cover image Gospel Accord Woman

Gospel Accord Woman

Karen Armstrong. Doubleday Books, $17.95 (366pp) ISBN 978-0-385-24078-9

One of the controversial theories of this ambitious study is that marriage and the family in the Christian West have not been accorded the value and respect they have enjoyed in other cultures. London-based feminist Armstrong traces this attitude back to Jesus and Paul. Her thesis is that Christianity's traditional hatred of women and of the body still cripples woman's self-image today. Protestantism, taking over from the Catholic Church, became the most efficient agent in controlling female sexuality. Men's fear and mistrust of the fair sex is traced from the medieval witch craze (a ""giant collective fantasy'') to sex-denying Victorian England. Certain specialized roles were available to Christian womenvirgin, martyr, mystic, motherbut each of these, the author argues, forced women to emulate male-created ideals of behavior. (May 15)