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RELIGION IN THE MODERN WORLD

 

RELIGION IN THE MODERN WORLD

 

 

 

 

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Religion in the Modern World

Many critics and feminist groups in the modern world have blamed notions such as male prophets, God, and the man-centered accounts in the Bible as contributing towards the development of patriarchy. The Christians’ Holy Book, and more so the Hebrew Bible, seems to elevate the masculine gender by the way it assigns all the powerful features to men. Right from the time of creation, God assigns Adam the responsibility to take care of the Garden, and the woman only comes later as a helper. Haskins mentions that the phrase “God of the fathers” appears more than sixty times in the Old Testament which is suggestive and may generate criticism from religious observers in  contemporary times[1]. Furthermore, Tertullian, a prominent theologian in the 3rd century, once termed women the devil’s gateway. Elizabeth Santon (a pioneer for women’s rights in the 19th century), on her part, viewed the Church and the Bible to be the primary stumbling blocks that hamper women’s freedom[2]. Santon even blamed the canonical books for fully supporting degradation and subjection of women. The Christian groups in the modern world should agree on the women’s roles in Church and other fields to end the disputes that continue to disrupt gender equality among this group.

Nonetheless, Haskins argues that it is also possible to assume that the ancient Christian groups disapproved gender-based division in religious involvement. The author gives the example of Micah who bestowed one of his sons to serve as a priest in charge of the household’s shrine and gave him the title “father.” Haskins proceeds to compare Micah’s son with Deborah who during the same pre-monarchic period, acquired much fame for her involvement in religious practices and earned the title “mother of Israel.” Haskins notes that in this context the title “mother” does not refer to a biological maternal obligation but to her divinatory guidance, and her capacity to offer answers to the problems Israel faced[3].

How Christianity Responds to Women’s Participation in Religion in the Modern World

Christianity in the modern world appears to give the different denominations the freedom to decide whether women should become leaders in the Church, and other religious areas, or not. Even though no group openly opposes the right, a significant portion of Christians feel that segregating women may only promote gender disparity which may cause further division. A compilation by CBE Staff and Volunteers indicates that more Christian groups are recognizing the need to give women the chance to lead in Church and other areas. The report that explores various denominations’ stances on women in leadership finds that groups such as Mennonite Church USA, Episcopal Church, Alliance of Baptists, American Baptist Churches, and the Evangelical Lutheran Church, among many others, call, train, and appoint gifted women to a variety of leadership ministries on their behalf[4]. The analysis shows that Christians in the modern world are increasingly including women in Church activities which indicate their desire to do away with gender discrimination.

Different Reactions from Sectarian Groups

Even though the modern Christians feel that women deserve an equal position in the church and the society as men, some groups still believe that men have the authority to dominate over people who belong to the feminine gender. Haskins argues that the Roman Catholic Church is an excellent example of a Christian denomination that continues to be adamantabout not giving women the same playing ground as men when it comes to women’s involvement in church leadership[5]. The Catholics base their refusal to ordain women as priests on old traditions that formed the basis of the group. The Vatican under the direction of Pope Paul VI delivered an official statement in opposition to women’s ordination in 1977. The Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith prepared and announced the Declaration on the Question of Admission of Women to the Ministerial Priesthood clarifying the Church’s position on women leadership on religious matters. The declaration stipulates that “In adherence to the Lord’s wish, the Church does not view herself permitted to allow women to priestly ordination”[6]. The statement explains that it understands that the declaration may cause discomfort, but the positive effects will become apparent in the long run because it may help to deepen the knowledge of the duties of men and women. Catholics continue to uphold the Sacred Congregation’s pronouncement despite biblical proof of the divinatory guidance of women.

Justification using Religious Texts

The modern Christian groups that hold different positions regarding women’s active involvement in Church leadership and other areas tend to use Bible verses to support their standing. The Catholics, for example, seem to stand with Genesis 3:16 that reads “Your desires will be for your man, and he will lead you.”[7] Critics refer to God’s judgment to Eve as divine approval of man’s superiority over woman. The groups that support women’s subjectivity further argue that the judgment came following humanity’s fallen state, and not God’s desire. The modern Christian groups that feel that women deserve equality counteract the other’s standing by making reference to Genesis 1:27-28 that classify Adam and Eve as being created in God’s image. Furthermore, they acquired similar instructions from the Almighty to become fruitful and fill the earth. Evidently, at this point, neither man nor woman dominated the other. The supporters of equality in the Church even quote Genesis 1:31 which say that “God saw all the things he made and found them good.”[8] The Christian groups that support women’s participation in the modern world may also quote Galatians 3:28 which states that “There is no Greek or Jew, there is no free or bond, there is no male or female, for you are all one before Jesus Christ.” Judges 4-5 that describes Deborah’s leadership and military prowess also serves as an excellent reference that helps to support women’s involvement in Church. The variations suggest that there is need to come up with ways of harmonizing how the different groups interpret the verses.

