October 11 is International Day of the Girl Child.
The lectionary reading at Morning Prayer was from 1 Timothy chapter 2. In it, Paul, who like Jesus is unashamedly pro-women, makes several points:
men are to ditch macho posturing, and instead come before God in praying for the world;
women are not to be seen, or see themselves, primarily in terms of their looks (that is, objectified) but their character (that is, having agency);
women are to be permitted and encouraged to learn, neither excluded nor excluding themselves, for if they will submit themselves to diligent engagement this will benefit the community;
women are to exercise authority and oversight of the community, including men, but in so doing they must not abuse that position to put men down – this is for the good of all;
women and men are equally vulnerable to deception and self-deception, and should view themselves with honest humility;
yet women have played, and continue to play, a crucial role in God’s plan to redeem humanity (which includes childbirth, and childbirth as an illustration of labour, but is not restricted to bearing children).
That this passage has been translated and interpreted in ways that carry the very opposite spirit, that subjugate women, casting them as second-rate citizens – not least in their own minds – is a tragedy.
I will continue to preach the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ, as spread by Paul; good news for women and men, of every background.
Mike Frost linked to research by Save the Children into where it is hardest to be a girl today, based on five key predictors of the ability of girls to thrive:
rates of early marriage (child marriage triggers a cycle of disadvantage across every part of a girl’s life);
adolescent fertility (teen pregnancy impedes a girl’s ability to thrive);
maternal mortality (complications during pregnancy or childbirth is the second leading cause of death for adolescent girls);
women in government (indicating a girl’s freedom to speak out and influence decisions);
lower secondary school completion (a limited education also limits employment options).
1 Timothy 2 speaks out on education, representational leadership, and, in recognising the perilous and God-honoured reality of childbirth, maternal mortality. In re-framing women as equal to men, not objects for men, these verses also speak to rates of early marriage and adolescent fertility. That is to say, this scripture is timely.
And because this passage has been so widely mis-used to put women down, in a world where male public figures can speak so contemptuously of girls and the women they grow up to be, we must refute and contest such abuse of power, rather than exorcise the life-releasing gospel.