That title is very familiar to Americans, being part of our Declaration of Independence. And we have added to the list of things that are deemed self-evident, to include the intrinsic equality of all human beings, regardless of race, sex, or creed. A human being, so identified by biology, has intrinsic worth as an autonomous and sentient being and is thus endowed with certain “unalienable rights”. Though our founders did not have an issue with the institution of slavery in spite of what they wrote, we as a people came to recognize that this was not a practice consistent with what civilized, humane people do.
This same self-evidence was eventually (and quite reluctantly) extended to the injustice of sexism, where one half the human race had been subjected to the power of the other half and denied many of the rights belonging to all adult human beings. Surely if it is wrong to treat an entire ethnic group as subhuman, so must it be all the more wrong to treat an entire gender as subhuman. So we as a people took steps first from dictatorship, then to racial equality, and finally to gender equality. Religious or secular, society had slowly but inevitably corrected some of its faults.
So how is it, then, that the Christian community, of all people, should refuse to be as Christ-like as society by holding on to sexism? They fight relentlessly against immorality of all kinds, and as I mentioned in my previous post, against threats to our constitutional republic. But though they eventually caught up with the culture in the matter of slavery, they still to this day refuse to admit that culture has it right regarding sexism. Somehow “bowing to culture” wasn’t a problem when it came to race.
But as I’ve said before, the equality of women no more made men less manly than the equality of blacks made whites less white. And since the arguments for sexism are identical to those used for slavery, there is simply no excuse left for sexism. In fact, to continue to debate sexism makes no more sense than to continue to debate slavery; both are self-evident in their incompatibility with either western civilization or the teachings of the New Testament.
This is why I have not been as active in the sexism debate lately as I had been in the past. Many have done the research, study, and documentation to lay the sexism argument to rest a thousand times over. If people still want to practice sexism in spite of all that, there is no amount of persuasion that will change them. The only reason it still goes on is because unlike slavery, sexism in the church or home was never made illegal. One thus wonders what the Christian community would be practicing today had there never been laws enacted against slavery. Yet at the same time, part of the reason slavery was made illegal was because Christians, particularly women, never let the matter fade from the public eye. In other words, Christian women wouldn’t shut up about it.
People have as much right to be sexists in private as they do to be racists in private; this is freedom of conscience. But of course, the practice of racism is illegal even in private, because it infringes on the intrinsic rights of humanity. That is, while we all have the right to our prejudices, we do not have the right to impose them upon other people.
Then is the solution to make sexism illegal even in the church and home? Why not? If racists are not allowed to practice slavery, even if there were willing slaves, then why should sexists be allowed to practice the restricting of women from full adult rights in the church and home, even if there are women willing to subject themselves to it? Put another way: If it is acceptable for the government to forbid slavery by willing practitioners, then why is it not acceptable for the government to forbid sexism by willing practitioners? And more specifically, why do some egalitarians allow that Christians should be free to practice gender hierarchy in their homes or churches if it “works” for them, while at the same time not allowing Christians to practice slavery if it “works” for them? What’s the difference, egals? Can the practical subordination of women be left to personal preference?
I still defy anyone supportive of gender-based hierarchy to justify their rejection of race-based hierarchy. I still want to see a sound, logical argument that forbids the practice of white privilege while allowing the practice of male privilege. And I want to know why the government should be allowed to forbid one but not the other.
But I also want to know why egals allow one but not the other. We really need to come to grips with this dichotomy, which determines our focus and strategy. After all, if we allow a “segregated” church/home where hierarchists do their thing and we do ours, then why not just go our separate ways and stop debating them? Egals who still try to change the church should be consistent by not conceding that some Christians can have this flesh-based hierarchy. It sounds tolerant and irenic, but in fact it is contradictory. We seem to want opposite things and send conflicting messages. But why, when we would never think of doing the same on the topic of slavery? Would we “agree to disagree”? Why not? How can we be as self-contradictory as conservatives who demand from government what they refuse to grant in the church and home, by never dreaming of tolerating slavery while allowing sexism?
We egals need to make up our minds. Either we fight against institutionalized structures and never budge an inch by “agreeing to disagree”, or we stop fighting and just go our separate way from the sexists. And we must make this decision consistent with how we would choose on the topic of slavery. Is human worth something that can be left to individual preference, or is it not? And if we would never allow people to be mistreated as slaves, then why do we allow women to be mistreated as permanent wards or children of men? (As I’ve said many times, the benevolence or happiness of the master/slave is irrelevant; “mistreatment” is intrinsic in the arrangement.)
I am writing all this to myself as much as to anyone else. I have vacillated between the two for quite a while, since the fight has seemed so futile. Yet at the same time, can the fight have seemed any less futile to the brave men and women who stood against slavery? And can I just walk away from the plight of so many women in bondage, and so many men similarly bound to impossible and unbiblical “roles” as little christs? Like slavery, the subjugation of women is a war Christians should never have had to wage, but as long as one person remains in bondage the war must go on. But it cannot be over-emphasized that if the battle is to be fought, then it must include the refusal to compromise and say that gender hierarchy is acceptable for those who like it.