This little nugget came across a news feed several days, maybe even weeks ago. It struck me at as a little messed up, but not one of the more damn-able quotes from “The Good Book” that I have seen lately. Yet, something caught my eye about it, so I saved the image in case I wanted to look into it later. Today happens be that “later,” and this quote is quite damn-able.
“Let not yours be the outward adornment with braiding of hair, decoration of gold, and wearing of fine clothing,/ but let it be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable jewel of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious. (1 Peter 3:3-4)1
Now, on the surface, I thought, this actually depicted a reasonable sentiment. In my own words would sound something like, “Don’t spend too much time on vanity, rather let your inner beauty show. This way you will have a greater inner peace.” Or something along those lines. The fact that I feel a sentiment that The Bible represents, well, is a pretty interesting difference from many of my other reported experiences.
But, alas, this is not to remain the truth concerning this quote because, one once reads around it and compares it to some modern psychological findings, the healthy nature falls almost completely apart.
First, and as usual, the text is taken out of context with the greater work, but we don’t even have to search that far to start seeing some damning qualities about the local text. Let’s read 1 Peter 3:2.
“Likewise you wives, be submissive to your husbands, so that some, though they do no obey the word, may be won with out a word by the behavior of their wives,/ when they see your reverent and chaste behavior.”
Dear reader, one does not need much to start becoming aware of some silliness in this passage. If I read this correctly, it would seem that Peter is suggesting that if your husband isn’t a follower of God that you are allowed to manipulate him by being a submissive wife. That sounds completely normal. And terrifying.
Of course, we understand that cultures which haven’t allowed their women some basic rights to freedom about education and strong legal standing concerning marriage rights suffer.2 So the need to even the playing field is a noble and worthy quest, but how much damage can something like this do to our ability to see women as equals, to give them equal opportunities as professionals, and an equal value at home? The evidence seems to point towards massive amounts of damage. It will be done as these types of lines from The Bible are constantly plugged into our culture.
Those citizens who wish to be equal rights proponents hope that we don’t carry racial or sexual bias with us into everyday interactions. We recognize that acting on any bias is morally reprehensible, and even though there are stereotypes that get trumped up, the idea that anyone would fit a stereo type exactly doesn’t represent very well with reality. Despite our best efforts though, the evidence collected with an Implicit Association Test (IAT) would prove all to be bigots.3 These tests show that we make associations even when we know that they are untrue. What kind of association do you believe that verse two from above implants within you? If that isn’t quite enough evidence, let us dig a little further.
“Likewise you husbands, live considerately with you wives, bestowing honor on the woman as the weaker sex, since you are joint heirs of the grace of life, in order that your prayers may not be hindered.” (1 Peter 3:7)
If we look at the data collected from IATs by someone who is of mixed race himself, what kind of results were found? Totally and completely biased. He recalls his horror at discovering that he, like nearly everyone who has ever taken the test from the United States showed an overwhelming bias to negative traits associated with African Americans. He writes in his book on page eighty-eight, Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking4 that after the truth had been revealed to him he imagines it is evident that it is “because when it comes to even the most important positions, our selection decisions are a good deal less rational than we think.”
Another look to verse seven makes me a little queasy as it also includes the observation pointing to disobedience will hinder prayer effectiveness, or perhaps prayer ability. What does this suggest? That the all forgiving God will have second thoughts as to who’s prayers are going to be answered based on an obedience score card seems to be the thesis suggested. Rewarding oppressive behaviors has no valid data for being healthy or useful in the modern era, and likely leads to pathologies we are still trying to understand. There is no argument that this passage could mean anything else than: this book is suggesting that women may manipulate their oppressive husbands by being even more oppressed. It is it intrinsic to the entire system of middle eastern religious faith. Islam in Arabic means submission. The book doesn’t discourage the behavior in any way during this passage. In fact, it uses, yes even in the new testament, some of the legendary characters from The Pentateuch.
“So once the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves and were submissive to their husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord.” (1 Peter 3:5)
The battle against cultural mentality conditioning by certain religious texts is something I hope to pursue for the entirety of my life. Something Malcolm Gladwell says in his section on IAT about how we can correct these types of pathological behaviors stuck with me after my initial reading. He says “it requires more than a simple commitment to equality. It requires that you change your life so that you are exposed to minorities on a regular basis.” I will use the same philosophy for the “Quotes Exposed” series. The more I expose the biblical texts for what they are, then the more familiar we all become with the harm that can come with them.
1. May, Herbert G., and Bruce Manning. Metzger. The New Oxford Annotated Bible with Apocrypha: An Ecumenical Study Bible. New York: O.U.P., 1977. Print.
4. Gladwell, Malcolm. Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking. New York: Little, Brown, 2005. Print.