Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Rights and the Christian: Women in Creation

I am currently interested in pursuing the language of "rights" as it is represented in scripture and in contemporary statements such as the Declaration of Human Rights, 1948. Do Christians have rights, as Christians, or just as citizens of the world? If Christians do have rights, what can we say about them? And, do women, as human beings, have equal rights to men; but, as Christians, have lesser rights than men?

These are some of the questions I am asking myself. I will post excerpts from a variety of sources, but here is one I don't want to lose. In this passage women do not have equal rights with men,

    The idea of "one flesh" must be given proper emphasis, especially in light of the common understanding of chapter one's emphasis on equality. The term, "equal," is never used in these two chapters, but "one flesh" is used. Unity of the two distinct roles of the man and the woman is more strongly emphasized than equality. The emphasis is not on two individuals who are equal, leading according to their individual strengths, but rather on two individuals who are "one," the man leading and the woman complementing.

    The intent in the garden is not to have a man and a woman co-ruling with equal rights, opportunities, and authority based on perceived strengths, but rather to have a man and a woman co-ruling, with the man as leader and the woman coming alongside of him in his tasks based on the mandate of the Creator. Their "togetherness" is not a 50-50 relationship, comprised of two individuals who maximize their effectiveness by focusing on strengths to determine who takes the lead, but rather a complementary relationship with the man leading and the woman completing under the authority of God. Again, the man and the woman will know joy most fully as they learn to live in the manner God created them to live.
Gender and Sanctification: From Creation to Transformation by David Lee Talley

Clearly, in this passage, women do not have equal rights with man. Man has the right to be a leader and decision-maker, and woman has the right to help man.

I will be looking at many other kinds of rights in the future, not only gender-based rights.


Rod said...

Interesting Suzanne.

Actually, I heard a sermon on Sunday that, from an interpretation of the child Jesus in the temple passages, understood there to be a biblical feminism based on vocation (God calling women to preach) and secular feminism based on civil rights and natural rights arguments.

I still do not understand the difference since the sermon was not clear. Perhaps your future posts could help.

Suzanne McCarthy said...

There are definitely women who consider themselves biblical feminists and even complementarian feminists because they derive the rights of women from Bible passages rather than from a natural rights argument.

An example would be Barbara Roberts, author of "Not Under Bondage: Biblical Divorce for Abuse, Adultery and Desertion."

I would argue that a Chrstian could get divorced for any one of the reasons mentioned in the civil law - abandonment, mental or physical cruelty, addiction, etc. - it does't matter to me whether these things are in the Bible or not as reasons for divorce. But a "biblical feminist" would need to argue that the Bible says that a woman (or a man) can divorce a violent partner. In my books, that takes too long to argue, and wastes time that should be spent getting out.

Suzanne McCarthy said...

There is more in this article,

But what's really fascinating about this piece is that Joyce finds evangelical women who are fighting back on their own terms: "not with secular or feminist domestic violence tactics, but with new theological arguments arguing for abused wives' rights within a biblically literalist, and in some cases even complementarian, framework."

If it works, by all means. I admire women who argue this way, but I am a bit ambivalent about it myself.

Donald Johnson said...

There are rights for believers, so this is a good search.

On marriage covenant, if one breaks a vow of the marriage covenant, then the other party can decide to terminate the covenant or not. This is true of any covenant. The vows should be symmetrical and include fidelity and material and emotional support. Abuse is breaking a vow of emotional support.

Donald Johnson said...

P.S. I am again aghast at the non-egal twisting of Scripture, it upsets me.

Brad said...

Whatever rights there are for Christians, I would argue that they apply equally to all believers, without regard to sex. The most relevant scriptural support for this is Galatians 3:28:

There is no Jew nor Greek. There is no slave nor free. There is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

For me, there is no getting around this scripture and no real way to try and understand other scripture that relates to gender without considering this. That passage by Talley is simply wrong.