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The Christian F-Word


Sep 25 2013
Letting go of our outdated fear of feminism.

Christian feminists can celebrate any sort of feminism that brings more justice and human flourishing to the world, no matter who is bringing it, since we recognize the hand of God in all that is good.

It was Jesus, after all, who trusted the news of his resurrection—the event on which the balance of all Christendom hangs—to a group of women. "But let not the testimony of women be admitted, on account of the levity and boldness of the sex," the historian Josephus wrote in Antiquities of the Jews. Jesus apparently saw nothing about the sex, inherently, that was not completely trustworthy. In fact, Jesus consistently elevated the position of women in the Greco-Roman world. He spoke in public with a Samaritan woman, a double blow against her for a male Jew. He healed the woman bent double on the Sabbath, calling her a "daughter of Abraham."

The denomination to which my church belongs, the Reformed Church of America, only this summer removed a clause allowing members to object to the ordination of a woman. Many churches, Catholic and Protestant, relegate women to the realms of women's ministry or childcare, creating a segregated world of pinks and florals in which being nice is a whole lot more valued than putting your gifts to use as part of the body of Christ. These days, 90 percent of Protestant churches have men installed as senior pastor.

The church needs feminism, but the reaction to this word has been so vitriolic among Christians that the conversation becomes difficult. We cannot scoff at feminism when women are disproportionately the victims of domestic violence, human trafficking, and economic injustice. We cannot dismiss feminism when we live in a world in which an 8-year-old child bride dies because her "husband" raped her repeatedly. Ignoring feminism is simply not an option for Christian people, charged as we are with loving mercy and doing justice.

This can be difficult work, to recognize the hand of God in all that is good regardless of who is the vehicle of goodness. Too often we think the person who is bringing good must share our beliefs and worldview in order for the good to really count. (This is part of the problem within feminism, which has been criticized for its racism and exclusivity to women of color.)

Our work doesn't end with feminism. Feminism is not the goal of Christianity—not even equal rights occupy that lofty end. Christianity is most alive in us when we are alive in Jesus. And Jesus is most alive when the shackles of oppression are loosed, when there is no male nor female, because we are all one in Christ Jesus.

Related Topics:Gender; Women's Rights

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