Christianity and Women – Roots of Oppression

By Cameron Filas | January-April 2016
The Truth Seeker

Many Christians boast about the importance of women in their religion and contend that Christianity is and has been a platform for gender equality. But is there actually any merit to these claims?

Let’s start by taking a look at the central text to the Christian religion. In the Bible as a whole, things women say only represent around 1% of the total text. Only around half of those women are even named. This data is the result of research by Rev. Lindsay Hardin Freeman as detailed in a 2015 Huffington Post article. What the data shows is that the Bible was written by men for men, which is exactly what you would expect a bunch of Bronze Age tribalistic peasants to come up with. But to be fair there are a few women who are “integral” to the Bible.

Perhaps the most iconic woman in Christianity is Mary, the mother of Jesus. She is often considered greatest among the important saints in Catholicism and there exists countless churches and food banks bearing her name. But what was her actual role in Christianity? It seems she was nothing more than a vessel for God’s plan. Because there are no intricate details about her impregnation, one might wonder whether she even gave consent to bear God’s child. Christians often point to Luke 1:38 to show that Mary did provide consent, when she said to the messenger angel, “I am the Lord’s servant, may your word to me be fulfilled.” But is that consent? Despite the fact that no proof of this, or any, deity even exists, let’s pause for a moment and really break down this argument.

To achieve consent for sexual acts, both parties must be adults who are functioning at their full mental capacity and both must agree to each stage of the encounter. This presents numerous issues for the Christian story. First, Mary was a young girl, estimated to be between 10 and 14 years of age when this all allegedly occurred. Even if she did provide full consent, this is still statutory rape because she was underage. Second, no explanation of what would occur actually happened. The angel simply told Mary, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus.” (Luke 1:30-31) When Mary asked how this could be possible, considering she was a virgin, the angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God … For no word from God will ever fail.” (Luke 1:34-37) It was only then that Mary said, “may your word be fulfilled.”

However, this cannot equate to consent considering the angel had not actually asked for it. This angelic messenger had only told Mary, ‘This is going to happen,’ and ‘God doesn’t fail.’ In any modern court of law, this would certainly not constitute consent. The other major problem is that God, who represents the party who will be involved with Mary, is not even the one asking for consent! To recreate this in a different scenario: An employee of a company approaches a young teenage girl. He tells her that his boss really likes her. His boss is going to have his way with her and she will get pregnant and she will name the baby whatever the boss wants. His boss never fails at getting his way. The young virgin says, “may your word be fulfilled.” Then the employee signals to the boss that he can come in and do his thing. This sounds like rape. At the very least this does not at all sound like legitimate consent.

The final feather in the cap is the fact that Mary was already betrothed! Her fiancé Joseph hadn’t even been with her when God decided he fancied her young virgin body and had his way with her. But perhaps it’s not rape if God does it? Perhaps this young teenage virgin really thought she wanted to serve her God? Either way, one thing should be crystal clear: God used a young virgin’s body for his own purposes when he easily could have created Jesus out
of nothing. When analyzed more deeply, this forcible use of a young virgin girl’s uterus certainly does not sound like something which should be celebrated by anyone.

Speaking of creating humans from nothing, another woman who is vital to Christian mythology is Eve. After God created Adam in the Garden of Eden, he decided to give Adam a female partner which he created from one of Adam’s ribs. This sounds all well and good, just two humans prospering together in paradise, except that Eve’s sole purpose in the story is to bring about mankind’s downfall. Eve is the one who stupidly eats the forbidden fruit and who guides Adam to do the same. This story, which some people still sadly believe is factual (despite the genealogical impossibility of such a scenario), has certainly been used against women to oppress equality throughout history. And of course this history is not some long-past Dark Age of misogyny. No, no, no. Christian oppression of women is alive and well today. Let’s take a look at just a few of the best (worst?) examples from this decade.

You’ve certainly heard of the Salem witch trials, in which young women were murdered for imaginary crimes that the Bible describes as being real. What you may not know about is that even in the 21st century women are attacked for being “witches” by religious adherents. Take for example the instance in 2015, in Papua New Guinea, in which four women were brutally tortured because a villager fell ill and they were suspected of sorcery and having “stolen”
his heart from his body.

The anonymous author at BiblicalGenderRoles.com wrote in a 2015 response to a reader’s question, about whether a wife can refuse her husband’s sexual advances in a Christian marriage, “The answer to this question is a Christian wife should never give her husband a flat no, BUT she can humbly and gently ask for a delay. There may be legitimate physical or other issues that might prompt your wife to ask you for a delay. But this must be done humbly and respectfully, and always with the attitude in mind that her body does belong to her husband.” Rape is okay in Christianity, because your wife is your property! While this might seem totally horrific, or even contrary to something hippie-Jesus might’ve preached, one must remember that even in the revered Ten Commandments the woman is listed as property, along with cattle, which should not be coveted.

Pastor Jeff Crawford, President of Cross Church Ministries in Arkansas, said in 2015, “Our soul and our spirit is uniquely linked to our body. They cannot be separated. This idea you hear about in the abortion debate, that it’s a woman’s right to choose and she has a right over her own body—no! That’s not true!” At least Pastor Crawford tried to be sly in his anti-woman, anti-abortion sermon. It’s all about the “link between body and soul,” not just that he thinks women shouldn’t have control over their own bodies.

