I’m part of a very dedicated department at Temple University, and in our meetings every semester, one of the issues we return to often is ensuring that what we are teaching our students in the classroom meets our department mandate and also what is serving the students—is this useful to them? In the ten years I’ve been in the department, our content has evolved but the core of what we teach remains mostly intact—we believe as we always have that students benefit by learning how to write at the college level, regardless of the major they pursue.
But not every school stresses the same skills and perhaps this is why students who transfer in often get confused: how come one teacher tells me to do this while you’re telling me this? Shouldn’t writing be writing? Should all students be told the same thing?
In Titus, Paul is writing a letter for Titus, who is being dispatched to Crete to straighten out the mess that has engulfed the church there. Aside from outlining his general mandate—appointing Elders/overseers who are “good”, Paul includes a breakdown of what must be taught to different groups.
Predictably (and unfortunately) these groups are divided by gender and freedom: men, women, and slaves.
As opposed to merely telling men, women, and slave owners to be “good,” Paul makes clear that each group receives a distinct set of instructions. Older men are to be “temperate, worthy of respect, self-controlled, and sound in faith, in love, and endurance” (2:2). Older women are to “reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to too much wine, but to teach what is good.” Doing this allows the women to then train younger women to fall in line: be good wives, mothers and “to be self-controlled and pure, to busy at home, to be kind, and (naturally) be subject to their husbands” (2:3-5).
So why do women get a longer list? Both lists have their positive qualities, yet why must women be the ones who remain passive, obedient, the ones who teach the next generation? Isn’t this a bit hypocritical, seeing as how this gender is unworthy of spreading any teaching of the faith outside the home?
Although I can appreciate the spirit of these directions—wanting people to find a way to be better people in the home and by extension in their community, I don’t get the continued appreciation and condoning of slavery. Again, slaves are to be encouraged to obey their masters, not steal from them, to show that they can be trusted in order to put on a good show of Christian faith. Why should they? Well, according to Paul, they will be awarded by God in heaven (2:2:12-13).
I understand that slavery was “accepted” back then, but there are plenty of things that were acceptable in this era for which Christianity leaders did not abide. Why condone this? And if condone is too strong of a word, why make matters worse by trying to make slaves feel good about their condition? This seems far too cruel.
When it comes to my writing students, I appreciate the confusion they sometimes feel. I don’t know what to say other than everyone approaches writing a little differently but here’s why this approach works. But at least I’m in a position to move them in a positive directions rather than allowing what they’ve been taught to fester.
Next up: Philemon—finally Paul stands up for slaves.