Category Archives: Spirituality

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 

Shifting Our Focus from Rules to Mission

1On a Sabbath Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues, 11 and a woman was there who had been crippled by a spirit for eighteen years.  She was bent over and could not straighten up at all. 12 When Jesus saw her, he called her forward and said to her, “Woman, you are set free from your infirmity.” 13 Then he put his hands on her, and immediately she straightened up and praised God.

14 Indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, the synagogue leader said to the people, “There are six days for work. So come and be healed on those days, not on the Sabbath.”

15 The Lord answered him, “You hypocrites! Doesn’t each of you on the Sabbath untie your ox or donkey from the stall and lead it out to give it water? 16 Then should not this woman, a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has kept bound for eighteen long years, be set free on the Sabbath day from what bound her?”

17 When he said this, all his opponents were humiliated, but the people were delighted with all the wonderful things he was doing.  Luke 13:10-17 

Is the main point of this passage about healing?  Is the main point of this passage about our focus and mission as God’s people?  These are two of the many questions I puzzled about as I reflected.  And the answer is yes… This passage is about healing and yes this passage is about the focus and mission of God’s people.

Continue reading Shifting Our Focus from Rules to Mission

How Much Presidential Blasphemy Can We Tolerate?

This sentence from The Guardian has to go down in history as completely unimaginable concerning a U.S. president just a few years ago:

Over an ensuing half-hour rant, Trump trucked in antisemitic tropes, insulted the Danish prime minister, insisted he wasn’t racist, bragged about the performance of his former Apprentice reality show, denied starting a trade war with China, praised Vladimir Putin and told reporters that he, Trump, was the “Chosen One” – all within hours of referring to himself as the “King of Israel” and tweeting in all caps: “WHERE IS THE FEDERAL RESERVE?”

What really concerns me is the “Chosen One” and “King of Israel” part. The Guardian even leaves out something even more disturbing, namely that Trump welcomed the comparison between him and the second coming of God:

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A lot has already been written on Trump’s apparent pathological narcissism, and the tweets above provide additional evidence that his view of himself is severely disturbed. Any sane person, regardless of their own religious beliefs, would reject any comparison between themselves and the Creator of the universe. Continue reading How Much Presidential Blasphemy Can We Tolerate?

The Cosmic Scope of Spiritual Warfare

by Greg Boyd, originally posted at his website ReKnew.

We live in the midst of spiritual warfare. This is the reality of being a part of creation where Satan prowls like a roaring lion (1 Pet 5:8-9). The Scriptures make it clear that all of creation is in need of redemption. While most Christians assume that the cross was only about saving humans, the scope of Christ’s saving work was far vaster than that. It is cosmic in nature.

Paul teaches that in Christ, God was at work to “reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross” (Col. 1:19-20, emphasis added). Similarly, Paul says the whole creation has from time immemorial been groaning to be “liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God” (Rom. 8:21).

One can only reconcile two parties if these parties are currently hostile to each other, and one can only liberate something if it’s currently oppressed. These passages are thus teaching us that everything in creation is, at least to some degree, currently out of sync with the Creator and oppressed by hostile powers. Christ died not only to reconcile and liberate humans, but also the whole of creation. Someday we will see his victory fully manifested. At the present time, however, the world remains under the curse and is not reflective of the Creator’s good designs. Continue reading The Cosmic Scope of Spiritual Warfare

Great Podcast Episodes to Increase Your Worship and Compassion

In the 1990’s, the Vineyard movement was given the prophetic name “Worship and Compassion”, which accurately portrays the double-edged sword of the movement as it tries to find the radical middle between evangelicalism and Pentecostalism. Other Pentecostals and Charismatics can learn a lot from how Vineyarders integrate peace and justice in their charismatic life.

Our friends at Vineyard Justice Network recently promoted The Ferment Podcast in which Vineyarders as well as other Christians are asked about their thoughts on worship and transformation. I would like to highlight a few episodes of special interest to PCPJ members:

Tina Colón Williams, on being both a worship pastor and an immigration attorney.

Sam Yoder, on journeying from being old-order Amish to a worship song writer.

Carol Wimber-Wong, on the origin of the Vineyard movement and its roots in evangelical Quakerism.

See our other podcast tips here.

Micael Grenholm is editor-in-chief for PCPJ.

ska%cc%88rmavbild-2017-01-06-kl-21-17-02Pentecostals & Charismatics for Peace & Justice is a multicultural, gender inclusive, and ecumenical organization that promotes peace, justice, and reconciliation work among Pentecostal and Charismatic Christians around the world. If you like what we do, please become a member!

The Call to All Christians, Male and Female

Sixty women leaders from 18 nations gathered in Amsterdam in June to celebrate the gifting, service and leadership of women in the Church across the globe. They mourned the injustices women suffer and called on Christians to take steps to honour women’s leadership in family, church and community.

