Pat Robertson, the outspoken televangelist of the Christian right, once said regarding the feminist movement that it "is not about equal rights for women." But rather "it is about a socialist, anti-family political movement that encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians." Why is the very idea of equality for women such a threat!? Does the concept of women being equal to men before earth and heaven somehow lessen the state of man or of families? I would passionately argue that it does not but rather quite oppositely it lifts and ennobles all.
Yet for whatever reason those in power resist change. I think that most that stand against women's "liberation" have little to no malicious intent but are traditionalists and see no need to change. Unfortunately though this does not change the fact that the status quo can be harmful. Religious teachings on women has and does lead to the oppression of daughters of God the world over. This is not excusable.
The same sex that is often discriminated or treated as less than by various faiths is a lot more faithful. In a Pew survey from 2009 women were found to be the "stronger sex--spiritually speaking." In six different questions from attending worship services weekly to praying daily women score higher in every single one! If the Pew survey is accurate why are women, the more spiritual and God seeking sex, still withheld from leadership positions in religions across our country? It is an issue that can be very sensitive and even taboo but one I find critical to bring into our religious conversations.
In my own faith of origin, Mormonism, this dichotomy of a spiritually stronger sex that is absent from leadership (there are fabulous auxiliary all women organizations that do have female heads but always beneath male stewardship) is very apparent. To quote a wonderful PBS page on this very topic "gender roles are ordained by the church. Fathers preside over the family and hold the priesthood (church leadership). Mothers are primarily responsible for nurturing the children." Check out the link to see diverse viewpoints on this topic from within the Mormon experience.
Would having women as leaders harm religion? Is the divine creator adamantly against this idea, desiring men to lead and women to follow? It sincerely troubles me to think this might be the case. I need to be clear lest my point is taken to say being a mother is not important. I believe being a mother or a father...a parent, is one of the greatest responsibilities and blessings that any individual may have in their lives. At the same time I do not think leading in a religious capacity diminishes motherhood any more or less than it does fatherhood.
Let us look contextually back in time to the founders of religions and see what their stance may be on womankind. Joseph Smith, the founder and prophet of Mormonism, had the stance that women could lay their hands on individuals for the healing of the sick along with various other "priesthood" rites. A practice that in contemporary Mormonism no longer happens. Check out "A gift given, a gift taken" for more information. The state of Utah under the leadership of Brigham Young was one of the first states with women's suffrage clear back in 1870. Yet the same church decades later would resist the Equal Rights Amendment.
Muhammad the founder of Islam was very progressive in his stance toward women for his time. Yet today Islam is given a black eye by segregation, sexist state and cultural policies, and even horrific honor killings in the name of Allah.
We can even look toward Jesus through a contextual cultural lens. A wonderful article I found from 1971 entitled "Jesus was a feminist" by Leonard Swidler does exactly this. Women had it rough in Palestine two thousand years ago they could not converse with men publicly, were severely limited in public prayer and scripture and were commonly seen as inferior. Jesus spoke with women, had women disciples, overlooked the taboo nature of the "issue of blood" and reached out to a woman caught in in the very act of adultery. One of my favorite moments in the New Testament comes at the well when he is asked "How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?" Jesus initiated the conversation to the alarm of the foreign woman and we can only imagine his disciples upon their return. To whom did Jesus first appear after his resurrection? Not his rock Peter or his beloved John but to a woman Mary. Yet two thousand progressive years later in a time where women are treated so much better than the women of ancient Palestine we find in many cases women can access the divine only through a male acting as an intercessory.
Why is it that religions can often become more or less frozen in time with their rituals and doctrine? Although very progressive for their time the views of the most forward thinking prophet of centuries past can and will fall short today. We must, as God seeking people, move forward with justice as a spiritual counterbalance to the secular progress that has been made or be doomed to be left behind lamenting the state of the "world today." Like the Kingdom of Heaven we are required to be the leaven of equality and love that works its way through a sexist, divided and suffering people helping all of humanity rise.
As usual please share your insights, arguments, questions, experiences in the comment section. Next time I'll move on from women to another W. War! What is it good for? Thank you so much and have a wonderful day.