Adam, Eve and Silent Observations

There are many belief systems, religions and styles of observing or celebrating one’s faith.  It’s a subject that comes up in HR when we’re tasked with evaluating a request for religious accommodation or we consider how we’ll handle an employee relations issue when Employee A feels harassed by Employee B’s proselytizing in the work place.

Now I’m by no means a religiously observant person.  I do, however, find it fascinating to read about different religions and belief systems.  From a historical and social perspective, it’s endlessly interesting to me to look at the connection between different religions and see how they’ve shaped and continue to influence the world in which we live.  One group I’ve been trying to understand is the group of Christians who live by directives set out by the Apostle Paul in the Pastoral Epistles of the New Testament (1 and 2 Timothy and Titus).

In the King James Version of the Bible, 1 Timothy, Chapter 2 (v 11 – 13), we read:  “Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence.  For Adam was first formed, then Eve.” 

Or, in a new translation – “I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet.”

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Some scholars and writers have taken great pains to point out that these scriptural verses do not mean that woman is inferior to man.  After all, they point out, there are other verses which speak to the woman being permitted by her husband to have authority over the domain of the household – to “marry, bear children and guide the house.”  However, many are in agreement that these edicts DO let us know that woman is subordinate in rank to man.

There are some who point out that this is primarily within the context of teaching or worshipping within the confines of the Church; after all, this is a basis for some denominations to not ordain women pastors or priests or to allow women to be religious leaders.  But even if this IS only within the context of a religious service or religious teaching – how can a viewpoint like this not permeate the rest of society?

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There are a number of religious bloggers who discuss their faith.  I recently read a blog post where the writer made very clear that “it is my husband’s policy that I not engage men in discussions” and “I will not respond to comments from men, especially questions which could put me in a ‘teaching’ position.”   

Now I fervently support individuals having the ability to freely believe in and worship whatever deity, deities, or non-deities they wish.  And to live by whichever commandments or teachings they believe are imperative.  But I can’t help but wonder how the men who believe that women are subordinate handle their interactions with women in the workplace. 

How do the sons, raised in these households, move out into a society where they will have to take directions from a woman, or be taught/instructed by a woman?  If a male employee has a deeply-held religious belief that a woman is not to be in a position of authority over him, what happens if his newly-hired manager is a woman? 

And would everyone, perhaps, view things just a tad differently had Eve arrived on the scene before Adam?

About the Author

Robin Schooling

With 25 years of HR Management experience, Robin Schooling, SPHR, has worked in a variety of industries. In 2013, after serving as VPHR with a Louisiana based organization, she left corporate HR to open up Silver Zebras, LLC, an HR Consulting firm. She blogs at HRSchoolhouse and you can follow her on twitter at @RobinSchooling where, on football weekends, you can read all her #whodat tweets.

4 Comments

Robin Schooling

Thanks for reading and commenting everyone. I find it a very fascinating topic.

@Krista – I certainly think that a workplace with many cultures and religions represented provides more opportunities for learning and tolerance than one where everyone is primarily of one religious belief and therefore they are never required to “open their eyes” to other belief systems. The diversity of your staff is more than likely a very positive characteristic of your organization.

@Michelle – I had interactions with someone in a business context who was of the opinion, based on a religious viewpoint, that a woman should NEVER make the first move to shake a man’s hand (i.e. when on a sales call or meeting someone for the first time at a meeting). I can recall standing with a flopping, outstretched hand because he was offended that I offered it.

@Lyn – BINGO!

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Lyn Hoyt

Michelle, I often wonder what happens to those men who win the accomplishment of self-employment only to find a large client whose main decision-maker is a woman!

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Michelle

Great post. I have had this come up several times in the workplace, and it isn’t pleasant to work through. Many of the male individuals that I have met with this viewpoint would prefer to be self-employed or the owner of a business so there is no chance that they would be “under the authority” of a woman. In this case, I would be concerned for the women who work for them, since if they hold that viewpoint they could possibly view themselves as authorities over a woman when they shouldn’t be (directing personal issues, lack of promotions available, etc.)

I do know of a male nurse that switched jobs fairly often because he frequently had conflict with having a woman for a boss.

Again, great post!

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Krista Francis

Hi Robin, I love your last line. But I don’t think it would make any difference if Eve got there first.
Throughout history, men would still have assumed they were superior because of they tend to be bigger, stronger and have more testosterone. Plus, there’s still that pesky story of the forbidden fruit and the Garden of Eden…

My workplace is pretty diverse, with many religions and dozens of cultures represented. We have occasionally encountered men who don’t believe they should have to listen to women. It hasn’t been our hugest cultural issue, but it has come up.

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