At Rick Warren’s Church, Women Must Be Submissive But, Despite Biblical Admonition, Are Allowed to Speak

Much has been made about the homophobic rantings of Rick Warren, the right-wing bigot Barack Obama has invited to give the invocation at his inauguration, but there has been less discussion about Warren’s beliefs about the role of women in society:

“You wives must willingly obey your husbands in everything, just as the Church obeys Christ.”
— Excerpt from Corinthians on Rick Warren’s website

As Katha Pollitt points out in a Los Angeles Times op-ed:

At [Warren’s] Saddleback Church, wifely submission is official doctrine: The church website tells women to defer to their husband’s “leadership” even when he’s wrong on important issues, such as finances. Never mind if she’s an accountant and he flunked long division, or if she wants to beef up the kids’ college fund and he wants to buy shares in the Brooklyn Bridge. The godly answer is supposed to be “yes, dear.” Is elevating this male chauvinist how President-elect Obama thanks women, who gave him more than half his votes?

The Saddleback Church website quotes Ephesians 5:22-23, one of the letters supposedly written by apostle Paul about 30 years after the death of Jesus:

You wives must submit to your husbands’ leadership in the same way you submit to the Lord. For a husband is in charge of his wife in the same way Christ is in charge of His body the Church. (He gave His very life to take care of it and be its Savior!) So you wives must willingly obey your husbands in everything, just as the Church obeys Christ.

But using Scripture as a basis for policies in these modern times — be it at a megachurch or in civil law — is fraught with rhetorical danger, which is why today’s Christians selectively ignore some of the Bible’s inflammatory admonitions.

For example, Saddleback Church has apparently chosen to ignore biblical injunctions that women must not speak in church. In a letter to the Christians at Corinth (Corinthians 14:34), Paul wrote:

The women are to keep silent in the churches; for they are not permitted to speak, but are to subject themselves, just as the Law also says.

And then there is First Timothy 2:11-15:

Let a woman learn in silence with all submission. And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression. Nevertheless she will be saved in childbearing if they continue in faith, love, and holiness, with self-control.

Forcing women to be silent would be bad for business at the megachurches, so the men who run them simply ignore these inconvenient Scriptures.

And we hear much about the sacred nature of marriage, but Warren and his fellow travelers consistently fail to mention that Paul was vehemently against any sort of marriage (Corinthians 7:8-9):

Now to the unmarried and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I am. But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion.

This is the same selectivity they use as a rationale to persecute gays. They ignore multiple admonitions against fornication and adultery (including the one in the Ten Commandments), but rely on a couple of obscure biblical references to homosexuality as a rationale amending state constitutions to restrict the civil rights of gay people.

The more that we learn about Rick Warren and his bigoted views, the more horrific the decision to invite him to speak at the inauguration of America’s first black president becomes.


  • nikolai
    December 23, 2008 - 11:37 am | Permalink

    The Mormons can top that. They REALLY keep the women folk under their (collective) thumb. I live fairly close to a large Mormon temple, and they put on an extraodinary Christmas light display I must admit, decorating everything in sight and the public is welcome. That’s the good part.

    The bad part is that the Mormon men stand around in little cliques laughing, joking, and generally having a good time, while the women stand alone, posted at various spots throughout the place, guiding vistors to and fro. It’s obvious and pathetic!

  • chupachup
    December 23, 2008 - 12:23 pm | Permalink

    i think this whole issue has gotten blown out of proportion, and i was relieved to read melissa etheridge say the same thing in an editorial at huffpo. lets not join the knuckle draggers who are determined to make obamas presidency a failure, as well as keep the glbt community in the closet with the door firmly locked.

  • December 23, 2008 - 12:30 pm | Permalink

    Support the Females as Property Movement.

    Save yourself, save society and save the girlies from the tremendous burden they have been required to bear since being allowed to enter general adult society.

    Some historians believe the burden commenced in 1920 when females were granted the general country-wide privelege of voting.

    Sadly, as females gained various rights and priveleges their inability to accept the accompanying responsibilities has harmed those females, males and society as a whole.

    The emotion-laden generally irrational female of the human species has fallen short of adult expectations.

    We must remove the enormous burden from female shoulders for the good of all.

    Admittedly, there IS a very small percentage of females who ARE capable of bearing the burden of adulthood in our modern society so exceptions will be made for those few.

