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The Image of God — Going Global

Photo: Bogota, Colombia, by Felipeortegag, CC BY-SA 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons.

Editor’s note: Nancy Pearcey is one of several Discovery Institute Fellows featured in the Museum of the Bible’s yearlong exhibit on “Scripture and Science: Our Universe, Ourselves, Our Place” in Washington, DC. Pearcey was asked to address the topic of the image of God and how it answers the questions, “What makes me human?” and “What we can accomplish?” You can watch an edited version of her comments on the Museum of the Bible’s Vimeo channel. Since the exhibit could feature only short segments of Pearcey’s recorded comments, Evolution News invited her to offer her full comments in a series here for our readers. This is Part 6 in the series. Look here for Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4, and Part 5. Pearcey is a professor and scholar in residence at Houston Christian University. Her comments are adapted from her books The Soul of ScienceLove Thy Body, and The Toxic War on Masculinity.

Sociological studies find that, even today, evangelicalism has the effect of raising the status of women in countries around the globe. 

An anthropologist named Elizabeth Brusco conducted a study in Colombia. As a feminist trained in Marxist thought, she expected to find that Christianity would be “a powerful tool of patriarchy.” Instead, she discovered that when a man converts to evangelical Protestantism, he stops drinking, smoking, gambling, and visiting prostitutes. Instead, he directs his money to his family. As a result, the household income goes up and the family’s standard of living increases. 

In Latin America, Brusco explains, “the machismo role” calls for “aggression, violence, pride, self-indulgence, and an individualistic orientation in the public sphere.” But when a man becomes an evangelical Christian, those toxic qualities “are replaced by peace seeking, humility, self-restraint, and a collective orientation within the church and the home.” Brusco concludes that “Colombian evangelicalism can be seen as a ‘strategic’ women’s movement because it serves to reform gender roles in a way that enhances female status.”

The Needs of the Household

A larger study, covering Asia and Africa, was conducted by sociologist Bernice Martin of the University of London. She writes that evangelical churches help men put the needs of the household above their own pleasure; thus they have done far more to improve the lives of poor women around the globe than Western aid societies. Martin, too, calls evangelicalism a women’s movement among the poor of the developing world. In her words, Christianity presents a “gender paradox” because its impact is so contrary to the expectations of secular people. 

New York Times columnist named Nicholas Kristof, together with his wife, wrote a bestselling book titled Half the Sky. After investigating the status of women around the globe, the authors agree that Christian churches have “a positive impact on the role of women” in developing countries. Why? Because they address the most widespread male vices that destroy marriages and families — like alcoholism and adultery — which, they say, have caused tremendous hardship to women.

Just like in the days of the early church, Christianity teaches men to treat their wives with dignity as individuals who share equally in reflecting the divine image.

Tomorrow, “Image of God: Are Children Persons?”