Patriarchy and the Jezebel Narrative

Narrative is the story through which we view reality.  We all have narratives that help us interpret our lives.  The Bible also is a narrative that helps us interpret reality.  There is a narrative that has floated around Charismatic and Pentecostal circles whenever anxiety surfaces around women co-leading with their husbands in marriage and having leadership roles in the Church and political world.  The Jezebel Spirit teaching comes from a false narrative drawn from 1Kings 16-21. 

Who was Jezebel in the Bible? 

Jezebel was the wife of Ahab who descended from a number of wicked kings who had each become progressively more evil in their ways.  Ahab was the son of Omri who was the son of Zimri who was the son of Elan who was the son of Bassash.  Each of these kings were idolaters, men of violence who did not keep the Torah, in fact this was said of each king:

“Baasha had done what was evil in the Lord’s sight.” 1Kings 16:7

Of Zimri, “ for he, too, had done what was evil in the Lord’s sight.” 1Kings 16:19

 “Omri did what was evil in the Lord’s sight, even more than any of the kings before him.” 1kings 16:25

“Ahab son of Omri did what was evil in the Lord’s sight, even more than any of the kings before him.  1Kings 16:30

Ahab had come from a family of wicked kings who had long practiced idolatry with each subsequent generation becoming more and more evil in the site of the Lord.  The intent of the author was to show that Omri was more evil than the kings before him and Ahab even more evil that Omri and all the others before him.

Jezebel also practiced and promoted idolatry in the land of Israel after her marriage to Ahab.  Together they authorized and promoted the worship of Baal and Asherah supplanting the worship of the one true God with the worship of false gods.  This worship included temple sexual activities and sacrifices, some of them human.  Jezebel and Ahab were evil and led Israel astray.  They even murdered the prophets of God.

The false narrative commonly understood about Jezebel and Ahab is that Ahab was seduced and led astray by Jezebel who was the dominant member of the marriage.  She supposedly usurped Ahab’s role. But we see from the Biblical narrative in 1Kings 16 that Ahab was already an idol worshipper who descended from a long line of evil kings and idolaters.  It is clear that both Jezebel and Ahab were evil rulers steeped in idol worship.  They were collaborators and manipulators each one devious in their own way. And both were destroyed equally in the end as was prophesied in the beginning of chapter 16.

Jezebel and the Patriarchal Narrative

 So how did Jezebel get singled out as the leader and seducer of Ahab and how did Ahab become known as the passive “henpecked” husband who followed his wife’s evil demands? 

Patriarchy.

Readers read with a patriarchal lens that recast the story as the story of a dominant wife ruling over a passive husband.  And Jezebel became the stock image for any woman who might be a leader or have leadership qualities.  More, any woman perceived (emphasis on perceived) as not being submissive enough to male authority is labeled as one having a Jezebel spirit.  The sin of Ahab is that he did not exercise his proper authority over his wife. Jezebel’s great sin was emasculating her husband by not being submissive enough to his leadership.  This narrative is used to show the dangers that occur when men and women do not abide by the “biblical” definitions of manhood and womanhood. 

The entire story of Jezebel and Ahab is reinterpreted from being a narrative about idolatry to being a narrative about the relationship between husbands and wives and whether or not women should be given equal authority in the church and world.   Added is a fear of feminism with the assumption that all feminists are as evil as Jezebel and infected with her spirit.

Jezebel is a reverse exemplar that no good Christian woman should emulate. 

The use of the Jezebel label is often used to keep women under the authority of husbands and silent in the churches.  It is sad and curious that the most evil female character in the entire Bible is superimposed on the marriage relationship and a woman with leadership gifts. It is even used to label women who speak truth to power about the disenfranchisement of women in our country.    

The “sin” of not being submissive, of speaking truth to power and the sin of leading is equated with the most evil woman in the entire Bible.  Let that sink in. 

I have been an advocate for women in ministry and equality in marriage for many years.  Sometimes because of my vocal advocacy it has been assumed that I have a Jezebel spirit. And inaccurate assumptions have also been made about my husband that go against the reality of our marriage.  We believe in mutuality.  We submit to one another doing the hard work of relationship.  My spouse and I seek to validate and support one another’s ministries.  We share household responsibilities because we both give our time to the community and the church.  We are both strong leaders.  Each of us has strong opinions and distinct personalities.   Neither of us fears the strength of the other but values the gifts we each have. We live by the Catherine and William Booth quote, “why would God use half his army?” Our time and energy is for the maximum benefit of the Kingdom of God.

