So, this is Easter Sunday. Easter is the point in the Christian calendar where we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus. Resurrection from the dead. Jesus died. Jesus was buried. Jesus rose again. The empty cross. Game changer. (1 Corinthians 15:14)
As a brother of two sisters, a husband, and as the father of two very intelligent daughters, it saddens me more than I can say that in the 21st Century, too many people continue to be ready to think of women as sort of second class. Actually, it makes me angry.
I suppose that I shouldn’t be surprised. World history and culture are mainly patriarchal. In spite of some small steps forwards, misogyny has been, and sadly remains, deeply embedded in our culture and society. Progress is painful and slow. It doesn’t make it any easier, and it certainly doesn’t justify the issue, that this is actually a universal, global, and institutional problem.
Of course, I have always tried to value women in my life. My family. My friends. My colleagues. But I am a man. There have been lots of times when I could, and should, have done better. Times when I should have done things differently. I can’t get away from the fact that there have been times when I have almost certainly perpetuated the culture. Even today, I am a work in progress.
The real sadness is that this is still a big issue in lots of UK Churches. Too often, women are sidelined. Their activities are controlled. There are jobs which they are expected to do. There are jobs which they are not expected to do. Within a few miles from my office there are several Churches where women would not be allowed to speak openly, and certainly not to preach or lead worship. There is at least one Church where a woman could not lead a Bible study. There are Churches where the female voice is not encouraged.
For most of her career, my wife was a Christian Children’s worker and Director, working with Churches of many denominations and has been invited to preach in many Churches. Our local Anglican Church is led by a Rector who is a mother, leader and teacher. The Church is in a corner of the Diocese where the Bishop is a strong and influential woman. A few years ago that would have been unthinkable. These small steps have been hard won over generations, and there is still so far to go.
To some people (men), it might sound like I’m on some kind of feminist rant. Relax. By most definitions, I am genetically prohibited from being a feminist. So perhaps you might describe it as some kind of guilt trip. A personal apology for my own already confessed contribution to male dominance in our society. It’s not that either.
Here’s what is actually going on.
Like lots of people, I read the Easter story in all four Gospels this morning. As ever, I hoped that God would speak to me through His Word. He often does. The thing that hit me powerfully this morning was that in each account, as with the news of his pending birth, the first people to recognise what was going on were women. That was no accident. That was deliberate.
I look at the Church, which has had huge historical impact in establishing our cultural norms across society, and I look at the place of women in our world, and as Christian, I wonder how we ever got to where we are. Generations of Christian men have, after all, taught that Jesus is the example we should follow.
So, this is Easter. And here I am reflecting on the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The moment when everything changed. Here I am recognising that in His life, and in His resurrection, Jesus demonstrated that He valued women every bit as much as men. Possibly even more. Game changer.