But feminism has gotten a bad rap. Women against feminism shows that feminism is not being viewed as a movement towards egalitarianism. In fact, many of the women on the site claim to support “equality” instead of “feminism.”
Many women on the site believe that feminists hate men or are anti-men. They also believe feminists want to live as “victims.” (I imagine this is related to efforts to raise awareness about sexual violence.)
And that’s just talking about mainstream feminism. Feminism in the church has even more layers.
In the church, I’ve heard the hate-men and victim lines. And then there’s more. On a recent discussion thread, I’ve had someone tell me that feminism is “a scourge on women.” And with feminism being equated with pro-choice views, it is often viewed as incompatible with Christianity. And then there’s the problem of feminism’s association with the sexual revolution. Traditional gender roles, women in leadership, and men as the head of the household.
Feminism, in some circles, is not only controversial, but offensive. Twice as long as a four-letter word, and at least twice as complicated.
I’ve mentioned that I won’t debate these things, but I have a “one comment” rule. I’ll comment once, to try to clarify my point, but no more, to avoid a debate. (I find debates not constructive; I prefer discussions). On the discussion thread I mention above, I used my one comment to point out that the feminism movement is rooted in Christianity. First-wave feminism began with women seeking the right to vote and grew up with the abolition and prohibition movements.
The response: that none of these movements are “Christian in their basic construction. Christian teaching and history are essentially patriarchal and would not have supported suffrage. Abolition? Multiple references to slavery exist in both Old- and New Testament writings and they are not condemnatory.“
No, I do not get into internet debates on discussion or comment threads. But part of writing this blog is to address the misconceptions and injustices I have been observing, and to bridge the perceived gaps between feminism and Christianity.
So, with respect, anonymity, and no one to debate, here goes:
“Christian teaching and history are essentially patriarchal and would not have supported suffrage. Abolition? Multiple references to slavery exist in both Old- and New Testament writings and they are not condemnatory. “
First, I think we must separate Christian teaching from Christian history. Yes, we often use history as one way we interpret the Scriptures, but we must be sure to keep them distinct in mind.
Now, with that edit, let me pose the question: “Christian teaching… would not have supported suffrage”? I’m not sure any of us can make so strong a statement. But I’ll get back to this.
I’ll start with the abolition statement: “Multiple references to slavery exist in both Old- and New Testament writings and they are not condemnatory.”
For what follows, I owe many thanks to Sarah Bessey’s Jesus Feminist, which I will heavily quote from, specifically, her chapter “A Redemptive Movement.” (I encourage you to read her full assessment, and pardon my choppy reel of the highlights.)
Bessey sets this up:
Wherever there is injustice or oppression, anything less than God’s intended purposes from the dawn of Creation, our God has always set his people on the trajectory of redemption....
Jesus would teach or quote a portion of the Law and then move us forward from our current place toward God’s original intent. For instance, instead of the familiar and accepted law of ‘an eye for an eye,’ Jesus moved the arc of redemption forward with, ‘But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.'
There are many verses in the Bible that discuss slavery in terms of logistics: Israel is held to a higher standard in its treatment of slaves (so that their humanity and rights are affirmed)... Paul encourages masters to treat their slaves fairly. He encourages a master to welcome back a runaway slave… and even advises slaves on how to best serve their masters.
For hundreds of years, many Christians understood these references and instructions to imply that slavery was biblical and right.
Yet given God’s… mandates in Scripture of equality and freedom and justice for the oppressed, God’s dream for humanity is clearly not slavery. The Church eventually moved to the forefront of abolition because it understood this truth: just because the Bible contained instructions about how to treat slaves in a context and culture where it was acceptable to hold slaves does not mean slavery is a godly practice or part of God’s intended purpose for creation. As such, the Church has participated in God’s trajectory of justice, living into the true purposes of God
I’ll answer that with one more quote from Bessey (and a hearty encouragement that, feminist or not, you pick up her book as you wrestle with these issues):
Gender inequality is only one more example of justice seeking in process… many people have taken up the cause of women’s rights worldwide, even the label of feminist… precisely because of their deep Christian faith.