Guest Writer

by David J. Theroux

Guest Writer

June 15, 2015

Christianity’s Revolutionary Recognition of Women as Equals

Marriage has been universal to civilization with most marriage ceremonies involving religion. Yet for years, traditional marriage and the family have been subjected to secular ridicule, with the family increasingly politicized and socialized by “progressive” government bureaucracies. The result has been an unprecedented decline of the family in America, producing increasing rates of non-marital births, divorces, juvenile crime, substance abuse, and other pathologies. This trend can be reversed, however, because the progressive narrative that supports it is unfounded and easily refuted.

The biblical account of marriage begins with one man and one woman: “God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. God blessed them.’” And, “For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.” Jesus later called humanity back to these records (Matthew 19:4–5, Mark 10:6–8), and the Christian story is viewed as ending with the wedding of Christ with His bride, the Church, from which all Christian discussions of marriage stem.

In Christianity, marriage is hence a sacred union of the highest order. However, since the Enlightenment, secularism has defined marriage as a civil union. Many academics view traditional marriage as a patriarchy to dominate and oppress women, all supported by Christian despots. Such a narrative is based on the theory that primitive mankind was egalitarian, matrilineal, and socialist, with communal sexual relations, despite the biological and kinship basis of heterosexual pairing.

However, for thousands of years around the world, a wife was considered a husband’s property. In ancient Jewish communities, almost every adult was married. By age thirteen, a man chose a wife who was betrothed and considered married. The man headed the family, with the wife his property. In the Greco-Roman pagan world, marriage was reserved for citizens, and a woman shared her husband’s station as mother of his children, but she and the offspring were his.

While adultery was prohibited for women, no fidelity obligation existed for men. Older men could force marriage on pre-pubescent girls and compel them to have abortions, usually certain death for not only the baby but also the girl. Moreover, according to sociologist Rodney Stark in his book The Rise of Christianity, infanticide was a commonplace, with baby girls disproportionately abandoned, resulting in “131 males per 100 females in the city of Rome, and 140 males per 100 females in Italy, Asia Minor, and North Africa.”

Only with the arrival of Christianity did the status of women change as obligations were placed on husbands. As Stark has shown, “Christians condemned promiscuity in men as well as in women and stressed the obligations of husbands toward wives as well as those of wives toward husbands…. The symmetry of the relationship Paul described was at total variance not only with pagan culture but with Jewish culture as well.

Stark shows that Christianity recognized women as equal to men, all sacred to God. Christian wives did not have abortions (neither did Jewish wives), and Christians opposed infanticide, polygamy, incest, divorce, and adultery—all to women’s benefit. No longer serfs to men, women had dignity, were not rushed into marriages, and served as leaders in rapidly growing Christian communities. Christian women married older than pagans and into more secure families, had better marriages, were not forced to remarry if widowed, and were given assistance when needed. Stark notes Paul’s teaching:

But because of the temptation to immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. For the wife does not rule over her own body, but the husband does; likewise the husband does not rule over his own body, but the wife does. (I Corinthians 7:2-4)

Thus, the progressive narrative upon which contemporary, anti-family policies rest, is false. Only through Christianity did women receive full marriage rights and gender equality in fidelity. The private, monogamous family has served the human needs for love and companionship, economic and social well-being, and the rearing of children. Abandoning these lessons is at the root of the modern decline of the family, and government can only further undermine the rights and benefits that have uplifted the lives of countless men, women, and children through Christian-inspired marriage. To restore the family, civic and religious leaders must challenge such folly to achieve the needed privatization and de-politicization reforms.

David J. Theroux is founder, president and chief executive officer of the Independent Institute in Oakland, California; founder and president of the C.S. Lewis Society of California; and publisher of The Independent Review.

This column originally appeared on the blog of the Family Research Council.

7 Responses to Christianity’s Revolutionary Recognition of Women as Equals

  1. MarcoPolo says:

    David J. Theroux has written a very thoughtful, and no doubt accurate assessment of the recorded History of Christian marriage. Pointing out some of the pitfalls over time, and making a strong suggestion as to how it should be restored in order to guarantee it’s survival.

    As a lifetime Feminist and Progressive political activist, I’ve witnessed over the last fifty+ years how society has slowly evolved to acknowledge the validity and sanctity of women in our world. Some countries are still in the Dark Ages, but I feel confident that America is leading the noble cause for equality for ALL sexes.

    I see how our current trajectory is intended to resolve those inequities, but I also realize that it is going to take a lot more time for those who absolutely don’t want this evolution to take place.

    Wherever one stands on this subject, it is our past that tends to lead some people to dig in their heels, when we really need to be moving forward.


    • localhistorywriter says:

      Thanks for not having children, your progressive genes are a dead end. Leftists claim to care about people, yet since they have no or few children, they prove they only care about themselves. People who love people have families.

      • MarcoPolo says:

        Thankfully, there are plenty of Liberal/Progressives having babies, and that’s part of what infuriates the Neo-Conservatives …LOL!

        This planet isn’t going to be able to support the volume of people that will no doubt be hoping to live like Americans do. With global consumerism just getting started, I’m very happy to NOT contribute to our demise. And by not procreating, I’ve done my part to allow YOU more room!
        I’m honored that I could be of service. Thank you!

  2. Beau Jackson says:

    In the Iliad, there is a passage where Zeus rattles off a long list of his mistresses to his wife Hera, the upshot being “I do what I want to, and if you don’t like it – tough!” Essentially that was how the ancient Greeks and Romans viewed marriage, definitely a double standard for men and women. Once Christianity had taken root, that mentality went away. Sure, guys still cheated on their wives, but it was no longer considered a normal or desirable situation. Christian marriage was (is) a much better deal for women than pagan marriage was. Anyone who thinks Christianity oppresses women knows nothing of history. The embrace of feminism has been a killer for the left-wing churches.

  3. DEFINITION OF A HUMAN BEING (as found in the Galactic Encyclopedia used by intergalactic citizens observing Earth): ‘A bipedal primate species at the top of the food chain indigenous to the planet Earth on the third planet from the star in the solar system of the proxima-4 quadrant of galaxy GS1.42798.003. This species possesses a medium-sized brain combined with an enormous ego it uses primarily to reproduce at a freighting rate while devising ways to inflict suffering on self and all other beings at every opportunity while claiming to have compassion for others.

    CAUTION: This species is expected to extinguish itself along with many other unfortunate indigenous life forms on Earth very soon! In the meantime, Galactic citizens should avoid contact if at all possible, but if such contact is unavoidable, should use EXTREME CAUTION and
    expect consistently duplicitous, manipulative behavior intended primarily to promote its own self interest and desire fulfillment without any regard
    whatsoever for the discomfort, pain or misery such behavior may generate for others.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *