A year ago, I sat in a weekly bible study at my local church. As we pressed on through our readings, the inevitable subject of wives, women, and women's roles began to excite the room. Though the conversation is all but gone in my mind as to who and what we were specifically discussing, one part of the conversation remained ingrained in my brain and I am sure will for years to come. It was when my sweet older friend, leaned in and said, as she defended the woman in question "Obviously I'm no..." her voice lowered to a whisper, "feminist."
I was perplexed. I had identified as a feminist for as long as I could remember. I saw nothing mutually exclusive about being a believer in our Lord and believing that the rights of women are equal to that of the rights of men. In fact, I saw the core tenet of Christianity – the salvation of all in Christ and our equality in this and in our need for such salvation – in perfect alignment with the argument for the equal rights of women. Still, in that moment, I sat there stunned, hurt, and angry that anyone could tie their love for Jesus to the stipulation that they could not be for the advancement or equality. I was petrified that the word had been whispered in such as way it felt as though it were a profanity and not a battle cry, yelled out by the Most High to treat His own as though they are of worth and value. What is it about feminism that makes the traditional Christian body throw their arms up in disgust? I needed to know.
There have been many arguments made, in Christian and secular circles alike, that feminism seeks to dismantle not only the natural order of the universe in which men are the heads of household; but also the male experience all together. Feminism has been seen as a "threat to families" as women "seek careers,free love sexuality, and independence over marriage, family, and monogamy." I would like to state today that this is not the case. The Encyclopedia Britannica definition of feminism is "the belief in social, economic, and political equality of the sexes." This definition and, in this, the core beliefs of the the feminist movement say nothing about the overthrowing of family values, traditional marriage, or the casting down of males in society. They do not call for polyamory and do not give an ultimatum in regards to independence and motherhood. Feminism is simply the fundamental believe that women are just as worthy as men to live a life with a voice in the political, social, and economic decisions of the world. From the Christian feminist perspective, it is the belief that the Bible teaches that men and women are lovingly, purposefully made and each set apart for a life of goodness and purpose regardless of gender.
If you are scratching your head and saying, "Whitney, if God really intended for women and men to be completely equal in His eyes, the Bible wouldn't be misogynistic or male-centric!" I would love to show you how the Word supports gender equal society; if you please.
“Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion”– Genesis 1:26 (NRSV)
Regardless of whether you are male or female, you reflect God's image and neither is superior in this. If we all God as unique humans, there is nothing wrong with our make-up. As Paul wrote to the Ephesians, we are all God's masterpiece and therefore, are not favored or opposed.
God also gives individual assignments to each human, male and female.Though marriage and the creation of a family is a significant component to our uniting command to be "fruitful and multiply", if a woman's only calling was to be married and have a family in which a male spouse leads, this would write off not only single people, just like Jesus, whom Paul writes fondly of in 1 Corinthians 7:8-9; but, also women who are born barren and cannot birth children, by no fault of their own. If God did not give them this gift and He has made no mistakes, He must have a different reason for such people on this Earth.
Men and women can also not exist independent of one another. A man cannot carry carry or produce a child on his own and neither can a women and this is really done by God quite purposefully. If one gender were able to do so, they would hold more value than the other gender. Without it, there is a great equalizer that makes it vital for men and women to both be at the table. Don't you think this also goes for the care of the world, innovation, and leadership as well?
Finally – though my list could go on for days as to why women are not less than men– The most integral equalizer is found in Romans 3:23:
"...for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God."
Human nature does not discriminate between man and women. Our sin is not less, just because our gender is physically stronger, hairier, or simply different from someone else. We all have to answer to God when we arrive at Heaven's Gates and we will all fall short, if not for Jesus Christ. You might feel as though you know better than someone else, you work harder and therefore deserve more, or that you were in some way born superior; but, you will find, in the eyes of the Lord, you are no more worthy of being washed in the blood and no less dirty without it.
So, as I think back to that bible study a year ago, when the word "feminist" was whispered as though God might be listening; I choose to lift up my voice and answer. I choose to cry out to the King, "Lord, I am woman! You have made me with your own hands and you have made me right through your son! I fight for your women and I proudly call myself a Christian Feminist; upholding your teachings of the equality of imperfection until we are all equal in perfect eternity with you!"