Keep Silent in the Church?

"As in all the congregations of the Lord’s people, women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the law says. If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church."
                                                       St. Paul the Apostle, 1st Corinthians 14:33-35 

The Apostle Paul is infamously quoted as saying, “Let the women keep silent in the church.” He is also famous for writing, “A woman must quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness. I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet.” One can imagine how misogynist men have used these words to justify their sexism and discrimination.

And what does this mean for women musicians in churches? Lord knows we couldn’t enjoy a performance of Handle’s Messiah without sopranos if Paul were taken literally. And who would attend at church named for St. Paul? Frankly, I am offended to have to set foot in a building named after such a misogynist prick. But when that church contains a gorgeous nine-foot concert grand piano, duty calls. Then I enter the church in open defiance of such ignorant, fearful ideas.

Image of the Goddess Diana

Granted, when St. Paul was spewing his hateful rhetoric, there were strong matriarchal cultures and enormous goddess temples. Paul actually got himself arrested and imprisoned at Ephesus, the home of the great goddess temple of Turkey (Asia Minor, at the time), for insulting worshippers. Imagine a time when all prayed to Her for health, prosperity, and guidance. Many have called the onset of the Judeo-Christian religion an actual rebellion against goddess culture, a doctrine which justified military invasion and conquest. The figure of Mary was the one carryover from the goddess culture, a female praised for her motherhood and her mediation with “God the Father.”

Image of the Goddess Isis

I’m so tired of ancient translated texts being used to justify the subjugation of women. I’m sick of men abusing their power over women and sexually harassing us. A soprano and I may be performing “Vissi d’arte” from Puccini’s Tosca in a church named for St. Paul. When Tosca sings the words “Perchè, perchè, Signore?” she is asking God why she is being treated this way, i.e., forced to have sex with the chief of police in order to secure the release of her beloved. But the real question is: “Why, why Lord, do men think they can treat us this way?”



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