WOMEN IN RELIGION

SOCIETY, MODERNITY AND THE FEMINIZATION OF THE CHURCH

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Scientists have proven that a woman’s brain is designed in a form that allows her to do several things at the same time while a man’s brain allows him to focus on one particular thing at a time. Despite a woman’s ability to multitask, she still has a lot of limitations on her path that hinders her from achieving her full potential. Oscar Wilde sums up the situation women encounter in the society as, “Women have a much better time than men in this world; there are far more things forbidden to them”.

In 2016, many women have become very independent and the messages of self-love and self-confidence have risen. Many women have shifted from the traditional norm of being subordinate to men and embraced more political roles such as Theresa May who is the current prime minister of England and Hillary Clinton who is the democratic presidential elect for the United States. Ms. Margaret Mensah Williams, a member of the Namibian parliament once said that, “the refusal to promote women to leadership positions by a clergy of a specific religion is an indication that this specific community may not be ready to accept women into political and public life”. It can be said that when a culture dictates that women should be subordinate to men and should follow the opinions of their husbands and fathers, they are less likely to be politically active. In addition, other political leaders and regular citizens do not take the few women who are politically active seriously. A good example is that of the first lady bishop of the Church of England. Her critics argued that she was not the one who was leading but that she was just there as a figurehead who is still submitting to the authority of a man.

Professor Julie Scott Jones, a professor of sociology said over the last 50 years, women have comes tremendously far but that they still have a long way to go. She said in 2016, women definitely have statutory equality with the men. She spoke about the challenges as well as the stereotypes women face within the churches.

She also spoke about the gender gap in most churches.

She said looking at the very early churches after the death of Jesus; it was very equal to men and women. According to her, men and women worked and preach together and they were seen as a community. Dr Julie said, “It was only after the Christian church became the official form of religion after the Roman Empire in Europe that suddenly it had to be men”.

She finally spoke on what the future holds for women in religion.

The rise of feminism in the early 20th century has a direct link with the increase of women being allowed to become religious leaders including priests and bishops. Religion has not been exempt from the widespread improvement in the representation of women throughout society. As with other issues concerning women in positions of power, there is opposition amongst those who have views that are more traditional to the role of a woman. Women are discouraged from pursuing higher education or religious pursuits, but this seems to be primarily because women who engage in such pursuits might neglect their primary duties as wives and mothers. The rabbis are not concerned that women are not spiritual enough; rather, they are concerned that women might become too spiritually devoted.

Exclusion of women from religious institutions and religious leadership may have a negative impact on women’s status in society and limit their opportunities in politics and public life. Globalisation comes with new possibilities as well as challenges. There is a complex relationship between religion and globalisation as religions become more self-conscious as being world religions. Women’s participation in religious institutions around the world varies not only from a religion to religion, but also within the denominations of the same religion and can depend on cultural norms and traditions existing in a country or region. The author, Kamila klingorova, describes religion as a fluid concept with interpretations and practices ‘embedded’ and thus varying with respect to cultural and historical relations.

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Historically, women have played important roles in the development of various religions around the world from Hinduism to Christianity however; the treatment they receive and are receiving in the church has spurred several debates. In Christian society, women have always being directly subordinate to the men. Historically Christian societies in Western Europe have not allowed women to take on senior roles within the church as they were meant to take on more submissive roles in the church and home. However, in the last 50 years it has become more common for females to be ordained as priests and bishops within different Christian denominations such as the Protestant Church. The fight for Women’s rights has also encouraged debate in religious communities to give women a place within the church as senior leaders.

ISLAM

Within Islam, women are not allowed to become an imam and take a religious service. There is a general negative perception of the treatment of women in Islam, it is often assumed that the negative stereotype attached to Muslim women is as a result of the strict law guiding them and the constant conflicts experienced in some Muslim countries. In western countries, the Islamic law that instructs females not to go to school and wear a veil is regarded as uncivilised and repressive hence, the treatment of Muslim women. Men and women in Islam also have different places of worship.

HINDUISM

In Hinduism, it is believed that women were created by Brahman as part of the duality in creation to provide company to men and facilitate procreation as well as continuation of family lineage. Unlike Christianity, Hinduism is a predominantly male dominated religion and women play a secondary role. During the Gupta period however, socially placed women within the family were given administrative roles and were allowed to teach and participate in discussions. At Verdic ceremonies, women are not allowed to officiate but they are allowed to perform domestic rituals such as Puja. Ironically, Hindus worship a lot of female goddesses which means a husband is obligated to treat his wife with maximum respect as she is considered a gift from god. However, the freedom of women are limited, she is totally dependent on men in a male dominated household. Women such as Sita, Ganga, Kunti , Amba amongst others exemplified the roles that Hindu women are meant to play both at home and in the public.

JUDAISM

In traditional Judaism, women are considered separate yet equal. Unlike traditional Christianity, God has never been viewed as exclusively male or masculine. Judaism has always maintained that God has both masculine and feminine qualities. Jews believe that women are endowed with higher levels of intuition, understanding and intelligence. They are allowed to hold positions of respect; however, they are not permitted to take active part in worship. The men and women sit at different places during worship. Although women are held in high esteem, the Talmud associate women with the characteristics of laziness, jealousy, gluttony, witchcraft and occult and gossip and men are warned to stay away from such women because of their lust and not the shortcoming of women.

BUDDHISM

Buddhism does not consider women as inferior to men. While they accept the physical differences between the two sexes, they are both considered very useful to the society. In the family both husbands and wives are expected to share equal responsibility and discharge their duties with equal dedication. The husband is admonished to consider the wife a friend, a companion, a partner. In family affairs the wife was expected to be a substitute for the husband when the husband happened to be indisposed. In fact, a wife was expected even to acquaint herself with the trade, business or industries in which the husband engaged, so that she would be in a position to manage his affairs in his absence. In Buddhist societies, men and women are considered equal.

THE FEMINIZATION OF THE CHURCH

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“They say the church is too feminine"

Church growth experts have said that there are more women in every type of church in every country. The possible explanation for this is that women are more spiritual than men are and that the music, messages and ministries cater to women. Many men including Christian men view the church as women’s club so they do not go; however, those that go do so in order to please their spouses or family. Research has also shown that some men who actually attend churches frequently show less commitment in church activities, which include Sunday school, and small group activities. In addition, men are more likely not to practice spiritual activities such as tithing, bible reading and prayer. Despite the huge number of women who attend the church, a huge number of senior leaders are men. Recent surveys show that 93% of senior pastors in the US are men. It can be said that the statistics apply to other countries as well.

Dr Bex Lewis talks briefly on the feminization of the church.

There is an almost inseperable link between the treatment of women in society and the church. How a woman is viewed in the society often times determines how she is treated in the church. In highly Patriarchial societies, the women though are scientifically able to multitask are relegated to the back seats, they are required to be submissive and usually seen but not heard. It is however not certain, the future of the church.

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