Statistics reveal that churched families are not immune to abuse in the home, but few people dare to talk about it. Sometimes abuse doesn't even show because there are no bruises or black eyes or knocked-out teeth."But he never hits me," does not make these abuses okay and is no excuse for the equally—or perhaps even greater—damaging trauma of invisible abuse. Battered Without Bruises dares to talk about it.
"Home-schooled girls do not need 'further' education; they should just prepare for being a wife and mother." "A daughter should stay at home and serve her father until he chooses a husband for her." "The daughter is a 'helpmeet' for her father." "Parents should never let their daughter be out of their sight." "Women should never work outside the home." These and many similar sentiments are being dogmatically expressed by leaders of the Christian Patriarchy Movement.
Before the nineteenth century, a Chinese woman’s life was wrapped around three men: father, husband, and son. The famous “Three Submissions” taught that a woman should follow and obey her father while still young, her husband after marriage, and her eldest son when widowed. “A woman married is like a horse bought; you can ride it or flog it as you like,” says a Chinese proverb. Widows with no sons could not inherit property; sons alone could continue the family lineage and fulfill the duties of ancestral worship. Sons stayed within the family and worked for the honor and prosperity of the family. In contrast, daughters were money-losing goods. In desperate times they were the ones to be sold, abandoned, or even drowned—but never the sons.
In patriarchy, not only is the misuse and abuse of power justified, it is also institutionalized. But the misuse and abuse of power is abominable to God. The prophet Isaiah wrote: "I have more than enough of burnt offerings...Stop bringing meaningless offerings...Take your evil deeds out of my sight!" (Isa. 1:11-16). Then he solemnly declared in 1:17, "Seek justice, rebuke the oppressors, defend the fatherless and plead for the widows."
As I read the church’s brief report, my anger mounted. We knew that my friend had been abused. But we were now being told by our spiritual leaders, people with no professional training or knowledge on the subject, that she had not been abused.
The ups and downs of being a woman in ministry continue. Not many people want a woman to teach homiletics, despite the fact that my students love my classes. I am beginning to do more teaching and writing on the equality of women and men in Asia.
Hidden behind much patriarchal thinking is a pervasive patrilineal worldview. The belief that the family line is a male line and that males own and inherit the resources, has colored nearly all our cultures in the past and still accounts for much oppression and sidelining of women. Beulah will speak from her experience in south Asian culture, recognizing that, within families, women often become the perpetrators of discrimination against females. Does that happen to some extent near all of us? The Bible culture too is patrilineal. How shall we view that?
Among responsible and useful methods of promoting egalitarian thinking -- writing about it, supporting organizations like CBE that promote it, seeking out churches that put it into practice -- my favorite is what I call the “auntie model”: consistently giving loving ideological nudges to those in my closest circle, especially the little ones.
In addition to the ethnic, gender, and economic inequalities that have afflicted black South African women past the end of Apartheid in 1994, the plague of HIV/AIDS has added a new dimension to their struggle.