Two frequent visitors, Patrick and Loren, expressed questions and doubts yesterday about my on-going series claiming that Jesus and the movement he inspired have liberated "billions" of women around the world. I appreciate the challenges, which will allow us to look more closely at a few interesting details. So here's my response.
I. Patrick: "What do you mean by 'liberation'? I didn't see any definition listed so it is difficult to tell what is or isn't a good example of women being liberated outside of the examples you presented. When you discuss a woman who is liberated what would her status be in that society with family and the society around her once she is liberated?"
Most of the examples I give are obvious enough that I don't think they need much defense: being taught to read, retaining the bones in your feet so you can walk like a human being, and being taken off your husband's funeral pyre so you aren't burned to death with him, are liberating in obvious enough ways that little more need be said. I think most westerners now share the view that women should be recognized as equally important to men, that they should be free from exploitation and abuse, and free to develop and reach their full intellectual, social, physical, and spiritual potentials. If you need a rough definition of liberation, I guess attaining the state described in that last sentence will do the trick.
"What was life like for women before Christianity came into the countries in question? You discuss foot-binding, for example, but is that it? Did they also achieve liberation in other areas of life, also?"
Yes, and I indicate that as well. As I mention, for instance, almost all the women from one part of Fujian Province as late as the mid-20th Century who had received higher education, had done so from mission schools. Christianity also has led the fight against concubinage and the double standard, including in China.
"Exactly what did Christians do to help achieve this liberation? Your premise, at least in the title is that Jesus helped women achieve this liberation. How, specifically, did Jesus do this? Are women there now truly liberated? Part 3 discusses the status of women around the world and you point out that women in Europe enjoy an overall better status than those in non-christian third world countries. The right to vote was one of several events that helped women achieve their liberation in European and American society."
But I show that women ALREADY enjoyed a far higher status in Europe by the Middle Ages, than in competing civilizations. I also show that the liberation began already in the Roman Empire. I quote historians on how Christianity improved the status of women in Medieval Europe. And I show that Jesus' teachings lead to that naturally. Again, you need to read more carefully or thoroughly.
"You also talk in vague numbers - billions of women throughout history, billions of women now - but you haven't supplied any specific numbers. China has 1.3 billion people according to the CIA World Fact book of which about half (or 500 million) are women."
Almost 1.4 billion, and half is 700 million. And none have their feet smashed now. And almost all are given an education.
700 million is how many are alive today. But the liberation began in earnest in the 19th Century. You have to include prior generations (to some extent) as well. So in Part IV of this series, which is the most relevant, I estimate that Jesus' influenced has brought increased freedom to 1.5 billion women in China alone.
"Where do you get your figures from? What sources did you use to determine that billions of women (how many billions) have been liberated from having their feet smashed? According to Wikipedia, which cites their sources, gives a different account, namely: The Manchu Kangxi Emperor tried to ban foot binding in 1664 but failed."
Did you know that the Kang Xi emperor (one of China's greatest rulers ever, perhaps the greatest) was educated, in large part, by Jesuit missionaries?
"In the later part of the 19th century, Chinese reformers challenged the practice but it was not until the early 20th century that foot binding began to die out as a result of anti-foot binding campaigns. Foot-binding resulted in lifelong disabilities for most of its subjects, and a few elderly Chinese women still survive today with disabilities related to their bound feet. Not Jesus or even Christian missionaries are being given credit here."
Of course not. That's because both Western and Chinese historians, and especially the governments that sponsor official history, and therefore Wikipedia, systematically lie about history, and cover up the role of Christianity in reform.
The Shanghai historian Gu Weiming describes the actual history of this movement, in his long history of Christianity in China, as do other historians. Even the Atlantic recognizes:
"So many Western women, especially the wives of Christian missionaries, became strong advocates against the practice, producing pamphlets and even opening shelters in support of afflicted women. Around the same time, Chinese intellectuals who had studied abroad in Europe and in North America returned to China and stated their support for abolishment."
