Silent All These Years: Gender Equality and the Church

The year 2016 taught me many things.  Perhaps one of the most distressing was discovering the deep vein of sexism that still runs through the modern world.  It’s actually a bit embarrassing to admit that it surprised me as much as it did.  It speaks to the inherent privilege I experience every day by an accident of birth and gender.

Donald Trump’s “locker room talk”.  Jeff Sessions stating that grabbing a woman’s genitals may not be sexual assault.   Social media users making on-line threats of rape and making casual use of derogatory terms for women.  Judges handing out slaps on the wrist to rapists like Stanford student Brock Turner.  

A Huffington Post article, released in October, highlighted the sense of insecurity that women are forced to live with everyday, detailing reasons why ⅔ of sexual harassment and assault cases go unreported.  The article shares tweets and stories from women around the world explaining why they were too afraid to report abuse they experienced.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/why-women-dont-report-hashtag_us_57ffeb84e4b05eff55829017

Some of our misogyny is so ingrained that we hardly recognize it as a problem.  Terms like “runs/fights/throws” like a girl are considered insulting because femininity is somehow considered a weakness or liability.  The objectification of women from billboards and television, to sporting events is considered harmless entertainment.   

None of this addresses the continuing issues women face worldwide: lack of quality healthcare, honor killings, human trafficking, genital mutilation, the list goes on and on.

The women I know felt no surprise to see the level of violence and vitriol expressed toward women in recent months.  A fair number of my female friends have experienced violent sexual assault and ALL of them have faced sexual harassment and discrimination of some kind.  For them, it was just another reminder that being a woman is not safe.

You’d think that the Church would be a haven from this, but sadly this is often not the case.  There are still many Christian denominations that reject women as clergy.  For instance, when Irving Bible Church in Texas took on Jackie Roese as preacher, another local pastor named Rev. Tom Nelson had this to say:

“If the Bible is not true and authoritative on the roles of men and women, then maybe the Bible will not be finally true on premarital sex, the homosexual issue, adultery or any other moral issue,” he said. “I believe this issue is the carrier of a virus by which liberalism will enter the evangelical church.”

http://www.dennyburk.com/first-female-preacher-at-irving-bible-church/

Countless Christian books exist instructing women on how to be submissive to their husbands.  Some go so far as to suggest that women are responsible if their partners or husbands have affairs or assault them.  Many conservative Christians have even come to view the idea of being feminist and Christian as antithetical terms.

I disagree.

Feminism, by definition, is the advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of political, social, and economic equality to men.  This is an inherently Christian concept.

In the Gospels, we see examples of Jesus treating women as equals of men.  Women sat at his feet while he taught, a place typically reserved for a rabbi’s disciples (Luke:10:39).  Women were the first to see the risen Christ and the first to proclaim the Good News of His resurrection (Mark 16:9 & Matthew 28:1-10).

In Galatians 3:28 Paul says:

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

Even the Old Testament, which has many troubling passages regarding women, begins by describing both men and women as made in the image of God.  

“So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.” (Genesis 1:27)

Curiously, one of the verses frequently used to subjugate women actually has a more nuanced and progressive meaning than most realize.  In Genesis 2:18 God says,

““It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.”

The term for helper is “Ezer Kenegdo”.  Some scholars point out that the word’s roots trace back to the Hebrew words for “rescue” and “strength”.  In fact, in most instances the term “ezer” is used to described God when helping mankind.  It is not a term of subordination, but of strength.

http://www.godswordtowomen.org/ezerkenegdo.htm

As a man, I apologize if I have ever, knowingly or unknowingly, contributed to any of these issues.  As a member of the Church, I apologize for ways that the Church has betrayed the cause of women.

Women were never intended to be second class to men.  Not in the Church.  Not in the world.  They were never intended to be silent.  We need women’s voices.

 

One thought on “Silent All These Years: Gender Equality and the Church

  1. Thank you, Shaun. There is a Rabbinic saying that I shall attempt to paraphrase and probably get a but wrong, so please forgive me. God did not make Eve from Adam’s head so that she could rule him. God did not make Eve from Adam’s feet so he could stomp on her. God make Eve from Adam’s rib so they would stand side by side as equals.

    Had we the ability to read the Hebrew Scriptures in the original language and cease to read it through the filter of the nineteenth century, we would see that compared to other cultures and societies contemporaneous with the various Hebrew Scriptures, there was a strong streak of feminism in the way women are treated in those Scriptures. If I can be forgiven the anachronism.

    Had we the ability to read the New Testament in the original koiné, we would see that women were equal partners of men in all aspects of following Jesus. Unfortunately for women, Christianity met up with Greek dualistic philosophy.

    Yes, I do know that I over-simplify, but one cannot give an exhaustive history in a comment.

    If you have ever treated a woman in a sexist fashion, Shawn, I forgive you because I see your repentance and your desire to sin no more in this manner.

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