ISIS was in the news today for shelling an elementary school killing nine girls. It was an all-girls school. They did this because they are opposed to women learning anything, and this is because women learning and being able to have ideas of their own is contrary to the understanding of societal stability and peace that lies at the heart of Islam. Islam is a religion all about hierarchy, all about knowing one’s place. One major Islamic terrorist group, “Boko Haram,” is so fundamentally opposed to the education of women that this is what their name means- “Western-style education is haram, forbidden.”
Such a thing as a terrorist group bombing schoolgirls or kidnapping and forcing them into marriages is deeply shocking to us, of course. And it should be. But it shows just how much progress has been made by the Christian worldview. For this view of women was absolutely universal in the ancient world before Christ’s coming. Women were not permitted to worship different gods than their husbands in the Greco-Roman world. Aristotle did not believe that women were capable of rational thought. Plato’s view, that they might be capable of some amount of rational thought, was considered radical. Hindus view even the highest-caste woman as a lower form of life than the lowest-caste man. Buddhists believed that being a woman was punishment for past sins. Even today the life of a woman in most places in the world is beset with injustice and oppression.
This is not an accident. What all these ancient cultures know is that when you let women have much influence in a society, deep instability and conflict is the result. A good Biblical example is Ahab and Jezebel: Jezebel used her influence over a weak Ahab to drive him to all sorts of wickedness and evil (see the story of Naboth, 1 Kings 21). This is because of the curse God pronounced on Adam and Eve in Genesis 3:16. “Your desire shall be to your husband, but he shall rule over you.” Both of these statements are aspects of the curse of sin, and this curse lies right at the heart of all the problems that the human race faces. “Desire” there is a lust for control, a lust for power. Man was created to need the influence and companionship of women, and women are created to fulfill this need. She was to be a “helper” to him, a companion and adviser, not a servant. But after sin, she uses this power to control, manipulate and belittle him, to use him to get what she wants. The problem with women is not irrationality but irresponsibility. The woman uses her power over men to get what she wants regardless of what it costs the man. The result is wars and fights, chaos, and the endless amplifications of envy, rivalries and conflict. This is why, in Isaiah 3:12, it is a curse pronounced on Judah, a sign of their terrible condition, that “women rule over them.” This is why every ancient society, virtually without exception, did not allow women equal rights or status as men, because to do so was to invite societal collapse.
The other half of the curse (and remember, this was the curse pronounced on Eve for her part in the Fall) was that man would rule over her. This word “rule” is also not a positive word. This is not the loving leadership that man was created to have. It is a word indicating force and cruelty. Forcibly putting the woman down is the only way the man can prevent the woman from using her manipulation and goading to destroy him, driving him to all sorts of self-destructive behavior in the service of her pride and lusts. She must be restrained. The idea of a matriarchal society in the ancient world is an utter fantasy, the creation of mythologists. One has never actually been found. And this is no accident. The ancient world was sinful and wicked, but that sin and wickedness runs in a particular direction. The ancient empires were places of cruelty and oppression, but they could be stable for long periods. The Roman republic was evil, but it worked. Assyria was a force for centuries. Egypt built the pyramids. China built the Wall. They accomplished things. And they did so in an environment where men forcibly subjected women. It worked (by certain definitions, anyway).
The fact is, men and women don’t naturally like each other very much. They think they do. Men like the way women look, and women like the way men provide wealth and security for them. But men don’t like the way women talk or think, and vice versa. Men think women are crazy and irresponsible, and women think men are stupid and selfish. What do we see today all around us, in action movies and superhero movies, movies aimed mostly at men? There’s supposed to be all these strong female characters, but what they actually are is characters who look like (ridiculously exaggerated) versions of women, but who act and talk like men.
The Gospel upends all of that, overthrows the curse, and restores the original design. The Gospel champions the full equality of women and their rightful place as full human beings, not by turning women into men, but by recognizing and redeeming the value of femininity. The Gospel exposes the sinful pattern of both men and women, and in Christian marriages women know to use their considerable powers of influence to help, heal and comfort their husbands, to encourage their husbands in righteousness in the spirit of 1 Peter 3:4, according to God’s principles and for the good of the family unit as a whole and not for the pursuit of their own pride and lusts. The husband likewise knows to embrace the influence of his wife, to listen to her with respect, to treasure the gifts God gives her and profit from them. He views her as a “fellow-heir of the grace of life” (1 Peter 3:7). We do not realize, I think, just how radical a statement that is- that a woman inherits the grace of eternal life in exactly the same way a man does- by faith in Christ, not through her husband but of herself, directly. The man does not stand between his wife and God; there is only one Messiah, one mediator, Christ. Both the husband and the wife are primarily responsible to God for their lives and their obedience.
