“I’m a Feminist” said a pastor to a classroom of sheltered churchgoers. He waited while his students laughed. It took a few moments for them to realize he wasn’t joking. They began to look curious; some even looked scared. They had never heard a feminist talk about feminism. He had their attention, and that was just what he wanted. In the tradition of that fine professor, here it goes:
I am a feminist.
When I use the word “feminism” I am referring to the belief that men and women are equals who ought to receive the same political, economic, and social rights. Feminism acknowledges and denounces the institutionalized sexism that has hurt and hindered women throughout our history. These are perfectly Biblical ideas, though not all Christians embrace them.
Fans of gender roles often argue that the Old Testament law did not establish a society with equal gender roles. They are correct, but the Old Testament also made provisions for slavery, demanded blood sacrifices, and had rules about how far one could walk on a Saturday. These Old Testament practices are not a part of Christianity, not because they are culturally abhorrent (they are), but because Christians don’t follow the Law of Moses. We don’t even pretend to follow the Law of Moses; that law was the old covenant. We follow Jesus now.
We follow Jesus’ New Covenant, precisely because no one was ever able to follow Moses’ Old one. Read Hebrews sometime and you’ll see that the purpose of the Old Covenant was only ever to point us toward the new one. In this perfect New Covenant Jesus Christ has invalidated those sad divisions which once set one human being up as inherently superior to another. Doesn’t it say in Galatians that there is now neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female (Galatians 3:28)? The kingdom of God doesn’t have room for gender hierarchies any more than it has room for apartheid. Which is to say we’ve tolerated far too much of both and it’s time we said so.
I hear a lot of complaints about feminism, but most are not complaints about feminism at all, but about individual persons claiming to represent feminism. Opponents of Christian-Feminism point to the most verbally abusive persons who happen to wear the title Feminist and argue that Feminist ideal must logically conclude with becoming such a person. This is ludicrous. If someone were to point at Rush Limbaugh and warn me that Christianity would turn me him, it would be all I could do not to laugh. (We make a point of not judging on this blog but I will say that Rush’s words do not appear to fall in line with Christ’s promise that we can recognize Christians by how they love; however, only God knows the heart)
Biblical Relationships Don't Have Ranks
Ephesians 5:22-33 are often cited by proponents of male superiority. Well no, actually 22 and 23 are often cited and the rest are left off and ignored. These more popular verses are the ones which demand a wife submit to her husband. Now those two verses are completely biblical, and useful for teaching, rebuking, and encouraging, but they are an incomplete picture, like any two verses of the Bible. In reality the command for women to submit to their husbands is coupled immediately with a command for husbands to love their wives with the love Christ has for the church. This might seem lopsided, in one direction or the other, but wait a second. In Ephesians 5:21 All Christians are commanded to submit to one another, which means submission is as much a husband’s job as it is a wife’s. Submission is a Christian trait, not a female one. John 13:34-35 is explicit that we must all love one another as Jesus loved us. This is not a man’s unique call. We all, every one of us, are called to love with increasingly perfect love.
It is so sadly human of us to turn these commands to love into arguments about who needs to do more. The truth is that we are each asked to love our spouses, our brothers, our sisters, and our enemies with more love than we could possible muster on our own. Nothing good dwells in us (Romans 7:18), male of female, we need Jesus in order to love. We need his forgiveness, spirit, and power.
Ask yourself: How does gender influence how you view others? Is that fair? Is it Christian? Whether or not you wear the name Feminist, all Christians are called to consider other’s better than ourselves (Philippians 2:3). Pray today that God works this change in your heart, God is eager to forgive and to pour his love out through you.