December 8, 2018
I was privileged to attend The Parliament of the World’s Religions last month. There were so many outstanding programs. For this month’s tribute to International Women’s Day, I would like to share two of these programs.
First, a program presented by Rev. Susan M. Strouse, D.Min., who is a minister in the Lutheran faith tradition. Her presentation, “Dismantling the Religious Roots of Patriarchy in Christianity”, suggested several things that Christian churches are doing, and need to do, to dismantle the pervasive Patriarchy that continues to permeate our tradition today.
Second, I would like to share the Parliament’s Women’s Task Force’s “International Declaration by Religious and Spiritual Leaders to End Sexual Violence.”
Dismantling the Religious Roots of Patriarchy in Christianity
Rev. Susan M. Strouse, D.Min.
Use inclusive language for humanity and expansive language for the Divine in church publications and worship materials.
- Although the generic use of masculine terms has been accepted practice, it is exclusive and viewed as offensive by many.
- The use of only masculine nouns and pronouns for God and of masculine generic terms for humankind has hidden the rich feminine imagery for God and God’s people in scripture
- Language that is truly inclusive affirms sexuality, racial and ethnic background, stages of maturity, and degrees of limiting conditions. It shows respect for all people.
Encourage the reading of sacred texts with a “hermeneutic of suspicion” which questions traditional interpretations. For example:
- In the Beginning: “God took one of its ribs and closed up the flesh from its side. YHWH then fashioned into a woman and brought her to the man. Adam named the woman Eve because she was the mother of all who live.”
- The Temptation: “You must not eat from that tree” (Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil). “The Serpent said to the woman…God knows well that on the day that you eat it, your eyes will be opened and you will be like gods, knowing good and evil”.
- The Blame Game: “It was the woman you put beside me. She gave me fruit and I ate it…The woman replied, ‘The snake tempted me so I ate.’”
- The Curse of Eve: Then YHWH said to the woman, “I will greatly multiply your pains in childbearing…your desire will be for your man and he will rule over you.”
- The Aftermath: From a woman sin had its beginning and because of her we will die. Sirach25:24
Recognize the misogyny of many of the early church leaders and their ongoing legacy. For example:
- Tertullian (2nd Century): You are the devil’s gateway; you are the unsealer of that tree; you are the first forsaker of the divine law; you are the one who persuaded him whom the devil was not brave enough to approach; you so lightly crushed the image of God, the man Adam.
- Jerome (4th Century): Adam was first formed, then Eve; and Adam was not beguiled, but the woman being beguiled hath fallen into transgression: but she shall be saved through the child-bearing, if they continue in faith and love and sanctification with sobriety.
Recognize the “texts of terror” in our sacred texts and the violence that continues to be justified because of them. For example:
- The Expulsion of Hagar, Egyptian Slave Woman, Mother of Ishmael (Gen 16, 21)
- The Rape of Tamar: Princess of Israel 2 Samuel13:1-22
- The Daughter of Jephthah (Judges 11: 30-31)
Recognize the spiritual, emotional and physical violence perpetrated by an entrenched patriarchal system both within the Church and society in general. For example, the following Scripture passages used against women in our society:
- BE SUBJECT TO YOUR HUSBAND: “Wives be subject to your husbands as you are to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife just as Christ is the head of the church…” Ephesians 5:22
- BE QUIET: “Women should be silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be subordinate, as the law also says. If there is anything they desire to know, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church.” I Corinthians 14:34
- SUBMIT: “Let a woman learn in silence with full submission. I permit no woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she is to keep silent. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. Yet she will be saved through childbearing provided they continue in faith and love and holiness; with modesty.” I Timothy 2:11-15
Commit to the revision of theologies, teachings, liturgies, and practices to reflect the goodness of all people especially those who have been most impacted by patriarchy.
Develop systems of real, shared power, with representation by all groups.
International Declaration by Religious and Spiritual Leaders to End Sexual Violence
The Parliament of the World’s Religion’s Women’s Task Forc
We proclaim with one voice as spiritual and religious leaders and advocates that violence exists in all communities, including our own, and is morally, spiritually and universally intolerable.
We understand that sexual violence is rooted in inequality and the vulnerability of powerlessness.
We acknowledge that our sacred texts, traditions and values have too often been misused to perpetuate and condone abuse.
We commit ourselves to working toward the day when all people will be safe and abuse will be no more.
We draw upon our healing texts and practices to help make our families and societies whole.
Our religious and spiritual traditions compel us to work for justice and the eradication of violence against all people, especially the most vulnerable.
We call upon people of all religious and spiritual traditions to join us.
The 2018 Parliament Women’s Task Force in partnership with the Faith Trust Institute invites you to endorse this declaration to end sexual violence. Add your voice to our religious and spiritual world community!
For more information and/or to Sign the Declaration,