Outside of a few references to specific people, I haven’t said much about women here and that’s not good. I tend to wear blinders when I start in on certain issues and don’t always see other important ones. Sometimes, it takes a slap upside the head to get my attention and this time was no exception. It took me a while, but I finally got the message.
Some folks (mostly men) have, in my opinion, an almost neanderthal view on the role of women in society. Okay, maybe that’s pushing it a bit. But, I have no doubt men these fellows would fit right in with women in 1st century Palestine. You see, back in those days, women weren’t much more than chattel. Their basic role was keeping the household up and birthing and raising children. They weren’t allowed to speak in public, received no education and if they let down their hair (literally), they were consider a slut. According to the Mishnah, they were to be considered as a gentile slave which could be obtained by money, intercourse or writ. Women walked 6 paces behind their husband and, when it came to worship they were only allowed into the Court of the Women in the temple, which was just inside the Court of the Gentiles and well away from the inner courts were the actual business of the Temple went on. In those days, you couldn’t even call women second-class citizens…, they weren’t citizens at all.
Why do I say that modern fundamentalists would love the patriarchy of 1st century Jews? Several reasons, not least of which is the idea of complentarianism. This concept is just another way to dress up their misogyny. In it, they claim men and women are “equal”, but have different roles. Sounds good until you what those roles are. Men are the head of household, leaders in the church and the secular world and they understand what’s best for their family. Women are to stay home, keep house, birth and raise babies and submit to their husbands in everything. In other words, men are out the world making stuff happen and women are at home, barefoot and pregnant. I will say this works for some families and if you’re one of them, more power to ya. But, everyone doesn’t feel that way and they do not care to live that lifestyle, no matter how biblical you claim it to be.
A great many Christians, like me, are what’s called egalitarian when it comes to gender roles. What that means is we considered all people equal and capable. I will caution you, to a fundamentalist, the word egalitarian is about the same as communist or socialist; for them it’s like a curse word. Don’t believe me? Google some of the more outspoken fundie pastors like Mark Driscoll or Doug Giles on egalitarianism and see what you get. It’s what you call enlightening.
The thing is, Jesus broke that mold with his ministry. He spoke out for women, telling the husbands not to divorce them and leave them destitute. He treated women as equals, speaking to them and using them in his work. He saved them from capricious punishments, like stoning and let them walk away unharmed. In fact, Jesus’ treatment of women was one the ways he turned the world upside down. I can’t help but think he’s not all that happy with some of the things being said and done in his name.