I'm a feminist and a Christian. This is why I think you should be, too.
“There is a calling between loving God so much that I love others even if they read the Bible differently from me, and that can be hard,” said Pastor Heidi Johnson, the woman who leads liturgical chapels at Lee. She spoke of her experience with Christianity as a female pastor and the opposition that position spurs from other believers.
Their complaints aren't without foundation. In 1 Cor. 14:34-35, Paul writes “Women should be silent during the church meetings. It is not proper for them to speak. They should be submissive, just as the law says. If they have any questions, they should ask their husbands at home, for it is improper for women to speak in church meetings.”
Someone reading this from the perspective that all of Scripture is inherently true and is the literal word of God would have cause for concern. It follows, then, that they'd oppose Pastor Heidi Johnson’s teaching in Lee's liturgical chapels.
“The big challenge for females is becoming comfortable with how they read the Scripture,” said Johnson. “I have to be respectful and understand that other people believe the scripture is inspired and inerrant.”
Pastor Johnson has found that many Christians don’t know how they define inspiration in terms of God’s inspiration of Scripture.
“My understanding of inspiration is that it is the event of encountering God,” said Pastor Johnson. “The writing (Scripture) is the record of the revelation. Inspiration is the event and the record isn’t the inspiration.”
When one looks at Paul’s letter to Corinth through this idea and through the cultural context, I think one can safely assume his words don't apply to women in the church today—especially considering the various women throughout Scripture that have acted as proclaimers of the Word.
And Johnson argues that the Bible is merely a medium for the Word of God and that God has many other mediums.
“When I say the Word of God, I mean Jesus. If I encounter Jesus, I encountered the Word of God,” said Pastor Johnson.
Since many Christians view Scripture as God’s inspired Word, I think they're prone to taking it at face value and fall into the trap of blind acceptance. It's necessary to dig into the cultural context of 2000 years ago—a cultural context that has obviously changed dramatically. Yet even with the massive cultural shift, Christians oppose the movement and goals of feminism as some sections in the Bible seem to oppose them.
It's possible that these believers have a negative association with feminism, thanks to the second-wave feminism that sparked in the 1960s. Second-wave feminists focused on previously taboo subjects of sexuality, workplace, family and reproductive rights.
In its discussion of a book discussing second-wave feminism, Columbia University Press writes “There was a moment in the 1970s when sex was what mattered most to feminists. White middle-class women viewed sex as central to both their oppression and their liberation.”
And that particular movement is recent enough for us to remember. Even for we Millennials who obviously have no recollection of that era, we still see its ripple effects in our culture today. And for a large sector of the evangelical demographic, feminism is still that sin-ridden movement. With this foundation, the church is inevitably going to struggle with reconciling Holy Scripture and the movement that calls for sexual liberation for women.
But to me, that's the wrong way of looking at it. Let's look at feminism's basic definition. According to Oxford Dictionary, feminism is “the advocacy of women's rights on the ground of the equality of the sexes.” Let's be honest: the Jesus I know endorses that sort of advocacy.
Feminism is necessary. There's a problem of patriarchy and mistreatment of women in society—particularly in other extremist regions of the world where women are still forced to undergo genital mutilation, for instance. If Jesus’s commandment is to love and the whole point of Christianity is to follow Christ, I think there should be a movement, addressing inequality and mistreatment, to bring love and unity among Christians.
In Paul's letters, we find implications that women should not lead in church, but there are also some that believe women ought to proclaim the Word. The story of Anna the Prophetess, found in Luke 2:36-38, is just one example. Anna was a widow at the age of 84 who prophesied about the advent of the Christ.
I even see Jesus as trying to overcome the cultural boundaries between males and females in His time. In the story of Mary and Martha, found in Luke 10:38-42, Mary was sitting at the feet of Jesus as a student might with a teacher. In that time, women weren't allowed to be students, but Jesus was set on subverting that rule. When Martha urged Mary to get up and do the woman’s work of making dinner, Jesus told her Mary was doing the right thing by listening to Him teach.
In the end and at its core, I don't see feminism as a movement that goes against the ideals of Christianity. In its goal to bring equality of the sexes, feminism is continuing the work that Jesus began, in uplifting and encouraging both sexes to fulfill their purposes. It's important to consider feminism as you read the Bible, since to read the Bible is to seek the truth. And the truth is that male and female are both created in the image of God. We, as believers, are called to love and uplift them both—equally.
At Lee Clarion, we welcome diversity of opinion as a means of making students' voices heard.