Christianity & Women

Three years ago, standing in a church in her native Ireland, Mary Malone, a prominent theologian and former nun, could not bring herself to recite the Nicene Creed. Shortly afterward she announced that she had decided to leave not only the Catholic Church, but Christianity as well. Malone, you see, had fallen for one of the most persistent lies of our time: The notion that Christianity oppresses women. The truth is, it's because of Christianity that modern women enjoy the freedom and security they take for granted. Malone's decision made news because she had been so active in the church. Among other things, she was hung up on the fact that Christians insist on calling God "Father"—something she considered oppressively sexist. To her way of thinking, any woman who called herself both a "feminist" and a "Christian" was a fraud. Malone began searching for a faith that would accommodate her feminist beliefs. Like many other feminists, she ultimately embraced paganism. Paganism is a polytheistic religion with practices linked to nature and to appeasing the gods of nature. Feminist theologians like Mary Daly of Boston College and Rosemary Radford Reuther regularly talk about "the goddess.” They maintain that humanity worshipped this goddess before the biblical God was imposed on early societies. The embrace of paganism isn't limited to the Ivory Tower. As the Canadian magazine Maclean's reports, "in candlelit living-rooms... increasing numbers [of women] are gathering to mark the seasons or the phases of the moon—reviving updated neo-pagan rites that link them to nature and their own bodily cycles." This revival of paganism is ironic because it was the very religion these women revile—Christianity—that delivered women from the bondage of paganism. Newsweek's Kenneth Woodward describes that bondage in a recent article called "2000 Years of Jesus." In pre-Christian Roman society, he writes, women were invariably considered inferior to men. How inferior? Woodward cites evidence from a study of gravestones at Delphi that shows that infanticide of baby daughters was prevalent in those glorious pre-Christian times. "Of 600 upper-class families," Woodward writes, "only half a dozen raised more than one daughter." Christianity changed this. It was Christianity that turned marriage into what sociologist Rodney Stark called a "more symmetrical" relationship. For example, Christianity did away with the custom of forcing 11- or 12-year-old girls into marriage. It was Christianity that protected women from arbitrary divorce laws. And it was Christianity that opposed infanticide, which overwhelmingly victimized female babies. What today's cultural elites fail to recognize is that paganism has always been the real threat to the safety and dignity of women. For instance, in countries like India and China, where pagan practices are observed, the vast majority of aborted children are female. Without Christianity, cultures tend to favor male children over females. This is what you need to remember the next time you hear someone repeat the nonsense that Christianity oppresses women. Remind your neighbors that calling God "Father" isn't only good theology, it's the best guarantee of the dignity and respect of all women.


Chuck Colson



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