    However, easing females out of the requirements of being full-fledged adults and re-assuming their roles of yore will be a blessing in many ways and will assuredly improve the female’s general happiness.

  • Ethel
    December 23, 2008 - 5:09 pm | Permalink

    I keep telling people that they will target the women next to take away our rights. Eventually, they will sort out society into a caste system.

  • December 23, 2008 - 9:52 pm | Permalink

    Jon…your arguments against Rick Warren are sounding a bit over the top. No one is glorifying him or his views with this…in fact, it’s turning out exactly as Obama probably wanted it to!

    People like you (a bit extreme, though, to me) are pointing out his foibles, inconsistencies and faults in a major public forum because of this selection…and it looks as if the glare of the spotlight may be causing him to tone down and rethink some of his statements. Obama has brilliantly reversed the psychology of the situation from them ‘looking down’ at those of us more liberal thinkers/believers to us criticizing them and causing them to be looked askance upon!!

    Dude…dump the blinding hate and fury over a perceived slap in the face…and embrace a road less traveled that can actually change some of these backward beliefs by exposing them to the wonders of the open mind! Change and winning over minds and beliefs of those on the margin and swayable to our way thinking is the goal here…vilification over the faults of one Rick Warren and refusal to even try to reach out to those who might be drawn to us is self-defeating. I appreciate the hurt and rancor…but victory comes in rising above it and leading by example.

  • GarryInNola
    December 23, 2008 - 10:59 pm | Permalink

    This whole issue of how evangelicals and fundamentalists selectively quote certain scriptural verses while ignoring others is a legitimate one. They like to quote Paul or, at least, verses that historically are believed to have been written by Paul but only the ones that they agree with or are convenient for them to promote. They rarely mention the Jewish admonition which has deep roots in the Old Testament and Torah that we should take care of the poor and be hospitable to strangers sorjourning in our midst. So, in fact, it’s a matter of “cherry picking” the Bible for their own advantage and Rick Warren is guilty of doing this. Also, rarely mentioned, is the cultural backdrop of all of this. How many of these verses are a product of the culture in effect at the time they were written? My educated guess is: quite a few of them. That being the case, they should have no religious authority in the comtemporary church.

  • December 24, 2008 - 6:23 am | Permalink

    George, As I said elsewhere, if there is a consensus among the collective gay political class I’d say it’s that we expect to be ignored by Obama. Gay rights are about 120 on his list of top 100 priorities. That’s fine, same as it ever was, but inviting Warren was a huge political blunder — not a double-secret backwards upside-down stroke of brilliance — and we are going to do our level best to get Warren uninvited, and if not, we’ll do what we can to hold Obama’s feet to the fire.

    If we sit by and take it, we’re lemmings following Dear Leader over a cliff. To not speak up makes us them.

  • December 24, 2008 - 7:12 am | Permalink


    I can appreciate and understand your position…am just trying to think of ways to more productively spend time and energy on making progress in dealing with IS right now.

    We all know that the secular world conveniently ‘adjusts’ its interpretation of the scriptures to suit it’s needs of the times, so maybe another angle to approach this from, without creating more enemies in the process, is to concentrate on the economic arguments that overwhelmingly support the inclusion of gay marriage into our economic system.

    YOU don’t HAVE to go over the cliff on this…and speaking up as you are is exactly what you should do…just don’t let the ‘loss’ or lack of effectiveness on this issue sour you on the rest of what is good about this new administration. Another CNN poll released this morning shows it’s a fact that AT THIS TIME in America (sadly) this isn’t an issue you can win NOW. See

    What would make YOU to be like THEM is to adopt tactics that insult, offend and repress, instead of using reason, persuasion and example. It IS an argument with others…no matter how ridiculous the other side may be on it…and the argument can be won. The pendulum of time IS now moving in the direction you want…because equal rights for gay marriage and heterosexual marriage logically really are the same thing…and quite simply…make sense. Your role now is to keep up the arguments and let time’s filter continue to spread the understanding and recognition of it…do NOT jump off that cliff!! :)

  • Billy
    December 24, 2008 - 8:57 am | Permalink

    I’m also sure that Saddleback church has read the rest of Ephesians 5, which says men are to love their wives as Christ loved the church, in other words, men are to be willing to lay down their lives for their wives. Souunds like dual submission to me…..
    Peaple are overreacting…if you don’t like the rules of the church, then don’t attend it. Warren stuck his neck out for Obama by inviting him there TWICE, in a church that does not like him, and loved McCain, as you could tell from watching the political forum there. Is the left starting to mirror the intolerance of the right. heaven forbid!!!!

