Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Feminist Theology: Why I Am a Feminist

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[NOTE - This is a highly opinionated post. There is much to be debated with what I am going to say. I welcome constructive feedback - if this post is going to infuriate you, my opinion is probably not worth your blood pressure. However, if you're open to a different opinion, then by all means, read on.]

As a man, I readily confess that I am a feminist. I do not endorse all of the things that feminists do, believe, and profess; but, then again, I do not endorse everything that Christianity does, believes, and professses either. Rather, I see myself as a working feminist, someone who firmly believes in the egalitarian movement, in the abolishment of gender roles, and in the fair treatment of all people. And to that end, I am willing to take a public stand, to profess that these are ideals that I hold to. I claim Jesus, another man, as my example of how to be a male feminist.

Do not misunderstand me: I am not labelling Jesus a feminist; I'm not saying that he would endorse such a term. But if feminism, minus all of the political baggage, means that women are equal to men, then I think Jesus would endorse this. Here's what I mean:

Jesus had a lot of contact with women. He ate with them, he spoke openly with them, and he shared his vision of the Kingdom with them. Jesus risked his public image often (just think of Jesus approaching the woman at the well - his society interpreted this as soliciting a prostitute, yet Jesus treated her as an equal). And, finally, perhaps the most striking of Jesus' relationship with women: ALL four NT gospels openly state that women were the first witnesses to the resurrection. Let the point sink in: the first to experience the new Kingdom, the resurrection of Jesus, were not his twelve male disciples, but rather women who were close to him. Coincidence? Hardly - in my opinion, all of these things culminate in early Christian teaching. What does this mean? It means that Jesus' vision was radical for many reasons - and one of those was that women and men are equal. Not just equal in the eyes of God, but equals on earth as well. Jesus' radical vision, watered down in orthodox Christian teaching, now points to the underpinnings of the gospels. Women were a vital part of the early Church - it's time to reclaim that vision.

Now, I don't exclusively label myself a feminist. I am many things: I am a Christian, I am a married man, I am a student, I am a progressive, and I am a feminist, amongst other things. To me, living the Christian life means more than going to Church, confessing sins, and partaking in the sacraments (though all of these things are vitally important). It means embracing the radical vision of Jesus, a vision that transforms society. It is partyl an earthly vision, one that is nitty-gritty, one that teaches that we should love our enemy (!), and one that calls us to reform. It is our job to speak (LOUDLY) for those who have no voice. That MAY include women, children, the oppressed, the poor, the mentally ill, etc. etc.

Being a Christian feminist means accepting responsibility for the mistreatment of women in history (and even today). It doesn't mean taking the fall for others' actions against women, but rather it means asserting the agency of women who have been run over by the powers-that-be. It means elevating women to the equality of men (in social status, in pay, in rights, etc.).

Don't get me wrong. Our world is perhaps one of the widest-reaching equality movements ever in human history. Women have more rights than perhaps ever before. But we still have a long way to go. There will always be inequality - it's a sad fact of human existence. But as Christians it is our duty to embrace the vision of Jesus and fight for others.

I welcome constructive criticism, comments, and affirmations.



At 12:58 PM, Anonymous Old James said...

I am a conservative.

I think you need to be careful when you use the word "feminist" since I am old enough to remember how it was used in the 60's. That term implies to me that women are superior to men, not equal. I agree that Jesus treated women as equals but I do not believe he elevated them to a place above men.

I also take exception to your statement "I do not endorse everything that Christianity does". If the definition of Christianity is to be like Christ, then why not?

At 1:30 PM, Blogger Looney said...

Since I gave you a hard time, I will also give you some support: Jesus didn't just talk to the woman at the well and treat her as someone important. He gave her the key to worship, just as he had given the key to salvation to Nicodemus in the earlier chapter.

The Bible tells us "Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her" - Ephesians 5:25. A husband that fails to do this should be publicly &%$*#(*@#&#ed. Where I take a strong objection to feminism is when the obligations of the woman are dumped, but the obligations of Ephesians 5:25 are put into civil law. As Old James said, there is a point where feminism is about the superiority of women.

At 10:27 AM, Blogger James said...

