Questions from the Readers: Passion of the Christ, Christian Reformation

Column by Bishop John Shelby Spong on 21 April 2004 0 Comments
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What is the origin of all those biblical admonitions about women being subservient to men?


In December and January I completed a series of essays on the way women are defined and treated in the Bible in which I addressed your question at length. Suffice it to say now that patriarchy, by which I mean the cultural assumption that men are somehow superior to women, has a long human history. I suspect it began with the fact of male physical superiority. Males tended to be bigger and stronger. Another reason was that women were the bearers and nursers of children, which put them into dependent roles for long periods of time and contributed to the conclusion that women were created to be secondary, dependent, and helpmeet kinds of people. These were the definitions written into the sacred scriptures of many ancient people, which meant that people began to assume that these definitions of women were divinely inspired.

In the western world, we lived out those definitions until the changing patterns of the 20th century began to dawn. It was not until the 20th century that women were allowed to vote, that university educations became open to women, that women could enter the professions and even the ranks of the ordained in many but not yet all churches. That progress will not be stopped by anyone.

The United States will have a woman president within twenty-five years and the Roman Catholic Church will have women priests within a decade. Patriarchy is a dying prejudice and even the Pope aided by the patriarch of Constantinople will not be able to resuscitate it. For that I give thanks.

-- John Shelby Spong

A note from Waterfront Media about Bishop Spong:

Early in April, in the Chapel of Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia, The Rt. Rev. John Shelby Spong was inducted into the MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR., BOARD OF PREACHERS AND COLLEGIUM SCHOLARS, by Dr. Lawrence Carter, the Dean of Morehouse College. After being formally introduced to the assembled college community of 1800 people by Dr. Walter E. Massey, President of Morehouse College, Bishop Spong gave the "Crown Forum Address" on "Transcending the Limits of Prejudice."

On Good Friday, Bishop Spong was one of a small group of scholars presented on the ABC three hour special with host Peter Jennings entitled 'Jesus and Paul.'

We will try to keep our readers up to date on things like these as they occur.

-- Waterfront Media




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