(I thought this was set to publish earlier this week, but apparently not! Happy New Year all, enjoy!)
I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas! Life has been pleasantly full around here lately-from long-awaited family visits to sick kids, it’s been kinda nuts. I’ve been working hard to meet my goal of pounding out the 3rd installment of my feminism series before 2015 is history. In my last post, I said that next I would tackle a “Biblical basis for fighting oppression against women”. So, here we go.
I say Biblical basis because one of my goals for this series is to help others understand that something that has generally been viewed as repressive towards women-and is, in many ways, repressive towards women-in really intended to point us all to our common source and savior. In God’s eyes we are equal in dignity. This blog isn’t called Sermonbound. But I’m stepping a little outside the norms of this blog here to speak on behalf of women, made in the image of God, not created to be subservient or walked on simply because of our gender or perceived weaknesses. I’m speaking to anyone wrestling with religious (namely, in this post, Christian) institutions and leaders who have denied help and community to women. I’m speaking to anyone who is a Christian wondering what feminism has to do with them and their neighbor. I’m speaking, I suppose, to anyone who is interested in feminism.
Women in the Seneca Falls Convention were fighting against the social norms of their day that made women legally invisible and, therefore, denied many basic and life-saving forms of help and tools. They weren’t equal in the eyes of the law and weren’t required or expected to be treated as equals in marriage. Since marriage was the primary respectable means of survival and social standing, many women were at the mercy of their husbands in every sense of the word.
Like today, many Bible verses were used then to silence and subjugate women. One such verse is 1 Peter 3:7: “Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel”. It can be hard to see much beyond the “weaker vessel” phrase. I know it was for me. Does weaker mean less? As a Christian, am I supposed to believe that women are, and therefore I am, weaker than all men? Does weaker mean weaker in every sense?
First of all, “vessel” is a Greek word meaning body. So this verse is referencing physical strength or lack thereof. 1 Peter was written in the first century A.D. So while today women are training for marathons, scaling mountains, and generally have many options for building our physical stamina, women in the 1st century were doing what we have done for most of history: being given in marriage, keeping house, and bearing children. Not exactly activities that build physical stamina and resilience. The writer of 1 Peter is telling husbands that the physical limitation of their wives is a place to demonstrate honor, never a foothold for authority. The disdain for weakness is ridiculous because we ALL have places of weakness (we’re human!). This disdain has no place in followers of Jesus when he himself gave up his power to be weak on our behalf.
While he not only associated with the marginalized, outcast and socially unacceptable, he also taught that to these people belonged his kingdom-in other words, it’s with the humble (what society sees as ‘weak’) that he dwells. And he demonstrated the ultimate laying down of power for the sake of others when he died at the hands of those who hated and misunderstood him. If anyone believes that being a man, or being more powerful that women is the legitimate basis for abuse of authority, think again. Look again. The one who holds the universe laid down his power and it cost him his very life-not just time, convenience, or status. He’s known as the Man of Sorrows and he identifies with the suffering of those who are at the mercy of cruelty. Those of us who follow him must speak out for those who are suffering at the hands of abusers.
This doesn’t just apply to violence victims- if men and women are both made in the image of God, let’s treat each other that way for pete’s sake! Guys, if you see a woman in a situation where she is vulnerable or being treated as an object, step in. You may need to get her help, or you may simply need to tell the other guy to stop his sexist jokes. Let’s treat each other with respect, men and women. Let’s make the spaces around us places where men and women are heard, valued, and encouraged.
I can’t wait to explore this topic more again and in more depth. (It kind of kills me to not write a 30,000 word post on this, but more to come!) In the meantime, check out my previous posts, or drop a comment. I’m eager to hear from you!