I have seen godly women spiritually abused by prayer counselors who have tagged women being abused by husbands as having a Jezebel spirit.  (especially when they speak up about that abuse). In addition many strong, godly women leaders, some of them with Prophetic and Apostolic anointings have also been labeled as Jezebels.  This characterization of women has to stop in the body of Christ.  Talented, godly and Spirit-filled women are tired of enduring this label when they only want to serve God.  Enduring the label is sort of a “rite of passage” to which only women leaders must suffer. It is shaming and humiliating and abusive.

Jezebel is often described as being controlling, seductive, self-centered, side-stepping responsibility, blaming of others and having no empathy. Her behavior has much more in common with the pathological condition of narcissism. Funny thing how the Jezebel Spirit as it is described sounds more like what we observe in President Trump, which of course many Christians simply overlook. But that is another blog post for another day.

Luther’s Failure and the Success of Pentecostalism 

German reformer Martin Luther is often heralded as the founder of Protestantism and one of the most influential Christians ever. Historian Bernd Moeller has even described him as the most influential European who ever lived, with millions of followers and a massive readership, his reformation project has had an overwhelming success – even though it ultimately failed to reform the Roman-Catholic church.[1]

However, this notion has recently been challenged by other historians. Hartmut Lehmann writes in his contribution to Radicalism and Dissent in the World of Protestant Reform, an anthology on the so-called radical reformation:

True, Protestantism has become a major world religion, with congregations on all continents. In the course of the twentieth century, however, not all branches of the Protestant family grew at the same rate. In Europe and North America, Lutheran churches, that is the churches directly descending from the German reformer, stagnated. Some are in decline, like many other mainstream churches. In contrast, the various branches of Baptist churches blossomed and attracted many new members, and so did numerous Pentecostal churches.

In Africa and some parts of Asia, in particular, congregations that can best be described as charismatic, fundamentalist, or evangelical (I am aware that all of these terms are disputed), are strong and vibrant. While Europe’s traditional Protestant churches are afflicted by progressive secularization, the much younger Protestant churches in the southern hemisphere experience vitality, and their leaders speak of unheard blessings.

In looking at what the British-American historian Philip Jenkins, in his book The Next Christendom, has called ‘The Coming of Global Christianity’, one may ask what has become of Luther’s heritage and what of his theological legacy. Luther never accepted the baptism of adults and was among the fiercest opponents of the early Baptist movement. Furthermore, Luther strongly rejected any kind of charismatic or emotional religious performance. For him, those who believed that they should follow sensational inspirations, were nothing but enthusiasts who could not be trusted.

However, not in the early years of the Protestant Reformation, but over the centuries, these unreliable enthusiasts have succeeded in unforeseen ways. By the twentieth century, ‘Martin Luther’s unruly offspring’ could proudly claim ‘mass’ success, or ‘Massenerfolg’, to use Bernd Möller’s phrase.[2]

Continue reading Luther’s Failure and the Success of Pentecostalism 

10 Things Christian Women are Tired of Hearing

I still remember my first experience of being told I couldn’t do something I wanted to do.  I was only four years old and my Sunday School teacher asked us to go around the room and share what we wanted to be when we grew up.  Without any hesitation I blurted out “I want to be a pastor.”  My teacher, who was warm and friendly, stooped down, put her arm around my shoulders and said “honey, women can’t be pastors.”  I remember being utterly confused.  I had always enjoyed lining my teddy bears up after church on the steps of my house, singing Bible songs, and pretending to preach sermons.  This is something I liked doing and that my parents always encouraged in their own ways.  Obviously, four was too young to understand the theological implications of such a bold statement – there was no possible way I could have known at the time that this has been a grey area debated over the centuries with Bible believing Christians on both sides of the fence.  All I knew was that I was being told I couldn’t do something that in my very core I felt I wanted to do, that I was called to do, that I was meant to do.

