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Book Review: Veiled and Silenced: The Cultural Shape of Sexist Theology

Veiled and Silenced

This highly readable book introduces much interesting evidence to demonstrate that subordination of women perpetuates an institutionalized cultural myth rather than a scriptural truth.

To support his thesis that sexism is a manifestation of a fallen human culture, sociologist Alvin J. Schmidt offers a wealth of detailed material about the pervasive and coercive influence of culture on the development of Christian theology. He rejects the traditional notion that "biology is destiny" and he also rejects the easy "out" of espousing cultural determinism. Instead, his thorough examination of how various ecclesiastical conclusions about gender roles have sprung from the context of a particular writer's culture helps the reader see the extent to which a patriarchal view of women has been shaped by culture.

Although many traditionalists can be apprehensive even about discussing the role of culture, Dr. Schmidt convincingly shows that theology has never developed in a cultural vacuum. Rather, "Culture is to most people a hidden dimension"—so familiar to them that they fail to see its impact. By bringing this hidden dimension to light, he argues that it is not the teachings of Christ or the Apostle Paul that cause sexism, but rather various culturally biased individuals, and the traditions they have created over the centuries.

Dr. Schmidt concludes: "Even today, with new awareness of women's rights, there are few who recognize that the church has acted so contrary to the teachings of its founder." He calls for a rejection of sexism and a return to "the teachings, practices, and mind of Christ" in the matter of full inclusion of women in all areas of church life and society,"

Any who have wondered about the extent to which culture has influenced Christian theology in the matter of gender role-playing will find this book most enlightening.

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