An Asian Christian woman living in London blogging about the everyday issues of religion

Thursday, 13 January 2011

What is the image of today's Christian woman?

I consider it a seminal moment that politics and religion have come together to provide us with two women currently being held up on the world stage as examples of fine Christian women: (1) Assia Bibi in Pakistan who is facing a possible death sentence for her Christian views; and (2) Sarah Palin who uses Christianity as a platform for her political views.
Although women have played a starring role in the Bible since the early Christian church the retelling of the stories of these women has always been made in the context of the patriarchy of the gospel. Assia and Sarah present us with a modern day analysis of how Christian women see themselves being called upon to practise their faith according to the social mores of the place they live in.
Assia Bibi was arrested in June 2009 after Muslim women labourers refused to drink from a bowl of water she was asked to fetch while out working in the fields. Assia questioned them as to why she was considered 'unclean'. Days later, the women complained that Assia had made derogatory remarks about the Prophet Mohammed. Bibi was set upon by a mob, arrested by police and sentenced to hang as a result. The Pope has called for leniency on her behalf.
Sarah Palin (who needs no real introduction) is a far right Republican in the USA. She has invoked the 'Christian Nation' rhetoric by stating that God cannot be separated from the state. More controversially she has claimed that the Iraq war is God's will. Palin's image is one of a gun carrying Christian mum who is a modern day representation of the frontier women who weren't scared of standing up for what they believed to be their right. 
Personally, I am not a Palin supporter and don't buy into her brand of faith. I have much sympathy for Assia and keep praying that she will escape the death penalty and return peacefully to her five children.
Personal sentiment aside and objectively speaking these two women have tried to break down the barriers of the cultural and religious practices around them. When Assia questioned her objectors she was pushing the barrier of exclusion and oppression in a place where it is dangerous to be a Christian by reaching out to Jesus. Palin sees the rise of muti faith folk as an assault on Christianity. I disagree with her but she may even see it as her 'calling' to blow the Christian trumpet as loudly as she can.
One is an incarcerated woman in an oppressive regime and the other is a free woman living in a democracy that allows her to say and do as she wishes. Is there a common trait between them nevertheless? Both women have displayed strength and bravery in the name of their faith. Palin is ridiculed on a daily basis and hasn't made things better by using the term 'Blood Libel' to describe her situation but her supporters are many and carry on adoring her. Assia hasn't been forgotten by the world's press and the Pakistani government is under international pressure to pardon her.
I hate to say this but are the traits of marginalization and oppression still ones that Christian women are having to face no matter where in the world they live? If so, as Christian women I think we can change the discourse by imbuing our own theology with our own experiences and by empowering one another with encouragement till our discipleship becomes one of equality and respect no matter where we live. Then we need to export this brand of feminine Christianity to protect women like Assia.

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