Elizabeth Cady Stanton

Elizabeth-Cady-Stanton

“The bible and the church have been the greatest stumbling block in the way of women’s emancipation.”

It was this quote by Elizabeth Cady Stanton which prompted me to write this post about her.  She came from a Presbytarian background.  It began early in her life when she attended Troy Female Seminary. Charles Grandison Finney, one of the most prominent revivalist preachers terrified her with his preaching about sin, the devil and damnation.  She became ill and left school for a short time to recuperate at home.  Even there she felt the terror.  At her brother-in-law`s encouragement, she read books and articles on science and `religious superstition gave place to rational ideas based on scientific facts.“

It was not Elizabeth`s intention to abandon religion altogether.  She held a regard for Jesus’ teachings and respected people whose religious beliefs drew them into many reform causes.  She believed that the emancipation of women was the one step needed to bring a corrupt, superstitious church back to its true origins.  In The Evolution of Womanhood`, she wrote:  To change the woman in dogmatic theology, where she is represented as the central figure in Paradise Lost…is to revolutionize the system; hence all who believe in progress within the Church should hail present movement for woman`s emancipation, as that brings us to the next onward step in the new religion.“

Elizabeth tried unsuccessfully to find a religion in which men and women were seen as equals.  As she grew older she become more radical in her opposition to organized religion.  She launched a project to reinterpret and critique biblical texts and recruited a small committee of women to work on it.  The Woman`s Bible was published in 1895 but received a hostile reception.  Many of the women`s rights`activists were opposed to the publication because they feared that it would harm the women`s suffrage movement.  They issued a formal denunciation of the book and worked to distance the suffrage movement from Elizabeth.  A female reader decried the book`s radical statement that the Trinity was composed of a `Heavenly Mother, Father, and Son and that prayers should be addressed to an ìdeal Heavenly Mother`.  Elizabeth`s response to the attacks of the women readers was, `The other difference between us is, we say that these degrading ideas of woman emanated from the brain of man while the church says that they came from God.` The controversy surrounding the book made it a best seller but it effectively ended Elizabeth`s influence on the suffrage movement.

The Woman`s Bible is a two-part non-fiction book challenging the traditional position of religious orthodoxy that woman should be subservient to man.  It was Elizabeth`s aim to promote a radical liberating theology, one that stressed self-development.  She was not alone in her efforts.

Lucretia Mott used the Bible to asnwer those who argued for women`s subservience.  In 1849 she wrote Discourse on Woman in which she discussed Adam and Eve, the activities of various women in the Bible and argued that the Bible supported a woman`s right to speak aloud her spiritual beliefs. After a while, she became an expert at disarming men who used Scripture against her.  In 1852 and 1854, she came prepared with Scripture in hand to debate men at the National Women`s Rights Convention.

Lucy Stone believed that the male-dominant interpretations of the Bible must be faulty so she learned Greek and Hebrew to gain insight into the earlier Bible translations which she believed would have wording more favorable to women`s equality.  Matilda Joslyn Gage wrote Woman, Church and State, a book which challenged traditional Judeo-Christian teaching that women were the source of sin and that sex was sinful.  She wrote that the double standard for morality hurt both sexes.  She did not believe that the Bible, even when it was re-interpreted, could support women`s rights.

The Bible does not degrade women.  It teaches that women should be loved as Christ loves the church. It is an unconditional, self-sacrificing love.  It teaches that women ought to respect their husbands.  In marriage, love and respect ought to go hand in hand.  And it is a fact that it was Eve who was deceived and not Adam.  And the Bible does not teach that sex is sinful.  It is something that God created to be enjoyed between a husband and wife.  God never intended for women to be mistreated, subservient. They were created in His image.  They supported Jesus`ministry and there were many women serving in the church during Paul`s time.  Deborah was a prophetess and judge and wife.  God delivered Sisera, a mighty army general into the hands of a woman.  Some professed teachers have misrepresented the teachings of the Bible to excuse inequality and racism.

Elizabeth Cady Stanton and other women who shared her views had the right to question what they believed to be sexist teachings of the Bible and the Church but they failed to realize that things were different in biblical times.   It is true that religion has been used to oppress women.  There is the assumption that women are sinful and dangerous to men because of Eve since she was responsible for the fall of man.  It can be argued that Adam didn’t have to sin too. He didn’t have to listen to Eve and that is what God told him.  He was responsible for his own actions just as Eve was for hers.  Both of them sinned.  Both of them disobeyed God and both of them were held accountable by God.

The Bible paints an honest picture of both men and women.  Women were virtuous, industrious, strong, resourceful, wise, caring, loyal, faithful, devious, dishonest, adulterous, wicked.  God encouraged Abraham to listen to Sarah and follow her advice when she told him to send her handmaiden, Hagar and her son, Ishmael away. Pontius Pilate’s wife offered him advice regarding Jesus’.  Nathan went to Bathsheba to ask her to speak to King David about his son, Adonijah’s usurpation of the crown because he believed that she had influence with the king.  She was instrumental in securing the throne for her son, Solomon.  Belshazzar’s mother advised him to consult the prophet Daniel about the handwriting on the wall.  In the genealogy of Jesus, women are mentioned. In the book of Kings, the mothers of kings are mentioned. In Proverbs 31, we read about the wise sayings which King Lemuel’s mother taught him.

