Is Christianity sexist?

AgnosticBoy

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The Bible is clearly patriarchal. Husbands are to rule over their wives. Only men can occupy leadership positions. Fast-forward to modern day Western culture, we find women having equal rights, occupying leadership roles, and doing many of the same roles that husband would do in a marriage. Many would say that this is the right thing to do and anything less causes harm to women.

For Debate...
Is Christianity sexist?
 
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AgnosticBoy

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Is Christianity sexist?

I have more questions than answers.

Sexism is defined as unfair treatment or prejudice on the basis of gender.

Before I label any different treatment between the genders as being sexist, I'd first want to know why there is different treatment. Why are men allowed to be leaders and not women? I'd also want to know if such treatment is inherently harmful (as in there's no good way to practice it).

I bring up these standards because there are obvious inequalities between genders, and there are good reasons for it, at times. For instance, many militaries tend to be made up of mostly men. I don't see how or why this is harmful to women, and I question if women even complain about not being able to go to war in the same numbers that men do. If anything, I'd expect this given that men, on average, are best suited (at least physically) for fighting.

Now when it comes to inequalities in education, then I see obvious harm. Limiting someone's education limits their options in life when it comes to jobs/career, managing money, solving life problems, engaging in safe/healthy practices, etc. What good reason would we have for any gender to have to go through this?
 

TracyRN

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Is Christianity sexist?
God never said that women are inferior. I have not found anything in the Church's official teachings that says that women are inferior. Of course you will find many passages and Christians of the past that thought otherwise but that was due to the culture of the time.

I can go into this more on Friday!
 

AgnosticBoy

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1 Timothy 2:12 shows one of the clearest examples.
"I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent." (NIV)

The first impression that most would get from this verse is that it's sexist. Perhaps that's the only valid understanding. Saying words like "permit" and "remain silent" are consistent with women having a lesser role. I know there are other passages that someone can bring up that seem to show some equality between men and women, but then that shows a contradiction with 1 Tim. 2:12. To show that it's not a contradiction would take reconciling 1 Timothy 2:12 with other passages that show fairness in how the two genders are treated.

Edit:
And here's some evidence that some Christians would bring up to show that Christianity is not sexist:
Galatians 3: 26–28
“26 You are all, in fact, sons of God through your faith in Christ Jesus. 27 For all of you who were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor freeman, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in union with Christ Jesus.”

But again, these passages must be reconciled with 1 Timothy 2:12. Just ignoring 1 Timothy 2:12 leaves room for doubt regarding the Christian position on gender equality.
 
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TracyRN

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The first impression that most would get from this verse is that it's sexist. Perhaps that's the only valid understanding. Saying words like "permit" and "remain silent" are consistent with women having a lesser role. I know there are other passages that someone can bring up that seem to show some equality between men and women, but then that shows a contradiction with 1 Tim. 2:12. To show that it's not a contradiction would take reconciling 1 Timothy 2:12 with other passages that show fairness in how the two genders are treated.
Here is how this topic was explained to me. Yes, men have a leadership role in the marriage and that's because God wants there to be an order to things just as parents are over their children or a general is over his troops. This already happens naturally because relationships will often involve someone assuming the head role. I personally know of marriages where the wife plays the stronger role.

What does this leadership look like?
Keep in mind that God instructs husband to love their wives as Christ loves the Church. Ephesians 5:28-30

"28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— 30 for we are members of his body."

This does not involve the husband being verbally and physically abusive or telling the wife that she has no rights nor say. Women in the Old Testament were treated like property but God reveals his standard in the New Testament.
 

TracyRN

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1 Timothy 2:12 shows one of the clearest examples.
"I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent." (NIV)
This appears as a contradiction if you don't look into the cultural context. Paul's instruction to Timothy was meant to address specific issues with the Church that Timothy was in charge of. It was not meant to be a universal guideline for all Churches to follow. There are examples of women teachers in the Early Church. Acts 18:24-26 talks about Priscilla correcting Apollos. Titus 2:3-5 talks about women teaching.

The official Catholic position is that women can not be part of the ordained clergy. They are clearly able to talk and teach even if they can not serve in Church leadership positions.

Here are some helpful articles
Grace Communion Seminary
Although we cannot answer all questions about the specific situation Paul was addressing in Corinth, we do conclude that he was addressing a specific situation rather than making a general prohibition on women speaking in church. His intent was to prohibit disruptive and disrespectful questions and comments that were part of the chaotic Corinthian meetings—and in Corinth, these particular practices were coming from the women. Just as he told the disorderly tongues-speakers and prophets to control themselves because God is not a God of disorder, he also told the women to control themselves because the law teaches self-control. If they want to learn something, they can ask questions somewhere else.[43]

Also read Fr. Edward McIlmail article in RCSpirituality.
 

AgnosticBoy

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Yes, men have a leadership role in the marriage and that's because God wants there to be an order to things just as parents are over their children or a general is over his troops.
Fair enough. I can agree that we need order and a ranking system is often part of that. I would only object when it comes to the reasons for God choosing men over women. If it's because the man was created first, then someone can object to this on factual grounds. But if it's simply based on God just having to pick someone, then I have no objections to that.

This already happens naturally because relationships will often involve someone assuming the head role. I personally know of marriages where the wife plays the stronger role.
Interestingly, I was looking up studies on gender roles within same-sex relationships. I was surprised to find that gender roles extended even into same-sex relationships. I wouldn't have expected to find a masculine or dominant role in lesbian relationships, for instance.

