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Many of us were raised in churches that taught that women should be silent in the church because of the teachings of Paul in 1 Corinthians 14:34. When we read the passage, sure enough, we see the following words on the pages of the Bible, “Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak…” "If women want to inquire about something,” Paul continues in verse 35, “they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church.”

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1 Corinthians was written to a woman. Yes, it was also to the Christians of Corinth. But it was prompted by a woman and her concerns about Christian life in Corinth.

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What if Paul is saying something contextual, specific to a time and place and circumstance, relevant to the culture that he is speaking to? 1 Timothy is a letter from Paul to Timothy, a church leader in Ephesus. Paul is writing to Timothy telling him how to handle false teachers—teachers who are misrepresenting the gospel.

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“Healthy” is not exactly the adjective I would match with the word “sexuality,” especially when it comes to the ways the church and Christians have portrayed and lived out what we believe about sex these past few centuries.

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We’ve all heard them. Stupid jokes and thoughtless comments. Sexist sayings and caricatures. From the pulpit, at the altar, in school, from boyfriends, girlfriends, teachers, parents, and friends. People pass off myths as facts and case-by-case examples as universal truth. Women are like this and men are like that. Women are obnoxious. Men are arrogant. Women are needy and men are emotionally unavailable. These statements are infused with cultural and gendered assumptions. They have no basis in the gospel and what’s more—they are rooted heavily in socialization. And yet, despite Christians’ pledge to reject unhealthy and sinful cultural messages, these painful and divisive gender jokes and ideologies have infiltrated the church. And it’s not no big deal, people. It’s a really big deal. Here’s why.

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Here are just some of the lies purity culture teaches women and girls that we as the church must work to undo.

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The Western sexual revolution brought renewed emphasis on consent, body affirmation/confidence, female pleasure, and women’s equal (and enthusiastic!) sexual participation in marriage. We should celebrate those gains. But it also brought a slew of toxic, oppressive ideas about female sexuality.

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Alan Johnson's work on 1 Corinthians is particularly engaging. His reference notes and bibliography provide an entry into further study if desired, all while maintaining an appealing readable style. He deftly bridges the two horizons of the Greco-Roman culture and American culture.

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First of all, androgyny is not an eradication of being female or male. It has nothing to do with your sexuality. Being androgynous, rather, means that you have characteristics commonly associated with the female gender as well as those commonly associated with the male gender.

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I was born into privilege thrice over. I am white; I am male; I am American. And all that privilege provides me with the shortcut, the front row seat, the illusion of my own sufficiency. Yet, I need help, and I need it terribly. 

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