I've been reading the Bible every day as part of my Lenten discipline, and I've been thinking, among other things, about being "challenged" by the text. Not that it's particularly difficult for me: as a curmudgeonly sort I'm all to ready to argue that one position or another is completely wrong, never mind if it is the inerrant word of God. Actually, when it comes to the Bible the hard part comes not in refusing to accept certain verses, but in trying to divine what import they may actually have for my life, despite their initial thorny and barren mien. I'm not doing so good on that part.
What I'm stuck on right now is just deciding which of the two passages following is worse. Is it 1 Samuel chapter 15, where Saul and Samuel first kill all the Amalekites (women and children included, natch) and then their king, who thought he had escaped?
Then Saul attacked the Amalekites all the way from Havilah to Shur, to the east of Egypt. He took Agag king of the Amalekites alive, and all his people he totally destroyed with the sword. But Saul and the army spared Agag and the best of the sheep and cattle, the fat calves and lambs—everything that was good. These they were unwilling to destroy completely, but everything that was despised and weak they totally destroyed. ...
Then Samuel said, "Bring me Agag king of the Amalekites." Agag came to him confidently, thinking, "Surely the bitterness of death is past." But Samuel said, "As your sword has made women childless, so will your mother be childless among women." And Samuel put Agag to death before the LORD at Gilgal.
Or is it 1 Corinthians chapter 14, which has the following famous passage:
Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the Law says. If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church.
On the one hand, genocide is obviously much worse than sex-based religious restrictions. You have to feel especially bad for Agag, who had seen his entire tribe killed before his eyes and who can't have expected a very bright future for himself; but who certainly didn't expect to be killed in cold blood long after the "fighting" was over.
On the other hand, that was then, as they say. We expect the worse from those ancient Israelites, who lived as many years before Paul as Paul was before us. Corinthians is considered "to speak to modern-day problems within church communities" in a way that Samuel certainly does not, so when we take parts of the letter as valuable do we have to either ignore or accept what Paul says about women in church? I suppose a third alternative would be to assume he actually meant something else entirely; I have no doubt a great many people do that as well.
En tout cas, I'm sure I don't know. Maybe we'll get to talk about it in Bible study on Tuesday!