Falwell was preaching about women and the Equal Rights Amendment.
I have never forgotten what Jerry Falwell said:
We don’t believe in equal rights for women. We believe in superior rights for women. We believe in putting women on a pedestal.
I remember thinking, at the time, that makes a lot of sense. The Equal Rights Amendment was viewed as an attempt to blur the lines between the sexes. To make our culture unisex, which was considered by all to be a grievous sin.
The Fundamentalist/Evangelical Christianity of my youth taught me:
- Women are to submit to men.
- Women are best suited to be mothers and keepers of the home.
- Women are emotional whereas men are logical.
- Women should be discouraged from going to college because this makes it less likely that the woman will be a good mother and a good keeper of the home.
- If a woman is insistent on going to college she should go to a Christian college. Her choices? Pastor’s wife, single missionary, Christian school teacher.
- Women are not suited to intellectual endeavors.
- Women should not be involved in making decisions. The decision maker in the home is the husband. The decision makers in the Church are the men. Government is reserved for men.
- Women were to give the husband sex whenever he wanted it. If she didn’t put out she was risking her husband having an adulterous affair and it would then be HER fault.
The viewpoints above showed up in sermon after sermon. Is it any wonder so many Fundamentalist/Evangelical marriages are dysfunctional? That women schooled in such an environment have difficultly functioning in the real world?
Even in my own marriage, I was a typical “I am the boss, chief decision-maker, you submit to me” husband. I made ALL the decisions. For twenty years this is how we “did” marriage. Gradually, as I became more liberal in my understanding of life, I realized how hurtful this was to women in general and to my dear wife in particular.
My wife finds it hard to make decisions. She told me one time that she was “afraid to make decisions because she might might make a wrong decision and then you’ll be mad at me.” I said ‘Yep. That’s the price of admission. Making decisions means you might piss someone off.” I see my wife throwing off the bondage of the past but I wonder if she’ll ever be totally free of teachings of the the past. Submit. Obey. Do what your husband says. He is the head of the home. It is hard to shake such indoctrination.
Is marriage really a partnership when only one partner decides everything? Certainly we each have our strengths, our weaknesses. I am not about to enter my wife’s kitchen. First, we will all starve. Second she is a far better cook than I will ever be in ten lifetimes. I pay the bills. I write the checks. I manage the money. I am good at it. I am able to analyze numbers on the fly. (it is called Gerencser math in the family) So, I do what I am good at and so does my wife.
Now there is ONE area I refuse to relinquish control. The remote control!! It’s mine. Don’t touch it.
How did Jerry Falwell’s superior rights for women work out practically in the Church?
You judge. Does what follows seem so superior to you?
- Women sang in the choir and did special music numbers
- Women played musical instruments
- Women cleaned the church
- Women worked in the nursery
- Women taught children in Sunday School and Jr Church
- Women cooked food for potlucks and Church meals
Looks very similar to what was expected of women at home.
Women were not allowed to be pastors, deacons, elders, teach older children. They were never allowed to teach any group of people that had adult men in it.( thus usurping the authority do men)
Granted, there is great improvement in some sectors of the Christian Church. Women can now be pastors, elders, deacons, worship leaders ,etc. Women teach theology at some Christian colleges. Thanks to feminism women have a lot more opportunities than they did years ago.
But the Church still has a long ways to go.(i.e the Catholic Church is still in the 12th century) Vast swaths of the Fundamentalist/Evangelical Church still practice the repression of women, They sincerely believe they are following the teachings of the Bible when they do so. If God said it…end of discussion. As a result thousands upon thousands of Churches continue to be man only institutions.
One Church I pastored wouldn’t even allow women to speak in a public Church business meeting. If they had a question they were required to whisper the question to a man and then he would ask the question.
I visited a Mennonite Church years ago where the women sat on one side and the men on the other. Keeping to the mantra that women should never lead, when the Congregation sang the women always started singing a note after the men. (that said, the singing was spectacular)
In the early 1970’s my mother gave me an important lesson in equal rights. She worked as as nurses aide at Winebrenner’s Nursing Home in Findlay Ohio. Female aides were paid less than male aides because the male aides did more of the “heavy” work. Truth was, that both sexes did the “heavy” work.
So my Mom, the crusader that she was, sued Winebrenner’s. It seemed so silly. There was only a bit of change difference in the wages. I was so embarrassed when the lawsuit story hit the front page of the newspaper.
But, she was right. Winebrenner was discriminatory in their treatment of women. My mother filed a federal lawsuit under the provisions of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. (Title 7) The courts agreed and my mother won.
While I was embarrassed at the time (I was 15) I now see how brave my mother was. To stand up for what was right. To dare suggest that women should be treated equally.
We still have a long way to go on the issue of equality. Women are still treated as inferior to men. The glass ceiling exists, regardless of whether or not bigots like Phyllis Schlafly can see it. Yes, things are BETTER but we should not rest until we are a society that is blind to sex, sexuality, race, and religion.
Justice and fairness require that we press forward even when it seems failure is certain. That’s one lesson my Mom taught me that I will never forget.