And societies that have come under the influence of Christianity begin to roll back all the ancient evil ways. A man is no longer permitted to abuse or kill his wife as he pleases. Women gain political rights, gain the right to own property, to vote, to hold office. The Christian nations had queens who ruled, not through their husbands, but by themselves, something you never saw in ancient Rome and only extremely rarely anywhere in the world. The few queens you see in the ancient world, like Hatshepsut, ruled as regents- that is, they had no right to rule on their own, and ruled through their husbands or on behalf of their sons, but some of the best queens and political rulers the world has seen have been women. You see few female rulers today in Islamic nations; in the most Islamic nations, it is considered a victory when women are permitted to drive. Pakistan had a female prime minister, but they were more liberal and less Islamic then. And that’s the pattern- the more traditionally Islamic, the more majority Islamic, the fewer female leaders.
As our society in the west abandons Christianity, the old problems arise once again. Radical feminism has begun to attack all the foundations of society. We cannot say “chairman” since that is sexist. They demand that the military be opened to women, despite the fact that women are manifestly less fit than men for combat, physically and psychologically, so much so that the tests have to be lowered and faked to put any women in combat positions. A woman who fights to defend her family in necessity is to be praised, but to choose to put women in that position is an abomination and an assault on the value of her femininity. The modern feminists assault the definition of marriage as practiced in Christian nations for centuries as oppressive to women. Physical fitness standards for police or firemen are deemed to be sexist. The Social Justice Warriors, constantly on the lookout for any violation of their orthodoxy are denigrating anything they deem as excessively masculine, and ironically as they do so, they are in fact denigrating real femininity, as they teach that a woman only has value when she is most like a man, but a man has value only when he acts like a woman. And the Social Justice Warriors are usually either women or weak men trying to gain their approval. What we have going on right now– college campus riots because someone dressed up as an Indian for Halloween, people getting fired for saying women aren’t as good at math as men, all the insane political correctness running rampant– is no way to run a society. It is destabilizing and it cannot last. Isaiah 3:12 has become true again- “Women rule over you, and your oppressors are your children.”
The old curse is clearly returning. But consider where it leads, feminists. For the entire Social Justice project depends on the cooperation of men, the restraint of men still under the influence of a Christian worldview. If your boyfriend beats you up, you call the cops, you get the restraining order, and he goes to jail, who is going to make those things happen? Men with guns. If you intend on pushing the feminist agenda by force of law, then you rely on the cooperation of the government, and the foundation of government is men with guns. If you succeed in destroying the Christian worldview, then the old realities will reassert themselves, and men will rule over you. They will put you down. Men will still have the guns and the aggression to use them. Even good art recognizes this. When the zombie apocalypse hits, when the meteor strikes, when the nuclear bombs go off- what happens then to women without protection, without good men with guns to keep them safe? Bad men with guns get them. And if you take away the guns, as so many feminists insanely want to do, then you are left with clubs, knives, spears- and the advantage of men only increases.
The original feminism, built on Christianity, was a good thing. It fought for the full political equality of women and proceeded from completely Christian principles. That deserves every Christian’s support. But modern radical feminism, which seeks to destroy any distinction between men and women at all is a lie of Satan that will only destroy the elevated status that Christianity gives women, because that elevated status depends fundamentally on recognizing and valuing the difference between men and women. If you tear down the idea of the good distinction between masculinity and femininity, you haven’t made the difference go away. It’s still there, but now it will fuel the war between the sexes, and we know how that war goes.
The Bible calls women the “weaker vessel” (1 Peter 3:7). “Weaker” does not imply inferiority. A crystal bowl is a weaker vessel than a steel pot. But which is more valuable? Well, that depends on what you want to do. Both have their value in different roles. But if you try to make them the same, the only thing you’ll do is shatter and ruin the crystal bowl, and that’s what our culture is doing to women right now. That verse tells men to treat their women with understanding and honor. A man with sense will use something delicate and precious according to its nature, and get the maximum value from it. A man with no wisdom will destroy things of great value by misusing them. 1 Peter 3 is a call for both sides to overcome the curse in Christ, to stop fighting the war of the sexes, and to recognize the full value and worth of the masculine and the feminine.
The rampant use of pornography in our society today shows where men’s hearts really lie. Right now, an awful lot of men feel beat down, marginalized, and helpless, and they turn to fantasy to survive. But this won’t go on forever. The marginalized position so many men feel is only true because the force of government lies behind the feminist project at the moment. If the government entirely loses its Christian moorings or its ability to control its territory, (and one or both of those seems at the moment inevitable) then what? Men still have the physical force behind them, and this is never going to stop mattering. Equality of men and women only happens when men are persuaded internally that women should be equal, because men have the physical force. And only through Christianity, by the power of the Spirit, does that happen. Only the Spirit of God, through the gospel of Christ, is powerful enough to overcome God’s own curse. Abandon the Gospel, and the old curse, with all its wickedness and cruelty, will come roaring back. This is the only choice any of us have- the Gospel or the Curse.