*I originally wrote this as a note on my Facebook page. Thought I would share it here as well.
These days, it seems people are critical of religion in general and of the Bible in particular. Many argue that God, if He indeed exists, cannot possibly be a moral entity because of certain things that were or are permitted in Christianity. One of these things is the subjugation of women. In Biblical times, women were treated almost as property, only allowed to marry and travel with a man's permission. Women were also excluded from priesthood, barred from receiving a formal education from temple rabbis, and forbidden to speak publicly during religious meetings. Today, many religious fundamentalists use scripture as an excuse to degrade women, excluding them from ministry and relegating them only to certain roles in society. Therefore, some reason, it would be better for women if such religion disappeared altogether.
But is the way secular society views and treats women any better?
I recently watched a roast of a famous actor on Comedy Central. (For those of you over 50, a "roast" is a stand-up comedy act that mercilessly mocks the guest of honor.) One of the comedians on the roast panel was Pamela Anderson, an actress made famous by Playboy Magazine and the show Baywatch. It's no secret that Ms. Anderson's career has been entirely built on her sex appeal. She was cast in Baywatch not because of skillful acting, but because of her voluptuous body. And the other comedians on the roast panel were quick to point this out. Repeatedly. While the men leered at her hungrily and made numerous sexual innuendos, they insulted the quality of her character and decisions, portraying her as a loose woman with no standards and no value beyond her looks. What's sad is that even as some of these "jokes" obviously stung her, Ms. Anderson continued to play right along, keeping up the stereotype. After all, society has told her this is the only way women like her will be successful.
The same is true for thousands of others. Models starve themselves to be on the covers of magazines, because normal-sized women aren't allowed in advertising. Actresses who gain more than a pound end up with their "shocking weight gain" photos plastered inside tabloids. Entire magazine issues are devoted to discussing who has the best bikini body and how every other woman can get one, too. Physical beauty is constantly praised in advertisement, while true intellect and integrity go almost completely unmentioned.
The only other option for gaining respect in a secular society is for women to have careers. It's no longer enough for women to raise successful families or to serve their husbands, or even to work as secretaries and librarians. These days, women are expected to make significant contributions to the workforce, even if that means delegating familial responsibilities to outsiders. Women who choose to be stay-at-home mothers or who work in "soft," "low-level" jobs are often seen as failing to reach their full potential.
So how is the Biblical view of women better?
Through the Bible, God shows us that woman are unique, possessing great power and influence, and having value far beyond looks or aspirations. The best example can be found in Proverbs 31, a chapter that celebrates the value of a good woman:
A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies. Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value. She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life.
The Bible says a noble woman "works with eager hands," "provides food for her family," "watches over the affairs of her household," is strong, compassionate and generous, wise, and dignified. No voluptuous curves or pouty lips here. The woman described in Proverbs 31 is a skilled and efficient manager, a bold and confident decision-maker, an intelligent strategist, a shrewd businesswoman, and a great philanthropist.
What about the Biblical subjugation of women? Well, it's true that the Bible teaches women to "submit to your husbands...in everything" (Ephesians 5:22-24). But in the same breath it commands men to "love your wives just as Christ loved the church" (verses 25-33). How much did Christ love the church?
1. He laid down his life to redeem it.
2. He provided healing, instruction, and guidance for it.
3. He became an advocate for it (1 John 2:1).
4. He promised to provide for it and reward it.
5. He promised to protect it (Matthew 16:18).
Women may have been forbidden to speak in church or receive formal education from rabbis, but husbands were expected to answer their wives' questions regarding religious matters at home (1 Corinthians 14:35). They were not to be kept in ignorance. Even Jesus taught women (Luke 10:38-42). The Bible also commands men to not be harsh with their wives (Colossians 3:19). And 1 Corinthians 13 provides further details on love:
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
So while women may be required to love, respect, and submit to their husbands, men are expected in turn to guide, protect, educate, heal, reward, forgive, provide for, sacrifice for and exercise patience toward their wives--hardly the one-way street many perceive it to be. Men who abuse their God-given leadership to oppress and mistreat women will no doubt face harsh judgment.
The Bible also illustrates the power that women possess. Sin entered the world through a woman. So did Christ. A noble woman brings honor to her husband and household, while a nagging one makes life unbearable (Proverbs 21:9, 19). Wealthy women financially supported the ministry of Christ. A woman prepared Jesus for his death and burial (Matthew 26:6-13). Women were the first to discover Jesus' resurrection and spread the word to his disciples. Many people became Christians through the testimony of women in the Bible (John 4:39). Two entire books in the Bible, Ruth and Esther, are dedicated to honoring the lives of noble, courageous women. Though it may seem that a few scriptures in the Bible seek to oppress or limit women, the truth is that the Bible recognizes and celebrates a woman's unique talents, contributions, and internal value far more than our secular society does today.
If you are a woman, know that you have significant value and awesome worth in the eyes of God far beyond physical beauty or a prestigious title. What you do matters greatly, even if it's cooking meals for your husband, raising children full-time, or volunteering at a local shelter. As women, we have many gifts to give.
Thanks for reading!
9 months ago