Jimmy Carter recently named the abuse of women “as the primary human rights issue in the world today.”
We don’t have to look far into the global plight of women to see the truth to this statement.
He goes on to say that religion (and the misuse of it) is a major contributor in perpetuating oppression, rather than leading to liberation and healing. For those of us in the Christian tradition, we aren’t absolved from this critique.
Influential Church Fathers such as Tertullian have said things like “women are the devil’s gateway.” Others have argued that women don’t inherit the image of God in the same way men do. Perspectives like these have subtly built themselves into theological constructs and church structure.
While the Church has often gotten it wrong, Jesus models what is right.
Jesus’ life and message is one of liberating women into their sacred vocation as equal participants in God’s mission of reconciliation. Further, throughout the gospels, women are continually portrayed as the ones who actually understood Jesus’ message while the disciples struggled to keep up. They were the first to know the good news (birth and resurrection), and the ones entrusted to share it with the world.
How might a renewed understanding of our sacred text (the Bible), Jesus’ life and teachings, and the history of the Church help us understand women — not as second-class citizens in the kingdom, but as equals who often lead us to a full understanding of God and the gospel in today’s world?
The reality is that women are the source of life in the world. They are the primary conduits of God’s continuing story of new life and rebirth. They are the ones most in tune with the flourishing of others at their own expense, rather than the ones who often pursue their own flourishing (men) at the expense of others. They are willing to bleed so others find life.
As part of their morning prayers, ancient rabbis (and some modern ones) would pray, “Thank God I’m not a woman.” On this International Women’s Day, we pray, “THANK GOD FOR WOMEN.”
As a father of three girls and a husband to a woman I’d follow to the ends of the earth, I couldn’t be more grateful. We named our youngest daughter Lou (renowned warrior) Sojourner (abolitionist who gave her life for racial equality).
May Lou (and all girls/women/femmes) live in and contribute to a world where she is free to lead us in abolishing inequality and remind us of the beauty, strength, and leadership of women.