All Men Are Created Equal

Yes, I know that’s not from the Bible. It’s from the U.S. Declaration of Independence.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

US Declaration of Independence

I grew up in the US and when I was learning about the US Declaration of Independence I was taught that, “all men” didn’t literally mean, “all male human beings.” It meant ALL human beings, because “man” was the generic term for both males and females.

But it wasn’t until nearly 100 years later than the US Constitution was amended to say,

“The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude”

Amendment XV of the Constitution of the United States

And it wasn’t until 50 years after that, that the US Constitution was amended to say,

“The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.”

Amendment XIX of the Constitution of the United States

So clearly when the US Declaration of Independence was being written, and subsequently the US Constitution, most people didn’t agree that “all men” meant “all human beings,” even if some individuals might have thought that at the time. It took large scale political movements, and in one case, a war, to bring about those changes.

So forgive me if I have trouble with understanding the lessons in the Bible as applying equally to both women and men. I see parallels there.

On my bad days I read the Bible as a story written by men, for men and about men. It’s not hard to think that, since – according to one extensive study – there are about 1.1 million words in the Bible, and women’s words constitute just a little over 14,000 of those words, or only about 1.2 percent of the total. 

I know the Bible is the inerrant Word of God, and I believe that. But that leaves me often wishing I hadn’t been born female. Why can’t we just all be men? I long to be able to read the Bible and feel like it is speaking to me.

One thing I don’t doubt for a minute is that Jesus saw and treated men and women as equals. And Galatians 3:28 explicitly says, “… there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

But I keep having a nagging sense that the rest of the Bible taken as a whole doesn’t really reflect that. So where does that leave me?

It’s hard not to feel like women are represented as inferior to men in the Bible, even if Jesus himself didn’t feel or act that way. In fact Jesus was a rebel who violated many of the cultural expectations of his time. But then who do I turn to in my own faith, Jesus or the Bible? Why would the inerrant Word of God seem to convey something different from what Jesus taught?

It takes up a lot of my spiritual energy trying not to become frustrated by these things.

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