Dancing in equality
A painting by Jyothi Sahi showing a tree for a cross and Christ as a drummer with a local community of men and women dancers. Jyothi Sahi is a leading painter of Christian themes in India.
What I do you cannot do; but what you do, I cannot do. The needs are great, and none of us, including me, ever do great things. But we can all do small things, with great love, and together we can do something wonderful. Unless a life is lived for others, it is not worthwhile.
Christian basis for gender equality
Bible, both the Old and the New Testament, is the foundational document of our Christian faith. This faith document unfortunately contains patriarchal elements since it was written in a patriarchal culture. Because of this, Bible has been used to legitimize certain discriminatory practices against women even to this day. The biblical myth of Eve, the woman considered responsible for the fall of humanity formed the theological basis for the denigration of women as expressed by Clement of Alexandria in his remark that “women should be covered with shame when she thinks of what nature she is.” The Pauline and Petrine injunctions on women’s submission served to justify women’s suppression, exclusion from leadership and domestication. But this is not the whole truth about the Bible. In spite of its patriarchal elements, Bible does contain a critique of patriarchy and it reveals God’s intention of gender equality of man and woman from the very moment of their creation in the first book of Genesis.
Christian faith affirms that God created humankind as men and women in His image likeness and entrusted to them stewardship over creation (Gen 1: 26-27). This is the proto-gospel of equal dignity of man and woman. It means both men and women are endowed with an inborn dignity and greatness. It affirms that men and women as human persons enjoy an intrinsic worth. Further the Gospel of Christ very clearly affirms the equal dignity of man and woman and therefore gender equality is part of Christian faith. The Church is a community of equal disciples where the vision of Paul expressed in Galatians takes concrete expressions: “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ” (Gal 3: 28).
Gender in the Bible
And God said to her, “Your husband shall rule over you.” (Genesis 3:16-19)
Deuteronomy mentions the possibility of a man giving his wife a certificate of divorce and sending her away (Deuteronomy 24:1).
Jesus affirmed both the holiness of marriage and the rights of wives when he replied, “What God has joined together, let no one separate.”
“Let none deal treacherously with the wife of his youth. For the Lord God of Israel says that He hates divorce.” (Malachi 2:16)
Paul says: “Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord.” (Ephesians 5:22)
But Paul also says, “Submit yourselves one to another in the fear of God.” (Ephesians 5:21)
Peter says, “you wives be submissive to your own husbands.” (Peter 3:1)
“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: For you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 4:28)
“Neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord” (Corinthians 11:11)
“God created man in His own image…male and female.” (Genesis 1:27, 5:1-2)
“You will call Me ‘My Husband,’ and no longer call Me ‘My Master.’” (Hosea 2:16)