March 11, 2018: Gender Privilege and Violence Against Women

Posted on : Mar 8th, 2018 | By | Category: This Sunday's Service

In the United States we are currently in a radical period of transformation regarding gender privilege and violence against women.  In 1988 the Presbyterian Church had been in turmoil for a decade over the issue of how gay and lesbian folks should be included in the Church.  One of the things that quickly became clear in this debate was that the Church had no credible theology of sexuality for the 20th century.  The wisdom at the time was, the Church can’t begin to understand homosexuality if it doesn’t first have a theology of human sexuality.  So, in its infinite wisdom, the Presbyterian Church created yet another Task Force.  I was one of 18 people elected to serve on this national Task Force called “The Human Sexuality Task Force.”

It didn’t take long to discover that from the beginning of the Judeo-Christian tradition, our religions were based on gender privilege.  Almost all of the major world religions, even today, are patriarchally based, which has sustained patriarchal culture.  Patriarchy simply means men (the Patriarchs) are given power and privilege over women (the Matriarchs).  So when a religion declares that God is male, and that God has created men just a little beneath God “himself,” and women much beneath men, or under the authority of men, that’s Patriarchy.

You don’t have to look very far to see massive inequality and outright violence against women in our world.  Much if not most, of that violence against women is rooted in or supported by male-dominant, Patriarchal religion.  All over the world, including here in the U.S., violence against women is an endemic problem.

There is one oddity in this, especially for us in the Christian tradition.  That is, Jesus was a radical feminist, which in plain English simply means, Jesus believed in the absolute equality of women and men and knew the Divine was equally embodied in women and men.  In this Sunday’s gospel Jesus proclaims that message quite powerfully.  The context of this story is that the Religious Rulers dragged a woman into the presence of Jesus and in full view of everyone announced that she was accused of being caught in the act of adultery.  Religious Law required that she be put to death by stoning.  Jesus knew this woman was being wrongfully accused.  There were no witnesses and the male with whom she was supposed to have had sex was not present.  These Religious Rulers were willing to sacrifice this woman’s life in an attempt to charge Jesus with not following Religious Law.  They failed on both counts.  Jesus didn’t convict the woman.  The Rulers didn’t get to convict Jesus, and they all left humiliated and humbled by Jesus.

This week I received my weekly email from our UCC Global Ministries.  Since March is Women’s Her-story/His-story month and Thursday was International Women’s Day, the content of the email was about our global partnership ministries in Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Middle East in support of women and women empowering women.  Our church, through Our Church’s Wider Mission giving, and our global ministries, supports 31 ministries whose primary purpose is to prevent violence against women, assist women in economic development and empower women to empower other women.  What a refreshing story in a world where most religions enable or encourage violence against women and gender privilege.

Clearly, one of the things that led to the condemnation and crucifixion of Jesus was his absolute conviction that women and men are equal.  His courage to break with religious tradition and religious law to be one among equals with women infuriated the religious authorities – the “keepers of the faith.”

As we look at our lives in this Lenten Season, one of the things that is not working is the continued inequality of and violence against women, against trans women, against gay men.  Equality and respect and love are values that Jesus embodied, and so should we.




~ This Sunday’s Scripture ~

John 8: 2-11

Jesus defends a woman who has been accused

[from WomanWord by Miriam Therese Winter]

At daybreak,

Jesus returned to the Temple.

People crowded around him

as he began to teach.

The scribes and Pharisees

dragged a woman

into the presence of Jesus,

and in full view of everyone,

made this accusation.

“Rabbi,” they said,

“this woman here

has been caught in the act

of adultery.

The Law commands we condemn her

to death.

The Law says

we should stone her.

Tell us,

what do you say?”

Now this was a test,

for they were seeking something

to use against him.

But Jesus ignored their question,

and with the tip of his finger,

started scribbling on the ground.

They persisted until

he broke his silence.

Looking up, he said:

“Let the one among you

who has not sinned

be the first to throw a stone.”

Then bending down,

he scribbled some more,

as one by one,

those who condemned her

silently slipped away.

Jesus was alone with the woman.

“Where have they gone?”

he asked her.

“Tell me, has no one condemned you?”

“No one, sir,” she answered.

“And neither do I,” said Jesus.

“Go now and sin no more.”

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