- Chesca Kramer shared a controversial Facebook post quoting Bible passages from The Book of Colossians. The topic: "Instructions for Christian Households," with the verse "Wives, submit yourselves to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord." The post garnered mixed reactions from various groups.
- Cosmo.ph consulted a pastor/professor of theology and a sociologist of religion to interpret the scripture from an academic and theological context.
- How interpretations of certain Bible passages can reinforce structural oppression of women
- We have to be careful in our use of Scripture + two ways to use the Bible: as a standard and as a guide
- Being a good person goes beyond Bible verses.
By now you’ve probably already heard of the hullaballoo surrounding PBA player Doug Kramer and his wife, model/actress Chesca Kramer. For those of you who haven’t gotten to sip the tea, here is the Facebook post which has garnered over 7,400 shares as of this writing:
Now, here’s a rundown of the reactions the post has received so far:
- Christians or Catholics defending Team Kramer, saying that a marriage centered on God is a fruitful and blessed union.
- Atheists denouncing Team Kramer’s alleged literal interpretation of Scripture.
- Feminists, whether women or men, questioning the outdated nature of the Bible verse/s quoted, as well as the relevance of gender roles in 2017.
- Trolls. But there are trolls everywhere, so let’s gloss over that.
Before we at Cosmo put in our two cents, we wanted to make sure we had reliable sources who could frame this issue in an academic, theological context. It’s important to understand that while different people use and interpret Scripture in different ways, there are still some interpretations that can be damaging to the relationship between a husband and wife.
According to Joshua Olano, a pastor at Family Christian Fellowship and a professor of theology at Asia Pacific College, it’s important to engage in a careful analysis of the history in which the Book of Colossians (quoted by Chesca) was written, who it was written for, and the cultural values that informed its writing. “No one can say that they necessarily have the ‘correct’ interpretation of a certain Bible verse,” Olano explains. “There are two principles in using the Bible: It could be a standard, if you directly quote passages without explaining. Disputes happen because not everyone has the same standards.”
Many critics balked at Chesca's inclusion of the master-slave dynamic in her Facebook post, saying it was archaic and irrelevant. Olano explains the context:
“Paul wrote the Book of Colossians for the ancient city of Colossae around AD 60 or 70, and at the time, masters and slaves still existed.”
But it would be problematic to take this verse at face value.
In Chesca’s original post, she initially failed to explain the personal context of her use of Bible verses—in other words, how they apply to her and her readers in real life today—which gave way to arguments in the comments section. “If you use the Bible as a guide (the second principle in using it) and relate it to your daily life, it's more personal and you are committed to it,” says Olano.
Bottomline? Context is important, and that’s what the original post lacked.
After the initial backlash, Doug posted a series of clarificatory posts on his Instagram account:
“God designed marriage (not me or my partner) for both husband and wife to have very important roles. And that doesn't mean the wife's role is lesser of the husband,” explains Doug. “I never treat or make Chesca feel she is inferior to me. In fact, I make her feel more important than myself. But this doesn't take away my leadership and stand to lead my family. And I mean this in all aspects, I choose to lead my family financially, emotionally, physically and spiritually. And guess who is my partner when I fall short at times? My wife.”
At first glance, this is a respectable stance for a husband to make in defense of his wife. It is clear that Doug’s intentions are pure. That is well and good. But according to Dr. Jayeel S. Cornelio, director of the Ateneo de Manila University Development Studies Program—as well as a sociologist of religion and an Evangelical Christian himself—the bigger issue is how interpretations of certain Bible passages can reinforce the structural oppression of women.
Cornelio proceeds to break down both sides, beginning with the Christians who defended Team Kramer: “The message of the Bible is timeless. The essence of its rules and promulgations are supposed to transcend time—doon nanggaling yung depensa nila.” On the other hand, “[The Colossians verse] will no doubt be repulsive to people who are aware of patriarchy and our oppressive society.”
“We know that this verse has been used against women," Cornelio imparted. "Yet there are many Christian women who are satisfied with the authority of their husband; they do not necessarily see themselves as exploited.” This is where the term subjective violence comes in, or “violence internalized by recipients of that violence.”
Allow us to explain. Don’t be too alarmed by the use of the graphic word “violence”—what this means is that even though oppressed sectors of society do not necessarily see themselves as oppressed, that doesn’t mean they aren’t (Exhibit A: the recent Apo Whang-od controversy). Many women make a conscious choice to be the managers of the home, while their husbands take on the primary role of provider and protector. But shouldn’t we be questioning the existence of these roles in the first place?
“How is this verse used against women, even in subtle ways? For one, if the man is the primary decision-maker, then it somehow makes the assumption that the woman is not rational enough. There are churches that do not allow women to preach, by virtue that the man has divine authority. If some churches behave like that, what kind of impressions does it give to families?”
“In our society, we can see that women are still silenced. The silence and submission of a woman is, in many social groups, still a celebrated virtue. This is not just a Filipino trait, but a universal one,” says Cornelio.
“That’s why until now, we don’t have a divorce law in the Philippines. It’s because of the idea of the divine anointing bestowed upon the heteronormative husband and wife.”
Clearly, we have to be careful in our use of Scripture to illustrate certain points. Here are a few things to remember:
- If the verse could be potentially problematic, discuss your personal interpretation of the verse and how it relates to your daily experiences. Use the Bible as a guide rather than a standard.
- If there are outdated concepts or norms in the verse, explain how they can be "modernized" to fit the context of 2017.
“Mayroon pa rin talagang inclination na kumbaga to describe a role as higher than another role,” says Olano. If roles [are] meant to be hierarchical, magiging destructive. Mag-aagawan eh.” At the end of the day, values trump gender roles. “What is more important is not whether there are role models for males and females, but whether there are role models to enact virtues, values, to enact what it constitutes to be a good person,” Cornelio emphasizes.
Regardless of whether you are a Christian or a non-Christian, this much we can all agree on: Being a good person goes beyond Bible verses and oppressive societies.
It starts with how we learn from our experiences and how well we are able to impart those lessons to others. Kudos to the Kramers for taking the time to explain their side, and kudos to every single husband and wife out there who are equally invaluable to the success of their families.