Why You Should Be a Christian Feminist

It's just common sense.

“Do you consider yourself a feminist?” A seminary professor once asked my class.
 
“No. Not me. No feminist here.” The words floated through my brain with a tangle of messages I had received growing up. I couldn’t pinpoint one event or message that had determined my early understanding of feminism. No doubt an amalgam of media, entertainment and messages in church had conveyed feminists as angry, bra burning fanatics who despised men, worshipped women, and opposed families. It honestly never occurred to me that an evangelical could be feminist.
 
“Raise your hand if you believe women and men deserve equal pay for equal work,” the professor continued.

I raised my hand.

“Nod yes if you believe women and men should have equal rights socially and politically.”

I nodded yes.

A PowerPoint slide flashed onto a screen. “According to the Oxford English Dictionary,” the professor went on, “you are a feminist.”

While men and women differ physiologically, they are made for the purpose of completing each other in a unity (Genesis 2:24); domination has no place in God’s created order.

Well. The writers of the Oxford Dictionary are not necessarily known for being experts when it comes to gender studies. While I believed the Bible opposes inequitable pay (a form of stealing) and social and political injustice, I tended to associate feminism with irreverent, unkind pursuit of its objectives. I couldn’t square that with Christian faith that incites loving one’s neighbor as much as oneself.

Then again, in a world brimming with very real and ugly injustices against women and girls, I wondered if writing off feminism was Christ-like either. The dilemma spurred me to study the history of feminism in light of Scripture.

What I found surprised me.

The Roots of Feminism

Scripture-minded women founded the first feminist movement in response to 18th-century social problems. Women of that era called for laws against child labor in filthy and unhealthy factories and mills. Deep concerns for family preservation led them to found temperance societies that called for men not to spend their wages at brothels and saloons erected by factory and mill owners (to recuperate wages).

Although women had no legal vote, Christian feminists agitated for laws to protect women and children living in squalor. They founded social service agencies and promoted education and training—so women could support themselves and their children during the period of social and economic upheaval following the Industrial Revolution.

Angelina and Sarah Grimke, Lucretia Mott, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, among others, spoke out in public forums against slavery. Harriet Tubman and Sojourner Truth aided the rescue of slaves via the Underground Railroad. The work of first wave feminists—in partnership with men—culminated in women gaining a voice in society: a legal vote. Their motivations stemmed from a belief that all humans deserve equal dignity and opportunity because they bear the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27). Their accomplishments reflected passionate pursuit of a God-glorifying culture (Genesis 1:28) during a turbulent period of history.

I came to believe that first wave feminism provides a framework for responding to present day issues of inequality: sexism, racism, systemic poverty, human trafficking, domestic violence, among other social injustices. Still, I hesitated to call myself a feminist. Truth be told, I was scared. Media, entertainment and religious communities do not always have positive things to say about some who are legitimately angry or who pursue reforms in unpopular ways.

The New Landscape of Christian Feminism

In her book Feminist Thought, Rosemary Tong surveys a variety of second wave feminist thinking that emerged in the latter part of the 20th century: radical, Marxist-socialist, psychoanalytic, existentialist, postmodern, multicultural and global, ecological. Their theories are diverse, conflicting and sometimes bizarre. The scope of this article cannot address the nuances of each group. Surveying the landscape reveals the plight of many hurting souls longing for freedom from oppression and a more just world.
 
In response to second wave feminism, well-known evangelical scholars wrote books promoting “evangelical feminism” or “biblical feminism.” They based their theses on detailed examinations of Scripture (see recommended reading).

Scripture has compelled me to grapple with what it takes to build a more just world for all people—regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, or any other human labels.

Similar to first wave feminists, egalitarians maintain that all humans—male and female—bear the image of God with equal rights and responsibilities. While men and women differ physiologically, they are made for the purpose of completing each other in a unity (Genesis 2:24); domination has no place in God’s created order. Justice entails interdependent partnering between men and women who have equal access to gifts of the Spirit (as Providence determines).

Christians for Biblical Equality (CBE) formed a nonprofit organization of Christian men and women who believe that the Bible, properly interpreted, teaches the fundamental equality of men and women of all ethnic groups, all economic classes, and all age groups, based on the teachings of Scriptures such as Galatians 3:28:
 
“There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” 

Today, I call myself an evangelical feminist. And, yes, the Oxford English Dictionary played a small part in that. First wave feminists provided role models and a framework for responding to present-day issues of inequality. Second wave feminists led me to realize the necessity of a compassionate response to hurting souls longing for freedom from oppression. Scripture has compelled me to grapple with what it takes to build a more just world for all people—regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, or any other human labels.

Above all, Jesus’ voice calls me—and you—to work out our salvation with fear and trembling while learning to love our neighbors—all neighbors—as much as ourselves.    