"Old James" and "Looney,"

May I have a moment of your time to explain a few things? I understand that the word "feminism" means something very different to you than me. That is the beauty of time - it changes meanings into something good. For me, feminism means taking the focus on egotistical men and acknowledging that women have suffered socially/religiously/culturally/sexually for too long. Now, I don't mean that women are better or superior than men - that would be hypocritical. Rather, to me, feminism is a positive word that means egalitarianism. It shifts the focus in a way that allows a greater understanding of women in order to create fair and equal treatment. This means re-thinking gender roles, perhaps even sexuality as we understand it. What I am advocating in my term "feminism" is egalitarianism.

Again, thank you both for your responses. They don't fall on deaf ears.

At 11:24 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would not just be careful about using language like "feminist", but also terms like egalitarian. The Bible is clear that women and men were created equal, and are still created equal to this day. However, an egalitarian believes that men & women are equal with the same or similar roles. God's Word is along the lines of complementarianism. This means that women & men are equal, but have different, unique, and complementary roles (such as marriage). There are many great books out there on biblical manhood & womanhood by men like, John MacArthur, John Piper, Wayne Grudem, etc. I encourage you to keep reading and to keep studying. It's a very important issue today in the life of Christ's Church and also in the family. We need to continually be seeking the truth. Be diligent to keep digging deeper!

At 12:22 PM, Blogger Becky said...

I appreciate a comment that you made about Jesus-" It means embracing the radical vision of Jesus, a vision that transforms society." I agree also with some of what the others that commented said about the different roles that God has given to men and women and I feel that if any movement, including feminism, tries to call those roles bondage or dregrading to women, they are not seeing the way the Kingdom of God plays out here on earth. I think that this website might interest you www.earlychurchtruth.com. Please feel free to give feedback

At 10:47 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi James,

My name is Holland. I am from the church that hosts the www.earlychurchtruth.com website. I do not disagree necessarily with much of what you say, but I definitely will not identify myself with feminists. Women have been abused through history along with many other social groups. Feminists rebel against things that should never have happened, but their actions are perverted. The idea of abolishing gender roles is silly. My mother is a divorced liberated new age woman. My father is a gross womanizer, which is totally inappropriate. Actions like his are some of those that fuel the feminist movement. Anyway, I was walking through a scrap metal yard recently with my mother. She was looking for some materials to fix this house she was buying. As my mother walked in her high heels with her dangling earrings through the muddy scrap yard with heaps of jagged twisted metal to and fro while blow torches blazed all around, my liberated mother proclaims, “I don’t know what I am looking for. This is a man’s job!”
Pretty much she was right. Once in a great while you might find a woman with the That-Useless-Piece-Of-Skin-Around-A-Man’s-Penis-Is-A-Man attitude trying to prove her self working a job like the ones at that scrap yard, but not very often, and when you do find them, the work that the women are doing is light duty.

This is not a statement that women are inferior to men or that men can do without women. It merely acknowledges that there are differences between men and women. Therefore roles should be delegated, as nature has done. In a way this same idea is applied to economics. An example is the United States and Argentina. The two countries have similar climates, topography and resources. They are capable of producing similar kinds of goods. The United States is bigger and has more of everything that Argentina has—more or less. Although the US may be able to produce more of everything than Argentina can produce, it is best for the US to focus on just what it is the very best at producing, while Argentina focuses on a few items that it likewise is the very best at producing.

Women are generally more sensitive and more nurturing than men and thus have become better caregivers. That is why they are mothers. That is why they are nurses much more often. To argue differently is to argue against what nature has put in place and has been in place since the beginning of time.

Men at my church are very active in raising children—much more so than in a lot of other churches. Everyone recognizes that the man is the head of the home. They do not rule their homes with fear and oppression. No one flogs his wife. No woman has ever had her ears and nose cut off or her face held over the eye of a hot stove. I think a lot of people would be surprised to know this. A lot of people that view the www.earlychurchtruth.com website or run into church members preaching on the street come to quick and offended conclusions about what we are about. These hasty feelings are frequently triggered by their own conscience and pangs of guilt.

If there was but one message that Jesus taught, it was love. Love Him. Love one another. Love or else.


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