Over time, the church has been referred to as the one of the pillars holding up the construct of patriarchy. This accusation is quite valid for apparent reasons; the most obvious one being the teaching of the idea that men are superior and as Paul demands, that “women should be quiet in churches.” Speaking of Paul, this article doesn’t seek to examine the Bible’s stance on patriarchy or equality, rather, it seeks to examine Jesus’ stance on the topic. So, there you go Paul, for once, the spotlight isn’t on you.
To be fair, Jesus never really spoke about the issue, but his actions screamed his opinions at glass-shattering decibels. So, here we go guys.
Every time the case of Jesus sending out the capitalists from the Temple using a whip is mentioned in a church, it is used to teach the importance of not turning the house of God to a money-making venture and about how God wants and likes orderliness in his house. The Eastern part of the Temple contained the cattle dealers, the money changers, and the Women’s court, which was the easternmost part of the Temple. At some point, the space apportioned to the businessmen was no longer enough and so they took over the Women’s court. Of course, this was overlooked and condoned by the High Priest and every other person who could do anything about because, well, it was just the Women’s court. The action of the money changers and cattle dealers deprived the women of their worship space and the complicity of the High Priest showed a disregard of the right that the women had to their apportioned space. Maybe pastors can now teach more about how Jesus helped the women regain what was rightfully theirs and not always about how Jesus wanted to cleanse the Temple of bloody capitalists.
As John 8:3-11 narrates, Jesus was speaking at one of his many crusades, when he was accosted by a group of Pharisees and teachers of the law who had caught a woman in the act of adultery and wanted her stoned. They sought to rope Jesus in because they knew about his policy on sin and forgiveness. “The Law says we should stone her, what do you say?” they asked. We know how the story goes, he offered a POI* and they dodged it, and all left afterwards. Every time I have heard this story told, it was used to teach the importance of not judging others since we are not so perfect ourselves. There is a deeper lesson to be learnt here though. The Law as stated in Leviticus 20:10 states: “And the man that committeth adultery with another man’s wife, even he that committeth adultery with his neighbour’s wife, the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death. First question, can anyone commit adultery without a partner-in-sin? Since that question is a no-brainer, why wasn’t her partner paraded for stoning since she was caught in the act? Kindly take note that at the time, only men could become teachers of the Law or bear the Pharisee title – yeah, she was dragged to Jesus by a crowd of men who really thought they knew the Law. It is quite amusing that when the subject of discussion is sexual purity and moral standards, men are given a free pass and women are required [and instructed] to be stricter; more amusing is the fact that men enforce these clearly biased and repressive rules, and women succumb to them. In essence, deeper than the lesson of not judging others, Jesus was teaching the lesson of unbiased, principled stances and perceptions regardless of the gender involved.
“Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken from her”
When gender equality is talked about, one issue that comes into the discussion is gender roles. As most clerics and conservatives believe, a woman’s place is in the kitchen and should never neglect her primary post of assignment except when the children need her attention. With the established gender roles in Jesus’ days, women could never aim for anything higher than continuing the lineage and making food. As pointed out in the book of Luke, Jesus clearly points out that there was absolutely nothing wrong with Mary neglecting kitchen duties to seek knowledge. So, there you have it, Jesus doesn’t mind you doing away with gender roles if any comes in the way of your personal advancement and self-actualization.
On a personal note, I’ll not get married to anyone who can’t cook. Of course not because I’m male and African, but because I believe cooking is a skill every adult should possess – and yes, I am a good cook who’s poised to author a bestseller titled “There’s Rice At Home – A Guide to Saving Money in a Contemporary Household.”
If feminism is the social movement aimed at defining, establishing, and defending equal social rights and equal opportunities for women, was Jesus a feminist?
POI: Point Of Information. A question or statement thrown to the speaker holding the floor in a debate. Peculiar to British Parliamentary debates.