What Do I Mean When I Say “Christian Feminism”?

I know that the conservative circles in which I tend to step foot generally have this gut reaction to the word “feminism”, that causes them to back off and give you the side-eye, and all but make the sign of the cross in your direction. Not to say these people are bad or rude, or even wrong — merely mistaken.

“Feminism” wasn’t always a dirty word, at least not to those with basic human rights in mind. Women wouldn’t have the right to vote today, or the ability to drive or work side-by-side with men in the business world if it weren’t for feminism. Most of the “enlightened” world thought women feeble-minded, delicate in everything, highly distractible — yet didn’t think twice about expecting them to carry and birth children while also taking care of the laborious chores of the home, with children underfoot. Women too “distractible” to drive a car still had to budget the money, shop for the food, care for the children, do the laundry, sometimes school the children, etc. No one looked twice at the double-standard, just as no one looks twice at the double-standard in the church regarding women who are expected to do all the “Christiany” and “churchy” things to “stay right with God” — but are untrustworthy in the pulpit, even to give testimony, make a confession, or read scripture (as if the mere presence of a woman and a Bible on a dais in the front of a church is a formula for condemnation of a whole congregation).

So, when I say “Christian Feminism”, I’m not talking about the destructive feminist attitudes of today, which go beyond securing natural rights for women, to the point of destroying masculinity and femininity in a pursuit to scrub all differences, bringing men low and elevating women, to a point where we cannot celebrate our differences or make them work together in an egalitarian fashion. I am talking about the masculine and the feminine working together to achieve a balance, with maturity and agape attitudes, and a healthy dose of common sense.

Because of the work of past feminists, I had the right to go to college. Not only that, I had the right to go to a Christian college and wear pants (“trousers” for those in the UK). I could take almost all the Bible classes I wanted to, and get the education I desired at that time.

However, because feminism diverged so radically from Christianity somewhere down the line, our particular “faith tribe” never got the memo that women have the same capability for public speaking and teaching, the same mental acuity for apologetics and hermeneutics — and the same Spirit that God gave to men upon committing themselves to Christ. We can still do all the things in modern society that women are allowed to do (any men still hold regrets that women can vote, drive, or run for public office?), but we cannot even stand in front of the congregation and read the Bible out loud, for fear of… What? Men thinking that woman has snatched that Bible out of the hand of the [male] elder or deacon sent up there to read it, told him to sit down and shut up because it’s HER time to shine, and is reading the words of Paul or Moses or Amos or whomever with the intent to cast some sort of feminine spell over the married men in the congregation, or somehow become confused and deceived by the words she’s reading, like Eve was deceived by the serpent? Seriously?

Or that God has somehow deemed, somewhere between the time of the apostles and the last words of Paul, that women are not worthy to be asked to even repeat the words from the Bible in a church setting (nevermind public; that seems to be okay), because that was not what we were made for, and in fact would be sinful?

In what reasonable, logical world does that make even a modicum of sense?

“Christian Feminism”, in the context I use it here, is a term for the effort to break through the misguided traditions of the churches based on the misinterpretation (deliberate or otherwise) of Paul’s words in the epistles, and allow women to work side-by-side with men (while still retaining our God-given femininity) as sisters in Christ — not as Spiritual weaklings who need men to recommend us to Christ for salvation. It is not a grasp for power. It is not a means of seduction or deception or destruction of the masculine half of the church. It is a plea for Christian freedom. A plea to be allowed to desire the greater gifts of the Spirit Paul talks about in his epistles, when he addresses the congregations as a whole. A plea to be taken seriously in Christ, just as the men demand we take them seriously. A plea to quit insulting our intelligence and our integrity — or the male’s integrity toward his sisters in Christ.

I’m not saying to turn a blind eye to the weaknesses and failings of humanity toward the opposite sex, so obviously I could hope common sense would be used in making sure women and men act appropriately toward one another, just like the writers of the epistles asked the early Christians to. We can celebrate the unique capabilities of the masculine and the feminine, working in harmony for a better church and a better world, without turning it into an instant recipe for sexual immorality (which seems to be the trump card many will play when their traditions don’t hold up to logic). Of course there will be temptations. Of course there should be boundaries in place. But aren’t we already expected to have those in the workplace? In schools? Everywhere outside the church building?

As if secular society is so much better at acting appropriately toward one another than the church is?

If this is the case, the church has a much bigger problem than women approaching the pulpit.

I merely ask that we take a better look at our motivations for keeping women from leadership, or out of the pulpit altogether, because the “Biblical” ones don’t hold water. If the prophetess Anna can be allowed to proclaim the birth of Jesus in the temple, and the Samaritan woman at the well can be the first evangelist to the Gentiles, it should seem reasonable that a woman can at the very least do the scripture reading before the sermon or silently pass the communion emblems between the aisles, with confidence that God isn’t going to yank her salvation or that of those who allowed her to do these things.

I also ask that anyone who questions this use their brain first in considering this topic. Those who immediately pull out the trumps and throw the red flags are leading with their emotions, and not their reasoning. Emotions have their place, but they have for too long been used to uphold erroneous traditions, because sometimes it hurts to question or go against “how we’ve always done it”. I know this well; there are still traditions I balk at questioning. If I were a Jew back in Jesus’ era, I might very well have balked at Jesus’ radical message of eradicating the manmade traditions in favor of relationship and forgiveness that doesn’t require setting fire to something or washing my hands to my elbows.

We’ve done so much to modernize the church: We have a pulpit, baptistries, electricity (so, warm baptistries!), audio-visual systems, hymnals and projections, streaming webcams, buildings with many rooms, libraries, children’s curriculum, etc. We have paid preachers, youth ministers, church officers (to comply with state and/or federal law), schools, song leaders — and many more things never, ever mentioned in scripture. Yet, because of the deviations of a few misguided cultural entities back in Paul’s time (SOOO much different than ours), we have excluded an entire gender from the important and relevant work of the church — but only inside the confines of the hours the church meets, as if it’s the only time God is present in our lives — despite the fact that women have equal or nearly equal (and sometimes greater) footing with the very same men in public society.

So now, regardless of whether you agree with me, you at least have some understanding of my use of the term “Christian Feminism”, and why I believe it’s an important topic that should be addressed by every church.

As always, may the Peace and Love of Christ be with you. 🙂


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Filed under Women's Roles in the Church

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