Sunday, April 21, 2013

Women in Religion

In the Christian faith, most of the focus is on men. Jesus, Joseph, the apostles, and the authors of the Bible were all notable men that people of the current centuries discuss, draw, and write about. Because this generation came from a patriarchal society, the followers of this faith incorporated patriarchal aspects into their everyday life. That being said, women were not always a huge part of conducting religious matters. However, this has changed in recent years in not only Christian faiths, but others as well.

Carol Ochs, Coordinator of Graduate Programs and Visiting Professor of Philosophy at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in New York, claims that there are several ways that women are now contributing to religion (184). These ways include expanding the norm, interpreting biblical history, restructuring religion, enlarging the human boundary conditions, and understanding that humans are created in the image of God (Ochs, 50).  

Ochs believes that women can expand the standard of religious women by promoting the stories of women in the Bible and pointing out Biblical people who did not follow the typical patriarchal standards of society at the time (50-51). By doing so women can demonstrate to both other women and men that women were still a huge part of Jewish and Christian faiths, even though men were sometimes more prominent. This will hopefully invite modern day women to be more active participants in their religion if they want women’s stories to be heard and feminist religious images to be shared. Along a similar note, Ochs determined that women can expand Biblical history by not solely looking at male dominated activities such as conquests and wars, but also looking at trade, cooking, and day to day living (51).

She also believes that women can restructure religion by providing a greater openness to God’s presence (Ochs, 52). She argues that women look at the ethics of the situation and the entire Biblical background of an event whereas men tend to focus on one single aspect only (Ochs 52), making it seem that women should be the interpreters of history rather than men because they have a better view of the whole picture. It would certainly be useful to analyze the Bible from both a patriarchal and feminist perspective in order for followers to get a better religious perspective. Ochs says that if women enlarge the human boundary conditions of circumstance, conflict, guilt, suffering, and death this perspective can be gained (53).

The last and one of the most important ways Ochs believes women can contribute to religion is from women’s understanding that all people are created in the image of God (54). She states that women are more often not the primary caretakers of children and are the only ones to experience childbirth (55). In this way, women are responsible for boosting their child’s self-confidence and making them feel like worthwhile children of God. If women are successful in their task, children will feel a special connection to God and their religion, therefore expanding their faith. Not only that, but they will feel the need to share their faith with others through praying, religious literature, or even religious artwork. 

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