Now it’s up to evangelicals to prescribe a medicine without the dangerous side effects.

Why did the Equal Rights Amendment die? Some feminists charge it was because too many old men greedily sought to hang on to power and could not divest themselves of the perverse view that women are toys. Don’t believe it. Most men have always felt a bit sheepish about opposing ERA. On one hand, they had a gut feeling it was bad for the country, for the family, and for women. But on the other hand, they knew women were created in the image of God and deserved equal rights with men.

The truth is, ERA was stopped by women—and not by submissive ones wistfully longing for the good old days. For the most part, ERA was stopped by young women—women who felt they had a cause—millions of them. As one weary legislator said: “I can read my mail.”

In part, these women stopped the amendment because they wished to protect the distinctive rights of women as women. What many feminists conceived to be liberation from restrictive mores of the past, other women reckoned as protection they were loath to forego. It is a fact that over 150,000 women heading single-parent families have fallen below the poverty line each year for two decades, while during this same period the number of adult men in poverty has actually declined (Persuasion at Work, Aug. 1982). And rightly or wrongly, many women believed that misguided efforts to protect them (like ERA) really contributed to this worse state for women.

Women also opposed ERA from more altruistic motives. They knew preschool children suffer when no mother is home. Again, rightly or wrongly, they were convinced that a vote against ERA was a vote for the family.

Even more women opposed ERA because its feminist supporters too frequently identified it with an image of solid opposition to Judeo-Christian morals on which our society is built. They spoke in behalf of premarital and extramarital sex, the breakup of the nuclear family, and easy divorce laws. They fought for “freedom of choice,” and abortion on demand. And too many women consider these not advantages to covet but evils to shun.

Again, many opposed ERA because they feared how our courts might interpret it in the future. In spite of reassurances by some of its supporters, many suspected that its broad language would be interpreted to override the facts of life and biological differences between the sexes.

Undoubtedly, the most significant factor in alienating both men and women from ERA was the confrontational approach of many ERA supporters. Despite what we often hear to the contrary, men love women and women love men. They are innately suspicious of anything that bases their relationship on confrontation. They want it to be complementary and cooperative.

There is no doubt about it: our society has put women down. We have perpetuated inequalities in position (in business and in the church) and in pay. Women have suffered gross injustices. Their opportunities have been unfairly and unnecessarily circumscribed. But there are better ways of righting these wrongs than ERA.

Men and women are not identical—thank God! But they are equally created in the image of God. They are equally redeemable and in Christ share the same destiny. Within the body of Christ they have identical status and before the law of human government they deserve identical standing and equal justice.

Evangelicals have done more than their share to stop ERA. But no evangelical can honestly look at this as a victory. Rather, from a biblically instructed viewpoint, it represents at best only an awakening to the fact that with ERA the country was on the wrong path. We have recognized our mistake and have turned back. But the task of achieving fair play for women still remains undone.

Every evangelical whose life direction is determined by the principles of Holy Scripture will dedicate himself again to the search for fair and righteous laws for every human, but especially now for the women of our land. If we do not, we are only guaranteeing a renewed clamor for another ERA. Injustices ignored, like open sores, will in time only fester and invite desperate remedies that do not heal but ultimately sicken the body.

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