Sexism and the Church.

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I think it’s fair to say that the Church has a reputation for being pretty sexist. In the sense that in the Roman Catholic Church, women cannot be ordained as the Pope, Priests or any role other than a Deacon. These traditions have changed throughout the years and different branches of churches have different rules. Nevertheless, there is and there has been a view that men and the male sex is normative, so women and the female sex is not.

This view stems from multiple places (which are too many for me to cover without boring you all!), the sexist culture that surrounded the writers of the Bible, and the sexist culture that we still live in today has an effect on the view that the Church and people will have on women. The fact Eve was created after man. Perhaps more significant though, the writings about Eve in Genesis 1-5. It is commonly known that Eve ate the forbidden fruit and this action caused ‘The Fall’ *. And as a result of Eve’s role in Genesis, women have been and are frequently associated with sin. Tertullian (2nd century theologian) said that  women are ‘the Devil’s gateway’ because women ‘are each an Eve.’ Interesting guy!

Another reason for sexism within the Church, more specifically, why women cannot be ordained as Pope or Priests and perhaps why men have been the normative sex for centuries is because Jesus was male and to many people, Jesus’ maleness is super important. The reason that a woman cannot be the Pope is because the Pope’s are supposed to follow an Apostolic line (relating to the Apostles), meaning that each Pope has to be male because Jesus was male and because the Apostles were male. Again reinforcing that women are non-normative.

However, I found something really significant and exciting and I had to share it because it changed my whole view of the significance people have placed on Jesus’ maleness and therefore, the treatment of women within the Church as an institution.

“If a woman had preached compassionate love and enacted a style of authority that serves, she would have been greeted with a colossal shrug. Is this not what women are supposed to do by nature? But from a social position of male privilege Jesus preached and acted this way, and herein lies the summons. The cross too, is a sturdy symbol of the “Kenosis of patriarchy”, the self-emptying of male dominating power in favour of the new humanity is compassionate service and mutual empowerment. The Gospel story of Jesus makes it clear that the heart of the problem is not that Jesus was male, but that more males have not been like Jesus.” Elizabeth A. Johnson. 

Controversial I know. Perhaps somethings to disagree with? But I’m leaving that up to you. However, the last sentence of that quote is something that has encouraged me massively. Men and Women are obviously different, but please lets not fall into the trap of believing that one is more favoured or more important than the other.

-L

* The Fall – Commonly believed by Christians to be when Evil entered the world as a result of Eve eating from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Bad. 

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