Since then, I have occasionally faced discouragement as a woman in other areas and I know that I am not alone.  Thus, when I was asked to write this blog for PCPJ, I opened up my Facebook by posting an open question: “To all my Christian Women friends, what are you tired of hearing?”  The results poured in and surprisingly (or perhaps not surprisingly) nearly everyone said the same things but in different ways.  I also took this offline by asking Christian and non-Christian women alike what they were tired of hearing, and I discovered that these very same issues often permeate into the lives of even those who are not religious.  That is to say, culture and tradition, often overshadow the truth and sometimes churches lose sight of what is Biblical and historically accurate in favour of what has simply been passed down to them or what they have been taught without further investigation.

Although this list is not exhaustive, here are some of the most common themes that women addressed when asked this question: Continue reading 10 Things Christian Women are Tired of Hearing

Hillsong Shouldn’t Put Their Trust in Powerful Men

by Jacob Schönning.

This summer it was reported that the Australian liberal prime minister Scott Morrison was welcomend on  stage at a gigantic Hillsong meeting during their annual conference in Sydney.  He led the congregation of 30-35000 people in prayer and confessed his faith in a miracle working God. Andreas Nielsen, lead pastor of Hillsong Sweden, affirmed that the prime minister ”is a devout Christian”. He also said that that ”his participation in the conference is a recognition of the important role that the church in general plays in Australia and that it makes a difference.”

Fantastic, isn’t it?

Bildresultat för morrison hillsong

I am not so sure about that. On the contrary, I think that it is very dangerous for the soul of the Church in Australia. Last winter Magnus Malm wrote in Swedish Christian newspaper Dagen that God is not on the side of the powerful. In fact God says in Psalms 146,3: ”Never put your trust in powerful men.”  For centuries, Catholic and Orthodox churches have often been close to political power. That was the case when Spanish and Portuguese conquerors went ashore in South America, and it is the same today in countries like Russia and Poland. Continue reading Hillsong Shouldn’t Put Their Trust in Powerful Men

Four Reasons Why Pentecostals Should Join #FridaysForFuture

I don’t know if you noticed, but last Friday the biggest climate protest in history occurred, with millions of people in 185 countries marching for climate action and global justice. This is all part of the #FridaysForFuture movement which started not more than a year ago when Swedish student Greta Thunberg went on a “school strike” every Friday to tell her politicians that they don’t do enough to stop climate change.

And that was just a warm-up. This Friday, September 27th, there will be an even bigger global strike.

Spirit-filled Christians might wonder if this is something for them. Should they care? Is FFF really in line with God’s will, or could it be the opposite – a preparation for the Antichrist?!

I assure you that there’s no need to worry, and I deeply recommend that you as a Pentecostal or Charismatic do join the FFF efforts of protesting against climate inaction. Here’s why: Continue reading Four Reasons Why Pentecostals Should Join #FridaysForFuture

The Problem With Prosperity

The prosperity gospel, or “health and wealth” preaching, originated about 70 years ago in the United States. At various tent meetings connected to Voice of Healing and similar ministries, preachers like Oral Roberts and A. A. Allen started to teach things like financial sowing and reaping, the prosperous power of faith and that God wants us to be rich.

Their theology was influenced by Baptist theologian E. W. Kenyon, who in turn was highly influenced with ideas from New Thought. This American movement is quite similar to New Age and emphasizes, among other things, the power of the mind to influence physical reality by, for example, naming and claiming health and wealth before it actually has materialized.

Sounds familiar?

Of course, a believer in the prosperity gospel will probably reject the brief historical review above and claim that they believe in these things because it is what the Bible teaches. And so, we must deal with the Biblical material. In this article, I will go through two passages that challenge prosperity teaching, and two that’s being used in its defense. Continue reading The Problem With Prosperity

Does the Old Testament Justify “Just War”?

by Greg Boyd, originally posted in 2015 at his website ReKnew.

For more of Boyd’s thoughts on Old Testament violence, check out his book Cross Vision of The Crucifixion of the Warrior God.

Since the time of Augustine, Christians have consistently appealed to the violent strand of the Old Testament to justify waging wars when they believed their cause was “just.” (This is Augustine’s famous “just war” theory.)

Two things may be said about this.

First, the appeal to the OT to justify Christians fighting in “just” wars (if there are such things) is illegitimate for the simple reason that the OT knows nothing of a “just war” policy. The wars that Yahweh had the Israelites engage in were not fought on the basis of justice. They were fought simply because the Israelites perceived that Yahweh told the Israelites to fight them. They were holy wars, not just wars. Continue reading Does the Old Testament Justify “Just War”?

Pentecostals & Charismatics for Peace & Justice