Twenty Vile Quotes Against Women By Church Leaders from St. Augustine to Pat Robertson

martin_luther_by_lucas_cranach_der_altereWhat with diatribes about entertainers who invite rape and moms who are destroying America by supporting their families . . . with ignorant arguments about fetuses that masturbate, and females who might as well if they use contraception, and fetal personhood that trumps the personhood of females . . . . it’s tempting to think that Christian conservatives, have reached some new pinnacle of hating women and sexuality. But the sad reality is that even the media’s most unabashed misogynists like Michelle Bachman, Michael Burgess, Lou Dobbs or Juan Williams are actually tame compared to their ideological ancestors, which include some of the biggest names in Christian history.

In past centuries, men who were hailed as Church Fathers, Patriarchs, Doctors, and even Saints boldly expressed their view that females are inferior and loathsome; and they explained at length why God shared their perspective. Lest we fall into the conservative trap of thinking that the past was somehow better than the nasty messes we face today, it’s worth pondering some of the lovely tidbits that the Church has thought fit to preserve and promote in the centuries since Christianity was founded. Here are some of the most savory. They come from three waves of religious leaders: “Fathers” of the Catholic Church, Protestant Reformers, and American patriarchs who inherited the mantle of both.

Church Doctors and Fathers

  • Woman is a temple built over a sewer.Tertullian, “the father of Latin Christianity” (c160-225)
  • [Women's] very consciousness of their own nature must evoke feelings of shame.–Saint Clement of Alexandria, Christian theologian (c150-215) Pedagogues II, 33, 2
  • Nor are the women to smear their faces with the ensnaring devices of wily cunning. . . The Instructor [Christ] orders them to go forth “in becoming apparel, and adorn themselves with shamefacedness and sobriety, subject to their own husbands.”  –Saint Clement of Alexandria, Christian theologian (c150-215), The Instructor
  • In pain shall you bring forth children, woman, and you shall turn to your husband and he shall rule over you. And do you not know that you are Eve? God’s sentence hangs still over all your sex and His punishment weighs down upon you. You are the devil’s gateway; you are she who first violated the forbidden tree and broke the law of God. It was you who coaxed your way around him whom the devil had not the force to attack. With what ease you shattered that image of God: Man! Because of the death you merited, even the Son of God had to die… Woman, you are the gate to hell. Tertullian, “the father of Latin Christianity” (c160-225)
  • For it is improper for a woman to speak in an assembly, no matter what she says,
    even if she says admirable things, or even saintly things, that is of little
    consequence, since they come from the mouth of a woman. Origen (d. 258), Fragments on First Corinthians, 74
  • Woman does not possess the image of God in herself but only when taken together
    with the male who is her head, so that the whole substance is one image. But
    when she is assigned the role as helpmate, a function that pertains to her
    alone, then she is not the image of God. But as far as the man is concerned, he
    is by himself alone the image of God just as fully and completely as when he and
    the woman are joined together into one. –Saint Augustine, Bishop of Hippo Regius (354-430)
  • What is the difference whether it is in a wife or a mother, it is still Eve the temptress that we must beware of in any woman… I fail to see what use woman can be to man, if one excludes the function of bearing children. –Saint Augustine, Bishop of Hippo Regius (354 – 430)
  • Woman is a misbegotten man and has a faulty and defective nature in comparison to his. Therefore she is unsure in herself. What she cannot get, she seeks to obtain through lying and diabolical deceptions. And so, to put it briefly, one must be on one’s guard with every woman, as if she were a poisonous snake and the horned devil. … Thus in evil and perverse doings woman is cleverer, that is, slyer, than man. Her feelings drive woman toward every evil, just as reason impels man toward all good. –Saint Albertus Magnus, Dominican theologian, 13th century
  • As regards the individual nature, woman is defective and misbegotten, for the active force in the male seed tends to the production of a perfect likeness in the masculine sex; while the production of woman comes from a defect in the active force or from some material indisposition, or even from some external influence. –Thomas Aquinas, Doctor of the Church, 13th century, Summa Theologica

