Today marks the 95th anniversary of the day women were given the right to vote in America. We take it for granted, but 100 years ago women were shut out of having a voice within the laws of our nation. We’ve come a long way baby! Except in fundamentalist Christian circles where women are still being treated as second class today. Even as recent as this year, votes in my own denomination have been proclaimed to keep women in their place for the most sinister reason of all—that God counts Eve as less than Adam.
There was a time when Jimmy Carter was laughed at for saying he was a “born again Christian,” but those days are over as the last few decades have shown his commitment to treating people as Jesus would. Carter and the Elders of many nations have addressed the issue of violence against women. They claim fundamentalist religions where women are not treated with equality is one of the primary causes of abuse. Carter is so convinced that he left his beloved Southern Baptist church because they refused to ordain women. He made a statement at the time that bears repeating:
“This discrimination, unjustifiably attributed to a Higher Authority, has provided a reason or excuse for the deprivation of women’s equal rights across the world for centuries.
“At its most repugnant, the belief that women must be subjugated to the wishes of men excuses slavery, violence, forced prostitution, genital mutilation and national laws that omit rape as a crime. But it also costs many millions of girls and women control over their own bodies and lives, and continues to deny them fair access to education, health, employment and influence within their own communities.
“The same discriminatory thinking lies behind the continuing gender gap in pay and why there are still so few women in office in the West. The root of this prejudice lies deep in our histories, but its impact is felt every day. It is not women and girls alone who suffer. It damages all of us.” –Jimmy Carter
Fundamentalist Christians point to the Bible Patriarchs to justify and excuse their subjugation of women under the title of male headship. It’s true, the Patriarchs all practiced male headship, but they practiced polygamy and slavery too. The problem contributing to this male headship confusion is choosing to read the Bible through a lens that omits the light of Jesus.
For most of the history in this world, women have been considered to be inferior to men, and under the authority of men—either their father before marriage, or their husband afterwards, but I find it hard to believe God would design Eve as the crowing act of creation to be subjugated to Adam.
Some proponents of male headship say Adam knew God first, but like a cartoon recently stated—Eve had her own thing going on with God while Adam slept. Some say Eve is less because she sinned first, but Eve was deceived, while Adam willingly sinned. The blame game really gets us nowhere because as members of the human race, we are all sinners in need of God’s grace. I’ve heard preachers say the ground at the foot of the cross is level, but sadly some would like to consider themselves of a higher value than a woman. The ground is either level or not.
Did God command male headship? If we read the story in Genesis, we see that Adam and Eve had to leave the garden because they were damaged by sin. And I might add they were now paranoid. After all they were hiding in the bushes from their Creator and friend who was still treating them kindly. Paranoia and control ruin relationships—just look at all the divorces caused by both. Sin damages our ability to see each other and treat each other with other-centered love.
God saw what was happening with Adam and Eve and told them Eve would now cling to her husband and Adam would rule over her, but this was never God’s original plan—it was a description of what sin has done. No longer would they serve as equals and one, but they would be at each other’s throats unless someone was in charge. Adam was physically stronger so he won in power, but Eve would still try to outsmart him. Male headship is a very sad picture, because two people can’t be one unless they are both equal parts. The problem of considering self above another affects all of humanity and this is why Jesus came—to destroy the devil’s work.
The way Jesus treats women brings light to the dynamic between men and women—but only for those willing to think outside of a box created by the devil in Eden. After the fall, the world was plunged into darkness for at least four thousand years. The life of Jesus is the beginning of the dawn that must have shocked the men and women of His day.
Jesus Breaks the Social Norms for Women
- Jesus Ignores Ritual Impurity Laws
Women were considered unclean at certain times for bleeding, but Jesus allowed a bleeding woman to touch Him and then He rewarded her with healing (Mark 5:25-34).
- Jesus Calls Women into His Inner Circle
This included Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Susanna and “many others” (Luke 8:1-3).
- Jesus Uses Terms That Treat Women as Equal to Men
When He healed a woman of an evil spirit He called her daughter of Abraham which gave her the dignity and status of any son of Abraham (Luke 13:16).
- Jesus Converses With Foreign Women
The Woman of Samaria (John 4:7-5:30).
A Canaanite Woman (Matthew 15:22-28).
- Jesus Allows Women to Study at His Feet
This was a place for only male disciples, but Jesus affirmed Mary and promised this place would not be taken from her (Luke 10:38-42).
- Jesus Calls and Sends Women to Preach the Good News
The Woman at the Well led people to Jesus (John 4:7-5:30).
Mary was given the first resurrection sermon and isn’t it ironic men have been giving this message for centuries often at the exclusion of women preachers?
Jesus came to restore what was lost in the fall. He came to unite all humanity as equals so we can be one again—not just in name, but in reality. One between husband and wife and one in the Spirit of Jesus which will lead us to be one with all the various parts of the body of Christ. This oneness leaves no room for anyone but Jesus to be the head.
Can you see the light? If you are awake, the light has already come, but many continue to live in the darkness of male headship. It’s a false religion where Christians claim to represent God’s character but fail to treat women as Jesus does. Men can use God’s name to offer women the lessor seats in the church, but someday God’s dawn will shine for everyone to see. Whether men ordain women or not, God is bringing the dawn and no man will be able to stop it.
Jesus brings the dawn—one heart at a time. Jesus. Is. The. Dawn.
For look, darkness covers the earth,
and total darkness the peoples;
but the Lord will shine over you,
and His glory will appear over you.