Martin Luther (not to be confused with Martin Luther King) was born in 1483, Eisleben, Saxony. He was an important religious figure of his time, playing a leading part in the 16th century Reformation of the Christian Church. He had extremely definite views of the role of women in society and in the home. Martin Luther believed that it was natural and according to God’s plan that men should have authority over women. However views like that of Martin Luther were not uncommon at this time. We must remember that they lived in a patriarchal society.
In recent times, however, married women have gained the right to be taxed independently from their husbands. In practice this means that a woman can now fill out her own tax return and keep her financial affairs to herself. A married man still receives a tax allowance on his income and this has approximately kept pace with inflation over current times. Family allowance is paid to the mother of the children but its value in real terms has declined in the precedent ten years or so.
This economic dependence of women has changed as society’s attitude to women has changed. Most women still give up their father’s name on marriage and tale their husband’s as a symbol of dependence on males, but some people ask – does it still have any meaning at all? Some of the more overt inequalities, which limited women’s ability to become independent, have been made illegal. With the erosion of economic dependence of women on men, there has been a corresponding increase in the power and independence of women in many other areas in society
Over the past 40 years there have been a number of important changes in Britain in the economic independence of women. In them field of employment the major changes have occurred since World War II. From the 1940s onwards there has been a massive increase in the proportion of women in regular paid employment. The growth in the female labour force is described more clearly in an article by Hilary Land, ‘The Myth of the Male Breadwinner which I have read as a background source to this unit. The article also points out a tendency for the importance of female labour in the total work force to have been undervalued during the whole of this century.
The growth of in female employment has mostly occurred amongst women in the age groups 35 and over and amongst women whose children are old enough to be at school.
However, from the mid-1960s there has been a rapid rise in employment of women with preschool children. The female paid-labour force before World War II was predominantly young and single. Now two thirds are married women who normally have major domestic responsibilities. From 1960 onwards nearly all the growth in women’s employment has been in part-time work
Therefore we can say that the position of women in modern civilization has changed significantly in the last fifty to a hundred years and that they now have a greater equality of opportunity and independence.
The term fundamentalist is now used to refer to any religious group that is considered to hold radical views. It is often linked with the ideas of fanaticism and terrorism.
A Christian Fundamentalist traditionally referred to any follower of Christ who believes that the Bible is the inspired infallible word of God and who believes in its literal interpretation and fundamental teachings. Some fundamentalists believe the Bible to be the only source of truth, against which the conduct and belief are measured. They believe that the Bible must be accepted as a whole, literally true, and that personal judgements cannot be applied to any area of the Bible. They preach about salvation – the reality of sin and the necessity of repentance, and emphasise the need for a personal saviour, Jesus Christ, who died to restore the connection between man and God.
Women are highly honoured as mothers, but they are also forbidden the freedom to refuse this eminent role. There is often a great degree of religious sanctioned control of women in fundamentalist groups.
Fundamentalists Christians argue that Genesis 1-3 is the beginning of God’s self-revelation to mankind. In these chapters God allows us to see that he is the creator of all things, and that there is an order, purpose, meaning and significance to all that exists. The nature of this self-revelation means that we have an accurate account of God’s actions in creation. In other words we have a literal report of the vents that took place as God began to create. Fundamentalist Christians argue that the ‘mythological imagery’ outlined by the Liberal Christians undermine God’s supremacy. Why shouldn’t a snake speak? The Bible is viewed literally as God’s word and accurate in every detail. Therefore to question the authority of the whole Bible and is to question the authority, power and rule of God himself.
Luther was a fundamentalist Christian. In his own interpretation of Genesis written between 1536 and 1545 he wrote:
“The rule remains with the husband, an the wife is compelled to obey him by God’s command. He rules the home and the state, wages wars, defends his possessions, tills the soil, builds, plants, etc. The woman, on the other hand, is like a nail driven into a wall. She sits at home, and for this reason Paul, in Titus 2:5 calls her a ‘keeper in the house’. The pagans have depicted her as Venus, standing on a seashell, for just as a snail carries its house with it, so the wife should stay at home and look after the affairs of the household, as one who has been deprived of the ability of administering those affairs that concerned the state. She does not go beyond her most persona; duties.”
The male was, at this time, seen as biologically and spiritually superior. The male produced a copy of himself, so every child should turn out male – although pitifully in some cases things went wrong and the child was born female.
The term liberal Christians is often used to refer to those Christians who do not hold to the belief that the Bible is the literal word of God. Liberal Christians argue that the Bible is the product of faith communities – Judaism and the Early Christian Church- and those inspired by God. This implies that the text may contain human error, contradictions, and even exaggerations, not an error on the account of God. The texts must therefore be reinterpreted in the light of our contemporary society. They understand the Bible to be product of its time.
Liberal Christians argue that the Creation Stories of Genesis 1-3 are mythologies. That is, stories told in an attempt to explain in simple non-scientific terms, beliefs about our origins, similar in many ways to the parables of Jesus Christ. Liberal Christians point to evidence of mythological descriptions in the text:
A garden paradise – Genesis 2:8-9(i)
“And the Lord God planted trees in the garden – beautiful trees”
A tree whose fruit held the knowledge of good and evil – 2:9 (ii)
“At the centre of the garden He placed the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and of evil”
A talking snake – 3:1
“Now the serpent was the shrewdest of all the creatures the Lord God had made. “Really?” he asked the woman.”
Man created from mud – 2:7
“And the Lord God formed a body from the dust of the ground and breathed into it the breath of life. And the man became a living person”
Woman created from a rib taken out of man – 2:21-22
“So the Lord God caused Adam to fall into a deep sleep. He took one of Adams ribs and closed up the place from which he had taken it. Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib and brought her from Adam.”
God walking in the garden – 3:8 “Towards evening they heard the Lord God walking in the garden, so they hid themselves among the trees.”
These imageries seem to indicate that the only way to interpret Genesis 1-3 is as mythology. These are however within the mythology truths which are relevant for today. Some of these truths reflect on the relationships between: God and man, man and woman, man and nature, and the problem of pain and suffering.
In conclusion, the argument of the Liberal Christians seem more relevant for today as women weren’t a central figure in religion or in society 2000 years ago, this does not mean, however, that it should continue in today’s society. The majority of the population think upon women as equal and with much consideration of both arguments I have come to the conclusion that Liberalistic Christianity seems much more relevant in today’s society.