicts himself by saying that he's not taking any of these "expected" rewards, because doing so would be "discharging the trust committed to [him]". So which is it Paul? Is taking material reward for preaching the gospel a violation of trust, or an expected reward for a job well done?

Chapter 9 ends with Paul saying that he acts the way the Jews act, to win the Jews, and he acts the way the weak act, to win the weak, and so on. This surely inspired St. Ambrose's, "When in Rome, do as the Romans do" some 300 years later.

The next chapter starts with Paul telling us that when God killed people in the Old Testament, it was as a warning to us. A warning of what? That he's going to start killing again? Again, Paul is unable to go more than a paragraph without contradicting himself and says, "God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear." God warns us about things that he is going to prevent us from being overly tempted by?

This saying, ("God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear") is pretty similar to "God doesn't give people more than they can handle", which is by far the most infuriating saying in modern Christendom. Why are there hoards of people going to hell (at least from the Christian perspective) every day, if God doesn't tempt us more than we can handle? In fact, from the Christian perspective, the only message some people get their entire life is the message of "temptation" (i.e. Islam, Confucianism, or any other religion that isn't Christianity).

Paul then says that we shouldn't eat food sacrificed to idols. But only if the person giving you the food tells you it's a sacrifice. This is because you're refraining from eating the food for his sake, not your own. I guess eating food after someone says it's been sacrificed to an idol somehow legitimizes the sacrifice?

Chapter 11 is where things really get bad for Paul. I'll let the first few sentences speak for themself:
Now I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God. Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head. And every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head—it is just as though her head were shaved.
First of all, I thought God and Jesus were one being? How can something be the head of itself? Second, and more importantly, this whole paragraph is completely out of touch with modern reality. All woman have to pray with their head covered? The head of all women is men? This is another great example of Christians completely disregarding some teachings in the bible (women have to have their heads covered), while completely embracing others (homosexuality is wrong).

The section just goes down hill from there. Paul goes on to say that men shouldn't cover their heads, because they are the glory of God, and women should because they are the glory of men. Paul then says, "For this reason, and because of the angels, the women ought to have a sign of authority on her head". Because of the angels? Does it make angels sad when women aren't subjugated?

Paul then tells us to judge for ourselves if it is right for a woman to have her head uncovered. What happened to objective morality? He seems to assume that we will all come to the same conclusion, though, because he says, "Does not the very nature of things teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a disgrace to him, but that if a woman has long hair, it is her glory?". Yeah, those guys with long hair are disgraceful and generally abhorrent to nature:

Oops, sorry Jesus (yes, I realize Jesus probably didn't have long hair). In any case, this is all completely objective. What is "long hair"? Since we are given no concise definition, I could easily define "long" as going down to your ankles.

The rest of chapter 11 is about not eating meals until everyone arrives. This is because that's not the way they did it at the last supper. Paul also says that if you haven't properly thought about the sacrifice of Jesus before you take the sacrament, you are condemning yourself.

I would hope by now that everyone has heard of the reversal of Prop 8 by a California district judge. I knew it wouldn't take too long for some fundie to try to use the bible/religion as a rational basis for the rejection of gay marriage. Well, here it is, and from the Washington Post no less:
The decision called California citizens' decision to define marriage as "irrational," which suggests that their decision was absurd and beyond the pale. What's really irrational is the judge's dismissal of marriage between a man and a woman - the basic bedrock of our society - as if it were some kookie idea. What's irrational is his ignoring the will of the people with real life experience of marriage, who have voted down gay marriage not only in California, but throughout the United States whenever legalization of gay marriage has been put to a vote.


What is even more irrational is the judge's dismissal of the U.S. Constitution's First Amendment and Freedom of Religion with these damning words: "Religious beliefs that gay and lesbian relationships are sinful or inferior to heterosexual relationships harm gays and lesbians."
First of all I don't have the slightest clue why this is an issue that should be up for a majority vote. No rights issue, from the abolition of slavery to the allowance of interracial marriage has been (or should have been) up for a majority vote. And if they had been they would have surely been rejected by the majority. Second, how is the judge "rejecting" marriage between a man and a woman? Allowing gay people to marry doesn't "reject" straight marriage any more than allowing women to vote "rejects" the vote of a man. Finally, why is this a violation of freedom of religion? Freedom of religion doesn't mean freedom to push your religion on minorities. Or freedom to impose your religious morality on everyone through state law.

