The Christian F-Word
I was 12 the first time I heard the F-word in public. At home, my mom used it. My dad had talked about it once or twice, and my sister and I bandied it about with some frequency. But then, I heard a boy at church say it.
He hurled the word at me like an epithet. I think I was supposed to be insulted, but I accepted it with pride, and he went on talking about how women shouldn't preach to men. (Why he and his family came to a church whose teaching pastorate was split between men and women is a mystery, but there we were. )
Years later, in college, I took an international politics class taught by an incredibly sharp woman, with a strong academic background in European policy. She proved to be a great professor, an incredibly devoted mentor, and a hard grader. But on the anonymous end-of-course evaluations, students labeled her a "Feminazi," and worse. At our loving, Christian, liberal arts college.
The word feminist, for some, still conjures up images of second-wave bra-burners and radical leftist politics, forgetting entirely about women like Anne Hutchison and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. To let these characterizations define feminism is akin to letting a single denomination define Christianity: it is inherently limiting, untrue, and anathema to unity in Christ.
The church needs feminism because at its core, feminism affirms to us what our faith teaches us about male and female in God's Kingdom and what Jesus himself preached throughout the New Testament.
Feminism is simply the belief that women are equally as human as men—equal in the eyes of God, equal in image-bearing, equal in ability. (This is why it is possible to be both a feminist and a complementarian, something Elijah Turrell wrote a great blog post about. I don't agree with him about complementarianism, but still.)
I am so grateful Sarah Bessey brings the F-word back into the Christian conversation with her fantastic book, Jesus Feminist, due out in November. In it, I have found language for some of the deepest truths about who Jesus is and why that is good news for all people—women included.
Jesus' care for the oppressed, the marginalized, cannot be ignored in the New Testament. As men continue to hold the reins of power in the church—2,000 years after the weak were made strong and the low made high in Jesus—we should welcome efforts to uplift and incorporate people who have been sidelined in Christianity.
In Jesus Feminist, Bessey quotes theologian John Stackhouse:
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