International Women's Day – Christ is the foundation for true equality
International Women's Day (IWD) is marked on 8 March every year. The first IWD was first observed on 28 February 1909 sponsored by the Socialist Party of America. In 1975, free from its socialist trappings, the United Nations gave official sanction to and began sponsoring International Women's Day. IWD became a day where the contributions of Women are recognized but also a reminder of the abuse, discrimination suffered by women as a whole. It is a day where feminist liberals raged on women’s rights and called for equal rights. Is the call for rights consistent with Christianity? The liberals would see Jesus as a radical champion of Social Justice but the conservatives see Jesus as restoring the “natural” order. Who is right? Justice impacts us all and the gay community who has known so much injustice in the name of Christ should be the greatest champion of Women’s rights. Recently, in May 2005, Billy Graham in his wisdom after many previous occasions of anti-gay and anti-Jewish remarks, now refused to be drawn into the hot button issues in his retirement - "If I took sides in all these different divisive areas, I would cut off a great part of the people that I really want to reach. So I've felt that the Lord would have me just present the Gospel" and stay out of politics, he says. At the end, we have to judge all things whether gay or women's rights to the message of the gospel. Are we willing to isolate a whole lot of people whether women or gays from Christ because of our own kind of legalistic morality?
The greatest hindrance to Women's right maybe the women's liberation movement themselves. Their beliefs of self centered equality including abortion have caused their message to be discredited by the mainstream churches. The message of Equality for all must be Christ centered. Many consider their notion of "Salvation" as a call to champion for justice and equality, a so called heaven on earth. Whilst others see prosperity and blessings. Jesus never meant to start a social or revolutionary movement to "save us" from those who persecute and abused us or a "get rich" movement. If he did, then He would have delivered the Jews from the Romans, and then delivered the poor and outcasts of society from the Jewish religious leaders. The disciples had hoped to be part of the "Jesus' army" under the sound of "Onward Christian Soldiers". If He had acted as a wordly King with an army, He would have sent legions of Angels to "destroy" the majority of Jerualem's population who were in favor of crucifying Him. When we demand our own individualistic rights, we caused much deaths whether the millions killed in abortion or wars around the world. The Jews wanted Jesus to be the champion of their cause and so failed to see that He came to die and have victory over death in resurrection for them and the salvation which He offered is to have peace with God, even for the Jews who worshipped the right God. When we try to mould Jesus into our own creation and aggenda, we wonder why our prayers and demands are unanswered because we have made our yearnings, humanity and intellect, our god. God would not glorify other gods in our lives. He would glorify His Son only.
Many blamed Christianity as a prime reason for discrimination against women just as gays are discriminated in the name of Christ. Although the churches may discriminate, the bible offers equal rights for Women even though written in a time where women were considered second-class citizens and property. The bible in the Old Testament clearly narrated the culture of the day where women are considered property. For example, Lot offered his virgin daughters to be raped (Gen 19:8). However, in clear contrast to the culture of the day, God raised up champions and leaders who were women including Rehab (Josh 6:17) who ensured victory at Jericho, Deborah who delivered Israel from the Canaanites (4:1-5:31), the faithfulness of Ruth and Naomi (Ruth 1:15-18) who although a Moabite become the ancestor of Jesus, Esther who at great risk delivered the Jews from destruction in Babylon (Esther 4:1-17). The birth of Jesus was primarily focused on the faith of Mary and Elizabeth, with little subsequent mention of Joseph, Jesus’ father. Woman played a leadership role in the early churches with Mary Magdalene being first to see the empty tomb, and John pleading to the “elect” lady in 2 John 1:5 to love one another.
Concerning ownership, the Apostle Paul suggested that the wife does not own her body but the husband does but radically, so too the husband does not have authority over his body, but the wife does. In essence, we are accountable to each other and once married, we are bound together and our individual rights but takes 2nd place. Therefore, in 1 Cor 7:10-11, we are not at liberty to seek our own rights and pleasure and divorce from each whether we are the husband or the wife. Remembering that this was more than 2000 years ago, where men discards their wives liberally, Christianity offers women far greater rights than hitherto they were ever given. Hence, true Christianity is the prime reason for women to gain rights. However, this is not true for religion in general. In the West, we have forgotten especially those of us of the liberal leanings how restrictive lives can be in the Muslim countries as compared to the freedom in the West in education, work, family, and civil rights. Do all religions lead to the same God? I doubt so. Christianity alone offers unprecedented freedom that truly transgressed the cultural norms. Yet, few understood this and the form of Christianity that we have became religious and yet another tool to justify discrimination including the limitation of women clergy.