Recommended Reading

You Might Also Like

·  Beyond Sex Roles: What the Bible Says About A Woman’s Place in Church and Family by Dr. Gilbert Bizekian

·  I Suffer Not A Woman: Rethinking 1 Timothy 2:11-15 In Light of Ancient Evidence by Richard Clark Kroeger and Catherine Clark Kroeger

·  Discovering Biblical Equality: Complementarity Without Hierarchy edited by Ronald W. Pierce & Rebecca Merrill Groothuis & Gordon Fee

·  How I Changed My Mind About Women in Leadership: Compelling Stories From Prominent Evangelicals edited by Alan F. Johnson with Forward by Dallas Willard

· Jesus Feminist: An Invitation to Revisit the Bible's View of Women by Sarah Bessey

Top Comments

Donovan Santamaria

1

Donovan Santamaria commented…

This article is vague. If feminism/evangelical feminism is defined as believing that men and women are both made in the image of God, with equal worth and value, then sign me up. What this article does not say is whether or not there remains distinction of roles for equal men and women in the home and the church. Also, it implies that complementarians do not affirm the equality of men and women. Complementarianism and egalitarianism both affirm this, this is how they are similar. The distinction between those two views lies not within the question of worth, but within the question of roles, which is not addressed in this article.

PEG

21

PEG commented…

For those reading and commenting in dispute I beg you, know why you believe what you do. Get truly informed. This IS happening and you'll be hearing more and more about it. Spend some serious time on the Christians for Biblical Equality website and read the scripture-based articles. Marginalizing - even in a nice way - over half of God's army on earth will come with a mighty price. AND, try to unload the negativity attached to 20th century feminism. "Jesus Feminism" just means women are people too and should operate in the Kindgom, as men do, accordingly to their giftings.

69 Comments

Joseph Craig Steel

170

Joseph Craig Steel commented…

The author says... "Today, I call myself an evangelical feminist."

But scripture says...

John 3:30... "He must increase, but I must decrease."

Luke 9:23... "And He said to them all, If anyone wants to come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his across daily and follow Me."

There are those who are saved... And then there are those who are saved and pursuing the ways of God.

Which, BTW, is what "work out our salvation with fear and trembling" really means... Pursuing the ways of God... And not your flesh.

Joseph Craig Steel

170

Joseph Craig Steel commented…

The author referenced... "Christians for Biblical Equality (CBE) formed a nonprofit organization of Christian men and women who believe that the Bible, properly interpreted, teaches the fundamental equality of men and women of all ethnic groups, all economic classes, and all age groups, based on the teachings of Scriptures such as Galatians 3:28..."

“There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

Okay... But the author missed (or ignored) the fact that our oneness is in Christ Jesus... Not in some human declared equality right.

"...in Christ Jesus."

Joseph Craig Steel

170

Joseph Craig Steel commented…

The author says... "Second wave feminists led me to realize the necessity of a compassionate response to hurting souls longing for freedom from oppression. Scripture has compelled me to grapple with what it takes to build a more just world for all people—regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, or any other human labels."

Oy vey... And what does scripture say?

Matthew 5:3-11... "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of the heavens... Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted... Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth... Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied... Blessed are the merciful, for they shall be shown mercy... Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God... Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons of God... Blessed are those who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of the heavens... Blessed are you when they reproach and persecute you, and while speaking lies, say every evil thing against you because of Me."

For a believer, freedom from oppression came when we were born again in Christ, and is manifested further as we learn to have a living in Christ.

But nothing in scripture says anything about building a just world in which souls will be free of suffering.

When will believers stop exalting those who speak things contrary to scripture.

Nicole Chaplain-Pearman

1

Nicole Chaplain-Pearman replied to Joseph Craig Steel's comment

Being born again grants us salvation and freedom from spiritual oppression, but other people can still oppress us and treat us badly. Are you saying it's OK for people to treat one another badly? The author never said anything about a world "free of suffering" - you weren't paying attention to what she said. The world will never truly be just until Messiah returns, but that doesn't mean we should never speak out against injustice and try to restore justice, in some small way, where ever we can.

Joseph Craig Steel

170

Joseph Craig Steel replied to Nicole Chaplain-Pearman's comment

Nicole... Nothing that I've said suggest being quiet about injustice... And I never suggested that the author anything about a world free of suffering.

The author did say... "...feminists led me to realize the necessity of a compassionate response to hurting souls longing for freedom from oppression."

Which I find odd for a professed believer in Christ to say... Seeing that the very scripture from which we learn about this Christ tells us that true freedom is only found in Christ.

So what is this freedom from oppression that "feminists led" her to realize?

It's so easy to speak things that tickle ears, Nicole, but scripture tells us to be careful and consider things in the light of scripture.

It's not okay for people to treat others badly... But it's also not okay to suggest that Christ stands for something that scripture clearly tells us He doesn't stand for.

This author is not delivering the truth, she is mixing worldly things with scripture for her own profit... And that is something that scripture tells us God hates.

Tania Harris

38

Tania Harris commented…

Such a great article Amy. Thank you for sharing some important pieces of the puzzle. I found myself in a very similar position to you a few years back realising I was a feminist too (once I'd actually read the definition!) Growing up as with you, ‘feminism’ was a dirty word. It was what those aggressive, angry, bra-burners with their pant suits and cropped hair did to mess up the social order. They were out to get us - the church - who knew how to do male-female relationships, who knew what it was to be a true woman. ;-) But when I read Genesis 1:26-28 I see that it was there all along. Unfortunately feminists haven't always portrayed an attitude of grace in the battle for equality, but we still have much to thank them for.

Jaqueline Sephora Andrews

1

Jaqueline Sephora Andrews commented…

Here is my writing; I talk about being liberated from the imperialist patriarchy that controls the interpretation of the Bible.

http://genderapostates.com/liberation-from-the-imperialist-patriarchy-of...

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