Gwyneth Rees discusses a new book by Niamh M. Middleton, which dissects institutional sexism within the Church, and outlines how women must lead the way in restoring gender equality
Christianity is in crisis, with congregations continuing to fall away both within the Catholic and Protestant Churches. One of the main issues remains the institutional sexism found withinChurch hierarchies. This discrimination, which finds its apex in the Catholic Church’s prohibition of female ordination, alienates women, leading to them and their families abandoning the pews.
This is despite there being many theologians calling for gender equality and immediate reform, including Dr Niamh M. Middleton – who took early retirement from Dublin City University to write Jesus and Women: Beyond Feminism.
Exhaustively researched, and persuasively argued, the book provides a robust feminist challenge to the Church’s institutional gender inequality.
Broad in scope, and unflinching in its conclusions, it is a call to arms to all Christian women to rise up and reclaim the Church that is rightfully theirs.
Covering vast swathes of history, as wellas evolutionary biology and feminism right up to the #MeToo movement, its overarching position is that men and women were given joint dominion in Genesis yet this has subsequently been cast aside to form a version of Christianity dominated by the male gaze.
Now is the time – Dr Middleton implores – for women to fight for gender equality and shake off male-centric views that have distorted the truth, and repressed them, for so long.
Women as equals
Through skillful exegesis, the author uncovers how Christianity’s founder, Jesus, held a revolutionary attitude towards gender equality that is at odds with those running today’s Churches in his name. Jesus treated women as equals, accepting them as disciples and demonstrating a clear understanding and appreciation of feminine perspectives through his rich use of female metaphors.
Since then, however, religion and politics have evolved in tandem to enforce the social control of women, leading to centuries of discrimination and, today, a mass drive towards atheism. Jesus and Women is an essential, thought-provoking read, presenting with authority a bold theological argument that cannot be ignored.
Jesus and Women: Beyond Feminism by Niamh M. Middleton is published in hardcover on 28th October, 2021, and is available now for pre-order via The Lutterworth Press, priced £50. For more information visit www.niamhmiddletonauthor.com.