A Christian Woman is a woman who loves God more than herself. She is a woman who prays for her family, her church, her government and her country. She is a woman who reads God’s Word and puts Him first in her life. From the beginning of the early Christian church, starting with Jesus, women were important members of the movement. The examples of the manner of Jesus reveal his attitudes toward women and show repeatedly how he liberated and affirmed women. Both complementarians and egalitarians see Jesus as treating women with compassion, grace and dignity. 2] The gospels of the New Testament, especially Luke, often mention Jesus speaking to or helping women publicly and openly, contrary to the social norms of the time. Jesus had female followers who were his sponsors,[Lu 8:1-3] and he stopped to express concern for the women of Jerusalem on his way to be crucified,[Lu 23:26-31] while Mary Magdalene is recorded to be the first person to have the privilege of seeing Jesus after resurrection. [Mk 16:9] The role of women in Christianity today depends almost entirely upon the context in which women find themselves or choose to be involved in.
More conservative Bible-believing women will tend their participation in church leadership etc. The modern womens rights movement has had a dramatic impact on the role of women in Christian churches. “Women in Christianity” is a vast and complex subject with multiple dimensions as Christianity is one of the largest religions in the world practiced in different societies and cultures around the world. When we deal with the subject of “Women in Christianity” we need to understand that Christianity as that exists today is a mix of different denominations with Catholics and Protestants being the principle denominations.
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Further it would be prudent to delve into the history of Christianity to understand the role of women in this religion. In early Christianity there was no separate roles prescribed for men and women and women were not distinguished separately from men. This was despite the fact that the society in West Asia at that time was highly patriarchal in nature. Women in Christianity: The early Christian prophets From West Asia, Christianity spread to ancient Greece and Rome which were purely patriarchal societies. In these societies women and children were hought of as assets or possessions held by the head of the family. Men and Women were distinguished separately in this kind of set up and women were generally considered inferior to men. During these times Christians believed that the world will end soon and Christ will come to earth for the second time. There were many women teachers and prophets in Christianity in those days who believed in this proposition and went their way in preaching this doctrine. Women in Christianity: Wave of change in twentieth century
Only in the twentieth century things started changing in Christianity. With the churches loosing much of their clout and power in the twentieth century, with democratic governments firmly established in many countries in Europe as well as in America and with religion getting separated from politics things started to change in a dramatic fashion in Christianity that was never thought about in the last two thousand years of the religion. It all started with the early feminist movements and peaked with the second wave of feminism from the period of 1960s.
This period saw a profound change in the status of women in Christianity as a religion. Women’s rights came in the forefront. Women in Christianity: Women’s liberation movement The period of 1960s and thereafter can be considered as the beginning of the “women’s liberation movement” in history which advocated social, cultural, political and religious equality of the gender. Though the women’s liberation movement went full throttle in this period the patriarchal set up did not vanish as such and the concept of sexual dualism still existed.
This concept not only viewed the differences between men and women in mere biological terms but it also ranked and applied values to these differences. For instance, men were considered to be more idealistic, spiritual, and psychic than women. On the other hand, women were thought to be more emotional, instinctive, and physical than men. This was a senario of absolute “gender stereotyping” and it existed from last two thousand years. It was only the women’s movement in 1960s that challenged these kind of thinking to some affect.
Women in Christianity: The religious right and the liberal feminist theological movement It is quite natural that the Religious Right criticizes feminists, who challenge the superiority of men. They in fact resist everything about the feminist movement. For example they even dislike the liberal welfare policies for women because under such policies, single mothers who need to raise their children and the economically destitute are assisted financially. The Religious Right view such assistance as preventing the establishment of traditional families.
They also reject the relativism of human existence and therefore they are intolerant to other views, cultures and religions. They believe in the absolutism and purity of Christian values and tradition. For the religious right “Patriarchal Christianity” is the central core of all existence. Anything outside this central core has to be resisted and absolutely rejected. The changes that happened in the Christian society in the last two hundred years have also affected other cultures and religions in a profound manner.
The feminist movement owes its roots to the Christian society and thanks to it feminism has become a global phenomenon today which advocates gender based equality and ending of all types of discriminations and bias against women. In fact the study of the role of “women in Christianity” transcends the spectrum of “religion” and gives us a broad perspective of the struggle of women from the last 200 years for a right to a dignified and meaningful life.