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Religion Is Never an Excuse to Devalue Women

November 7, 2007

Cherie Booth, wife of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, decries the abuse of women at the hands of some of the world's religions.

Human rights lawyer Cherie Booth, in a high profile address delivered last week in London, said differences of culture or religion must not be used as a justification for denying equal rights to women.  While not identifying herself with a particular position, she issued a call that would find agreement from both complementarians and egalitarians.

"Women's rights are a universal ethic that cuts across all cultures and religions…and are imperative for our shared humanity," said Booth, who is also the wife of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Booth, a Roman Catholic, specifically addressed religious practices that promote domestic violence and laws in certain parts of the Middle East, Asia and Africa, which do not view domestic violence as a crime.  She also criticized religions that ostracize widows and treat wives as their husbands' property.

Booth agreed that women have a fundamental right to adopt religious dress if they freely choose to do so, but raised concerns over whether a woman could fully exercise equal rights if her face is covered in public.

"Women covering their heads, women dressing modestly, I have no problem with at all," she said. "I think, however, that if you get to a stage where a woman is not able to express her personality because you can't see her face, then you do start to have to ask whether this is something that is actually acknowledging the woman's right to be a person in her own right."

All Christians should applaud Booth's bold words, for the worldview that Paul called "the faith once for all delivered to the saints" should not be lumped in with other religions.

Christianity alone, with its understanding that God "created them male and female" in His own image, with its gracious inheritance of redemption in Christ, a redemption in which "there is neither male nor female" (Gal. 3:28), demands and upholds the dignity and value of every female-equal to that of males-as a vital person created imago dei– in the image of God.

As Christians, we must encourage women to use their varied and valuable gifts in the service of Christ's church; when men and women humbly and joyfully complement each other's God-given roles and gifts in the church, the world is given a fulsome and beautiful picture of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Mrs. Booth's words are in harmony with the teaching Scripture. Thus, the abuse, denigration or devaluing of woman must never be tolerated under any circumstance. And that is something upon which both complementarian and egalitarian Christians can agree.

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