Lesson 5: Woke Christianity and Sex

Woke definitionLast week I asked our Sunday School class what Christianity had to stay woke about in church history. In no time they came up with antisemitism, racism, and feminism. That last one has been front and center lately.

I always start trying to understand what is going on by remembering what happened in the New Testament. It seems obvious to me women felt liberated in early Christianity. Jesus continually treated them as equals in the gospels; Paul proclaimed there is no male or female in Galatians; the church baptized rather than circumcised.

In later letters, either Paul or someone else drops that part of the classic formula. Women are told to be quiet in church and to obey their husbands at home. That’s a clear indication that they were talking in church and are showing some independence at home.

That obsession with putting women back in their places sadly extends throughout church history. It’s especially embarrassing when men or institutions use God to maintain their privilege. I find the establishment of compulsory celibacy in the 7th (?) century typical. We hear first that priests should keep their wives out of the chancel and later that they should remain single and even divorce their wives. They can claim God wills this all they want. I hear a male-run institution ensuring its control.

That obsession has brought great damage to the modern church. Many have left over the refusal to allow priests to marry or women to be ordained. The Body of Christ is divided over the acceptance of homosexual marriage, contraception, abortion, and all sorts of issues in the present sexual revolution. Christians have been scandalized by predators in the catholic and evangelical groups.

Woke Christianity has to stay woke about its treatment of women in the past and present. I discovered how difficult that is about fifty years ago. I found myself at a religious retreat with a young woman with whom I had spent many hours in a college Student Christian Association. She quickly let me know she no longer had anything to do with the church. When I asked why, she replied she was tired of always being put down as a woman. I expressed surprise when she indicated she suffered with it all through college and finally decided enough was enough. “How could that be?” I asked. “I was at the same services.” “Right, Fritz!” she retorted. “Like all men, you never heard it.”.

Since then, I have tried to listen and often find myself correcting what I have written or someone else has said. I have never given up hope that we can do better. You did pick up the young woman was at a religious retreat, didn’t you?

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  1. Kerry says:

    Fritz – I just listened to a pre-publication interview with this author, who describes himself as left-center. His forthcoming book (next week) apparently discusses both the strengths and weaknesses, in the context of liberal democracy, of wokeness. I’ve enjoyed your reflections in this series.



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