Being True to God’s Call (Not Man’s)

Does religion empower women? It certainly can. Countless women throughout history have found strength and sustenance in dealing with great … Continued

Does religion empower women? It certainly can. Countless women throughout history have found strength and sustenance in dealing with great suffering, including great injustice, by nurturing a strong spiritual life, and a sense of their own worth that transcends the difficulties, even horrors, of their circumstances.

My own religion, Christianity, affirms the fundamental equality of men and women in its scriptures. Jesus treated women with dignity and respect; as his encounters with Martha and Mary show ((Luke 10:38-42), John (11:1–12:11) , he treated women as his friends as well as his disciples). Many women have found their basic equality before God affirmed in St. Paul’s Letter to the Galatians: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

At the same time, it is undeniable that religion can be used, and has been used, to thwart and harm women. In Christianity, this does not tend to take the form of denying the fundamental equality of women before God, but of attempting to constrict their roles in human society, including the church, in accordance with what is believed to be a divine plan of creation. For example, St. Paul’s first letter to Timothy prohibits women from teaching and having authority over men. Women “must be quiet.” (1 Tim. 2:12).

Today, many Christians, including many Catholics, see Paul’s advice in Timothy as reflecting cultural assumptions of a particular time and place, not setting forth a universal, divinely ordained rule about the relationship of men and women.

We interpret scripture by scripture, and all by the person and work of Jesus Christ. More generally, Christian women throughout the ages have attempted to use the basic insights of equality expressed in Jesus’s treatment of women, and Paul’s Letter to the Galatians, as a way of challenging fellow believers who attempt to equate unjust patterns of society and church with a timeless divine will. It’s not always an easy task. Nonetheless, I think the increased prominence of women in public life and in church life in Western Christianity is due, in part, to women who rose to that task in the conviction that they were being true to God’s call to them.

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  • US-conscience

    I agree completely that according to the scriptures men and women are 100%, totally and completely equal. They do have different roles to occupy just as on an athletic team all the players are equally important but each has a unique role and position to fill. The differences between men and women, physically as well as positionally should be celebrated and preserved as the God ordained order of life. There are roles and hierarchy in heaven and here on earth and submission to God and authority as well as submission to each other and each others roles is a sign of spiritual maturity and a servants heart.

  • deflag

    The United States is a nation of laws and the laws have broken the men. We have a big crisis. All you need is two people to solve a crisis. Finding the right two people is a challenge. At least one has to be a woman. I’m sure of that.

  • kert1

    Can someone explain why Jesus chose 12 men as his disciples if women were to have equal roles as men? I have never understood why Jesus would do this if his main goal was complete equality between the sexes.

  • yangpu61

    In my opinon the Author has confused the Holy Bible, a Divine Decree, with that of a Constitutional Decree. Actually it’s rather a trendy thing to do nowadays, so perhaps it wasn’t a mistake.This Americanized law-firm “spin” on a Divinely inspiried document reminds me of the suffocating prismatic beauty of gasoline on undulating water.

  • CCNL

    We assume your issue is Paul’s thinking about women as spelled out in his and the pseudo Paul epistles. We would rate it flawed first century CE thinking/conduct and such passages should be deleted. Also, (as suggested many times) see the discussion of said passages in Professor Crossan and Reed’s book, In Search of Paul and in Professor Bruce Chilton’s book, Rabbi Paul.Professor Chilton pulls no punches in criticizing one of the founders of Christianity. Basically Paul was a “prude”. An excerpt for Chilton’s book, “He (Paul) feared the turn-on of women’s voices as much as the sight of their hair and skin….. At one point he even suggests that the sight of female hair might distract any “pretty wingie talking fictional thingies” in church attendance (1 Cor. 11:10). Simply add Paul’s thinking about women to the list of flaws in the foundations of Christianity. Professor Chilton btw is a Professor of Religion at Bard College. Hmmm, do you think maybe that Mo’s scribes simply enhanced Paul’s thinking about women when they wrote the koran??? Absolutely!!!!

  • sparrow4

    “The differences between men and women, physically as well as positionally should be celebrated and preserved as the God ordained order of life. There are roles and hierarchy in heaven and here on earth and submission to God and authority as well as submission to each other and each others roles is a sign of spiritual maturity and a servants heart.”I call BS on this. Equality is not about submission to another simply because your gender is different.Physically a woman will not fare well on a football team, but in terms of brains and skills and education- well, women have true equality and if you deny them a position, claiming the glorification of G-d, you don’t understand the meaning of the word “equality.”

  • Paganplace

    I mean, pardon if I regress a bit to, say, 1984, *Professor,* but you don’t *get* to claim that what your religion does to people is the natural order of things *because* you make people suffer under it, therefore they should suffer in silence. You. Don’t. Get. To.