Standing on the Shoulders of Women Leaders

By Mimi Haddad 9-25-2008

Regardless of your political affiliation or inclinations, the presidential campaign this year has been one of "firsts" for women. For the first time, the Republicans have selected a female vice-presidential nominee. The Democrats nearly nominated a woman as their presidential candidate. This is a year in which women have risen to unprecedented heights in the presidential race. Both parties have made history.

But for egalitarians, the political prominence women enjoy today is a direct extension of the gains earned for women by early evangelicals, upon whose shoulders we humbly stand. Christians like A.J. Gordon, Frances Willard, Sojourner Truth, and others argued more than 100 years ago that God gives gifts of leadership not because of gender, education, skin color, or class, but based on God's own choosing. Because of this, the early evangelicals advanced some of the most sweeping social reforms in all of history, including women's suffrage and the abolition of slavery.

But what about our friends who believe that God's plan is that only men should hold positions of leadership? Can a person with these convictions in good conscience vote for women in high political office? Several years ago, a prominent theologian argued his case for the leadership of men in the church and the home. Afterward, a woman raised her hand and asked why he would limit women's authority only in the church and home. Why not also insist upon male authority in society as well? Her question was aimed at a core inconsistency in his position. After all, if God really intends for men, rather than women, to be "head" or "leader," then it is only logical that women should not hold any position of leadership over men, in any sphere. How did this particular theologian respond?

He said he was having a hard enough time keeping women submissive in the home and church, never mind society. While many chuckled, the implication was clear. Because he holds to a male-only model of leadership, women should not hold positions of leadership over a man, at any time, in any situation. To be perfectly consistent, you would almost need to sequester women off entirely, omitting all leadership from women! The truth is, we have all benefitted from the gifts and leadership of women. If you have ever received radiation, or have been helped by advances in radioactivity, you may want to thank the pioneering leadership of Marie Curie-two-time Nobel Prize recipient and the first woman to receive a Ph.D. in France. Consider also the leadership of Dorothy Crowfoot Hodgkin, a British Nobel Peace Prize recipient who greatly advanced our knowledge of insulin, penicillin, and vitamin B12. And this list goes on and on.

Friends, there is no escaping the benefits we receive from God through the gifts God gives to women. Why would anyone want a world in which all God-given talents are not given wide and deep opportunities for service-in the church, home, and society?

Mimi Haddad

Mimi Haddad is the president of Christians for Biblical Equality.

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