Protestant Reformers

  • The word and works of God is quite clear, that women were made either to be wives or prostitutes. –Martin Luther, Reformer (1483-1546), Works 12.94
  • No gown worse becomes a woman than the desire to be wise. –Martin Luther, Reformer (1483-1546)
  • Men have broad and large chests, and small narrow hips, and more understanding than women, who have but small and narrow breasts, and broad hips, to the end they should remain at home, sit still, keep house, and bear and bring up children. –Martin Luther, Reformer (1483-1546), Table Talk
  • Thus the woman, who had perversely exceeded her proper bounds, is forced back to her own position. She had, indeed, previously been subject to her husband, but that was a liberal and gentle subjection; now, however, she is cast into servitude.John Calvin, Reformer (1509-1564), Commentary on Genesis, p. 172.
  • Do not any longer contend for mastery, for power, money, or praise. Be content to be a private, insignificant person, known and loved by God and me. . . .  of what importance is your character to mankind, if you was buried just now Or if you had never lived, what loss would it be to the cause of God.John Wesley, founder of Methodist movement (1703-1791), letter to his wife, July 15, 1774

American Patriarchs (Puritan, Mormon, Baptist, Evangelical)

  • Even as the church must fear Christ Jesus, so must the wives also fear their husbands. And this inward fear must be shewed by an outward meekness and lowliness in her speeches and carriage to her husband. . . . For if there be not fear and reverence in the inferior, there can be no sound nor constant honor yielded to the superior. –John Dod, A Plaine and Familiar Exposition of the Ten Commandements, Puritan guidebook first published in 1603
  • The second duty of the wife is constant obedience and subjection. –John Dod, A Plaine and Familiar Exposition of the Ten Commandements, Puritan guidebook first published in 1603
  • The root of masculine is stronger, and of feminine weaker. The sun is a governing planet to certain planets, while the moon borrows her light from the sun, and is less or weaker. –Joseph Smith, founder of LDS movement (1805-1844), History of the Church, V, p. 211
  • Women are made to be led, and counseled, and directed. . . . And if I am not a good man, I have no just right in this Church to a wife or wives, or the power to propagate my species. What then should be done with me? Make a eunuch of me, and stop my propagation. –Heber C. Kimball, venerated early LDS apostle (1801-1868), JD 5:29
  • A wife is to submit graciously to the servant leadership of her husband, even as the church willingly submits to the headship of Christ. –Official Faith and Message Statement of Southern Baptist Convention, Summer 1998, (15.7 million members)
  • The feminist agenda is not about equal rights for women. It is about a socialist, anti-family political movement that encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians. — Pat Robertson, Southern Baptist leader (1930-), fundraising letter July 1992
  • The Holiness of God is not evidenced in women when they are brash, brassy, boisterous, brazen, head-strong, strong-willed, loud-mouthed, overly-talkative, having to have the last word, challenging, controlling, manipulative, critical, conceited, arrogant, aggressive, assertive, strident, interruptive, undisciplined, insubordinate, disruptive, dominating, domineering, or clamoring for power. Rather, women accept God’s holy order and character by being humbly and unobtrusively respectful and receptive in functional subordination to God, church leadership, and husbands. –James Fowler, Women in the Church, 1999.
  • Women will be saved by going back to that role that God has chosen for them. Ladies, if the hair on the back of your neck stands up it is because you are fighting your role in the scripture. Mark Driscoll, founder of Mars Hill nondenominational mega-church franchise. (1970-), sermon 2008?

Why has the main current of Christianity produced a steady diet of misogyny for over 2000 years? The answer may lay partly in human biology and culture. But it also lies in the Iron Age texts of the Bible itself. The Judeo-Christian tradition of building up men by tearing down women goes all the way back to the most ancient parts of the biblical collection, to the opening pages of Genesis, and continues unabated through the New Testament. (I’ve written elsewhere about 15 of those Bible verses because they partly explain the conservative assault on women.) As Mr. Driscoll likes to remind his followers, “Every single book in your Bible is written by a man.”

Say no more.

Related:
Fifteen Bible Texts Reveal Why God’s Own Party is at War with Women

The Difference Between a Dying Fetus and a Dying Woman
Was the Risen Jesus Originally Female?
What the Bible Says About Rape and Rape Babies
Captive Virgins, Polygamy, Sex Slaves: What Marriage Would Look Like if We Actually Followed the Bible

Valerie Tarico is a psychologist and writer in Seattle, Washington.  She is the author of Trusting Doubt: A Former Evangelical Looks at Old Beliefs in a New Light and Deas and Other Imaginings, and the founder of www.WisdomCommons.org.  Her articles can be found at Awaypoint.Wordpress.com.

