Christianity dates back to the founding years of America when the New World came into existence from immigrant of Britain. The early inhabitants of America were Protestants and had conflicting ideas with Puritans throughout the thirteen colonies. In the process of conflict between the two, Puritanism grew to large heights and had many followers as compared to Protestantism and that it exercised persecution on those who were not keen on its principles (Baird, Para 1).
Progress of Christianity in America has been marred by many complicated issues. These range from politics, slavery, racism, women representation in the constitution, and contribution to the economic, political and social life of United States not to mention gender inequality. The United States, since its foundation has not been composed of only one race but rather a complex conglomeration of Anglo-Saxon, Hispanic, Aboriginal Indians, Dutch, the Swedish and today almost all peoples of the world (Baird, Para 10).
The implications of these are that to expect conformity to a particular religion or an ideology by all people would be to do a great injustice to one. The American colonial society held the Victorian values from the root to the flower buds. In this colonial society the legal context was formed on the background of religious issues thus the leaders of the society carried out leadership on the guidelines of creating a Godly society. Although it upheld Godliness, the Victorian set up was a patriarchal society that was sexist. In this paper then the concern will be to look at Christian women backdating from church history to modern day church (Baird, Para 6-8).
Women in Christianity Dating from the Early to the Modern Church in U.S.
The place of the woman was down trodden whether it was at home, in the society or the government. The woman was seen as an inferior being in comparison to the man therefore she was not allowed many of the activities professions and jobs that the man did. The American history of religion cannot be complete without the story of the woman being incorporated within ‘his story’. In her book Lindley points out that the necessity of studying the contributions of women in American religion serves to uncover the prejudice, injustices, discrimination and unfairness meted to them by men (Lindley, pp 11).
Women have major credit up on their sleeves as one looks at the great support they accorded the spread of religion, politics, work and the rights of women through out history. Although they were taken second in all matters by the Victorian male oriented society they did not loose focus on the future generation to come. Women took issues either directly on indirectly in matters pertaining to the church while colored women gave their hand to hygiene issues in the church (Lindley, pp 24-27). The American colonial times by then held the woman in low esteem.
It is worth noting that Theology still held the same issues like the rest of the society. Celebrated theologians like Thomas Aquinas believed that the woman was just for conception purposes thus in the church women would not be allowed to lead, train or speak to a congregation of men. Remarkable feminists like E. Candy Stanton rose in late eighteenth century to quote organized religion as one of the greatest enemy against women progress. The church has held views that the woman should suffer since her place in the bible has been set out in that order of being inferior to men. The issues of owning property, rights to vote, legal rights, abortion rights have caused massive struggles by women trying to emancipate themselves thus the birth of feminism. Feminism was influenced by the Quaker thought during the Great Second Awakening to fight for the right of voting, social and political equality thus the rise of first, second, third, and post modern feminism.
Great women in the history of religion like Anne Hutchison were condemned largely due to the fact that they were women and not on grounds of teaching Quaker ideologies contrary to what the Puritans espoused as the most right teachings (Lindley, 16). In essence she put to question the male sided view of the church and in this quest she set a platform for a new outlook on the issues of women today, in the church and the society. This led to formation of social, missionary, reform, organizations and homes for settling the exploited, the poor and the homeless women and children.
Consequently, women would become church leaders and oversee various important registries that previously they could not access. This experience proved that women were equal to the men thus they had every capacity to read the bible, interpret, preach, become lay women, head a denomination, teach or even stand in for as delegates of the church and carry out any role just like the men. Indeed Anne and Mary Dyer were heroes of liberty in worship, for gender equality.
Despite the great steps taken to get rid of gender inequality in the church, it still forms a major challenge in that women are not given full opportunities to lead big church conventions, they are lowly paid and take longer time to get appointments to work in modern times (Ellerbe, pp.13). More so it is heartbreaking to note that the decline of popularity of religion in the twenty first century coincides with the improvement of women participation in the church.
This is a discouraging note when compared to the Victorian era when life was seen in terms of religion. Technology has contributed to this position today. This although is hard to come into terms, has been countered by an array of organizations that echo out and support women in the church today. In addition new ways of preaching the good word of God have emerged as result of ministers and evangelical ministries focusing on the technological aspects of televising and internet access of the word.
In a fast moving world, Christianity is rocking on waves of a world where issues of morality and integrity are first loosing track and the world is heading to a secular way of life. The previous held ideas of the nineteenth century are being viewed subjectively; therefore modern Christianity is being altered to suit personal modern lives. As the world takes this new outlook, these varied conflicting issues are reflected in all aspects of the lives of the people thus religion is not spared. The problem of interdenominational conflict between the Protestant, the Catholics and the Orthodox carries the day though to a much reduced extent. Therefore the woman accordingly has to be involved in the modern society considering what she has accomplished in the great many reform movements of American history (Ellerbe, pp. 48).
This is reflected by the dozens of women who have given their lives to ensure spread of Christianity and missionary and have made sure that their surrounding communities have benefited directly or indirectly from their participation in the church. Therefore the society relies heavily on the contribution of the woman towards the modern world as an active member of a productive society. What is of much concern is different from the early church. Issues of ecumenical and charisma are the major concern of the Protestant church today. Many Christian denominations are interested in sharing faith and having common grounds of prayer and faith in Jesus thus the concern of empowering women in taking up roles like leadership and participation in councils of the church thus eliciting criticism from conservatism. Petitions to revoke earlier prohibitions of the woman involvement in active leadership have been drafted to mother churches in this response. In conclusion to this subject I will look at the concept of Christian women today in church.
In Galatians chapter 3, it is recorded that ‘we are all one in Jesus Christ’ therefore the question of either being a woman or man should not bring turmoil, argues some of the churches, while others believe that there is a reason why Jesus did not choose women as his followers. This debate extends to contest the differences in the social and cultural context of those times. However these arguments have only existed only to change the real focus of that of making sure people’s faith is according to the will of God. The bible has been interpreted as having varied views relating to the role of women as leaders and equal to men in the church but it has to be taken in mind that male chauvinism must be terminated in America today.
The earlier thinking of women in the church is contrary to the biblical view of women and therefore the church today has turn away from this biasness. This means that modern women’s role has changed from the concepts of early centuries and now we just cannot talk of a full purposeful Christian era without the modern woman. Jesus Christ had assigned roles to women to head various ministries of the church thus we would only be following what He had started and effectively carrying out His descending from that He came so that whoever believes in Him might have eternal life and have it abundantly. It is neither of the rich nor of the poor but for those who are willing to worship Him in truth, faith and spirit. Thus his appeal is to all mankind which is only complete with the presence of women and men.