Alice C. Linsley
I’ve been asked to respond to the substance of Elizabeth Kaeton’s comments. Perhaps this will clarify why the facts and the evidence do not support her distorted view of Christianity.
Women and Ordination
Elizabeth argues that women “weren't ordained because of ancient, cultural misogyny.” Actually, only those in the priestly orders were ordained by the pouring of oil over their heads. Since women were never priests, none were ordained. That doesn’t mean that women weren’t called to and confirmed in ministry. Some were prophetesses and judges in Israel. Huldah, Deborah and Anna are examples.
Further, there is no evidence of widespread misogyny in the Bible. About 70% of the women named in the Bible are the wives and daughters of ruler-priests. They were women of influence and wealth. Some women named in the New Testament were not the wives or daughters of priests, but were independently wealthy and recognized as prominent women. Lydia and Phoebe are examples.
Women and the Bible
Feminists often use the Bible to illustrate the horrors of patriarchy. They call attention to the story of the Levite who cut his defiled concubine into pieces and sent her severed parts to the 12 tribes as a call to war (Judges 19). They want us to see how horrible patriarchy is that the Levite would surrender his concubine to the sodomites. Is this not misplaced judgment? Why not instead be critical of the evil sodomites who sought to defile the Levite and killed his concubine? After all, this is the point of the story!
Feminists despise St. Paul, who they consider to be the arch oppressors of women because he teaches that women should be submission to their husbands. Katherine M. Rodgers in The Troublesome Helpmate: A History of Misogyny in Literature (1966) writes, "The foundations of early Christian misogyny - its guilt about sex, its insistence on female subjection, its dread of female seduction - are all in St. Paul's epistles. They provided a convenient supply of divinely inspired misogynistic texts for any Christian writer who chose to use them; his statements on female subjection were still being quoted in the twentieth century opponents of equality for women."
But this represents an imbalanced and intellectually dishonest approach to St. Paul's writings. It ignores Paul's qualifying statement that husbands and wives are to be in submission to one another. Feminists rail against St. Paul's statement that female chatterers need to be quiet in church and ask their husbands about the message at home. They overlook his assent to women prophesying in the assembly on the condition that they wear a head covering as a sign of modesty. They accuse Paul of limiting women's opportunities in the Church and ignore the evidence that he opened opportunities for women, even assigning them risky duties, such as having Phoebe carry his epistle to the Romans, and consenting to use Lydia's home as his base of operations in Philippi.
The claim that Christianity oppresses women and homosexuals (V. Gene Robinson’s latest argument) is not supported by historical evidence either. EK and those who think as she does rail against the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches which don’t ordain women. They see this as oppression by the Church. These churches regard Mary as the pinnacle of godly virtue and venerate her (something which Anglicans have lost). The Orthodox remember women throughout the liturgical year: Mary of Egypt, the Samaritan woman Photini, who was the first evangelist and called “equal to the Apostles” among the Orthodox. Then there is Lydia, the first European convert to Christianity.
Misogyny in the Church
Is the Church misogynistic? It should be easy to test the Feminist thesis that the Church is an institution that enshrines "guilt about sex," "insistence on female subjection" and "dread of female seduction". If this is indeed the case, we would see evidence of misogyny at the time of Christianity's legal establishment under Emperor Justinian. Let us consider whether the Justinian Law Code increased the oppression of women in the Byzantine Empire. With the implementation of the Justinian Code the following practices quickly disappeared:
* Polygyny (multiple wives)
* Cultic prostitution
* The 3-tiered caste system that limited women's marriage options
* The practice of fathers selling their daughters into slavery.
The Code also made it legal for:
* Slave owners to grant liberty to as many slaves as they wanted.
* Families to retain the estate in cases where the father died intestate.
* Noble women to exercise political power.
While it is evident that Christianity has not solved all societal problems, it has largely improved the conditions of women. Where, then, is the evidence that women have been oppressed under Church rule? Not much of a case can be made based on historical evidence.
Related reading: Genesis on Homosex: Beyond Sodom; The Daughters of Priests; Passing Conversation with Priestess Kaeton; "Women Priests: History and Theology" by Patrick Henry Reardon