Conservative and Liberal Viewpoints

As it appears from the description about the Catholics, it emerges that some groups act as conservatives while others choose to be liberals. Whereas the liberals want to actively involve women in critical aspects of Church activities as well as in other fields, the conservatives vehemently hold to the view that men have the sole authority to lead. The different viewpoints continue to evoke varying opinions from Christians who worship the same God but appear to have contradictory views about the Bible’s teachings.

The Christianity groups that continue to sideline women in religious, social, and economic practices seem to think like the Muslims who feel that the woman’s responsibility is confined to the home, with not the remotest chance of becoming a leader at the Mosque. Muslim women in many cases do not sit close to the men when attending service at the Mosque and in some cases are forced to sit in the back rows or a separate room, far behind the person leading the service (imam).

Bano and Kalmbach’s article, nevertheless, describes how new generations of Muslims are transforming in modern Europe. Some groups now choose to include women in making critical religious decisions that would have an impact on a significant population by way of increasing Muslim women’s participation in various channels of acquiring Islamic knowledge. Bano and Kalmbach provide the example of how women are actively taking part in the Sunni-dominated Sweden’s Young Muslims which runs as a national organization and other local youth initiatives spread across the Swedish towns[9]. Rabi Keeble is also an example of an Islamic woman who opted to start her mosque in Berkeley, California, following the traumatizing effects she encountered due to males’ prevention of female participation in religious matters. The lady who runs the place of worship at the Starr King School for the Ministry advocates for increased women’s involvement in the modern religious practices[10]. The descriptions by Bano and Kalmbach and McCarthy suggest that the contemporary Islamic religion also sees the need to change its position against women.

Conclusion

The contradicting opinions surrounding the women’s role in the Church and other areas continues to be a contentious issue in the modern world. Some groups feel that it is wrong to discriminate against women because it is against God’s teachings while others believe that God made man to be superior to woman. The groups that support women’s segregation should think about the consequences of their stand on gender balance that is increasingly gaining support from different quarters.

 

 

Bibliography

Bano, Masooda and Kalmbach Hilary. Women, Leadership, and Mosques: Changes in Contemporary Islamic Authority. Koninklijke Brill NV, 2012.

CBE Staff and Volunteers. “U.S. Denominations and their Stances Women in Leadership.” E-Quality, vol. 6, no. 2 (2007): 1-15.

Haskins, Cheryl. “Gender Bias in the Roman catholic Church: Why can’t Women be Priests?” University of Maryland Law Journal of Race, religion, Gender, and Class, vol. 3, no. 1 (2003): 99-124.

McCarthy, Joe. “This Women-Led Mosque wants to End Gender Discrimination in Islam.” Global Citizen, April 19, 2017. https://www.globalcitizen.org/en/content/women-led-mosque-in-california-gender-equality/

The Bible. Genesis 3:16, Genesis 1:27-28, Genesis 1:31, Galatians 3:28, Judges 4-5. NIV.

Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania. “The Bible’s Viewpoint: Does the Bible Discriminate against Women?” Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania, 2018. https://wol.jw.org/en/wol/d/r1/lp-e/102005806#h=5

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[1] Cheryl Haskins, “Gender Bias in the Roman Catholic Church: Why can’t Women be Priests?” University of Maryland Law Journal of Race, religion, Gender, and Class, vol. 3, no. 1, 2003, pp. 102.

[2] Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania, “The Bible’s Viewpoint: Does the Bible Discriminate against Women?” Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of Pennsylvania, 2018. https://wol.jw.org/en/wol/d/r1/lp-e/102005806#h=5

[3] Cheryl Haskins, “Gender Bias in the Roman Catholic Church: Why can’t Women be Priests?” University of Maryland Law Journal of Race, religion, Gender, and Class, vol. 3, no. 1, 2003, pp. 102.

[4] CBE Staff and Volunteers, “U.S. Denominations and their Stances Women in Leadership,” E-Quality, vol. 6, no. 2, 2007, pp. 4.

[5] Cheryl Haskins, “Gender Bias in the Roman Catholic Church: Why can’t Women be Priests?” University of Maryland Law Journal of Race, religion, Gender, and Class, vol. 3, no. 1, 2003, pp. 99.

[6] Ibid, 103

[7] The Bible

[8] The Bible

[9] Masooda Bano and Kalmbach Hilary, Women, Leadership, and Mosques: Changes in Contemporary Islamic Authority (Koninklijke Brill NV, 2012), 12.

[10] Joe McCarthy, “This Women-Led Mosque wants to End Gender Discrimination in Islam,” Global Citizen, April 19, 2017. https://www.globalcitizen.org/en/content/women-led-mosque-in-california-gender-equality/

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