At the First Baptist Church in Watertown, N.Y., a Sunday school teacher was fired this month.
Her infraction? Simple. She’s a woman.
Mary Lambert has taught at the church for 54 years without issue. But during her tenure, the Baptist Church — along with Evangelical churches of every stripe — has changed, growing radically more fundamentalist. Churches like First Baptist increasingly teach that every word of the Bible is literal truth, never to be interpreted. And so if the apostle Paul — who was a murderer in addition to being a misogynist — decrees in a canonized letter, “I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man,” as he wrote to Timothy, then it must be God’s unimpeachable word. (I’m surely not the first to note, however, that other declarations of the Bible go unheeded while this submission doctrine goes enforced — like the ruling that one be executed for disobeying parents, having sex before marriage or lacking fidelity to Christ.)
And so it goes, for women across America, who have devoted themselves to a faith that increasingly strips them of not just basic rights, but the opportunity to contribute to their own communities. A woman’s job, as mandated in the Bible, is to adhere to a doctrine of submission, serving her husband as Jesus served the church, to be a “lovely helper” as some pastors like to say. Serving the church in any role of influence is increasingly out of the question, as the faithful cleave to literalism.
By the way, the reverend who fired Mary Lambert also serves on the Watertown City Council.