Some of the most interesting and polarizing conversations that I have had with people in Christian circles is on the topic of feminism. I’ve encountered people with a wide range of ideas on what God’s intent is for women in society and the church.
I was raised in a very conservative Christian tradition where women are not allowed to take positions of leadership, and are taught to be quiet, humble and nonresistant. So, it’s no surprise that my first encounters with modern day feminists caused me to bristle with all sorts of adverse feelings.
There were times I came across women who spoke pugnaciously about gender equality. I was scared and a little confused. While the church women I knew and deeply respected were loving, self sacrificing, and full of wisdom, I felt like there was something missing from both extremes.
I knew God created women for incredible greatness, but there was something lacking at both ends of the spectrum, and I wanted to see every woman living in God’s originally intended liberty.
The “F” Word
To be honest, it can be a scary topic, but if we as Christians don’t take the time to develop authentic relationships and provide real answers to questions that the world has, secular movements will emerge in an attempt to correct the issues we refused to effectively address.
And now, in this postmodern society where I am identified as a white, Christian, “cisgender” male, I’m told that I have no business or authority to speak on this issue. But aren’t these my sisters? Am I not called to partner with God to bring light and truth to all areas of life?
I believe that God’s best intentions for women are far from being met and that I (yes me, a white, “cisgender” male) am called to do something about it.
There is a lot of confusion around this topic in the church, but there are answers.
Women and men were both created in the image of God and because of this, have inherent impressions of Himself within themselves. God is neither male nor female, however the unique diversities of maleness and femaleness are designed as grand expressions of who He is.
As God ordered His creation, he designed this beautiful, trinitarian-like dance between diversity and unity. He gave each sex a glorious purpose, as well as magnificently unique characteristics. As we grow deeper in our relationship with God and as He continually reveals who He really is, incredibly, we get to see more of who we actually are and were created to be.
Throughout history women and men alike have fought for the just treatment of women. As the prevailing culture slowly slipped from a worldview of biblical theism to secularism, the standard and definition of justice changed.#Women and #men were both created in the image of #God. Click To Tweet
The History of Feminism
The first wave was catalyzed by widespread slavery, the implementation of sweatshops, and other cultural phenomena that attacked women and attempted to stain their dignity. This first response, borne generally of a biblical worldview, was led by women like Harriet Tubman and Susan B. Anthony.
They fought to get women out of the workplace and into the home to focus on the dignified duties of raising children, supporting the local community and providing local havens of nurturing and rest for whoever needed it. They also advocated for increased wages in the workplace so men could support the entire family without the need for a double income.
As the teachings of people like Charles Darwin, Margaret Sanger, and Sigmund Freud began to affect the culture, the feminist movement shifted from its biblical base.
The movement became more selfish and less about having the ability to provide for others. A culture of materialism and superior male value (rooted in Darwin’s theories) increased, and feminists sold their femininity for the masculine counterfeit. Mothers sought to abandon the noble glories of motherhood to pursue prestige and achievement in their careers that would be rewarded in a man’s world.
The irony of this second wave of “feminism” is apparent in the resulting femicide. These effects are still fresh. I dare you to affirm the nobility of a homemaker or mother – it’s not very popular.
Third wave feminists, fed up with the patriarchy and unsatisfied by the false female alternative they created for themselves, are left with one option: gender neutrality.
This ideal is structured with self-defined personal pronouns, relativism, and blatant (at times even militant) androgyny and asexuality. Affirming God-intended valuable differences between the sexes is now considered utterly offensive and is viewed as oppressive.
The craziest and most beautiful part is that Jesus loves all these people, regardless of which “wave” they ride on.
Now how do I do that? I deeply want women collectively and individually to experience everything that God has for them. I want to see them dancing through life in God ordained freedom, but how? What does theologically-accurate-Jesus-feminism look like?What does theologically-accurate-Jesus-feminism look like? #feminism Click To Tweet
What Did Jesus Do about Feminism?
We see Jesus address this several times. Throughout the gospels Jesus takes the time to teach women, forgive their sins, validate their feminine characteristics and go out of His way to profess their dignity, all of which were completely countercultural.
In John 11 Jesus takes the time to weep with Mary and Martha over the death of their brother Lazarus. He validated the emotional part of the Father’s heart that they possessed.
And remember the time a woman was caught in the act of adultery and men were trying to stone her? Jesus CLEARS HER OF HER SIN! (I wonder what happened to the guilty man…) No wonder the Pharisees and Sadducees hated him.
His habit of affirming women’s God-given dignity and purpose was flying in the face of their perfectly packaged legalism. Jesus did that a lot.
This feminist movement led to women like Susanna, Dorcas, Priscilla, and Phoebe (who was also called a deacon in the early church) becoming notable leaders and devoted disciples of the Son of God.
Pursuing the restoration of women through true, biblical feminism is all of our responsibility. After all, if women are created in the image of God, is not the oppression of women actually oppression of the image of God?Pursuing the restoration of #women through true, #biblical feminism is all of our responsibility. Click To Tweet
The Controversy within Jesus’ Feminism
Throughout the New Testament we see Jesus and early church leaders restoring and celebrating women, however in Paul’s letters to the Ephesians, Titus and the letters to the Corinthians, there are marked restrictions on women.
Now, I don’t claim to be a theologian by any means, however as I study the history of these places, I find it incredibly intriguing that the churches in Ephesus, Crete (where Titus was), and Corinth were all planted in cultures with heavy matriarchal power structures.
And not only that, but the surrounding pagan communities worshipped female deities which created a culture that oppressed men. This produced a society that, much like our communities today, desperately needed the light of the Gospel.
Now, this doesn’t necessarily negate the entire idea of biblical roles in the church, but it certainly needs to be considered as we interpret those passages.
You see, God isn’t after exalting one sex over the other. He isn’t relegating women to the home and restricting them from being firefighters, politicians, soldiers, and construction workers.
We need women to bring their unique feminine gifts and perspectives to all aspects of life, and at the same time, women need not sell themselves short and demand to be judged and measured by a male standard.
God isn’t striving for homogenous equality between men and women either.
God’s wholeness can only be represented when men and women alike are living out their true callings in the fullness of who they were individually and collectively created to be. Just as all three persons of the trinity are in essence equal beings yet function differently, men and women are in essence equal beings, yet possess different God ordained purposes.
He is after the hearts of all of us and His desire is to free the oppressed no matter who they are, what they look like, or what they believe.
We have the unique privilege of getting our hands dirty and truly loving people for who He says they are, and courageously waging war against the lies and strongholds that say otherwise.
That is Biblical Feminism, and yes it is a thing. A very real and remarkably important thing.
Also published on Medium.