Notes & Essays
What Modern Christian Families Should Know About the 'Umbrella of Protection'
Here's one umbrella we wouldn't mind losing.
ILLUSTRATOR Jasrelle Serrano
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The Kramers are a bit of a cultural phenomenon here in Manila. Doug and his wife Chesca, along with their three gorgeous children, have announced themselves as a sort of Endorsement Dream Team over the years, picking up impressive accounts with KFC, Nesfruta, Hapee Toothpaste, and Red Ribbon, to name a few. Their brand is airtight: “Team Kramer.” The Ideal Christian Hipster Artista Family.

And here’s the thing: you get the sense that it’s genuine. They truly seem like great people. People I’d want to be friends with, truthfully. A genuine, loving young Christian family, trying their best to live wisely and inspire the followers who look up to them (8.6 million followers on Facebook and some 3 million combined on Instagram, to be precise).

Since a couple of weeks ago, Team Kramer has been in hot water because of a Facebook post uploaded by Mrs. Kramer that has since gained over 7500 shares on Facebook. The post was entitled “Instructions For Christian Households,” and in it, Chesca quotes a biblical passage from the Letter of Paul to the Colossians, which instructs: "Wives, submit to your husbands; husbands, love your wives and don’t be harsh on them. Children, obey your parents in everything… and slaves, obey your masters." (Yup. Slaves.)

The text was accompanied by a diagram that is actually pretty notorious in the Christian church. It’s called The Umbrella of Protection.

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The Umbrella of Protection is a drawing of three umbrellas combined into one. A giant umbrella, named Christ, a large umbrella directly below it, named Husband, and under that, a small umbrella named Wife (Children; Manages The Home). Underneath this triple-umbrella is an enormous floating hand that belongs, one assumes, to God.

The post drew immediate reactions from Team Kramer’s followers. Many commented expressing outrage: Some said the diagram portrayed women (smaller, submissive) as inferior to men. Some called it misogynistic. Others felt the post encouraged slavery. Within the day, Chesca Kramer edited her post and explained that by “slaves,” she meant “employees,” and by “women are smaller,” she meant “women are the same size, but with specific responsibilities that include following their husbands.”

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To many readers, this sounded a bit like: “Men and women are created equal, but not.” Days later, Doug Kramer issued a statement, qualifying their position further: We’re equal. But every company needs one CEO, and the CEO is the Husband.

The comments remained divided. The diagram remains posted.

The Umbrella of Protection has a history that Team Kramer may not have known about when they clicked Share. It stems from the teachings of an American man named Bill Gothard, who founded the Institute In Basic Life Principles in 1989. He championed ultraconservative family values: Dating is dangerous. Fathers should oversee their daughters courtships. Girls should wear long dresses. All rock music (even Jars Of Clay) is demonic. Also the Cabbage Patch dolls may cause your child to sin. Also, the Umbrella of Protection.

At 82, Bill Gothard remains unmarried. In 2014, 34 women came forward with allegations that he’d sexually harassed or assaulted them. Gothard resigned, but has never apologized. The diagram remains in circulation.

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This verse by Paul has been used time after time to justify owning people as slaves. It’s been used to keep women from voting, or working jobs, or divorcing abusive husbands. It’s been used to justify child abuse. 

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This verse by Paul has history, too. It’s been used time after time—by the Americans, the French, and of course the Spanish conquistadors who washed onto our shores—to justify owning people as slaves. It’s been used to keep women from voting, or working jobs, or divorcing abusive husbands. It’s been used to justify child abuse. It’s one of the most controversial verses in the Bible, and it’s caused division and heated discourse within the Christian Church for hundreds of years.

Most Christians, when asked, would say that they believe that the Bible is God-inspired and therefore infallible. To some Christians—like Bill Gothard and the makers of the Umbrella of Protection shared by Team Kramer—this requires that the verses within the Bible must be taken literally.

But throughout the years, many other Christians have fought for a different approach. One that takes into consideration the cultural context in which the verses were written. Two obvious examples of this are the fact that we now eat shellfish (a sin, according to Leviticus), and that we don’t force women to marry their rapists (Deuteronomy); because we no longer live in the cultural context of Moses.

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When you look at the cultural context of Paul writing this verse to the church at Colossae (modern-day Turkey) there are three important considerations to be made. The first is that Colossae was an ancient Greek society, where slaves were not “employees;” they were slaves. In ancient Greece, women were unanimously viewed as inferior creatures and treated like property. They couldn’t own land or be granted citizenship, something even male slaves could hope for. Their roles in society were completely fixed; there was no mobility, and to rebel against the status quo would be to risk your life.

This brings us to to the second consideration: Paul was writing to a baby church of converts to what was widely considered at the time to be a subversive and dangerous new belief system. He was painstakingly aware of how risky it was to take on Jesus’ teachings of radical love. They threatened the status quo, and society has a tendency to persecute those who it feels threaten the status quo— look what we did to Jesus.

So even though Paul actually begins his letter to the Colossians by writing that, in Christ, everyone—man, woman, child, and slave—is “made free and equal,” he goes on to write this controversial call to submit to your existing roles. Probably because he didn’t want his female or enslaved Christian friends to be executed for sedition.

How cool would it be to see 29,000 people click like on a description of love that breaks walls down

A third and final consideration to be made is, like Bill Gothard, Paul was never married. In fact, he encouraged Christian men not to marry if they could at all help it, so as to better pursue God. Again, as with Bill the Goat-herd, maybe not the best person to look to for marriage advice.

The major bummer here is that the Bible is actually brimming with tales of badass, empowered women who were placed by God in positions of leadership and used to forward His divine plan. From Rebekah, to Esther, Deborah, to Mary Magdelene, to Paul’s own friend and patron, Priscilla, you have women breaking code, following their hearts, and disrupting their social order in positions of strength and authority, and being blessed by God for doing so.

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But instead of sharing one of these stories, Team Kramer chose to share the Umbrella of Protection, a depiction of women that, arguably, even the majority of contemporary Christians find at best outdated, and at worst, incredibly dangerous. When over a thousand people reacted angrily, Team Kramer responded with circuitous logic (I’m not smaller, I’m just not as big, effectively) and a reminder that “we’re not perfect.” But the diagram remains posted.

The Kramers aren’t perfect. They’re human. But as humans with over 11 million followers, they have a responsibility in the content that they choose to share. At the time of this writing, 29,000 people have “loved” or “liked” the post featuring the Umbrella Of Protection.

Imagine if, instead of that diagram, that verse, Team Kramer had posted another verse, also written by Paul:

“There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” — Galatians 3:28

How cool would it be to see 29,000 people click like on a description of love that breaks walls down, instead of a depiction of an umbrella that no one wants to use?

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About The Author
Joel Darwin
Joel Darwin is not related to Charles Darwin, but he is interested in evidence-based truth. He identifies as a non-denominational Christian, and has taken classes at a seminary. Currently, he owns and co-manages a branding and graphic design studio with his wife, Marla.
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About The Author
Daniel Darwin
Daniel Darwin is a Filipino-American poet and playwright based in Manila, Philippines. He lives with his cat, Geryon, and his partner in crime, art, love and life, Perky. Together, they run their theater company, Green Glass Door.
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