Christianity as a religion is vast on its traditions and beliefs, and it has its origins from a period that was drastically different from the one in which we exist. The way the present generation intervenes or gets to understanding a religious text like the Bible is something that is always debatable and we all would agree to the fact that every person has a different notion of relating to it or a varied perspective about a verse!
But one thing that the Church itself is accused of time and again is the question of the Church as an institution being sexist! Or the Church having invocated manners of sexism in its practices. Christianity is accused of sexism from within the Church itself as well as from outside. The Church grew up in a patriarchal society where women and men were not seen as equals. But the Bible itself has a significant verse which says “No male or female. We are all one in Christ” Galatians 3:28, which happens to clearly explain that in Christ we are all one irrespective of any gender!
Over the last 100 years, society has changed dramatically in its treatment of women, but is the Church lagging behind? Indeed Church is not the only place that is lagging behind. As an institution Church is a culmination of different traditions, genders, caste and tribes coming together under the same roof, and with that comes along their various notions of what being a Christian means to them, but that is when religion is overcast by the question of do we still exist in a patriarchal society within the church too or has the church taken into consideration the growing equality between a man and woman in all aspects of life and opened doors of religion too to invocate equality!
Till today there are commemorating rituals where women are being held back or notions that a particular task is best suited only for a man, or a woman was designed to handle only subtle and mild work inside the church. Being a believer of Christ I am sure every person has come across the verse which says “wives submit to your husbands” but we miss the very previous verse which says to the entire church “submit to one another in the fear of God”. Here is exactly when the question of choosing the teachings of God according to our suitability rises!
I am pretty confident while I write this that God for sure never limited women only to children ministry or taking charge of the choir! There are some churches in South India who till date don’t allow young girls to participate in the alter service, and right from the beginning inculcate in them values of being submissive. A verse from the bible says “A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I permit no women to teach or have authority over men, she is to keep silent.” 1 Timothy 2:9-12. But do we read the word “submissive” or “submission” in isolation to always being inferior? Or do we read it as a verse that talks about the submission which comes out of the fear of God and not just being submissive to men, but in fact to all fellow humans who come together as one in Christ.
The whole chapter of Romans 16 talks about various women like Phoebe, Priscilla, Mary and many more as servants of the church who worked hard and risked their lives for Christ. The Churches were grateful to them for their sheer passion for Christ alone. These words of Paul written in a patriarchal society brings to focus that women were appreciated back then and had their say in spreading the good news of Christ, so why not today when things have drastically elapsed towards woman?
It is not just only about the women of the church but also the men who undergo the same. Men are just raised with an assumption that they need to be the alpha male and have qualities of chivalry and manhood. What if a man wants equal participation in all realms of life? Is he not then a man in the eyes of the Church?
Often as believers we simply fail to remember that both men and women are made in the image of God. Both are complementary in the eyes of the creator. And with times growing we do see some evident instances where women are appreciated as much as men are.
We as the believers of Christ need to keep in mind that we stand as examples to the world and a lot of what we do reflects our faith and understanding of who Christ is. Christ’s teachings weren’t sexist but because of human interventions over a period of time the interpretations have been skewed. As growing Christians we need to step forward and restore the meaning to which God intended irrespective of the fact that it goes hand in hand with the outside world or stands against it!
In the end it all sums upto the relationship we share with our creator and how we put that relationship in actions pertaining to this life of ours! And the question whether sexism goes against the teachings of the Church and the example of Jesus, or Christianity itself is fundamentally sexist or not? This is something that you as an individual living in Christ should answer for yourself and no matter what verse from the bible you relate to, just know for yourself that God never demanded a male or female centered relationship amidst the Church but a Christ centered one!