Imagine if it were acceptable to push biblical morality on the government for any other situation. Should we disallow men having long hair because Paul calls it abhorrent to nature? Why is it that no judge would ever be condemned for upholding the right for men to have long hair? Surely this would be the same kind of religious "bigotry" that this judge committed when upholding the right of gay marriage.
The judge's placing religion and government at odds amounts to Constitutional irrationality. It is no small irony that his anti-religious position is enshrined in a ruling deemed to oppose bigotry. The U.S. Constitution guarantees citizens freedom for religion. That precludes government from weighing in on the "acceptability" of religious beliefs.
The government can absolutely weigh in on the "acceptability" of a religious belief when someone makes it into a law and gives it to a federal judge. Again, this argument wouldn't hold water for any other biblical morality. By the way, that's freedom of religion, not freedom for religion. If it was freedom for religion we would have to divide our states based on theological leaning. You can't possibly make a law that would satisfy all religions simultaneously.
Judge Walker devoted three pages of his decision to make his case for the bigotry of religion, an insult to the tens of millions of religious people in the nation. This is not to deny that some people act despicably and portray their bigotry against gays as religious expression. So too do those who spew anti-immigrant, anti-woman, and anti-whatever sentiments. They're an unfortunate result of our human condition that lets the morally weak, even morally decrepit, walk among us. Bigoted people are an unfortunate result but not a reason to upend the U.S. Constitution.
It seems that the writer of this article thinks that federal judges are not even allowed to mention religion in a negative light. I assure you that the U.S. Constitution says nothing about what the attitudes of judges should be. The true upending of the Constitution would be to allow religious organizations to dictate what should be made law.


  1. 1 Cor 9:1-2: "Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord?"

    Here we can see Paul's standard for being an apostle, and apparently it didn't have anything to do with being a member of the Twelve. Actually, it seems that this was the standard for everybody - there's no evidence from Paul's letters that the Twelve had any special qualification from having known Jesus personally. But we can see from verse 2 that not everyone agreed that he was an apostle. I suppose with nothing concrete to go on, it was easy for such disagreements to arise.

    1 Cor 9:5. The NIV translation is bad; here is Young's Literal Translation: "have we not authority a sister -- a wife -- to lead about, as also the other apostles, and the brethren of the Lord, and Cephas?"

    Paul here refers to brothers and sisters, as he does everywhere else, to mean Xian believers (Luke in Acts not only uses the word brothers extensively in this way, he even has the Jews use it too). Paul probably wasn't talking about people who were literally Jesus brothers. As usual Cephas may or may not have been the same person as Peter. I'll discuss these issues fuller when we read Galatians.

    1 Cor 9:15. Doesn't Paul know that boasting is a sin whose punishment is death (cf. Rom 1:29-32)?

    1 Cor 9:20: "To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law)." Doesn't this undercut his whole argument that one should remain in the state that one was before becoming a Xian, so that if one was a Jew before, one should continue to practice Judaism, and if one was a Gentile, one should not start?

    1 Cor 9:21. Why does Paul write as if God's law and Christ's law are different? What is Christ's law, anyway?

    1 Cor 9:24. Is Paul implying here that there is a competition to get into Heaven? "Many are called but only few are chosen?" Just believing in Christ is not good enough?

    1 Cor 10:1. "Our forefathers"? Has Paul forgotten that he's writing to Gentiles here, not Jews?

    1 Cor 10:4. Now Christ is a rock that people drink from.

    1 Cor 10:18-22. Paul goes from saying that idols are nothing to saying that in fact they represent demons. So which is it? Do pagans worship nothing, or do their gods exist, but are really demons?

    1 Cor 10:27-30. Paul seems to waffle back and forth in this passage.

  2. 1 Cor 11:23: "For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread."

    This is another very telling sentence. The first part is strange: Paul is claiming that he heard about what was said at the last supper from the Lord! Keep in mind, Paul never met Jesus - any information that Paul received directly from him came via revelations. So Paul is claiming to know what was said at a meal that other Xians he knew participated in, based on a vision! Wouldn't someone else have called him on it? Can't you picture someone saying, "Paul, what are talking you about when you say Christ told you? Peter was there - he told all of us, don't you remember?"

    The second problem with this sentence involves the translation. The word here that is translated "betrayed" is actually the exact same one that I've been pointing out elsewhere as meaning "delivered up." For example, God "delivered up" his only son (Rom 8:32). If this verb is translated as "betrayed" (which it can sometimes be), that would mean Paul was saying that God betrayed him. In one place later we'll even see that Paul says that Jesus "delivered up" himself - did Jesus betray himself? Earlier we saw that the congregation was supposed to "hand over" to Satan the man who was sleeping with his step-mother. Did Paul mean that he was supposed to be betrayed by the congregation? Note that Paul (or any other Xian prior to the Gospels) never gives any indication that Jesus was betrayed by Judas or anyone else.

    Since Paul elsewhere uses the same verb when referring to this event, he must be talking about Jesus' sacrifice. But now we have another problem: Paul says that it occurred at night.

  3. The strategy of the Prop 8 proponents seems to be to just appeal to the Supreme Court and hope that the conservative/Catholic majority will just rule based on religious beliefs and bigotry. Certainly they haven't attempted to mount any real legal defense.

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