Christian Equality: Christianity and its role on women (good & bad)
Article by Eric Gondwe (BMC, MBA, DD), webmaster for Women's Rights World and author of Breaking Spiritual Strongholds and Healing the Wounded Spirit: Dealing with Root Causes.
It seems worth opening the topic with an embarrassing quote on women’s rights from a fellow Christian. It’s embarrassing to Christianity hearing it from prominent circles in a period when we should be assumed to have learnt from the sad past. Christianity played key roles in the worst human rights abuses throughout history: These include slavery, colonialism, oppression of non-Christians (including oppression of Jews), and oppression of women.
“(Feminism is) a socialist, anti-family, political movement that encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians,” by Pat Robertson.
Other fellow Christians erroneously call women’s rights advocacy the end-time Jezebel spirit. My book Breaking Curses, Including Generational Curses, covers on the real nature of the Jezebel spirit in these end-times. It’s certainly not women seeking basic human rights.
Misunderstanding occurs when advocacy for women’s rights or any feminist civil rights are considered to be all the same. They are not all the same. Many have a firm Christian foundation while some have militant ideologies. This is expected as anyone with basic understanding of statistics will point out. In nearly every study involving beliefs results will show diverse views ranging from extreme right to extreme left. In statistics the mean or the basic average of derived results matter more than the extreme values, to the left or to of the right of the distribution curve.
The above quote from Pat Robertson is a mirror image of some fellow Christians who seem not to understand even the basics of human rights and freedom of choice. It’s easy to identify Pat Robertson because of his prominence. Yet there are many more out there using Christianity to flaunt their biases and biblical misinterpretation.
Such unscriptural status quo views are what allowed Christians to support many historical human rights abuses for centuries. No wonder Elizabeth Cady Stanton, 19th century women's rights activist, once said, “The Bible and the Church have been the greatest stumbling blocks in the way of women's emancipation,” (Elizabeth Cady Stanton (1815 - 1902)).
Unscriptural or imbalanced views, like those of Pat Robertson, are embarrassing to our Christian faith. We ought to grow up by now, having learnt from the sad past. During the 1960’s civil rights period Christian churches refused to support equal rights for African Americans.
Once the white Christian pastors disapproved equal rights for African Americans the congregation or the flock said amen (so shall it be). This is all that the flock can do (for the most part). They look up to their shepherd or leader to provide guidance. You can’t blame them when they’re fed wrong doctrines on certain matters. They faithfully embrace and reproduce the wrong teachings in real life.
What resulted in the 1960’s civil rights era is that a majority section of the southern states which are considered the “Bible belt,” ended up opposing equal rights for African Americans. African Americans joined hands with white Americans from predominantly northern states that were largely secular.
Many white Christian pastors in the Bible belt resisted to move with the Spirit of God and chose to support traditions of men above God’s word. God used stones in form of non-Christians to bring change. Apart from African American Christians like Dr Martin Luther King most white American activists were non-Christians. May we not repeat this over gender equality and women’s rights. Or else God will again resort to using stones and we’ll be ashamed once again.
Jesus was a big opponent of traditions that had nothing to do with the scripture. “You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions,” Mark 7:9.
It is strange that white Christians and Christian pastors played a central role in the abolition of slavery and later came to be opponents of equal rights for African Americans. They obediently followed the Spirit of God in crusading against slavery. It seems they counted their loses from the free labor they once had in abundance and wanted it back.
It is also strange that the Bible belt during anti-slavery days was in the northern states. The less Christian southern states, at the time, were bent on preserving slavery. Somehow people in southern states have ended up being on the wrong side of major turning-point historical issues.
I’m in habit of jokingly mocking Christian friends from southern states when discussing some matters. I’d say, “If you live in the southern states the odds are against you on ever being right if a Yankee (northerner) disagrees with you... ha ha ha.”
But on a serious note the opposition against equal rights for African Americans in the 1960s was a big blow against Christianity in the Westren world. When dealing with hot issues we can’t afford throwing some wishy-washy doctrine to prove our views. The consequences of this is that we now have people who’re literally anti-Christian and their argument revolves around what happened in the 1960s. Many have different reasons but their common denominator is that they despise Christianity.
For example, some anti-Christian African Americans argue that Christianity only served to perpetuate their problems, with the 1960s being their example. Some anti-Christian white Americans argue that Christianity is obsolete (out of date) in modern society and the 1960s “prove” it. Some women’s rights advocates also use the 1960s civil rights era as a model to show the place of Christianity in relation to human rights.
Can we afford another blunder on women’s rights in this era when its gaining momentum? It’s not worth it. We need informed Christians in the battlefront of women’s rights to show that Christianity is for women’s civil rights not against them. Below is the bible’s justification for women’s rights, created equal and in the spiritual image of God. Nowhere in the bible does it say a woman is created less in the image of God. That’s why her spirit is crying out for expression, equality and respect -the same thing that happened in the civil rights era of the 1960s.
