Updated: Mar 22, 2019
The news lately has been filled with tragic stories of women who have shared their experiences as victims of sexual assault. Many of these stories are being shared with the hashtag #metoo.
This has caused me to reflect upon the role of religion in creating a misogynistic mindset toward women. On the whole, religion has not been kind to women, largely patriarchal and often misogynistic.
Consider these common church phrases:
"Women should be silent in the church."
"You are an amazing leader! You'd make an excellent pastor's wife someday!"
"You're equal to men in value; you just have a different role. God made you to submit to man's final authority."
"Dress in a way that doesn't cause your brothers in Christ to sin."
"Want to come to my Bible Study? We are learning how to be gentle submissive women."
"Men are visual and struggle with lust. Women are emotional and we need to protect them."
"Always be prepared to have sex with your husband even if you don't want it."
"The head of the woman is the man."
"For man did not come from woman, but woman from man. Neither was man created for women, but women for man."
"Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord."
Elizabeth Cady Stanton wrote, "The Bible teaches that woman brought sin and death into the world, that she precipitated the fall of the race, that she was arraigned before the judgment seat of Heaven, tried, condemned, and sentenced. Marriage for her was to be a condition of bondage, maternity a period of suffering and anguish, and in silence and subjection, she was to play the role of a dependant on man’s bounty for all her material wants, and for all the information she might desire. ... Here is the Bible position of woman briefly summed up. The Bible and the Church have been the greatest stumbling blocks in the way of women’s emancipation. The whole tone of church teaching in regard to women is, to the last degree, contemptuous and degrading."
Differences in tradition and interpretations of scripture have caused sects of Christianity to differ in their beliefs with regard to their treatment of women. In The Troublesome Helpmate, Katharine M. Rogers argues that Christianity is misogynistic, and she lists what she says are specific examples of misogyny in the Pauline epistles. She states: "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."
I have received many messages and emails over the years from women who were victimized through their association with religion. One woman wrote, "At church, I learned that God loves me less because I’m female."
Below is a portion of one of many emails I've received, which I keep in a "Dear Jim" Gmail Folder:
"I decided I’d start wearing pants. I know that seems so small and petty, it’s almost laughable, but to a young, IFB ‘good girl,' it was a huge deal. I thought that maybe if I could at least ‘look’ like an independent woman, maybe I’d ‘feel’ more like one. If I could look ‘normal’ maybe I’d feel a little less… sub-human. I knew there’d be hell to pay when I told him, but I thought surely the few days or weeks of hell on earth would be preferable to the months or possibly years of suffering a divorce would cause. This was my somewhat fractured logic, but I was a woman at the end of her rope and willing to try anything before finally giving up.
The next day I sat down with David and gently told him my decision. I cried when I told him because I knew what was coming. At first he seemed concerned, even sympathetic and curious about why I’d made my decision. Then he began to ‘reason’ with me. When he realized I wasn’t going to budge, he became irate. For at least 4 hellish hours that evening, he yelled, showed me Bible verses, following me around the house, continuing the barrage. He poked his finger in my chest, on my face, and when I tried to lay down that night, he yanked the pillow out from under my head. He put his pale, rage-filled face inches from mine and yelled, “This is my MINISTRY we’re talking about!!”
The next 2 days were more of the same. When I suggested marriage counseling, things got worse. He locked us in the bedroom, pacing back and forth, holding a Bible in one hand, and poking me in the chest and face with the other. Finally, one night, he laid down beside me and told me that he was going to stop allowing me to watch my favorite shows on tv or read my favorite books anymore because they were giving me “ideas”. When I felt the familiar ‘trapped’ sensation rising in my chest again, choking me, when I realized that my tiny world was now becoming that much smaller, I realized I didn’t know what the “will of God” was anymore, but I knew it WASN’T God’s will that anyone, even a woman, live in such oppression."
I know the above case is quite extreme. But in more subtle ways, religion has often diminished women. Young girls learn self-diminishing/defeating views early in life, indoctrinated into a fear-based view of God and shame-based view of ourselves.
The fundamentalist “Christian Gospel” damages young girls by telling them that they are born into this world intrinsically bad and repulsive to God. They learn that their sinfulness is to blame for the brutalization, torture, and death of God’s only son. Girls in these churches are often told that there is nothing good inside of them and that they should not trust their thoughts and feelings. They are manipulated with fear and shame to adopt certain religious beliefs and practices. They are also taught that the rejection, hatred, or diminishment of other human beings (“unbelievers”) is an expression of devotion to God.
This kind of religious indoctrination should be considered child abuse, and many women are still suffering the consequences of having spent their childhood and youth under this kind of mental, emotional, and spiritual oppression.
What hashtag is there for women who have been victimized by religion? Whether in extreme cases or more subtle ways, it all adds up to the same result.
I'll suggest a hashtag #nomore
Religion that diminishes and victimizes women can no longer be tolerated.
I came up with 10 religious falsehoods about women and put them on a meme with the hashtag #nomore. Please consider saving the attached meme to your device (phone, laptop, ipad), and sharing it with your FB and social media audience with the hashtag #nomore
10 Religious Falsehoods about Women:
1. Women brought sin and death into the world 2. Women are to blame for the fall of the human race 3. Women are inferior to men 4. Women were intended to be subservient to men 5. Women are incapable of exercising spiritual authority and leadership 6. A godly woman is a silent, submissive, and domestic woman 7. Women are responsible for the sexual temptations and transgressions of men 8. Women are weak, emotional, and irrational 9. Women are expected by God to stay in demeaning, damaging, destructive, or abusive relationships 10. Women should deny and repress themselves in order to serve and satisfy others