  • December 24, 2008 - 9:07 am | Permalink

    George, if we waited on the polls, we’d still be living under Jim Crow and women would still be chattel. I don’t know if you’re in California, but if not, there may be a piece of this you’re missing.

    The fight to overturn Prop 8 is as big a deal here politically as any other statewide issue, including the huge budget deficits that are causing cities and counties to lay off workers. It is particularly a big deal at my house, because this spring the state Supreme Court will be deciding, among other things, whether to annul our marriage, which we undertook in October on our 29th anniversary. On top of everything else, this is personal.

    The mistake Obama made was inadvertently meddling in California politics. Warren is based in Orange County, the Republicans’ dwindling, last moneyed bastion in the state. (The GOP still controls the rural, inland counties and the military enclaves around San Diego.) Warren was much better known outside California before the invitation than he was locally. Now Obama has single-handedly elevated him to be, easily, the state’s second best-known conservative — that is, if you consider Schwarzenegger to be a conservative.

    You mentioned polls. Obama was trounced by Clinton in California on Feb. 5. But on Nov. 4, he beat McCain by 20 points. My assessment is that most of those 20-plus points were “anybody but McCain-Palin” in nature. His support here is tenuous, and I hear lots of grumbling about the Warren invitation, and by no means is all of it coming from gay people. Like so much else that comes out of Orange County (Bob Dornan, the John Birch Society, Disneyland), Warren is an embarrassment to all left-leaning Californians. The Warren invite is by no means a deal breaker but it has raised some alarm. If Obama’s support in California erodes to Feb. 5 levels, it will make it more difficult for him to get his agenda enacted, and here’s why.

    The state’s political elite is on our side in the battle against Prop 8 — including the Republican governor, the entire Democratic congressional delegation, including both U.S. senators and Speaker Pelosi (and my congressman, Henry Waxman), a majority of justices on the state Supreme Court (including three of six Republicans and the only Democrat), the Democratic state attorney general, solid majorities in both houses of the state legislature and the mayors of Los Angeles, San Francisco and other big cities.

    These pols are not Obama Kool-Aid imbibers. They have their own interests, their own constituencies, to look out for. Boxer is up for reelection next year. The attorney general and the San Francisco mayor — as well as possibly Sen. Feinstein — are prepping to run for governor next year, too. Speaker Pelosi is up for reelection, too, of course, and her district is pretty much the city limits of San Francisco, which is also home to sens. Boxer and Feinstein. I doubt Obama could walk down Market Street these days without getting a shoe or two tossed his way. (I can tell you for sure he should avoid Santa Monica Blvd. in West Hollywood.)

    As it stands right now, gay marriage will be a hot item in these races. Attorney General Jerry Brown and San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsome will make it the centerpieces of their campaigns. And while Prop 8 won, 6.4 million Californians voted against it, including two-thirds of Democrats and over half of independents. In other words, the exact voter demographic these candidates have to capture in order to win their primaries.

    A few weeks ago, a reporter asked Obama who he wanted to replace Sen. Clinton in New York. He demurred, saying something like, “I have enough problems dealing with Illinois politics. I’m not going to get involved in New York.” He should have kept his own counsel and stayed out of California politics, too. California Democrats at war with Rick Warren, Ken Starr and the rest, and we have neither the time nor the inclination to sit down with them and sing “Kumbaya” — and it will be a major offense to us if Warren takes the stage on Jan. 21.

    Again, nobody expected help from Obama in the coming Prop 8 fight, but through his meddling, he has risked buying himself a world of trouble that he doesn’t need in this not insignificant state.

  • Elaine
    December 26, 2008 - 12:06 am | Permalink

    How about inviting Annie Laurie Gaylor to deliver a non-Christian woman’s “invocation”? That ought to be interesting.


  • December 29, 2008 - 12:01 am | Permalink

    The excuses some people are making for Obama’s viciously heterosexist and misogynistic invitation of Warren are truly disturbing.

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