The claim ‘based in actual events’ is used to give credibility to a dramatization of a story. One might take the phrase to mean that the portrayal of an event is basically accurate or true.
But to me the claim is a warning to do my own research.
In some cases great liberties have been taken in the storytelling—and sometimes to the point that there is little resemblance to the actual events it is supposedly ‘based’ on.
Likewise, authentic Christian faith and a Bible ‘based’ tradition are two distinct things and sometimes entirely different things.
Bible ‘based’ is not always Christ centered
There are many organizations that advertise their promotion of ‘Biblical’ principles, they give the impression of having real spiritual authority, and yet very little of what they offer seems based in real Christian love or the actual example of Jesus Christ.
Christian leadership is to emulate the example of Jesus. Christian leadership is supposed to be about serving others with a heart of humility. A good leader is one who takes responsibility (in love) for things not even their own fault and will take punishment upon themselves rather than delegate the blame.
Unfortunately many twist the Scripture turning it on its head and copying the very example of those whom Jesus condemned. They clamor for power and position over others, yet when time comes for accountability they find everyone but themselves to blame.
Good leadership takes responsibility.
According to the book of Genesis there was a man. This man was given a garden with two trees, one the “tree of life” and the other the “tree of the knowledge of good and evil” with instructions by God not to eat the fruit of the latter tree.
In the familiar account both man and woman disobey God by eating the forbidden fruit. But, when confronted for his own sin, the man responds:
“The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.” (Genesis 3:12 NIV)
Sounds pretty true to life, huh?
Instead of taking responsibility for their own actions many men will look for someone else to blame. I know of one man who blamed his own obesity on the meals his wife cooked. I know many other men who blame women for their own sexual sins and lust. This, coupled with a few (misused) Biblical proof texts, has become a justification for all types ‘modesty’ requirements for women.
A shameful example of an immodest man.
I was talking to a friend recently, a woman raised in a conservative Mennonite community, who recalls a three hour meeting over the issue of a couple buttons being closed on her sweater.
I had to ask twice about the buttons being closed, because it didn’t make sense (even to a person like me raised around this type of mindset) that closed buttons would be a problem.
I’m still perplexed…
I would guess the particular group had a standard of a loose outer garment for women and buttons made it too tight?
Whatever the case, this is an all too common scenario in traditional ‘Bible based’ communities and amounts to spiritual abuse.
In the story I told the man huffing and puffing was an elderly ‘bishop’ (I use the apostrophes because I don’t think the title of respect is deserved) and the one he was calling rebellious and a “whore” was a teenager.
The man should be rebuked, once for being a creep who was ogling teenage girls and again for being completely antithetical to the example of Jesus Christ.
A modest mistake and a big problem of interpretation.
Modesty is an obsession in conservative churches. I’ve heard more sermons on the topic than I care to mention and almost always focused disproportionately on matters of women’s clothing.
These constant reminders may make one think that the Bible must be similarly preoccupied. Interestingly the word “modesty” is found only once in the entire Bible.
However, while the word “modesty” is found only once in English translations, the Greek word translated as modesty is actually used twice. It is used once speaking about women and later in reference to men. The first usage is in 1 Timothy 2:9 quoted below in King James Version English:
“In like manner also, that women adorn (kosmein) themselves in modest (kosmio) apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array…”
This is the Greek it was translated from:
ωσαυτως και τας γυναικας εν καταστολη κοσμιω μετα αιδους και σωφροσυνης κοσμειν εαυτας μη εν πλεγμασιν η χρυσω η μαργαριταις η ιματισμω πολυτελει
I am not an expert on Greek (so I do encourage everyone to study the language themselves) but I do know that there is an interesting repetition that is not carried over as clearly in the English translation. I’ve been told it could translate better as “women should get themselves in order in ordered apparel.”
Apparently it is an idea that describes soldiers arranged in their ranks. It also has similarity to “cosmos” or the idea of the order in the universe. That is what makes “orderly” a good alternative translation.
I asked a Russian speaking friend to translate the word from her Russian language Bible and she translated it as neatness. So the writer is conveying an idea of neat and orderly attire, perhaps like a professional or dignified person.
The same Greek word is used later in 1 Timothy 3:2 as quality of leadership. It is translated as “respectable” in the New International Version and translated as follows in the King James Version English:
“A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour (kosmion), given to hospitality, apt to teach…”
The whole idea of modesty (in a Biblical usage) meaning more coverage to prevent lust is wrong and is a glaring example of reading a presupposition back into a text. The idea is actually more to the effect of neatness, orderliness or respectability and not of concealment of body for sake of protection from the lusts of men.
Unfortunately there are many teachers out there who use a few words from the Bible to build their own rigid prescriptions. Literature from Bill Gothard, for example, encourages victims of sexual abuse to blame themselves and is basically rationalizing abuse as a product of female immodesty or rebellion from parents and God’s will.
It is never the responsibility of women to control male impulses.
Jesus spoke directly to matters of lust—he gave no excuse to irresponsible and leering men:
“…I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.” (Matthew 5:28-29)
Even Bible literalists may dismiss that as hyperbolic. But even as that could be the case, the message is pretty clear about where responsibility for sin of lust lies and Jesus offers the solution. There is no excuse given for men, no blame he puts on women and no uncertainty of terms: Men are responsible for their own thought life, not women.
Men who point a finger of blame at women are doubling their sin.
A man who blames a woman is both guilty of the lust and also guilty of false accusation. They are like king Saul who blamed his disobedience against God on the will of the people. (1 Samuel 15) They are opposite of a man after God’s heart (Acts 13:22) like David who did not make excuses when confronted for his sin. Men who blame women are failures of Christian leadership and may need to be cut off until they repent of their false testimony.
Jesus did not give an example of a patriarchal tyrant who could not be questioned and then always blames others when things go wrong. No, Jesus led by self-sacrifice, he took responsibility for sins that were not even his own—the sins of the world—and brought grace to every situation. That is the example of real Christian leadership.
The Bible might be a basis for some to excuse their own failures and justify their own abuses, but good Christian men do not ever blame others for their own sin. Beware of those who claim to be based in the Bible and yet lack the evidence of the attitude of Jesus Christ.