For those we disagree with in their approach to women’s rights we politely excuse ourselves from them. During the 1960’s civil rights era there were many other groups crusading for civil rights for African Americans. Dr Martin Luther King didn’t agree with all of them. He sharply disagreed with some of them. For example, he disagreed with militant approaches of the Black Panthers. He also disagreed with the teachings of Malcom X, a Muslim African American civil rights leader.
It’s therefore unjustifiable for one group to monopolize the women’s rights movement. As Christians we have areas we may disagree with some secular women’s rights activists and some activists from other religions. This does not mean we abandon the whole effort. We continue doing our work, knowing that equal civil liberties and opportunities are our key concern on women’s rights. Our concern ought not to be in trying to see who speaks the loudest. History will remember our efforts not our inter-factional struggles. Above all, God will credit us for our efforts.
Biblical justification for women’s rights
The Genesis chapters before man sinned show that God did not plan for either man or woman to rule over another. They were equal partners entrusted with the responsibility to rule over God’s creation. The basis for God’s perfect will in marriage remains this standard.
What God said after Adam and Eve sinned that man will rule of the woman was a curse not a blessing: "I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing; with pain you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you." Genesis 3:16.
God did not intend the curse on both the man and woman to remain that way. Through Christ any curse upon us is removed: “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us,” Galatians 3:13. “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,” Romans 8:1.
The Pharisees once questioned Jesus on marriage and divorce. They argued that according to the law Moses gave it was right to give a wife a divorce certificate and end the marriage.
Jesus responded that this was not however God’s perfect will. “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard. But it was not this way from the beginning,” (Matthew 19:8).
It was therefore God’s permissive, not perfect will to tolerate careless divorce in Moses’ time because the people’s hearts were “hard.” He still requires us to conform to his perfect will that he laid out in the beginning - before the fall. Every matter is expected to be seen in the light of God’s original purpose, not what sin brought it to be.
In regard to equality in marriage we ought to follow God’s original plan. Many have been quick to quote scripture on the authority of the husband over the wife without any reference to “the beginning.” We should avoid being modern day Pharisees using the scripture to justify our ends without looking at God’s original purposes.
One often quoted scripture is: “I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God,” (1 Corinthians 11:3).
In response to this Scanzoni and Hardestyt wrote: “Many have interpreted this passage of scripture to portray a 'chain of command' in which authority passes downward from God to Christ to the Holy Spirit to the man to the woman and thence to the child, the slave, etc. Clearly, however, Paul did not intend that image, or he would have begun logically with either God at the top or the woman at the bottom. Instead, he begins with a middle member and speaks in a more circular manner. As Chrysostorn argued fifteen hundred years ago, the emphasis is on UNITY NOT HIERARCHY. As Christ is one with God in substance, so the husband is one flesh with the wife. Every Christian is united with Christ.” (Scanzoni and Hardestyt quoted in Barbara Wilhem, The Purpose of Marriage).
Thus, everything is again defined in terms of Jesus. Though being conformed to each other’s ways can be part of our goal, the ultimate goal of the Lord is that we become one with him; not with man. We’re to be conformed to his image, his level of perfection by submitting to him. He thus becomes our spiritual Head and each of us a part of his body.
What about the roles in marriage, between husband and wife?
The body of Christ is a set of roles different believers play in enabling the entire body to function. Such roles are an example to marriage. Even the secular world with its different professions and job-functions shows that roles are a part of life. We can’t run away from them. There is chaos where there is no understanding of roles.
Being parts of Christ’s body each of us has somewhat different roles to function. No role is superior or inferior to another. “God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be... Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it,” (1 Corinthians 12:18,27).
Since it is God who arranges these roles for every individual and couple it is important that every couple seek God’s will in regard to their marital and societal roles. In seeking God’s guidance neither party has the prerogative of imposing what he/she assumes is what God said. In an equal marriage partners respect the sacred wishes of each other. No one is robbing the other to have his/her way. It’s mutual consideration for each other and consideration for individual boundaries.
It is likely that most of these roles will be influenced by circumstances per time and how a couple accommodates their different circumstances per time. God speaks more often in a still small voice of everyday matters in life. For more info on how to hear from God, my book titled, Hearing from God: How to Hear God’s Voice in Your Life, has more detailed info.
The scriptures give certain roles but it is like God left out the specific details so that we would each seek him to show us our individual roles. Please note that no role implies any seniority or higher status of one over the other. When this happens it means a couple is now trying to introduce tradition and its unjustifiable inequalities.
The old school of tradition set man-made roles for men and roles for women. Then the effort was made to use twisted scriptures to claim that the bible backed the male serving roles. Our mothers were literally servants to our fathers. Why? Because the bible says so. Please. Below is an exposι on the nature of scripture misinterpretation that partly contributed to instituting the male lordship culture using the bible.
A note on the nature and origins of misinterpreted scripture
This passage is adapted from my book, Major Spiritual Warfare Principles: Biblical Do’s and Don’ts of Warfare.
Understanding the nature and origins of misinterpreted scripture is such an important foundation for our Christian lives. It helps us to put into perspective matters we deal with in life. It also helps us to be more cautious in our biblical analysis without making easy conclusions.
