International Women’s Day and Christianity

Christ_and_Samaritan_woman_smI’m thinking about women on International Women’s day and because I am the person I am (a Christian Woman) my thoughts are naturally going to turn to women in Christian culture. I’m nothing if not predicatble…

Well, the Christian Church has a pretty poor record on women, let’s be honest. Some of the arguments made by members of the Church against women priests for instance have almost a ring of occultism about them they are so superstitious (eg defiling the altar with blood because they menstruate – I kid you not). And there are all kinds of fun texts particularly courtesy of Paul which talk about how we are ‘the glory of man’. I am not denying that. However, I think they are broadly culturally biased texts, particularly if you look at the way that the Bible reports the actions of Christ towards women.

The Bible reports the actions of Christ towards women are revolutionary and shocking and quite clearly demonstrate what is written in Genesis 1: 27

“So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”

(Oh, you didn’t know that version? There are 2 creation stories in Genesis. This one and the one in Genesis 2 about the rib etc which the Church and Jewish faith focused on for a couple of millennia because it suits humans to find ways to oppress each other. You really should read more!)

But back to Jesus. Here are a few of the ways in which he affirmed women as equal partners in God’s kingdom.

1. Happy to teach women in a rabbinical way – he actively encouraged Mary and praised her for sitting at his feet learning whilst her sister Martha did the good little woman thing in the kitchen. This was completely contrary to the custom of the day.
2. Dismissive of cultural boundaries relating to women’s status – discussed theology with the woman going to the well to get water at midday (this marked her out as probably an outcast from polite society because she was on her own and getting water late in the day). Again, no “respectable” man would have even spoken to her
3. Did not see women as the root of all evil – Instead of condemning the woman caught in adultery he revealed the hypocrisy of the situation to the men who had brought her by challenging them to confront their own sin.

God even describes himself as a woman through various metaphors throughout the Bible including the Old Testament – which clearly features female Judges and heroines who act to further the story of God’s people.

God loves women in the same way he loves men, unconditionally and as sharers in his nature and creation. All religions have opposed women for cultural and economic reasons and for reasons of sheer physical strength and erroneous reasoning at one time or another over the millennia. But it is never appropriate to say that it is ok to deprive women of education, self-actualisation, respect or freedom on the basis that this is what God wants. And this is particularly true of the peoples of the book or the Abrahmic religions – Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Because the evidence points to the contrary.

It is our duty to oppose oppression and threats to women wherever they manifest because women manifest the glory of God just as much as men. After all, Jesus didn’t spring fully formed out of Joseph’s thigh like Athena out of Zeus’s nor did he appear out of a rock like Mithras. He went through the humiliating and painful process of human birth, from a woman.


6 responses to “International Women’s Day and Christianity

  1. A subject that is dear to my heart…so dear that I am doing my Doctoral Thesis on this area. As a Christian woman myself I cringe sometimes at the way women are treated in churches. Sometimes I wonder if it is just sheer ignorance…..I want to be believe that it is just ignorance.

  2. It’s great that you are doing your thesis on this. In-depth and serious academic study can only help the situation. Unfortunately, although I think it’s the kind of ignorance that could be challenged early in life, by adulthood it can become innate prejudice around which people construct a part of their own sense of self. That’s very hard to combat. But with God nothing is impossible!

  3. It was Dionysus who was born from Zeus’s thigh, not Athena, and the parallel is more relevant for your post because much of the early iconography of Jesus in Christian art is taken from Dionysus, including feminized or even androgynous characteristics. More masculine iconography comes from Apollo and seems to have won out over time.

  4. You’re right, of course – Athena was born out of Zeus’s head. The point of the point though was that these are clearly supernatural and unhuman birth stories rather than a parallel between stories or depictions of Jesus and other gods.

  5. You made one point. I made a slightly different point, elaborating on and also confirming your first point. I thought we were entering into a dialogue. Now you have replied and simply restated your original point, adding that my point wasn’t the same was your point. If that’s how this blog works I don’t know why you have comments switched on.

  6. You offered a correction which I accepted. That in itself would be reason enough to have comments switched on – to ensure I get facts straight. Your point about Dionysius and aApollo was interesting but actually offered no reason to dialogue. You made a statement about the history of art. A mmale representation of a male winning out doesn’t feel like oppression to me. It was phrased as an observation. I alsi leave comments on because it’s the only way I get to have any chat with you these days what with chess, football, Bridge etc at lunch time.

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