A friend visited the UK earlier this year and out of politeness attended her friend’s church. I guess she’s politer than me as I have resisted all attempts from my Ghanaian friends to get me to visit their churches! She was horrified to find the sermon was all about the submissive role of women and their duties to their husband. In England? In the 21st Century? I was astonished that these views still persist in the country that Pope Benedict described as aggressively secular and that caused one senior member of the Vatican to boycott our island.
My friend recalled the same sermons about 35 years ago when she was a young girl growing up in a small religious community in North America.
Recently walking in on an expat church in Accra it felt like a glimpse on a bizarre alien world. Ancient rituals, still being performed, from which some people derive meaning and satisfaction. These rituals and beliefs, almost certainly based on myth, show that truth is often not the deciding factor in the way we generate meaning and contentment in any of our lives.
What is difficult for me, and my friend, is the enshrinement of outdated ideas with the assertion that these ideas are objective, eternal truths reinforced by an unchallengeable external authority.
To be fair, many Christians do not believe this and have a more complex understanding of Christianity and the meaning of the texts collected in the Bible. But there are these strange enclaves of people who stubbornly clutch to a world where the Bible writers’ views on women were once progressive. Views that are splitting the Christian churches. Views that the rest of us gaze on with mild astonishment.