(Note – 6/12/06 for an update on this story, click here)Â
Since last night the news has been filled with reports of the Tennessee Church of Christ minister, Matthew Winkler, who had been murdered. The police were looking for his wife and three young daughters. Today the wife and daughters (ages one, six, and eight) were found, and the wife, Mary Winkler, admitted that she had killed her husband. No one knows why.
When I first heard the news – especially the part about the man being a Church of Christ minister who preached sermons that were “strictly Bible-based,” I couldn’t help but think about my own experience in the Church of Christ. Then when I heard that the wife had admitted to the murder, I swear my first thought was, “Well, and no wonder!”
Before I go further, I want to stress that I sincerely feel awful that the man was killed. The wife not only killed her husband, but she also has ruined her own life and the lives of her three daughters. The three little girls have lost both parents. It’s a tragedy, and I know NOTHING about the case other than what has been reported on the news – which is that no one knows why the woman murdered her husband.
With that said, I have to say that I sure have some speculations about it. The Church of Christ is an oppressive church. I had no idea what the COC’s beliefs were until I attended one of their churches regularly during 2003. I won’t go into the reasons for my one-year stint at a COC, but I stayed as long as I had to, and then I got the heck out of Dodge.
It’s a “pick and choose” religion – They pick the scriptures they want to believe and ignore the ones they don’t want to believe. They don’t have any instrumental music in their churches because they say there is no mention of it in the New Testament. Supposedly they “add nothing to the Bible and take nothing away from it” or something like that. I guess they forgot all the “praise Him with harp and cymbals” type verses in the Old Testament. Psalms 33:1-3 is an example: “Let all the joys of the godly well up in praise to the Lord, for it is right to praise Him. Play joyous melodies of praise upon the lyre and on the harp. Compose new songs of praise to him, accompanied skillfully on the harp; sing joyfully.” Or maybe the Old Testament doesn’t count. As I said, they pick and choose.
The belief, though, that I feel is truly dangerous is their belief about the role of women in the church. Women are not allowed to speak or take any leadership role whatsoever in church services. The church takes the Bible verse about how women should be quiet in church (which had to do with Biblical times when women were not educated) and ignores the fact that there were women prophets.
Women can’t even lead singing. Sometimes they’ll have four men up front during hymns – one each for bass, tenor, alto and soprano. Song leaders are necessary since there is no instrumental accompaniment. It was hilarious once when we attended a COC-affiliated college church service and they needed someone to lead the soprano part, the “liberal” college allowed a woman to lead (guess they couldn’t find a guy with a high voice) – BUT they made her SIT in the back of the church (so none of the church members could see her) and had her sing into a microphone. It was an exercise in futility, though, because no one could hear her. A scandalized church member probably turned off her mic.
Women can’t pray in Sunday School classes either. However, they ARE allowed to teach children’s classes, and they can provide food for church gatherings. Generous of the men, isn’t it?
I forget where microphones and projection screens are mentioned in the scriptures, but surely there’s a Bible verse about them somewhere since they’re both used during each service at all the COC churches I attended.
One petty/catty observation: I remember during one church service watching the ushers as they walked up to the front of the church – pot bellies hanging out — and I thought, “Yes, now those are truly examples of superior beings.”
The thing that saddened me the most, though, was the children – Young girls talking about “choosing” submission – not even realizing that their choice was the result of years of indoctrination – and not knowing how oppressive and damaging that submission would become after years of marriage. And then the boys strutting around with their superior attitudes – because actions speak louder than words, and one of the COC’s foundations is that men are better than women. Women are to be seen (when they take care of the children and men) but not heard. Talk about the makings for wife abuse!
The ministers talk about how women are treasured and uplifted in the COC – that the submission of women is like a gift to them. I think many of them really believe it, too. It’s sad, and it broke my heart to see two young people I truly cared for being brought up with those beliefs. Even though I’m no longer in their lives, I worry about their future.
I went into the COC not knowing anything about it. I was open and receptive and looking forward to meeting the people there and being involved in the church. I went from surprise and interest eventually to disgust. As I learned more, I found that it was just silly. I know there are many good people in the church – many solid, well-intentioned, Christian people. However, that doesn’t negate the damaging effects of their erroneous beliefs. I knew there was no way I could remain in such a church.
And that brings me back to the murder. Later news about the murder mentioned that the couple had met at a COC college. So here we have a woman – married to a COC minister – a minister bound to diligently preach COC doctrine – and with three young daughters – the wife thinking about the prospect of the three girls growing up in such an oppressive religion – no way to escape (since divorce is not a viable option for a COC minister) – my guess is she reached the breaking point. Well, obviously she reached a breaking point since she murdered her husband.
Maybe I’m totally wrong – maybe I’m right. I have no idea. There are several theories circulating around the blogosphere. I will be following this story in the coming weeks and months. It will be interesting to see if a life of forced submission and subservience had anything to do with the murder.
Others blogging on the topic: historymike’s musings, Lubos Motl’s Reference Frame,Â Assorted Babble, EBBP, Pundit Guy, biblioblography, Jane Genova, World Views, Daffodil Lane, Mountaineer Musings, Home Sweet Home,