A Conversation On Feminism

Oct 1, 2013

I recently read an article titled, The 3 Most Common Feminists In The Church. In this article, the author explains why feminism is not needed by the church. I would suggest reading it for context prior to reading my post, which I have written in response.


I think your essay is weakened tremendously by straw man fallacy. In an effort to show how Christianity and feminism are antithetical, you have constructed 3 hypothetical examples of “common feminists in the church.” In doing so, you ignored (overlooked?) the actual position of Christian feminism and substituted the most distorted, exaggerated, and misrepresented versions of Christian feminism you could think of.

An equivalent would be when non-Christians point to extreme examples such as the Westboro Baptist Church or Creflo and the prosperity gospel to bring Christianity into question. The veracity of Biblical doctrine does not wax and wane on the failures of its followers, nor should feminism be vilified based on poor praxis by “self-righteous white women." Ultimately, I think your understanding of feminism is that of a pop culture caricature. It lacks nuance and understanding, and I don’t think there’s anything that I could offer in this post that would change your mind. I’m OK with that.

However, it is not OK for you to suggest that those who do not agree with your stance on feminism are exhibiting “rebellion,” “arrogance,” and a “lack of biblical maturity.” Christians hold a variety of views and convictions about the role of women in the home and the church, ranging from egalitarian to complementarian to patriarchal, and can point to scripture for justification. I think it is even possible to believe that God has ordained gender roles in the church and within the family that reflect the roles within the Trinity, and STILL espouse feminism. The reason the Church needs feminism is because many men, Christian men, have abused and distorted the structure that God has organized, a result of their sin nature.

Though the Bible makes no distinction between the value of human beings based on gender, the church exists within a patriarchal society that definitely does. And many of the cultural mores surrounding gender and gender roles make their way into the church. It affects how we read and apply scripture. It affects which scriptures we stress and which ones we ignore. It explains why “submission” on behalf of the woman is stressed over “loving your wives, just as Christ loved the church”—the most self-sacrificing, selfless, servant-leadership this world has ever seen. It explains why men, and women such as yourself, often point to 1 Timothy 2:14 and the silencing of women, and ignore scriptures highlighting the various roles of women in ministry. Miriam, Phoebe, Deborah, Huldah, Esther, Priscilla. These women were teachers, prophets, leaders, judges, spiritual/military/political leaders, queens, and theologians but we rarely, if ever, hear their stories with the same passion and intensity that we hear about Paul admonishing women in the Corinthian church to be silent. (Side note, 1 Timothy 2:14 is often taken out of cultural and historical context, leading to flawed exegesis. I would suggest you do research surrounding that scripture. It would require a whole ‘nother blog post to explain.)

Feminism is no attempt to replace the redeeming power of the Holy Spirit.  Women aren't asking to be deified or asking to rule over men. They're asking for the freedom to be fully human.  Feminism is great in that it can open our eyes to ways in which a male-dominated culture can and has influenced how we read and live out God’s word, placing women in bondage where God surely did not intend.  I leave you with the following quote from Dorothy Sayers, a woman who criticized both the church AND feminism equally.
“Perhaps it is no wonder that the women were first at the Cradle and last at the Cross. They had never known a man like this Man - there never has been such another. A prophet and teacher who never nagged at them, never flattered or coaxed or patronised; who never made arch jokes about them, never treated them either as "The women, God help us!" or "The ladies, God bless them!"; who rebuked without querulousness and praised without condescension; who took their questions and arguments seriously; who never mapped out their sphere for them, never urged them to be feminine or jeered at them for being female; who had no axe to grind and no uneasy male dignity to defend; who took them as he found them and was completely unself-conscious. There is no act, no sermon, no parable in the whole Gospel that borrows its pungency from female perversity; nobody could possibly guess from the words and deeds of Jesus that there was anything "funny" about woman's nature.”

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