A Chauvinists Tale, by John R. Rice.
Many asked me to do this – write a review/report of the book written by now deceased, old-time fundamental Baptist preacher John R. Rice, Bobbed Hair, Bossy Wives and Women Preachers, ‘Significant questions for Honest Christian Women settled by the Word of God.
This book was published in 1941, and the back cover claims that ‘Many Christian leaders say he (John R. Rice) has done more to promote revival in America than any other man.’ Having read the book twice to write this article, I can honestly say, to start this off, this is the wrong revival for any civilized nation to accept.
Mr. Rice starts this book out by stating the three great controversies he addresses here,
a) Is it a sin for a woman to cut her hair?,
b) Should a wife be ruled by her husband?,
c) Does God consent for women to fill preaching evangelizing roles?
There isn’t enough time, attention span or willpower in a blog article and the audience to write refutations about each and every point in this book, so this is going to be a high-level overview about the most atrocious or audacious claims made, and what I think about this book, which is highly negative. (Sorry!)
What strikes me the silliest, as that this book is nearly required reading, if not just highly recommended reading in the cult that I escaped from at the beginning of 2017. In fact, a young man whom I respect highly, so this is not a derogatory statement of him, saw the book on my desk and said, “Hey, that’s the book Bishop told me to read.” When I wanted to enter into more ministerial positions (Thank God I didn’t – there anyway) I was told to read this book too…
So here we go. I’ve read it. Twice.
Submission to Authority
The real basis of this book is female submission to male. There is no doubt and/or question about this. In fact, Chapter II is titled, “Christians submit to the authority of divinely appointed leaders in Church, Home, and State.’
Mr. Rice writes, “Rebellion against authority is the Sin of Bobbed Hair, Bossy Wives, and Women Preachers.”
This is to say, that if you have short hair, you don’t obey your husband in every demand completely, and you preach or teach, you are in the sin of rebellion, which is as witchcraft. This is a bold statement, one in which is grounded only in chauvinistic, personally gaining private interpretations of Scripture.
It is especially ironic, perhaps even hypocritical that Mr. Rice uses I Corinthians 11:3-9 to substantiate this position, including that church members, must be submitted to their pastors in ALL things without question, using Scripture that excludes ministers from the ‘divine order of headship’. Hu?
But I want you to understand that Christ is the head (authority over) of every man, and man is the head of woman, and God is the head of Christ. – I Corinthians 11:3, AMP
Sure, the Bible says that Christ is head (protector) over man, and that man is head (protector) over women and that God is head (protector) over Christ. (Oops, that last one must be hard for Oneness Pentecostals…God is head over himself?)
Listen, the bottom line is this: Yes, God created a system of order, but controlling men who see their power and control waning have vastly, and wildly misconstrued ‘submit’ to mean obey every word I say or else God is going to curse you! What a silly lie to tell yourself and to tell people who are looking to you for spiritual guidance! Scripture is equally clear that we are NOT to believe everything someone says (spiritual leaders) without first questioning and trying the motivation behind what they teach.
In the cult I left, they taught often a concept of complete obedience, saying, “If I am teaching you something wrong, you just obey me anyway. God will take care of me, but you don’t want to lose God’s blessings by being disobedience to me…”
That is a sick and coercive way to demand obedience by tricking people into thinking it is God’s will for you to obey someone regardless of what they are asking of you. My old cult leader (I will not call him a pastor anymore) told a young man, “Until I feel your unwavering loyalty, I will not give you one of my girls.” Now, this wasn’t talking about his daughter, this was talking about a young man asking permission to marry a young lady in their church…
Ok so it is no secret, that long hair on women is and always has been considered to be the most feminine look, until recent centuries. Women with very short hair (bobbed) are often highly independent, influential, self-starters, confident, and to the patriarchal nature of most societies, especially America in the 1920s-1940s, it was considered to be on the fringe edge of what’s acceptable, if not rebellion.
That out of the way – the question comes down to, is it sinful?
The most audacious claims of Mr. Rice’s teachings is that girls with ‘bobbed hair’ cause angels to be tempted to sin…I am not making that up…Because short hair is a symbol (in Mr. Rice’ view) as the rebellion against a wives husband or a daughters father, it also symbolizes rebellion against God. An angel that sees a woman in complete rebellion to her authority (Husband) will be easily tempted to rebel against its authority (God).
