I’ve been meaning to comment on this excellent post by Laura Grace Robins for a while now, but it’s taken me some time to compose my thoughts:
Conservative feminists of the time and also today, perhaps even more so than the radical/liberal feminists, are responsible for the current superior women mentality. It is easy to see how the adherents of the cult of domesticity could easily become full of themselves and transform what should be the humble, self-denying sphere of motherhood, tending the home, and being a virtuous wife into a weapon of 'women know best' and in turn create the cult of women's superiority. Pride simply overcame them. They took the God given gifts of feminine character, made them their own, and continue to use those gifts as leverage over men and society in general to be the world's moral gatekeepers and saviors of society.
In my own experience, it’s generally male leaders in the church that view women as the superior sex. I have heard many different male leaders on far too many occasions talk about how dependent the church is on women in general and mothers in specific. Now, I do not mean to detract from Godly women that actually labor on behalf of Christ and his church, nor do I want to ignore the efforts that many women have made in rearing their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, but it seems to me that this continual praise and validation of women is largely unnecessary. Furthermore, I have yet to understand why women continually receive praise from for their work but men do not.
(Again, from my own experience, the only time I’ve ever heard men validated from the pulpit of the congregation I attend was on Father’s day; in contrast, the women of the congregation receive praise from the pulpit on a monthly basis. Of course, there is a considerable selection bias in this case because the gender ratio of the congregation skews female and a good portion of the men of the congregation are quite apathetic towards their Christian duties. However, the same attitude is found in most of the women as well, but I digress.)
What’s interesting in this case is that pride that Laura speaks of is quite subtle in its application. When one thinks of pride being displayed in one’s life, one usually equates it with ostentatiousness. But Satan, being the deceiver he is, is quite capable of tricking one into thinking that one is humble when one is actually completely riddled with pride (as an aside, I would highly recommend G. Campbell Morgan’s sermon on King Saul and the sin of false humility). I think this is what has happened with women in the church, albeit to a limited extent, in my own experience. It’s easy to believe that women are morally superior to men when they generally refrain from outwardly expressing the evil desires in their heart. By this I simply mean that women are less likely to act violently and/or brutally. However, as Christ said, sin begins in the heart. To say that unrealized sinful desires aren’t sinful, or are less sinful than realized sinful desires, is a rather pharisaical belief, and is not in accordance with God’s word. And so, because women are less inclined to demonstrate whatever evil desires they may have, they are praised as being less sinful or morally superior to man, and in so doing succumb to the sin of pride, via the mechanism of false humility.
The Christianity of today is largely variations of this new experimental Christianity that appeals to "feelings and emotion", which is what instinctively convicts women, not sin. To some women, Christianity is still "a religion of duty" as long as they are telling and overseeing what the duties are and who should be doing what duty, especially as it relates to men and their duty to marry, provide, etc. The transformation of the cult of domesticity into the cult of women's superiority has placed women as the authority for morals and duty. The authority to claim what is moral, what/who is true/real, what is good, can also go the other way with the authority to claim no morals or everything is relative, as the liberal feminists tend to do.
Thankfully, I rarely see this attitude on display at the congregation which I attend. Even though he has many shortcomings, one thing the preacher did manage to do was eliminate women from their de facto positions of leadership. Prior to his arrival, the women of the congregation were basically running the show from behind the scenes; now, proper male leadership is back in place, and the congregation is better able to focus on serving Christ.
However, I have seen this attitude in other congregations, and among other members of the church. It’s frightening to see how sin has disappeared from conversations. In fact, this paragraph reminded of a conversation I had with a friend a while back, and he noted that the main criteria for baptizing children was maturity, and not sin. This reminded of another conversation I had with a mother from church who was defending her son’s baptism (he was eight or nine at the time) on the grounds that he was mature for his age. The purpose of baptism is not to demonstrate one’s maturity; the purpose of Baptism is to put to death the old man of sin. The only reason anyone should be baptized is because they realize that they are a sinner and, as such, are no longer in fellowship with God.
In fact, baptism is often seems to be sold as an entrance to the church or a ticket to heaven. No one seems to mention that the only reason one needs baptized is because they have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. But beyond this, there is a striking tendency to shy away from using the word “sin” in any context. We don’t sin, we make mistakes. We don’t sin, we slip up. And if we don’t sin, then we never need to repent, only apologize. The church has become increasingly focused on being inoffensive, on not hurting anyone’s feelings, which is why it no longer focuses on addressing sin. Dealing with sin is often painful, and (when done right) makes one feel terrible. As Laura noted, this is largely due to the effect of feminism in the church.
Calvinistic tendencies aside, I think Laura’s observation is a fitting conclusion:
Christianity and the culture in general has gone from viewing woman as temptress and capable of sin, to women who are innocent victims, free of sin, and can do no wrong. What keeping women viewed as temptress' did was give a healthy dose of reality and humility in suggesting that all women, just like all of humanity are sinful and fall short of the glory of God. Take away that 'harsh' reminder, and women can have a field day of relishing in their pride as God's morally superior beings. With the new "Sentimental Love Religion" and the push for emphasis on feelings, its only natural that Eve as temptress did not make the women feel good, therefore that image was done away with; to be replaced with "innocent victim", which does make women feel good because it creates one big umbrella to bring her morally superior claims under. As an "innocent victim" the sky is the limit to how she can wield her power and authority.