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About Valerie Tarico

Seattle psychologist and writer. Author - Trusting Doubt and Deas and Other Imaginings. Founder - www.WisdomCommons.org.
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20 Responses to Twenty Vile Quotes Against Women By Church Leaders from St. Augustine to Pat Robertson

  1. An excerpt from an article by Steve Taylor, Psychology Today:
    “What sane species would treat half of its members — and the very half which gives birth to the whole species — with such contempt and injustice?

  2. Mark Mathison says:

    Misogynous Men and the Women They Love
    By Mark Mathison 2007
    “Unto the woman [God] said… thy desire [shall be] to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee.” ~Genesis 3:16

    Misogynous man in godly trance
    Gratuitous sex in missionary stance
    Masturbates in her vaginal vault
    Absolves himself, ’twas her fault
    Bound by parchment, loosened by lust
    Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.

    Coming to bed stale stinking and sour
    Impress the world with morning shower.
    “Spread your legs Woman, I need relief.”
    Guilt hidden behind a fig leaf
    Two-legged dildo grunting a tune
    Ending the song two verses too soon

    Aborted dreams draped in desire
    Duped again by his heavenly choir
    Hating to love, but loving to cum
    Fooled again by his silvery tongue
    “The pleasure’s all mine” was his only true line

  3. TruthSurge says:

    Still kind of shocking to read these but then some of them are at least understandable when you know the context of the times and the doctrines. I can see how they might view women as innately flawed with the Eve story basically showing her as the one who was weak enough to be tricked and so they blame Eve for bringing sin into the world and by extension, killing Jesus. But I find it interesting that these guys writing about women having no use apart from pumping out babies obviously were raised by one of these wretched creatures. Did they truly think such things about their own mothers? I have to believe the did!

  4. msharyf says:

    This is really shocking. Didn’t these people have mothers while they grew up?
    Unfortunately this attitude is seen even now here in Asia in our cultures.

  5. mikespeir says:

    Do you know the context of the Wesley quote? It would probably be impossible to make it anything like palatable, but I can imagine a context that would at least soften the blow somewhat.

    • Hey Mike –
      Thanks for asking. I dug into the quote which was truncated in my original source. You are right that in context, though it is still obnoxious, it is more understandable.I have revised and sourced it.

  6. Munroe Scott says:

    Valerie, as an antidote to those 20 vile opinions and in support of your crusade on behalf of women let me quote your American 19th century “great agnostic”, Col. Robert Ingersoll:

    “The crosses of this world are mostly born by wives, by mothers and by daughters. [You] live and suffer and die for others. It is almost enough to make one insane to think of what woman, in the years of savagery and civilization, has suffered. Every true man will sympathize with woman, and will do all in his power to lighten her burdens and increase the sunshine of her life.”

    That is actually an excerpt from a full length play I have just written (not yet produced) featuring the Colonel (“The Orator – the unsolicited resurrection of Col. Ingersoll”). As I am sure you know he had a great deal to say about the need to free both women and men from the shackles of religion.

  7. Ed Suominen says:

    Here’s another little gem from Luther. Why was Eve the target of temptation instead of Adam?

    “Because Satan sees that Adam is the more excellent, he does not dare assail him; for he fears that his attempt may turn out to be useless. And I, too, believe that if he had tempted Adam first, the victory would have been Adam’s. He would have crushed the serpent with his foot and would have said: ‘Shut up! The Lord’s command was different.’ Satan, therefore, directs his attack on Eve as the weaker part and puts her valor to the test, for he sees that she is so dependent on her husband that she thinks she cannot sin” (LECTURES ON GENESIS, Ch. 3, v. 1: Trans. George V. Schick, Concordia Publishing House).

    Surprisingly, though, Luther was actually somewhat ahead of his time when it came to how he treated his own wife Katherine. She was the undisputed master of the home in practical matters, and Luther refused to shoo her away from the dinner table when guests were over discussing lofty matters of theology, to their discomfort. He encouraged her to read his new translation of the Bible for herself, and having women reading Scripture was a further step in his revolutionary push to have it made accessible to the common people. Indeed, he said of his translation that he wanted to use the language understood by, among other things, the woman in the market.