Dr. Stephen Kim, founding Pastor of Mustard Seed Church in New York, wrote an article in 2014 titled “10 Women Christian Men Should Not Marry” in which he specifically mentioned: non-Christian women, divorcees, any woman older than the perspective reader, feminists, immodest dressers, gossipers, women who don’t want children, women who dream of traveling, women who place emphasis on their careers, and any woman who doesn’t make time daily for her relationship with God. In essence, Christian men need to seek out only pious younger women who are ready to become stay-at-home moms. This guy is probably the mayor of Equality Town.

Pastor Bill Lytell, of the Gospel Baptist Church in Florida, said in a sermon to his congregation in 2015, “I want to talk to you about the principle here of management … Now every one of you are in some form or fashion, a manager. You women who stay at home and don’t have a secular job, are to manage your home. Now you have a supervisor over the
top of you, of course. But you manage the home. You are responsible for buying the groceries, make sure there’s food, make sure the house is kept impeccable, to have a hot meal waiting when your husband gets home, to have the house all cleaned up, laundry all done, dishes all done, baby all fed, squared away, and meet him at the door looking like a million bucks. That’s probably some of the best marriage advice you ever got.” If you haven’t noticed yet, this obedient Stepford-wife theme is relentless in Christian communities.

Reverend Jesse Lee Peterson, President and Founder of BOND, an organization meant to “Rebuild the Family by Rebuilding Man,” said in 2012, “I want to say goodbye to America. It’s over. My America is gone … I realize that one of the primary reasons that it is over for America is because women are taking over. They’re in high, so-called powerful, positions. Now they’re running companies, they’re making decisions. Not all, not all … There are some out there who are logical and can make sound decisions. But most cannot. And one thing I know for sure, without a doubt: women cannot handle power. It’s not in them to handle power in the right way. They don’t know what to do with it. And secondly it’s not real power anyways. Power that the world gives you is not power, it’s all ego building. Real and true power comes from God. And God is the one who gave man the power and the authority over the wife … And one thing I realize that the world has done to women: women have been degraded. They have no shame … There was a woman from Georgetown University … She testified before a committee about condoms and birth control and stuff … she said women need to get free birth control … This woman is sitting there testifying about how much sex they’re having out of wedlock and all these women into all this stuff with no shame. Women would not have done that in the good old days. There would have been a sense of shame about it … She didn’t realize that she looked like a slut sitting there making that type of confession. I’m thinking, wow, what happened to women that this is ok for them to escort themselves in that way? How did we get to a point that women think we should pay for them to have sex? How did we get to a point that they want to force us to buy them birth control? … I think one of the greatest mistakes America made was to allow women the opportunity to vote … It was a big mistake.” The entire sermon runs about twelve minutes. And yes, the entire sermon is that ignorant and sexist. It’s actually hard to narrow it down to just the worst bits.

Just in 2015 there are dozens more examples of prominent leaders in the Christian community using their religion, holy book, and private line to “God” to oppress and belittle women. Historically there are of course countless other issues such as the aforementioned Salem witch trials, the firing of school teachers who became pregnant (even if they were married), the delay in achieving women’s suffrage, the sustainment of the belief that women are man’s
property and that their only role is childbirth and homemaking, the refusal of accepting female priests in the Catholic church (still in effect today), and of course the age-old verse in the New Testament, “Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the law says.” (1 Corinth. 14:34)

To be perfectly fair to Christianity, all three of the major monotheistic religions have been and are oppressive to women. However, in regard to Christianity, one thing cannot be ignored. That is that Christianity has been the dominant religion in the United States since the country’s inception and is more represented in the one political party which continues to fight against contraception, equal pay, abortion, and healthcare for women. In the continued fight for gender equality in the world today, it should be recognized that the roots of much of the existing oppression stem from Christianity. The best way to fight evil is to understand its source. In this case, and perhaps not surprisingly, it is religion.

Reprinted with permission from The Truth Seeker.

Cameron Filas is an avid reader and novice author, usually of short fiction. Every now and then he finds time in his busy schedule to examine his reasons for being an atheist and study the claims of theists. Cameron remains, thus far, unconvinced by any theistic explanation of the world or meaning of life. Visit his author webpage at www.cameronfilas.wordpress.com

For nearly a century and a half, The Truth Seeker has promoted women’s rights, birth control, free speech, science, separation of church and state, and exposed religion as against reason. It counted among its illustrious subscribers and progressive writers Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Mark Twain, Thomas Edison, Clarence Darrow, and Robert Ingersoll. Each elegantly designed issue of The Truth Seeker offers a unique blend of contemporary, thought-provoking editorials and historical Freethought articles, archival photographs, irreverent cartoons, along with book and film reviews. A high-definition video preview of each January, May, and September issue is online at thetruthseeker.net.

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1 COMMENT

  1. Any person so uneducated they do not realize the Old Testament is Jewish law, provided as a history lesson, and the only true teachings of Christianity are included in the NEW Testament only, shouldn't be lecturing anyone on the Bible to start with. The Bible only included some of the gospels, chosen by a group of men in 600 AD. Jesus didn't have anything to do with it. The most fascinating read I've ever had was "Lost Books of the Bible", many of the other gospels., many written by women, which gives more information on what Jesus' followers were truly like and what they really wanted.

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