Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Dropping The F-Bomb

“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.

Straw Womaning

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.


  1. Femininity is good. Feminism is bad. Why do you think there is a Ladies Against Feminism? "But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God." —1st Corinthians 11:3. Also see Romans 7:2 and 1 Peter 3:6.

  2. Hey Napalomo, thanks for reading!

    I'm glad you brought up 1 Corinthians 11:3 which says that “the head of every woman is man”. First of all I'd like to point out that, based on the context of it's use, the Greek word for woman, “gunÄ“” is likely being used to denote a wife, not just a woman. Taking that into account, lets look at what it means for a man to be the head of his wife in the same sense that God is the head of Christ. This is a hard thing to understand, because of course Jesus Christ is God and is one with the father (John 10:30). So, to say that a man is the head of his wife as God is the head of Christ is to say that, just like the triune God a husband and wife are inextricably bound up in one another so that it is difficult to tell where one ends and the other begins. Neither exists without the other, and each needs the other. This verse does not establish a hierarchy but mimics the high priestly prayer of John 17 in which Jesus prays for his people to be one with one another and with himself as he is one with the father. I can hardy imagine a more deeply beautiful image for marriage.

    You also asked me to examine Romans 7:2 which explains that a woman and her husband are bound together as long as they live, but if the husband dies the wife is not bound to him. The verse begins with the word's “For example” because Paul is not really discussing marriage in this chapter at all. HE is discussing grace and the power of the law. He states in Romans 7:6 that “by dying to what once bound us, we have been released from the law” meaning that Christ's death has freed us from our former obligation to earn righteousness by works. I'm not sure what part of this verse is anti-feminist, but I'm glad you brought it up all the same because it is part of one of my very favourite passages.

    1 Peter 3:6 is another verse which encourages my convictions. It is from the section where Peter encourages women to find their value in inner beauty, in a quiet and gentle spirit, and in submitting. Peter is talking directly to women here, even to specific women at a specific time with specific struggles, but he is not saying anything that does not apply to all Christians. As I mentioned above, all Christians are called to submit to one another (Ephesians 5:21), it is not an inherently womanly virtue to be submissive, but a Christian virtue. A read through of the fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22) shows clearly that all God's people are called to kindness, patience, and peace. Granted these verses have often been distorted by misogynists and folks that profit from the marginalization of women. Men in the church have historically embarrassed the cross greatly by failing to practice these gentle fruits of the Spirit.

    Your objection that there are women who oppose feminism is no great blow to the ideology. Some women are not feminists. This is not surprising, since so many have grown up in patriarchal cultures that have not only taught them how to think for the better part of their lives, but have completely controlled what information they've been exposed to. I cannot testify as to why an individual woman might oppose feminism but I'm afraid that the existence of female misogynists is does not invalidate feminism. It would be equally offensive to reason that because some slave traders were black then slavery was OK. It was not OK; every human is equal before our loving God and ought to be treated as such.

    Now I can hardly let it pass unnoticed that your first statements of “Femininity is good. Feminism is bad.” were not only inarticulate and bombastic but were followed up by three out-of-context Bible verses. Napalomo, this is exactly the sort of thing that reinforces negative stereotypes of Christians. Please give more thought to your comments in the future. Thank you again for reading.

    1. I'm referring to the modern feminism. Feminism is a counterfeit solution to the real issue of the inequality of women in a sinful society. Feminism arrogates to itself the right to demand respect and equality in every aspect of life. Feminism is based in arrogance, and it is the opposite of the call to the born-again believer to be a servant. The actions of the modern, militant feminists are geared to cause women to rise up and rebel against the order that God has given to mankind. That brand of feminism seeks to impose humanistic solutions that are in direct opposition to the Word of God. Feminism was originally a positive movement, focused on giving women the basic rights God intends for every human being to have. Tragically, feminism has gone past those roots to focus on destroying any trace of a distinction in roles between men and women.


    2. You should also read this article "Feminism verses Femininity": http://jesus-is-savior.com/Womens%20Page/feminism_verses_femininity.htm and other related articles can be found here: http://jesus-is-savior.com/Womens%20Page/womens_page.htm

    3. It's a strange contradiction that your link champions "femininity," a cultural construct, with 1 Timothy 2:9, a verse that rebuffs outward displays of glamour in favour of focusing on conditions of the heart.

      Your Feminism V Femininity link exemplifies the straw-manning that goes on in so many anti-feminist arguments. Though I admit the links labelled "Gloria Steinem: How the CIA Used Feminism to Destabilize Society" and "Sexual Liberation is Illuminati Perversion" did tickle me. I'm afraid your credibility is spent, and I will no longer be responding to your posts.

      I can see that we have fundamentally differing definitions for the words "Feminist" and "Feminism." I laid mine out very clearly at the beginning of my post. If you do not discuss issues with the agreed upon vocabulary you will have a hard time holding any discussion at all.

  3. I guess some folks have started using the term 'straw feminists' to refer to the sort of feminist that, reasonably, everyone should be against. Hark! A Vagrant recently had a comic on the topic which, while neat, needn't be linked to here.

    I would raise the question of how to you/we/whomever define equality' as that is something which comes up in my mind all the times; do we mean equal in the mathematical sense, interchangeable and identical; or equal in a more sociological sense, meaning having the same place in a culture? These are a bit devil's advocate questions, but they are also questions that bug me sometimes. Equal rights, yes. Equal people? I'm less certain on that one. Equal in the eyes of God, though, which is more important and more real than any pre-existing value, yes. I don't know; I get the feeling that 'equal' is the right thing, but we often mean 'equivalent,' which seems silly to me.

    On a related note, I caught the other day that the first time in scripture we see man being put in a place of authority over woman is at the Fall. It could be that Earthly authority systems, and (though I hate to use a word so charged) certainly patriarchal ones, are contrary to how God intended us to live and are a sign of falleness in a culture.

  4. Groog, you're question about the definition of equality is a good one. I say that no two people are equal in the mathematical sense of equality. We are all different; though, all persons are equal as far as their value is concerned. I am not Groog, just as women are not men, and men are not women. Differences do exist, and it is fine to say so, but just as it is completely inappropriate to make judgements about individuals based on statistical figures about their race, it is inappropriate to judge individuals based on observed tendencies within their gender.

    I also want to add that many perceived gender differences are social perceptions with no scientific or Biblical support. Bravery is often considered to be a male characteristic; which is absurd. Bravery asexual, and is a virtue found in all of the best humans regardless of their gender.

    There is a problem when differences are artificially assigned to a given gender. We end up when we barring people from certain roles and jobs because of traits we perceive to be true about their gender. Men are perceived to be worse communicators, but men ought not be excluded from roles in communication. Women, as a general rule, have superior night vision; that does not make them God's chosen vessels for nocturnal combat. Since no two people are mathematically equal, every single one of us ought to be judged by our own merits and flaws, not the perceived merits and flaws of our gender.

    Your observation about the patriarchy and the Fall is beautiful, and I believe it to be perfectly accurate, especially considering that Jesus says in Mark 12:25 that “When the dead rise, they will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven.” Which can be taken a few ways but I've always understood it to mean that our final heavenly bodies will either be gender-less or newly gendered to a level of perfect completeness we cannot yet comprehend. Which is freaky-cool.

  5. as the wife of the man writing this article, all i've got to say is "i'm just jazzed to be on the show." ;)

    prayerfully and carefully written, david. thank you.


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