Perhaps the second most audacious claim is that by bobbing your hair, you are a harlot.
“I remember a time when every good woman, that is everyone who was not a harlot, received the utmost respect from practically every man…But today the masculine, rebellious women have lost the reference and respect good women once inspired in all men.”
“Oh, women, what have you lost when you lost your feminity! When you bobbed your hair, you bobbed your character too!”
It gets worse…
“Men desert their wives as never before in the world. (the implication is that is due to you cutting your hair…) … The man who marries a modern woman (described as a girl who bobbed her hair) these days marries a woman who expects to vote like a man, smoke like a man, have her hair cut like a man, and go without restrictions and without chaperones and obey nobody.”
Like really? (I’ve always wanted to use a millennial cliche!) A woman with bobbed hair expects to vote? And go outside without a chaperone? Were we a Muslim country back in the 40’s and I just didn’t know it?
The one positive thing I’ve taken away from this book – is that the cult I belonged to (Oneness Pentecost) isn’t the only organization stuck in the past nor is it the only chauvinist sect – this was an old-time fundamental Baptist preacher.
You can debate all day long whether or not the Bible teaches that a woman isn’t supposed to cut her hair, and you’ll be a fool all the day long. (These same people where I came from teaching that men can’t have facial hair…)
Yes, the Bible (in one place) teaches that women should have long hair, but it does not say she cannot cut it. And as nearly every dress/appearance standard in the Bible was, it was entirely subjective to the surrounding culture and for the purpose of appearing within your birth gender.
The real connotation here is that women who have their own minds are rebellious harlots who don’t know their place in the church, home, and world. In fact, Mr. Rice goes on to make the comparison of slaves and masters to wives and husbands.
“Servants should obey their masters even if they are sometimes unkind…Likewise, God expects women to feel their duty to obey their husbands, good, bad, saved or unsaved…No where in the Bible is a wife’s duty to her husband conditioned on the kind of character he has or the way he treats her.”
I gotta tell you – as a husband I sometimes wish this worked for me! My wife still attends the church I left and is obedient to their teachings, even when I say it is wrong and I don’t want her going to that church, and especially my children. Can I force her to stop going? NO WAY! But under the guidance of Mr. Rice, my wife would be rebelling against the very God of all things by continuing to go to church when I tell her not to. Or going to the store if I tell her not to. Or wearing her Pentecostal clothing when I tell her not to.
Why? Because we are not to be LORDS over other souls! Each individual belongs to God, not man. Mr. Rice has so blatantly ignored the entirety of Scripture to prop up his chauvinist desires. Consider the following passage in his book.
“Many a wife has, in deliberate rebellion against her husband’s orders, left her home to attend Christian services. She thought she was pleasing God, no doubt. Her Christian heart grew hungry for the fellowship of the saints and to hear the preaching of the Word of God. But she was not a better Christian by being a disobedient wife.”
Mr. Rice later goes on to say, “Any kind of Christianity that does not make a woman into a good wife brings reproach on the cause of Christ.”
Now, defining a ‘good wife’ is a girl who never cuts her hair, does everything a man demands of her (both at home and at church, talk about conflict) and never, ever assumes a teaching position within the church. If a woman does these things, she is no more than a harlot as we say in Bobbed Hair and will expect to vote and go outside.
If you haven’t caught on by now, this book is worth its weight in matches. Like all things, there is always a layer of ‘truth’ behind the twisted ideals, just like when Satan tempted Eve in the garden (if you believe that happened…), Satan simply twisted the truth a little bit and made a compelling story out of it. That is exactly what Mr. Rice and those who have carried his torch on have done.
I think it is worth taking a moment to mention the state of mind that these people had in the early 1920’s – 1940’s as fundamental evangelical Christian preachers.
Like most people of the time, racism and patriarchial dominance were rampant as well as hints of racism. The founders of the Oneness Pentecostal movements were praised by groups like the KKK. Charles Fox Parham was the initial driving force that began the Oneness Pentecostal movement, that led to the United Pentecostal Church.
This mans ministry was rocked by allegations of homosexual pedophilia, he a confirmed member of the Free Mason society, and rumored to be directly supported by the KKK. He denied the right for Blacks to worship with Whites which led to the schism with his protege William Seymour, a black minister who was the founder of the Azusa Street mission and the read launching point for of the Pentecostal movement.
