I don’t know where it started, but I have a suspicion it began in the Garden of Eden, long before any of us were remotely conceived.
What started, you say? The twisted notion that men are better than women. The injustice heaped upon women by men has been a hallmark and the most degrading part of history.
We know this for several reasons, but one is that men usually wrote the history books. In man’s battle for power he revealed his own lack as he stormed the portals of history. He gave all the glory to his own kind while looking down on his female counterparts. That is why history has more infamous women than famous women.
One of the most misunderstood and misinterpreted characters of history, Jesus the Christ, brought a great deal of light to the subject of man and woman and their place in society. Woman being short-shifted was not new in his day. It began in that first garden where Adam blamed Eve for giving him the forbidden fruit. (He didn’t have to take it!)
Long before Jesus’ time on earth all cultures had formed their societies and practices with the idea that women were second-class humans.
In <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags” />Africa, the Middle East, Asia and the islands of the seas, a man could have several wives and lord it over them as he desired. It took centuries for some lands to let women own land or become an heir. Divorce was not a way of escape either. Divorce in Jesus’ day was altogether in the hands of their husbands. He could write her a bill of divorcement and send her out of the house, usually to die of starvation. Woman was the possession of the man.
The religious system that prevailed in Jesus’ time took the man’s side of every issue. One teacher said it was better that the words of the law be burned than delivered to a woman. Harry Emerson Fosdick (often called the minister to all America) called this one of the weakest and sorest spots in religion. <?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office” />
Jesus was the only one to come into history and “put his finger upon the weak spots and sore places of the established religion.” No injustice has ever been worse than that of women since time began.
This attitude of berating women was not formed through evolution or the survival of the fittest. It was and continues to grow from the selfish, insecure nature of the man. In simple terms it is man’s drive to control and be the master of his domain.
“Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her,” Jesus said. And in that moment he announced there is a single standard for both men and women. He is saying man will not lord it over women, instantly denying man’s claims of superiority.
Is it any wonder that down through the centuries women have been the most faithful and effective members of the Christian faith.
Fosdick, former pastor of New York City’s Riverside Church, in his book The Man From Nazareth reminded that Jesus never condescended to women, but habitually showed them deference, and to the surprise of his followers, came to their spiritual defense.
Now, two millennia after the world heard of a better way, we struggle with it and are surprised by the true power and greatness of the so-called “weaker sex.”
Britt Towery, a retired Southern Baptist missionary, lives in San Angelo, Texas.