It is one of the pillars for our Christian faith that enables us to not be easily manipulated by all kinds of rosy teachings in some Christian circles. It gives us a framework for looking at different doctrines and teachings that differ in their interpretation of the bible on certain matters.
Our differences in the Christian faith are largely caused by interpretation differences of the bible. We’ve a lot in common as one Christian body. We don’t have problems in areas we’ve common ground.
It is the areas we’ve different biblical interpretation perspectives that separate or divide us into different denominations. The different denominations we have are a testimony or evidence that our understanding is limited. There is only one truth. We cannot all be right on one issue with different interpretations (or different misinterpretations).
Thus on each matter with different interpretations there is only one group that is right. Needless to say each group is busy claiming their interpretation is right and some even go as far as unsympathetically smearing other differing Christian groups. This is a sign of immaturity, no matter who does it. Let’s put our criticisms in context, even where criticism is merited. Even where we’re dead right it doesn’t mean we don’t have areas we may have wrong biblical interpretations (misinterpretations).
No single denomination or non-denomination can claim to be free from error on all its doctrines and beliefs. Such a claim would be at best naοve and at worst an expression of pride. It is a false assumption even when we may not know what the major error(s) may be.
The Lord has exposed some level of error in every church and denomination throughout history. Thus even today no single denomination can be the exception, not in this fallible life. The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia says “The history of the church shows that it has been as liable to error, and as readily influenced by natural conditions, as any other human institutions,” (ISB Encyclopedia, “Authority in Religion: V. Classification of Theories”).
Exposing the errors has been our Lord’s way of building, growing and maturing his church. Those that made changes have steered the church to higher levels of obedience, truth, and usefulness.
The Bible says we do not yet have perfect knowledge of everything, until this present world passes away. “For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears.” 1 Corinthians 13:9-10. The imperfect knowledge we have will be replaced by the perfect.
We therefore only know in part, according to the level the Lord chooses to reveal. More revelation brings more freedom and more power in the body of Christ against Satan’s works on earth. “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free,” John 8:31-32.
Misinterpreted scriptures are therefore the source of false teachings and doctrines. When scripture is taken out of its context its original meaning changes. Its meaning and purpose ends up being inaccurate or being in err. Once this takes place those who are taught the inaccurate or erroneous interpretation are said to be receiving false teachings and doctrines.
Misinterpreted scriptures which result in false teachings do not arise because God’s servants deliberately want to twist the scriptures or feel like deceiving people. They arise because we are human and limited in our understanding. We are liable to err as Chapter 1: Fallibility of the Church explains.
At the root of most scriptural misinterpretation is Satan trying to take advantage of our fallibility (being liable to err). While we have the Holy Spirit in us who guides us “into all truth,” (John 16:13) God does sometimes allow us to fall under certain errors for a season before revealing the truth to us. How else can we explain the extreme blunders throughout church history done in God’s name by sincere Christians?
The way this deception works is by Satan planting thoughts in our minds rather than appearing physically. We have more than enough experiences throughout history where God’s people have fallen to lies through misinterpreted scripture. Satan used scripture to justify ungodly acts such as gender abuses, slavery, colonialism, persecution of non-Christians and so on. Not only is Satan with his fellow fallen angels a cause of it, our fallen nature is also part of the problem.
For more detailed info on the nature of deception please read my other book, Breaking Spiritual Strongholds and Healing the Wounded Spirit: Dealing with Root Causes. A whole chapter is dedicated to addressing the nature of deception.
Our recent accounts of deception in the body of Christ include the erroneous spiritual warfare and deliverance teachings. None of the people that fell to the lies in our time and throughout history had any outward conversation or physical encounter with Satan quoting scripture.
In regard to gender abuses, some even in the body of Christ, are still holding on to historical role modeling that have no real scriptural backing. Most of what is advocated that women are supposed to be this or that and men are supposed to be the other are merely molding of roles born from traditions of men.
Jesus was such an opponent of traditions that had nothing to do with the scripture. “You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions,” Mark 7:9.
Many gender traditions have no biblical basis. Role modeling throughout history has rewarded those fitting their “gender roles” while punishing those not fitting. Few ever bothered to challenge these man-made roles until recently, from the 1960’s onwards.
In our era of increased understanding these roles are only serving to create marital and workplace distress. It’s largely men, not women, that need to wake up to many gender roles that have no biblical basis.
Yes some in the secular world are pursuing militant and non-biblical gender ideologies. However, this does not invalidate the fact that we have to remove traditions of men that have no biblical basis. They are mere stumbling blocks to the body of Christ.
Scripture can be used to justify almost any matter but it does not necessarily imply it is being applied or interpreted correctly. Didn’t Satan also use the bible in trying to tempt and deceive Jesus? Wasn’t the bible used for centuries to justify subjugation of certain ethnic groups and non-Christians?
Article by Eric Gondwe (BMC, MBA, DD), webmaster for Women's Rights World and author of Breaking Spiritual Strongholds and Healing the Wounded Spirit: Dealing with Root Causes.