The IWD started as a communist event where all were supposedly “created equal”. Such regimes have become extremely brutal with millions of deaths to maintain absolute power in the former Russia, the Eastern Block, and still North Korea. Clearly some are more equal than others and all attempts for a system of utopia on earth have failed badly without a general “Christian” underpinning. Where do we start to take action? Do we come against the Patriarchal system as insisted by the Women liberals? The Patriarchal System was implemented by God to reflect “a God who cares”. However, it should be understood in terms of God in Christ Jesus, taking care and giving His own life for men, likewise men taking care and greatly loving their wives (Eph 5:25,28), and the women taking care of the Children. In return, Children are to take care and honor their parents (Eph 6:2), the woman being a helper and submit to the men (Eph 5:24), and the men worshipping and ministering to God. Caring and rights become reciprocal as if the husband and wife became one flesh (Eph 5:31), having equal rights.
Liberal feminists tend to be pro-choice when it comes to debates concerning abortion. A common argument given for this position is that every individual should have control over his or her own body, and that this also affords them the right to make medical decisions regarding their bodies. Are women much better than men folk? We talked about women’s rights but what rights do the 35 million children/fetuses killed through abortion in USA since 1973. The center of our lives should be Christ. When we stray into religion, we make ourselves God resulting in abuses with men cruelly treating women and women badly treating their young. It is a violent circle. Pray as we might on IWD, the blood of the dead cries out to God to demand justice! Our prayers are blocked when we commit great wickedness even though we ourselves are wronged. Two wrongs do not make one right. When we abort a child, we hate our own bodies and bring death and depression in. There is a deep lost. However, no one has a right to condemn, especially not the church unless we are prepared to care for the unwanted Child.
What does Christ offer? Christ offers full inclusion and equality but truly His ways are far different from both the conservative and Liberal movement in Christianity. Whilst the humanistic intellectuals talk of a vague and mysterious God, which they claimed humans could never understand and so determined that there are no absolute truths. Yet, the bible clearly talks and clarify specifically what is the mystery concerning Christ. It is the inclusion and equality in Christ. When we become Christian, we are like the wife married to the husband, Jesus. We become “in Christ”, part of His body. How God sees Jesus, He too sees the church and us in it. Therefore, Christ becomes our righteousness, our healing, our salvation, our health and healing, our victory, and our inheritance in heaven. Just as Christ is, so are we. We become “equals” and co-heirs with Christ when we accept Christ death and resurrection for our sins at the Cross and this is the great “mystery” of the gospel of salvation. He no longer calls us servants but now we become His friends (John 15:15). That is the great mystery how this can be so and considered equality with God. We become co-heirs to the kingdom of God in Christ (Rom 8:17, Eph 3:6). Therefore, we return to Genesis where out of men came women i.e. they are from one flesh, all-inclusive. This is the mystery of God’s amazing grace, of equality that the church has yet to fully understand being so legalistically bounded by the Judaism – of equality between the Church and God in covenant in Christ Jesus, of equality between men and women in the covenant of marriage, and finally the equality between Gays and Straights because of God’s grace (Isaiah 56:4-6).
The Church has a long way to go in equality and justice with women banned from clergy in the Anglican Church in SIngapore, and gays still not accepted in the life of the church. When we go back to a biblical faith, the truth will dawn upon us that in Christ, as children of God, born into His family as a New Creation, we consider not ourselves as man, woman, straight, gays, black, white, chinese, etc any more, but as a child of God. When God sees us, He sees "Christ" not that we are gods but that His blood covers us. At the Cross of Calvary, only through Christ, would we receive true equality as one people not divided because of differences in race, sexuality, and sexual orientation that really does not matter at all in the end, but united in the one difference that matters, whether we are "in christ" or outside His saving grace.