And nowadays, we have female pastors and ministers. Granted there are some who don’t believe that women preach the Word of God. Both men and women are opposed to women in the role of teachers. However, it is God who determines who will stand in the pulpit. Most of the prophets were male but there were female ones too like Deborah as mentioned before, Moses’ sister, Miriam, Huldah, Noadiah who was false prophetess, Anna and Philip’s virgin daughters. God will call men and women who are willing to serve Him.

Women had a voice and some influence in the lives of their families. It is those who have twisted or misinterpreted the Bible who are the stumbling blocks in the way of women’s emancipation.  The Bible and Christianity should not be blamed for the actions of those who use them to perpetuate sexism, racism, oppression and violence.

Sources:  WikipediaBrainy QuoteHistory Net; CBE International

6 comments

  1. Adam was held responsible as her head. Eve suffered consequences as well as Adam, but notice what the Bible says:

    ” Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression, who is the figure of him that was to come.”
    Romans 5:14

    “For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead.

    For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” 1 Corinthians 15: 21-22. Adam.

    False teachers, including men who use the Bible to oppress and abuse have helped destroy people’s beliefs in God, and help to separate people- commonly, women from God.
    This, they will answer for.

    It could totally be argued that Adam knew exactly what he was doing. He knew what he was doing, but simned with his eyes wide open. Right away, you can see the blaming and deflecting mechanism that some men have in them.

    This is seen when Adam did not acknowledge directly himself at first, but acknowledged that God is the one who gave him the woman, and then referred to the woman, then came around to himself, instead of just saying “The woman gave me the fruit, I knew better than to eat and could have reminded her of the truth, but I ate it anyway.”

    Liked by 1 person

    • Adam blamed God and Eve and Eve blamed the serpent but this blame game business didn’t wash with God. He held each of them responsible/accountable for their own action. Adam was punished “Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat from it,’” and Eve because she chose to listen to the serpent and give into her desire to be wise and eat what looked good.

      There are times when we listen to other voices instead of God’s and as a result we are led away from His Truth and into deception. Not because Eve didn’t drop down and die after she ate the fruit, it meant that it was okay for Adam to eat it too. No one can force us to disobey God. We choose to do that. As Jesus taught we should live by God’s Word. When He was tempted, He trusted in God’s Word to withstand each temptation.

      Both Adam and Eve had God’s Word but they chose to listen to others and the consequences were catastrophic. Reject anyone who contradicts God’s Word, no matter who that person is. As the apostle, Paul said, “But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed” (Galatians 1:8).

      Adam should have acknowledged what he had done instead of casting blame and the same for Eve. She could have said, “The serpent told me that I shall not die if I eat the fruit and that I would be will be like You, knowing good and evil, so I ate.” Adam wasn’t held responsible for Eve’s action because he was her head. He became her head after the Fall. He was held responsible for his own action, not hers. Likewise, Eve was held accountable for her own action and not Adam’s or the serpent’s.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I agree that blame games are no good. The Bible states Eve was indeed deceived ( 2 Corinthians 11: 3; 1 Timothy 2: 14), so when she said the serpent beguiled her and she ate, it was true.
        Adam could have admitted “I knew better, but she gave me the fruit and I ate,” since he was not deceived.

        I believe headship is not a punishment for the sin of the woman. Man is made in the image of God.
        Just as there is Father, Son and Holy Spirit, equal but different, so are the man and woman. When God made man, he created male and female in spirit and called their name Adam ( Genesis 5: 1-2; Genesis; 1: 26- 28).

        Later, they got physical bodies. In Genesis 2: 7 and 2: 15, we see Adam first got a physical body and was put to work for a season of which the duration is unknown, before the female received a body and became his helpmeet.

        Naming the animals according the will of God and tending and keeping the garden according to the will of God were some of his tasks.
        I believe this shows delegation of authority and responsibility.

        I believe that in the same way that there is divine hierarchy of authority within the Godhead ( Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) and they are equal, they are one; so the man and woman are equal image bearers of God, equal in value and worth, but have different roles.

        When a man and woman marry, they become one. I believe for sure, that sinless Adam before the fall was still in a leadership / headship position, but without sin. He never would do Eve wrong, because he was in complete obedience to God, so everything was perfect and righteous. I believe they coexisted lovingly and in obedience to God, with Adam having a different role than Eve, even then. When he named Eve, I also believe this was in obedience to God’s will. I believe that Eve was perfectly loved by both God and Adam, and was a help meet to her husband within God’s divine order.

        According to my understanding, Adam had a different role and responsibility from the beginning,
        pre- fall. After the fall, God acknowledged to her that her husband was going to rule over her. She needed a reminder to stay in obedience to God within her role. Sin was now in the picture, because she had stepped out of place, influencing her husband to sin, and he followed. The problem is not a man listening to his wife. The problem is a man listening to his wife when she’s leading him into sin. Like everyone else, he should have obeyed God.

        In addition, instead of a sinless headship, now there was sin in the picture, so her husband would not always treat her correctly.
        Sorry for the long response! I just wanted to share my understanding of it.

        Great post! 😊

        Liked by 1 person

      • No worries 🙂 Thank you for you very insightful comments. I enjoy reading them. Yes, Eve needed the reminder to stay in obedience to God within her role. And I agree that the problem was Adam listening to Eve when she was leading him into sin because there are other examples in the Bible when wives give their husbands wise advise. Even though sin is in the picture, God still expects the man to treat his wife correctly and for the woman to respect her husband but sadly, this isn’t always the case.

        Liked by 1 person

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