A Christian Perspective on International Women’s Day

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Special Guests Christine Axelson and Shirley Lew-Lee of World Vision join Apologetics.com Staff members Candace Jackson and Christopher Neiswonger.

Obviously, a Christian understanding of the meaning and purpose of International Women’s Day will be different from that of those with a differing worldview. Our understanding of the human being is different and of course, so is our understanding of women, men, their place in the world and the means available to bring about change.

Injustice is not a male or a female problem, thus gender as a category for analysis goes only so deep. For some, gender seems to be the fundamental lens through which they interpret the world. For Christians, having a more nuanced and appreciatively human approach to human relationships, gender is not a category of division or conflict but of human fulfillment and inevitable reconciliation. Thus for Christians, that “men” are the problem or that “women” are the answer holds an unspoken philosophy within itself that is at odds with our hope.

When any thoughts of the rights of women before the law or respect for women in a social culture become confused with political considerations that are intrinsically mated with ideas and ideologies irreconcilable with Christian thought, we should object.

For the most part, non-Christians have taken the place of pre-eminence in political and social engagement in the regard to women’s issues, thus they set the agenda. This is partially because Christians have not traditionally had the same kinds of problems as the larger society and so have felt less need to engage. Mutual respect, affection, and support are the norms of Christian views of gender inter-relations. Is the place of women in the world better or worse for the lack of Christian thought in regard to these kinds of problems? Is the condition of women in the world better or worse for the profound influence of Christian thought in the West? Since the concept of “having a right” is itself a peculiarly “Christian” idea, how much value can it have absent the universalizing meaning that Christianity provides?

There are not many fundamental groundings within the Christian religion; one of them would be the intrinsically beneficial relationship between the different genders of Man. “So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” as the Scriptures tell us. From the very beginning a reciprocal relationship of mutual respect, fidelity, protection, honor, labor, learning, and grace was not only explained to be beneficial, but necessary to the well being of both male and female. The male was created incomplete and doomed to frustration without a counterpart of completion. Thus “femaleness” is neither an after thought nor an option in a sufficiently Christian understanding.

In this, and contrary to so much secular thought on the issue today, there is a necessary implication that female completion is not possible outside of a specifically male counterpart. “The two shall become one flesh…” is a phrase that all through the Bible has magnificent consequences. To reduce it to having children or mere marital relations is reduce us to the non-Christian worldviews and to miss its force. The issue is “Completion”. Man was not made for being without and is out of balance in this life without, a Woman. A Woman is not made for being without and is out of balance in this life without a Man. “It is not good for the man to be alone.” It’s not good for the woman to be alone either. This is not popular thought, co-dependency having been demonized by popular psychology, but it does have an intuitive ring of truth and seems most reconcilable with how we actually live our lives. Christian completion is not something reserved by God to being in relation with Him alone; it seems to require a wholly human element.

Much of this can become divorced from its deeper human meaning and become merely political. If women’s issues are reduced to issues of power, control, and the corporate advancement of “us” vs. “them” as a self protective block gathered together for mutual strength against a common enemy, and not for the mutual edification of both men and women, through the recognition and respect for women already due to them as the image of God, it 1) has no hope of success and 2) has deteriorated into a reverse form of gender control politics. It is not more beautiful than what existed before, and not better.

Is the issue mutuality? Or Empowerment? Empowerment is political language that expresses the transfer of the opportunity for oppression from one group to another group. Men rightly avoid the language of empowerment and find it insulting and derogatory. Mutuality is that time honoured and Christian tradition of equality before the law and equal protection; Empowerment is a language of political abuse that assumes that there is at any given time a limited amount of power available, and we are going to fight over who will have control over whom. If the issue is empowerment the earlier problem that we’ve been trying to deal with is that men, strangely enough even Christian men, were claiming and working into institutional form through the use of the state “powers” things that they did not have by right, that God did not give, and that have no rational basis. That kind of power being spread around isn’t really of benefit to anyone.

We always need to decide if we are tearing something down, building something, or just moving something around. For many the goal seems to be the need to share in the oppressive power rather than to eliminate the opportunity for oppression. The idea that men having power produced oppression but women having power will bring justice seems largely illusory. Oppression is a trait of the habit of power, not an expression of gender. Whoever has it will eventually use it, and whoever uses it will eventually use it in some way that is in their own best interest at the cost of whoever they have the power to oppress, and that is a human problem.

Is the ideal, the proper division of power along gender determined lines? War of the sexes? Men and women working together to tear down artificially imposed structures of injustice largely foisted upon the Christian world by merely Natural thought?

Christianity might have a better way.

Here are some very important issues:

  • Forced Early Marriage
  • Human Trafficking
  • Rape
  • Murder
  • Education
  • Autonomy
  • Property
  • Political Self Determination
  • Domestic Violence
  • Egg marketing
  • Female-targeted abortion
  • The woman as Object
  • Objectification and use of human beings as a general rule outside of Christian thought

These might be thought of more as human issues than as Christian issues, but the “Christian” answers, interpretations, and the means that we might think best to bring resolution might be very different.

What are some of the issues that we should be thinking about? Are there issues that are specifically “Christian” issues? Are there specifically Christian answers? Where will a multiplicity of worldview eventually splinter in focus? Where will a multiplicity of worldviews eventually diverge in ends? Where will a multiplicity of worldviews eventually diverge in means?

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neiswonger@gmail.com

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