It is well-understood in development circles that community transformation cannot begin until the girl-child has been educated to at least a fifth-grade level of literacy and understanding. In other words, change only occurs when a mother has the education to understand and seek a better life for her kids.[i] (Obviously, men are also capable of such conclusions, but they are historically less likely to come to let alone implement them.) More unfortunate, it is also a well-established fact that religion has played, and continues to play, a role in preventing women from becoming educated, while, worse, encouraging inequality and a sense of inferiority.
Two imperatives result.
- The development community needs to more fully examine the interrelationship between and among gender, development, religion, and religious freedom. Fortunately, some ground-breaking scholarship is now taking place, led by such women as Katherine Marshall (e.g., see her recent article in the tenth anniversary issue of The Review of Faith & International Affairs, "Religious Freedom in U.S. International Development Assistance and Humanitarian Relief: Ideas, Practice, and Issues," as well her 2010 article in the same journal, "Development, Religion, and Women's Roles in Contemporary Societies."
- It is incumbent upon all religious adherents, especially those of global religions and impact, to think through clearly what their faith teaches about gender relations, and what that "looks like" in practice: from marriage and the family to the workplace to policies that one's government pursues. While various positions have been and will be articulated, it is more imperative still that such conversations take place in a manner that edifies and encourages both genders, within the faith, among faiths, and between faiths and the world we live in.
Foremost, however, I write as someone who understands the relationship between belief and behavior not as a moral discussion unique to a particular culture from a specific time. Instead I write as someone who understands the relationship between his belief and behavior as an opportunity to testify to the timeless message of Christ across time, a chance to bear witness to the new reality of the Kingdom of God through the mutual submission He requires of every relationship, every discussion, no matter the issue at hand.
In other words, I seek to share some thoughts amidst life's journey to better understand the majesty, mystery, and mercy of Christ. I welcome your response, and rebuke.
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