Charles was also a believer (as was Martin Luther) that Anglo-Saxons were the Lost 10 Tribes of Israel. Charles did, however, fund black ministers such as William Seymour who was a student and protege of Charles. William Seymour went on to start the Azusa St. mission and revival.
Later, power was taken from William Seymour by rival female preacher (maybe that’s why this book was written…) Florence Crawford who took the message to Portland, OR, wrested control of a newspaper from Seymour and in essence, led a coup against her our leader. (She probably had bobbed hair…)
“In the New Testament Church, a woman’s place was to be taught, not teach.”
In my circle within the context of the old church, a very common phrase was, “Children need to be seen, not heard.” Sometimes men would chuckle and say under their breath, ‘wives too’.
There seems to be so little common sense, exegetical/systematic study and cultural awareness in the minds of the men writing these books and holding to these lines.
There is no doubt that in the Old Testament/Jewish custom, a woman was never to have authority over a man, as Paul reiterates in 1 Timothy 2:11-15. The basis was that man was created first. The man was not the one deceived by the serpent, and that women are the ‘weaker vessel’.
Yet, there are many Jewish (patriarchial) customs that were changed, both during the Old Testament and into the New Testament. Awareness of the audience’ culture was important to Paul, which is why he had Timothy circumcised – not in the belief that Timothy had to be circumcised for salvation or obedience to Jewish law – but because he wanted to avoid offending the culture/audience at the time.
“Now Paul traveled to Derbe and also to Lystra. A disciple named Timothy was there, the son of a Jewish woman who was a believer [in Christ], however, his father was a Greek. Timothy was well spoken of by the brothers and sisters who were in Lystra and Iconium. Paul wanted Timothy to go with him [as a missionary]; and he took him and circumcised him because of the Jews who were in those places, since they all knew that his father was a Greek.’ – Acts 16:1-3 AMP
Mr. Rice goes on to say, “In New Testament churches a woman’s place was to be taught, not teach. A woman’s place was to be silent, not to be a public speaker. A woman’s place was to be in subjection, and not to be in authority.”
It seems obvious Mr. Rice likes that King James Version word ‘subjection’. The definition means to be under the control of another, specifically by force. Mr. Rice likes the idea that women are to be dominated by man it seems.
One glaring hypocrisy I would love to point out is that Mr. Rice says, ‘Not one woman was ever called a pastor in the New Testament.‘ I have a shocker for Mr. Rice. Not one man was ever called a ‘pastor’ in the New Testament.
Now, Mr. Rice goes on to declare that very word Bishop is masculine, or that the word elder is masculine. And it is no doubt that in the times the Bible was written, culturally, men were predominant and women were to do as they were told. But I wonder, if like many other things of Old Testament tradition if the times haven’t changed?
I’m not saying that the Bible does not teach the concept of ‘Women learn in silence’ in public services. I’m not even taking a stand on whether women should or should not be preachers. I’m mostly taking a complete overview of the dominating stance of this book and questioning the understanding Mr. Rice has.
If other traditions can and did change, I believe this one can too. Most importantly, Mr. Rice is of the type that believes ‘authority’ over other people means you have to dominate control over them. So when he thinks of a woman being a preacher, he thinks then that she would have control over him – and no chauvinist would stand for that.
For what it is worth, this book cost me nothing, it was gifted to me by a fellow ex-cultist, and I can admit it gave me a lot of laughs. And, it will make for great paper for starting fires in the fireplace.
Also, it does something extremely important – it highlights the distorted views of the Gospel some people have, and allows us to separate the real gospel from the phony gospel.
The real gospel message is what Jesus preached and lived (Acts 1:1) – Love God, and Love your neighbor. To be washed from legalism and from sin by the baptism of His Spirit and to exude the Fruits of the Spirit – those being Love, Joy, Peace, Longsuffering, Gentleness, Goodness, Faith, Meekness and Temperance.
To realize that adherence to man-made doctrines (Mark 7:7) simply makes you self-righteous haters of people who are not like you, rather than lovers of people who are not like you. Jesus gave the greatest example of non-condemnation in John 8.
Bobbed Hair, Bossy Wives, and Women Preachers is a testament to the roots of the mentality of those who, like John R. Rice, founded the Oneness Holiness-Pentecostal movement and went on and continue to subjugate people to their dominance and control. To distort the Word of God to create a system of continued legalism, which Jesus came to destroy! (Matthew 5, 7, 10 & 23)