In my last post I presented the idea that, contrary to the teachings of the Bible, today’s church had somehow gotten hold of the idea that women were superior to men and without sin. I admit that it is a novel idea to articulate, but since it seems that this is held as truth by more than a few Christians (however tacitly), this seems like a good time to bring the teaching out into the light of day and examine it.
I cited several writers who have suggested that they have come across the concept in their interactions but didn’t give any particulars or examples, other than to comment that they have observed evidence that it is held by some Christians. While it might be difficult to find a teacher or preacher who openly avows support for such a belief, I did cite a study by the Pew Research group that might demonstrate the results of such a teaching being promulgated. In that first post, I included the Pew Research chart that showed that in all branches of Christianity (save the Orthodox branch) women outnumber men as adherents. The chart further showed that every other major religion has more male adherents than women, leaving Christianity as…
“A Female Army With Male Generals”
This idea is the topic of an on-going discussion in the CSL household. Wife will point to the fact that most churches and denominations are led by men, and that most church leaders are men. But as one writer points out, while this may be true, the undeniable fact is that women make up the ranks of the Church today. The Pew survey results were for the American church only; there are reports of greater gender disparity in Christian churches overseas, with a ratio of up to 9:1.
While I am not disagreeing with Wife’s statement, others make the point, backed by studies, that Western Christianity has become a religion that appeals to women. Here are some of the findings of sociologists that I have seen cited:
“In modern Western cultures, religion has been a predominantly female sphere. In nearly every sect and denomination of Christianity, though men monopolized the positions of authority, women had the superior numbers.” ~ Gail Malmgreen, “Domestic Discords: Women and the Family in East Cheshire Methodism, 1750-1830,” in Disciplines of Faith: Studies in Religion, Patriarchy and Politics (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1987)
“Christianity is especially associated with female spirituality.”
~ Barry A. Kosmin and Seymour P. Lachman, One Nation Under God: Religion in Contemporary American Society, 1993
“The nineteenth century minister moved in a world of women. He preached mainly to women; he administered what sacraments he performed largely for women; …”
~ Ann Douglas, The Feminization of American Culture (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1977)
This last quote, from Douglas, sparked a question in my mind that I think it might lead us to why such a teaching could feasibly find root in the Church. My question?
Is it conceivable that those preaching to a specific audience will begin tailoring the message of the Gospel to the prejudices of said audience?
Think about Douglas’s observation, that the nineteenth-century minister dealt with an audience of women. Isn’t it feasible to think that, in order to put butts in the pew and dollars in the offering, such preaching might be skewed in order to ensure numbers and following? Might not the message of the Lord be skewed, as well? After all, Paul did warn us…
For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. (2 Tim. 4:3)
Is It Possible To Corrupt Biblical Teaching?
Uh, have you been reading my blog? Think about it; a religion that can adopt Plato’s Soulmate, do a thorough cock-up of Love Your Wife Like Christ Loved The Church, hold to an unbiblical Unconditional Love teaching, and deify the institution of marriage is more than capable of altering a teaching for sacred and/or venal reasons. (Links to posts dealing with these bad teachings and more can be found on my Sexless Marriage page.)
But to say that the Church teaches that women are innately more holy or spiritual than men? That the Church, whether intentionally or unintentionally, lends credence to a belief that men are inherently inferior to women? That can’t be supported, can it? While data may show that there does appear to be a barrier between Western Christianity and men, it couldn’t possibly be due to any teaching on the inferiority of men, could it?
Where There’s Smoke, There’s Ire
Well, maybe yes, maybe no. (A quick aside—how willing are you to go where you’re not wanted or valued?) But to answer the question, I would have to say that I don’t find empirical support for the idea. Anecdotally, however, that’s another matter, as there are any number of stories out there.
For instance, the bombastic pastor and speaker Mark Gungor tells of the time he was invited to go on the radio broadcast of “a nationally-known family ministry” (he wouldn’t tell the name, but I have my suspicions.) If you have ever listened to Gungor, you know that he is an equal opportunity offender, pulling no punches. He tells how the show’s producer came to him shortly before the program was to be recorded, and told him that while he could be funny and make jokes, he wasn’t to make fun of women. They were the program’s core audience and they were the one group that was not to be offended.
In my meanderings, I have come across different ministries for marriage and family that do put women on a special spiritual pedestal. One author with a counseling ministry says that if there is a problem in the home, it is the husband’s fault; wives follow godly leadership, so if there’s a problem, guys, you’re it.
As well, Wife and I are “alumnae” of a ministry that presented, among its materials, the teaching that wives have special spiritual insight and that husbands would do well to heed their wives’ advice. As I write this and think back on different materials I’ve read, a thought from Emerson Eggerichs’ Love & Respect comes back to me. He wrote:
“The other belief that I no longer hold is in the exclusive and unique power of womanly intuition. For twenty years I preached, “Men, listen to the intuition of your wives. God will speak to them in a way that He doesn’t speak to you because you have blind spots. God will teach you through your wives.”” (~my emphasis)
Eggerichs says that his motivation was to get husbands to love and honor their wives, but that he realized that he had gone too far, that he was saying that wives were the ones to teach their husbands. How many other ministers, preachers and teachers, with the same good intentions that Eggerichs had, done the same, with the result the Church teaches that women are spiritually superior to men?
As forest rangers say, when you see a lot of smoke in the forest, something is burning somewhere.
Natural Result Arises, Naturally
I’ve pointed out in previous posts that the Church has, through its Servant-Leader teaching, reduced the role of the Christian husband in the home. Paul Coughlin, in his book, No More Christian Nice Guy, makes a statement that gets to the heart of why there is a barrier between men and the Church:
“When authentic domestic tranquility, then, is not achieved, men are left with no real advocate within the church;…. Throw in the strangely popular notion that somehow women are intrinsically more moral and spiritual, and you’ve got a real mess on your hands.” (my emphasis)
Discovering his role reduced in the home, he finds no sanctuary in his church. Result? “You’ve got a real mess on your hands.”
- Christianity “identified with female spirituality”?
- The church “has been a predominantly female sphere”?
- “God will teach you through your wives”?
- “Men are left with no real advocate in the church”?
Marriage is hard enough without the Church taking sides.
One more to come….