Gender equality and people of faith

Global Agenda, the magazine of the International Herald Tribune, invited nine contributors to explore the question: “What does Gender Equality mean?”

One of them was the Rev. Chloe Breyer, Episcopal priest and Executive Director of the Interfaith Center of New York

Were you to stop someone in the street and ask them if the world’s great religious traditions would help or hinder the achievement of gender equality, my guess is they would conclude that religion was a hindrance. In Christianity and Judaism, the first book of the Bible, Genesis, describes Eve emerging from Adam’s rib. A few lines later, Eve succumbs to the serpent’s temptation, takes a bite of the forbidden fruit and offers it to her partner. For centuries, authorities within the church patriarchy attributed to Eve the majority portion of guilt for original sin and taught that the pains of childbirth were just atonement for Eve’s misstep. With so many obstacles like this within many religious traditions, what possible hope could there be for gender equality unless humanity becomes less religious? There is an alternative. I would propose that a less-religious world is not one in which gender equality will be more quickly achieved. Indeed, Christianity has untapped resources when it comes to achieving gender equality: Today’s women of faith who occupy two-thirds of the pew benches in churches around the globe. It is a matter of time before we will share power with men of our faith. From an earlier passage in Genesis come the explicit instructions that both men and women are created in the image of God: ‘‘So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.’’ (Genesis 1:27). These words offer hope and a way forward.

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  1. Rod Gillis

    The full set of interviews is well wroth the read. Thanks.

  2. Doug

    It has always been people of faith on both extremes of the debate (slavery, racial equality, gender equality, sexual orientation equality). Unfortunately, it is often the anti voices that are the most strident. We need to reclaim the prophetic Christian voice in favor of all of these issues, and that is why I spend so much time on social media defending the progressive religious stance, hoping to show people that all religion is not anti-progressive.

    Doug Spurlin

  3. tgflux

    Agreed, Doug. What I hear *constantly* from the secular world (in the circles I run in), is that “if there’s a progressive Christian voice at all, you’re not nearly LOUD enough. All we can hear are the haters.” *

    JC Fisher

    * I hear this from secular LGBTs more than anyone else.

  4. tgflux

    Sudden Thought Experiment: what if EVERY heterosexual Episcopalian were a member of PFLAG? Why shouldn’t they be?

    JC Fisher

    P.S. I realize I might be taking this thread a bit off-topic, so I’ll say no more about this here.

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