It wasn't really just the wives, however. You might want to learn who Timothy Richard, the star of a book published in Taiwan called Five Foreigners Who Have Influenced China, was. He played a crucial role in that, as in other, campaigns. Or since you cite Wikipedia, start here:
Here is how that article describes the beginnings of the movement:
"More Christians came to China and began to oppose foot binding, because they thought it was discriminatory against females. In 1875, 60-70 Christian women in Xiamen attended a meeting presided by a missionary John McGovern formed the Natural Foot (tianzu, literally Heavenly Foot) Society, and it was championed by the Woman's Christian Temperance Movement founded in 1883 and advocated by missionaries including Timothy Richard, who thought that Christianity could promote equality between the sexes. The writings of Richard would influence Chinese reformers Kang Youwei and Liang Qichao who then challenged the practice of footbinding."
It would, anyway, be an offense against Occam's Razor to assume that a custom deeply ingrained in Chinese culture for a thousand years, died out for no particular reason, JUST after western missionaries began preaching against that custom, and setting up societies to combat it. Both Chinese and Western officialdom have a stake in covering up the role Christian missionaries played in world-wide reform, and they play it to the hilt, as I have shown in the latter case on this site in the past. (In November I plan to finally finish an expose of the historical lies that Chinese history text books engage in, as well.)
But yes, the work of well-informed historians supports my arguments about the positive impact of Christianity in China, in general and in great detail.
II. Loren: What is that great Borg-like entity, *THE* family? What in it justifies a
status not much different from slavery for the female sex?
What is the family? Wow! I'm sorry if you don't know. But none of the female members of families I know in any way resemble slaves, so you're going to need to explain your thoughts a little more clearly to make sense to me.
his Republic some time around 360 BCE, over 350 years before Jesus Christ was
born. In Book V, he states:
Are dogs divided into hes and shes, or do
they both share equally in hunting and in keeping watch and in the other duties
of dogs? or do we entrust to the males the entire and exclusive care of the
flocks, while we leave the females at home, under the idea that the bearing and
suckling their puppies is labour enough for them?
Wikipedia's summary of Plato on the sexes: The Republic states that women in Plato's ideal state should work alongside men, receive equal education and share equally in all aspects of the state. The sole exception involved women working in capacities which required less physical strength.
That seems very feminist to me.
Yes, I've read the Republic, don't need Wikipedia's help. Very impressive. Yet for hundreds of years after Plato, women in Athens were barely allowed out of the house. So a lot of good that did.
And if Plato's vision had won out, and his commune with shared wives had been created, I doubt that would have liberated women at a very deep level, either -- experience in American communes of the 19th Century and 1960s was not always very promising.
Christianity existed for centuries before an organized feminist
movement got started, so it's clear that there isn't much of a correlation.
There should have been an organized feminist movement at least as far back as
Read my series. Liberation began with Jesus, then the disciples in Acts, and throughout the Roman Empire.
As to Jesus Christ himself, judging from the
Gospels, the most that one can say for him was that he was not grossly
misogynist. But he wasn't very feminist, either.
I didn't say he was "feminist" -- an anachronism. I said he liberated women. See above for my definition: read the series for a great deal of evidence.
Whether you choose to call Jesus a feminist or not, depends on your definition of that term. I say he has liberated billions of women in profound ways, and have provided the evidence, beginning with his interaction with individual women whom he aided and freed in diverse ways. Does a person who has been freed from a lynch mob, healed, or given new dignity and purpose, care if you call the person who gave her all that a "feminist" or not? Heck, Bill Clinton is a "feminist," and you see how he treats women.
As to literate-society
preindustrial economies making it difficult for women, that is entirely
possible. I note that because there is a strong correlation between organized
feminism and how industrialized a society is. Organized feminism first emerged
in industrialized nations like the late 19th cy. US and the UK. So one should
look for a possible connection between feminism and industrialism.
Nope. The correlation, while not perfect, is between impact of the Gospel on the public sphere, and that holds true from the 1st Century on. Saudi Arabia has fully modernized, but a female Saudi friend told me she would only be willing to go back there in a body bag.