    Another positive note in Luther’s mixed record about social matters is the importance he placed on women’s sexual satisfaction. In an era when divorce was all but impossible due to the statelike power of the Catholic church, he advocated that a woman should be entitled to a divorce if her husband was impotent. Even more shocking is that he thought, lacking a divorce, a woman should be able to go get some on the side and the impotent husband ought to be understanding about it. Amazing stuff, but he was quite an amazing historical figure. I still find him somewhat inspiring, despite being an ex-Lutheran (and ex-Christian), and being all too well aware of his vicious, disgusting views and writings about Jews and dissenters.

  8. james says:

    Religion is cancer

    • Bill Hartley says:

      Comments like these are cancerous to healthy dialogue about significant issues.

      Valerie – I appreciate the post. I’m an Evangelical pastor and teacher, and am challenged by these quotes to assess the history, and reassess contemporary understanding. Though it isn’t fair to line up all the extreme quotes in one place, just as it wouldn’t be fair to line up all my Reformation quotes that make them look like ERA lobbyists.

      Keep posting, and let’s keep thinking! – bh

  9. Pingback: Saturday News Links – July 6, 2013

  10. OldMayfly says:

    I laughed out loud when I first saw this wonderful bumper sticker:

    “EVE WAS FRAMED.”

  11. gilhcan says:

    All this shows how very cultural religious beliefs are, including faith ideas about God and moral ideas about women, sex, and childbearing. Humans of all religious persuasions have always tried to ascribe their claims of faith and morals to the infinite in order to prevent any challenges to those ideas. As science, history, and sociology, especially science, present irrefutable challenges to the ancient mythologies of religious belief, we must always be ready to adjust those religious beliefs with the recognition that they are human and we are not gods. We are not even privy to the “mind of God.” If we were, we would be equal to God, gods ourselves. And that is a quaint contradiction of most religious beliefs.

  12. Teba Talaylay says:

    Jesus considered women to be equals…. his Mother and Mary Magdalene were his constant companions, especially Magdalene, who was at the foot of the cross at his death, and the first to see Him after he came back from the dead… Male clergy have bastardized the role of women in scripture to fit their own power hungry egos for domination and subjugation… get real…

  13. Pingback: No Surprise; Atheist Marriages Last Longer Than Christian Ones | The Age of Blasphemy

  14. Anastasios says:

    The quotes here are almost all from Westerners, and that is telling. Eastern Christianity has always had a much higher view of women. In fact, the Syriac Orthodox have always viewed the Holy Spirit as feminine (and they have Biblical backing for that, too, especially in the OT!).

    In Byzantium women could be ordained as deacons. And don’t forget the Church Mothers–they existed too!–you should try quoting some of them.

    And then, here comes Maximus the Confessor who sounds almost like a feminist, and he lived in the 6th century.

    “There was no end to the servitude and pain and affliction of women. But when the archangel said to the holy Virgin, ‘the Lord is with you,’ all the debts of afflictions were erased . . . . There is no longer the lordship of man over you….The holy mother of Christ was the model and leader of every good activity for men and for women through the grace and support of her glorious king and son . . . . She was a leader and a teacher to the holy apostles.” (emphasis added)

    This continued into later eras, too. Herman of Alaska had a young (and Native Alaskan!) female disciple whom he did not consider to be inferior to him in any way. Eastern Orthodox consider Maximus and Herman to be two of the most beloved saints.

    Orthodox Christians have always considered Tertullian to have been a heretic. Likewise, Clement of Alexandria was somewhat Gnostic-inflected (the Gnostics, because of their ultra-intellectual “mind over matter” attitude, tended to be far more misogynist than orthodox believers). As a result neither of these men is considered a saint, so it’s not fair to tar the entire early church with them. Tertullian was indeed very influential on the Latin church, but then again most Eastern Christians consider Tertullian the poster boy for “where the West went wrong”.

    The problem here isn’t Christianity, it’s Western-ness. There is something genuinely nasty about the Western mind, and it pre-dates the rise Christianity in the West (the pagan Romans’ view of women was FAR worse than any of the quotes here!). It persisted even as the West began to become less Christian; the French Revolutionaries and “Enlightenment” thinkers were also seething misogynists, who looked to Science and Reason to justify their views.

    Of course, we now live in a post-Christian West, which is still largely misogynistic (hip-hop culture is hardly a paragon of Christianity, and yet women are still degraded in rappers’ lyrics). So if you think a post-Christian West will treat women any better, think again.

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