WENDY FRAN­CIS

Faith-based sex­ism is a mis­guided read­ing of Bi­ble

The Courier-Mail - - OPINION -

CON­TRARY to the claims of Shane Bud­den in these pages last week (“#MeToo has failed due to en­shrined re­li­gious misog­yny” C-M, Jan 11), Chris­tian­ity has in­spired women to ac­tivism since the time of Je­sus. Chris­tian women have been vo­cal against op­pres­sion of all forms and have fought for equal­ity wher­ever that has been de­nied.

Take for ex­am­ple, women be­ing given the right to vote and to stand as can­di­dates for elec­tion. This was first achieved in South Aus­tralia.

An im­por­tant as­pect of this his­tor­i­cal cam­paign was a pe­ti­tion of more than 11,000 sig­na­tures, 8000 of which were col­lected by the Women’s Chris­tian Tem­per­ance Union.

This im­pres­sive pe­ti­tion, a mas­sive scroll more than 100m long, is on dis­play at the Mu­seum of Democ­racy at Old Par­lia­ment House in Can­berra. It was the Honourable Ge­orge Hawker who pre­sented the pe­ti­tion in Au­gust 1894, there be­ing no women al­lowed in Par­lia­ment. How­ever, when the Bill reached the sec­ond read­ing in De­cem­ber, women had taken over the pub­lic gallery.

The Ade­laide Ob­server re­ported: “Ladies poured into the cush­ioned benches to the left of the Speaker, and re­lent­lessly usurped the seats of the gen­tle­men who had been com­fort­ably seated there be­fore. They filled the aisles and over­flowed into the gallery.”

Two of the prom­i­nent co­or­di­na­tors of the pe­ti­tion and the takeover of the par­lia­men­tary gallery were El­iz­a­beth Webb Ni­cholls and Mary Lee, both of whom lived and prac­tised their Chris­tian be­liefs.

They saw, as Chris­tian women have through­out his­tory, the un­de­ni­able con­nec­tion be­tween faith and po­lit­i­cal, so­cial and eco­nomic con­cerns.

When Chris­tians ar­gue God wants men and women to be equal, they make this claim on good grounds – the au­thor­ity of the Bi­ble and the words and teach­ings of Je­sus it con­tains.

Us­ing the Old Tes­ta­ment’s Ge­n­e­sis 19:8 as ev­i­dence to back up claims of misog­yny in re­li­gion is to mis­rep­re­sent the story of Lot and his two daugh­ters. The pres­ence of this #MeToo mo­ment in the Bi­ble does not in­di­cate en­dorse­ment. The Bi­ble is an hon­est ac­count of his­tory, which does not gloss over atroc­i­ties.

Misog­yny is a dis­like of, con­tempt for, or in­grained prej­u­dice against women. Yet Chris­tians through­out his­tory have been at the fore­front of the fight for women’s equal­ity, pi­o­neer­ing women’s higher ed­u­ca­tion, the right to vote, the right to stand for of­fice, the right to own prop­erty and work out­side the home.

In the pages of the Bi­ble is a strong af­fir­ma­tion of the in­trin­sic equal­ity of men and women. Je­sus’ re­gard for women was counter-cul­tural and rev­o­lu­tion­ary in his male­dom­i­nated era.

All schol­ars agree that women had an un­usu­ally high pro­file in Christ’s life and work.

Women then, and now, have found the move­ment that Je­sus es­tab­lished both com­pelling and lib­er­at­ing.

It is also no co­in­ci­dence that the safest coun­tries in the world for women have the ben­e­fit of the Ju­daeo-Chris­tian ethic as the foun­da­tion of their cul­ture. The most dan­ger­ous coun­tries do not.

There is no doubt that the Church through­out his­tory has fre­quently failed to live up to the teach­ings of Je­sus. But there is also no doubt that Chris­tian­ity has given voice to women to op­pose op­pres­sion in all of its forms in the sure knowl­edge that God in­tends for men and women to be equal. Wendy Fran­cis is the state direc­tor of Aus­tralian Chris­tian Lobby

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