Most human cultures are patriarchal in nature. Some like Islam are so patriarchal that women are devalued. Western societies too are heavily patriarchal and that form of family structure is reinforced by statements in the Bible. When Christians read the Bible they forget to take its statements in the context of their society and as reflecting societal dynamics. Problems are created when readers overlook the cultural context and that the Bible speaks of women being treated with an uncommon respect and kindness. Asking for women to be treated as equals with men would not only be radical but it would not have been understood.
The Church rarely asks what are the eternal truths and what are cultural applications of those truths. Instead there is a tendency to view the Bible as a flat document with little attention given to the wider cultural context. Loss of the wider cultural context is particularly harmful to male-female relationships. There are comments and teachings within fundamentalist and evangelical circles that call for families to run in an ancient cultural framework and structure, and which if applied fully devalue women.
One only has to look at the strong statements coming out of the conservative church in the 70s and early 80s regarding the equal rights amendment to the Constitution that would have inserted “and women” after the statement about men. At the time I could not understand the fuse. The cries of the religious leadership that if the amendment passing would create a unisex society and eliminate separate washrooms were over the top. I was embarrassed by the religious leadership, including the statement being uttered by leaders at Asbury College.
The Church needs to wrestle with the significance that there is not male or female in God’s eyes instead of holding onto empty forms. Ancient forms blindly retained as if the ancient culture was divinely inspired is a questionable practice. It is disgusting when the Church ends up holding onto an ancient form instead of applying the eternal principal to a modern context. A faith that lives in the past and with ancient cultural structures shows itself to be irrelevant. Claims to be under the guidance of the Spirit of God become suspect.