When Evangelicalism Was Egalitarian

Remember those days? Neither do I.

When American evangelicalism arose in New England in the 1740s, it was a radical movement based on gender equality. Evangelical women preached, voted in their congregations, and spoke on an equal level with men. In fact, the profoundly egalitarian nature of eighteenth century New England evangelicalism completely horrified those in mainstream culture. Early evangelicals, though, reveled in rejecting conventions, and that included rejecting the hierarchies of age, theological training, and gender.

I can’t even express how much I wish evangelicals would go back to rejecting the conventions of the oppressors instead of aligning with them. Apparently, though, that’s exactly the reason evangelicals largely reject gender equality today:

The American Revolution sparked a desire for respectability among evangelical men, and they reacted by working to bring their customs and beliefs more in line with the mainstream. This meant rejecting feminine aspects of their religion, endorsing patriarchy, and silencing outspoken women. Thus this short period of dramatic female religious equality drew to a close, and by the end of the century evangelical women were silenced in their congregations and even sin had come to be gendered feminine.