In the first few days of June 2019, I was privileged to be among a group of Christian women leaders from all across the world met together in Amsterdam over three days to develop a ground breaking document known as The Call which addresses the injustices faced by women across the globe, and calls on Christian organisations everywhere to address the issues raised. Hosted by the World Evangelical Alliance and the Lausanne Movement, this empowering forum, known as Rise in Strength, was in many ways made even more salient by the posture of humility exhibited by the delegates as each celebrated the callings and skillsets of the others without the posturing and jostling for position which is often found in meetings where groups of leaders come together. Together those women

The Call is an incitement to the Church to embrace the purposes of the God who created mankind as equals, male and female, in His image. History will show that those three days were ones in which the Church took a giant leap forward in the battle against misogyny and gender bias as it operates across the spectrum of churches and denominations. 

As The Call is sent far and wide to denominations, networks, churches, theological colleges, charity organizations, blogs, vlogs and any other interested parties across the world, there is an expectation that it will increase the clarity through which the Church may view issues faced by women and girls in the world and in the Church. Such clarity, supported as it is by scripture and by the clear anointing of Holy Spirit on the lives of women leaders and scholars, will result in an increase of willingness for Church organizations and individuals to look again at matters concerning the other half of the Imago Dei. 

Here is the complete transcript of the document developed by the women at Rise in Strength. Please feel free to use it for your own context, and send it far and wide so that others may have the opportunity to take part in The Call to the Church for restoration of women to their rightful place among God’s people.

PLEASE SPREAD FAR AND WIDE

THE CALL TO ALL CHRISTIANS
We, sixty international women leaders[1], met at the Rise in Strength consultation in Amsterdam, June 2019, to celebrate the contribution of Christian women to the work of God in the world.
We gathered from diverse backgrounds, recognising the changing context in which we find ourselves.
We were united in our conviction that gender inequality continues to be a barrier that diminishes the effective witness of the Church to the transforming power of the Gospel.
We affirm that Jesus came that we may all have life and have it in all its fullness[2]. This Gospel transforms lives; the Bible affirms that Jesus called, accepted, healed and restored women. We commit to sharing and demonstrating this Good News; women and men[3] continue to be compelled by God’s grace and the empowerment of the Holy Spirit[4].
We affirm the theological approach of the Lausanne Movement’s Cape Town Commitment as a foundation for our Call to all Christians: “That all of us, men and women, married and single are responsible to employ God’s gifts for the benefit of others as stewards of God’s grace and for the praise and glory of Christ. [We] are also responsible to enable all God’s people to exercise all the gifts that God has given for all the areas of service to which God calls the Church.” [5]
We are compelled, building on this Biblical foundation, to broaden our awareness, increase our attentiveness, and commit to specific actions to restore God’s intention for all people.
AWARENESS
We recognise that our communities and leadership structures have not always been encouraging, freeing or even safe for women and girls, who are each valued and loved by God.
We acknowledge that the pathways for women to serve as leaders in the global Church are limited, and this has prevented many from contributing to the Church in this way.
We acknowledge that the Church has deeply hurt many women and girls, and not heard or acknowledged their pain.
We acknowledge that violence, in all its forms, towards women is perpetrated not only outside the Church, but also inside.
ATTENTIVENESS
We recognize that the global Church has too often ignored the voices of women in its communities.
We commit to being attentive to these voices, including experiences, perspectives, joys and suffering.
We commit to being attentive to women and girls among the most vulnerable populations and regions of the world, especially those living in extreme poverty, or with disability, those endangered by human trafficking, persecuted for their faith, denied education and legal rights – and so at greatest risk of gender-based violence and discrimination.
We commit to discerning the spiritual gifts of all women and girls, so as to draw upon resources God has given for the full health and strength of the whole Church, wherever it manifests across every sector of our society.
ACTION
We must all act to:
Engage in a positive dialogue, mourning and repenting of mistakes and the pain we have caused, and seeking reconciliation; believing this is a first step to making our communities more empowered in Christ and safer places for women, girls, men and boys.
Celebrate the strength, courage, gifts and work of women in churches around the globe.
Work in unity to address the issues which concern us regarding the most vulnerable populations, especially those in extreme poverty and facing persecution for their faith.
Consecrate our gifts and opportunities to further strengthen, grow and mature our local churches and the global Church, in imitation of Christ’s example of Servant leadership.
Commit to collaboration between women and men.[6]
Equip women and girls to take up leadership positions in the Church and wider society, including training and development, making the most of innovative resources .
We call on men and women of the global Church to act so that women, men, girls and boys can all embrace their spiritual giftings to strengthen the work of the Church, and Her witness to the glory of God.

[1] 64 women from 18 nations participated in the consultation
[2] (John 10.10b)
[3] (Gen 1.26-8, 2.23)
[4] (Acts 1.8)
[5] https://www.lausanne.org/content/ctc/ctcommitment#capetown, p.6
[6] Eph 5.21, John 17.21-3