As a young Christian woman, you may think that it only makes sense to be a feminist. After all, I’m in the generation of Millennials, who grew up in a strongly feministic culture with icons like Beyoncé there to assure me that “Girls run the world.” Well, I disagree with Beyoncé mostly on the basis of female oppression throughout the world… among other things (never mind the fact that we’ve yet to have a female president of the USA– so I mean we don’t really run the world, let alone the US).
BUT…. all that to say despite, my culture, generation, and upbringing, feminism is still a hard pill to swallow. As a Christian it can be difficult to understand and think theologically and holistically about certain aspects of feminism. Also, It can be difficult to throw the word feminist around and not receive a negative reaction even from the most “justice-minded” Christians. And here’s why…
- To begin with, feminism is a word with a whole history of negative in connotation when it comes to the Church. The Church has typically taken a reactionary stance to the ever-evolving American/Westernized culture and this is seen clearly in how the Church chooses to address and discuss feminism. It’s still a taboo word that makes it seem like women need to emasculate men. Even though that flies in the face of Christianity, somehow, the Church thinks that Christian women who are feminists lose part of their gospel-beliefs and desire to usurp all sorts of authority. To be fair, there are some… and feminism has had different eras, waves, and definitions. But, all of these negative connotations (i.e. baby killers, lesbians, man-haters) make it difficult to talk about feminism in an educated and significantly unbiased way (I know we all can’t be entirely unbiased, but at this point in time you can’t approach an evangelical Christian and talk about feminism without some of the typical reactionary behavior that the Church has always exemplified).
- If we take feminism at its base definition: equal rights for men and women, then sometimes the idea of sameness sneaks in. Men and women should have equal rights– but equal is not same. Men and women are different. I know I’m on the conservative end of feminism by saying that, but I believe it to be true. It’s easy for feminism to become a term the propagates complete sameness between men and women in the effort of promoting equality. This is something I think of which we as Christians need to be wary.
- One of the final concerns I have regarding feminism lies in the logical end to our thinking. One of the biggest things I learned at my Bible College was how to think, not every class taught me this– but the few that showed me how to follow the logic of my beliefs to their coherent ends, were entirely influential. If we claim that men and women should have equal rights then we need to think about what that looks like in this culture and what that looks like in the church. If we really believe that women deserve to treated equally with men (which I do), then, as a Christian, we have to ask the hard questions as to what that belief looks like in practice and in culture. What do equal rights look like when it comes to the LGBT community? Does equal rights mean all women can become pastors? What does that look like in marriage? Does it effect how we determine gender roles within marriage and the church? What does equal rights look like when it comes to abortion? What doe equal rights look like in our legislature? I’m not going to provide the answers to these questions– I don’t have all of them. But I think if we are going to claim we believe one thing, then we must be consistent in our beliefs. Feminism is not a buffet we can come to and only pick and choose what we want. Beliefs follow a logical line to practical actions.
So… there’s a lot at stake. I believe the way we as Christians treat women and think about women speaks incredibly to our culture. If we are passionate about Jesus, then we ought to be passionate about people. And we need to make sure that we are loving well and living well in this world. I think feminism does a lot to champion that. Yet, my greatest fear with feminism, is that if I wholeheartedly embrace being a Christian feminist, then those around me will assume that my goal of of living a holy life that brings Christ glory has become a life that is more concerned with bringing women glory and rights. And that’s not true. Feminism has typically been about making women’s rights just as important, if not more important than anything else– but Christianity says that I don’t have any rights. My rights have never been, because the Cross is. And as a Christian, I want Christ to reign. I want to live a holy, unadulterated life. I think a theologically and biblically informed feminism encourages me to do both, but only when I hold it in surrender to the will, love, and holiness of Christ.
Yes, a lot is at stake both with how the world views Christians and how the Church views women. Feminism can encourage and promote Christ in both arenas when it is recognized as a series of beliefs held in submission to the Cross.
This blog is in response to the #femfest synchroblog on Day #2 with Danielle Vermeer’s blog, fromtwotoone.com. Link up and join the discussion: What is at stake in this discussion? Why is feminism important to you? Are you thinking about your children or your sisters or the people that have come before you? Or, why do you not like the term? What are you concerned we’re not focusing on or we’re losing sight of when we talk about feminism? Why do you feel passionately about this topic?