John Stackhouse explains how sexist Christians have been – and how that’s not the whole story.
The history of the Christian church, and gender relations and the treatment of women, is on this hand and on the other hand. On this hand, the Christian church almost everywhere, almost always, has been sexist in the sense of treating women worse than men simply because they’re women rather than men. Which I think is a pretty good rough definition of sexism.
At the same time, for all of its faults, Christian civilisation has generally been a safer, better place for women than any of the alternatives. If you look through the centuries, would you rather be in Christian civilisation, or would you rather spin the globe and be somewhere else? Generally you want to be in Christian civilisation, however bad it is.
And secondly, it has been only Christian civilisation in the modern era that has taken, eventually for granted, the full equality of women. Again, that’s just not anywhere else in the history of the world so far as we know.
So it’s a bit of a “on the one hand, on the other hand” kind of story. Christianity is still pretty sexist, until the modern era. On the other hand, it ameliorates the role of women so that it’s actually better for women in Christian civilisation than it is pretty much anywhere else.