A new study, presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association, found that when it comes to same-sex couples, most Americans believe the “more masculine” partner and the “more feminine” partner should be responsible for stereotypically male and female chores. The study also found that people were more likely to consider there to be a distinct “man” and a “woman” in lesbian relationships than they were when it came to gay male couples. Probably, you know, because the idea of there being no male presence at all in a relationship is utterly unfathomable.

When evaluating same-sex couples, 62 percent of respondents expected the more feminine partner to attend to the physical needs of the children, and 60 percent believed the more feminine spouse should handle the emotional needs of the children, the researchers said. The findings for whether the more masculine or feminine partner should be the stay-at-home parent and be in charge of discipline were not statistically significant for same-sex couples.

“Sex was by far the strongest determinant of which tasks people assigned to each spouse in heterosexual couples,” Quadlin said. “But, surprisingly, that theme extended to same-sex couples. When there wasn’t a sex difference between partners, people relied on information about gender to guide their beliefs about what people should be doing. So, in other words, they took the heterosexual norm, where there are certain chores that men are expected to do and certain chores that women are expected to do, and used that same rationalization to determine household responsibilities for same-sex couples. We were surprised that happened to the extent that it did, because we thought expectations for household responsibilities would be more egalitarian between same-sex partners.”
Source: American Sociological Association
 
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AgnosticBoy

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Paul's instruction to Timothy was meant to address specific issues with the Church that Timothy was in charge of. It was not meant to be a universal guideline for all Churches to follow
The apostle Paul actually mentioned his reasons for his instructions. He brought up the Adam and Eve story and how Adam was formed first. That would remain true no matter the culture.

One of your sources states the following:
There is good reason to think that 1 Timothy 2 is a response to a rather particular cultural situation in parts of the Roman Empire during the first century, and is not meant to outline universal norms valid for today. Scholars have identified two situations particular to Paul’s era that can help explain why he wrote these instructions to the church in Ephesus, and why they don’t necessarily apply today.

The first was the “new women” movement. Ephesus, where Timothy lived, was a very rich city, and in the first century there was a movement among upper-class women called the “new women” movement. This movement in some ways was positive, promoting women’s role in the public sphere, for example. But most texts that we have about the movement emphasize that it promoted things such as abortion, sexual promiscuity and permissive clothing.

In 1 Timothy 2:9-10, Paul describes how women should “adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, but with what is proper for women who profess godliness – with good works.” This is the exact opposite of how the “new women” were seen in Roman society, and indicates that Paul’s instructions should be understood as a response to that movement. He doesn’t want the church in Ephesus to become associated with a movement that is widely thought to promote promiscuity and bad morals.
Source: https://rcspirituality.org/ask_a_priest/ask-priest-st-paul-seem-sexist-1-timothy-2/

Your source does not address Paul's stated reasons (Adam was made first) for why women should be in submission.
 

TracyRN

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I wouldn't have expected to find a masculine or dominant role in lesbian relationships, for instance.
Butch-femme lesbian relationships are very common actually.

Your source does not address Paul's stated reasons (Adam was made first) for why women should be in submission.
I don't see the problem with this passage. Paul brings up women teaching others. It is hard to believe that he would have not noticed the conflict between saying to remain silent and to teach others.

Paul talks about women prophesying in 1 Cor. 11:5,
, 5 but any woman who prays or prophesies with her head unveiled disgraces her head

I am not seeing anything that hasn't been explained. Maybe we can get a second opinion from other members?
 
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AgnosticBoy

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I don't see the problem with this passage. Paul brings up women teaching others. It is hard to believe that he would have not noticed the conflict between saying to remain silent and to teach others.

Paul talks about women prophesying in 1 Cor. 11:5,
, 5 but any woman who prays or prophesies with her head unveiled disgraces her head
Here's where we agree:
1. Paul accepts or acknowledges that women can teach, pray, and even prophesy in Church.
2. We even agree that Paul tells Timothy (in 1 Tim. 2:12) about a standard that go against women being able to teach or even talk in Church.
3. We both agree that although, women can teach, but they can not occupy the top leadership roles in the Church.

Where we disagree:
1. We can't say that Paul's instruction for women to remain silent is conditional (to a specific place, time, or culture) because Paul does not state this. In fact, I would've been agnostic or open to accepting your view as the likely explanation even if Paul remained silent on his reasons. But as it stands, Paul gave a specific reason. Paul brings up Adam and Eve, and how Adam was created first.

Getting back to sexism, I am glad we already addressed how your view shows that no sexism is involved. I can accept that in many situations, someone has to take charge.

I am not seeing anything that hasn't been explained. Maybe we can get a second opinion from other members?
If we're at an impasse, then I definitely welcome others to jump in. Either way, thanks for sharing your view. :):cool:
 
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AgnosticBoy

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I am not seeing anything that hasn't been explained. Maybe we can get a second opinion from other members?
I created a thread on another forum. One member brought up a good point that most scholars don't believe that Paul wrote 1 Timothy. I looked it up in my own sources and found that to be the case, as well. Finding a 1st century copy of 1 Timothy would help the case that Paul was the author.

Either way, the explanation that the 1 Timothy is not from Paul would help explain why some of his instructions for women in the letter conflicts with his other writings.