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Men, women, and the need for equality

A Christian Science perspective.

The Bible tells of a woman who was caught sleeping with a man who was not her husband (see John 8:1-11). In keeping with Jewish law of the day, she would be stoned to death.

Those condemning her, all men, asked Jesus if he, too, thought that she should be executed in this fashion. In asking him, they hoped they could tempt him to take a position that was contrary to Jewish law. Jesus responded by inviting the accusers to find one man who was free of sin to take the lead in carrying out the sentence. Convicted by their own consciences, they all walked away. Jesus told the woman that she was not condemned, and he instructed her not to sin again.

It has often been pointed out that only the woman was to be punished for the adultery. The man was not even mentioned. The prevailing mind-set of that period was to grade women as lesser beings. But, according to the Bible, Jesus demonstrated that God held all His children in equal stature, regardless of gender. (Some other examples of how Jesus treated women can be found in Luke 7:36-50 and Mark 5:25-34.)

What did Jesus know that prompted such a revolutionary stand? He knew that God’s children are not just physical bodies. After all, what kind of loving, intelligent, omnipotent God would assign value to His children based only on gender?

When I was a small child, only Jewish boys were allowed to study the Talmud and enjoy spiritual confirmation in the synagogue. This practice has changed since then to include girls. But not long ago, it came to me that this had made me feel that boys were more important to God than girls. Then when I was in my early 30s, I was introduced to Christian Science. And through its teachings I found the spiritual equality that Jesus honored through his treatment of women.

Because people generally think of God as our Father, it’s easy to think of God as masculine and to equate masculinity with godliness. But Christian Science accepts God as both Father and Mother, acknowledging that both the masculine and feminine equally compose the potency of Spirit. In the Christian Science textbook, “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” Mary Baker Eddy wrote, “Father-Mother is the name for Deity, which indicates His tender relationship to His spiritual creation” (p. 332).

With God as both Father and Mother of all, the feminine and masculine spiritual aspects of the divine shine forth in balanced proportion in His creation. Strength and gentleness, intelligence and grace, abide in equal measure in all His children. That’s why we increasingly see the expression of these attributes commonly exhibited in the roles that modern men and women play in everyday experience.

But this doesn’t mean that God is a giant half-man/half-woman humanoid. Christian Science goes on to define God as not a person but as the supreme life-giving power that is all Truth, Mind, Love. Like the sun shining on everything without any process of physical selection, so God sustains His beloved creation, unconditionally and indiscriminately, through the ceaseless operation of universal divine Love and law.

My defense of spiritual equality begins with the prayer that insists that all of God’s children are impartially created as His beloved representatives of all that is good, holy, and useful. With this kind of spiritual perspective, I’ve been able to more clearly assess my worth as a child of God.

Now I no longer feel inferior to or intimidated by men. I refuse to engage in any relationship that would present me as subservient to a man. I don’t feel driven to win their approval or attention as if they have some good to give that I would otherwise lack. My heart has been opened to cherish men more dearly as brothers, who share in the full measure of God’s loving divine bounty of grace.

This improved view has also blessed me with better relationships with women. I no longer see them as competitors, fighting for some share of good. With God as our Father-Mother, by spiritual birthright, we all already and eternally include unlimited intelligence, ability, joy, and well-being.

Because Jesus understood God as all-embracing Love and Mind, he did more than handle women politely. He demonstrated through just treatment and healing that divine Love is an all-embracing law, destroying the lie of gender preference.

All that we think and do adds to the collective mental climate of the world. I believe that one way to contribute positively to this climate is to guard my thought against any suggestion that denigrates people based on gender. True satisfaction is found in appreciation of one another, in full measure, as God’s beloved children.

March is Women’s History Month in the United States.

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