First, yep. Faith & Feminism. Two F words.
Second, oh you’re still here! Well then, let’s begin.
I know feminism is an unpopular word, but let me give you the context of that word that makes me use it to describe myself. I am the oldest of 2, with a little sister who is ironically much taller than I. In a family where the girls, easily outnumbered my dad, we were treated as equals expected to contribute and at the same time were valued equally. As I grew up, I was told a lot of things about the world, one being that people will take advantage of you every chance they get simply because you are female. They will want to take advantage of me financially, talk me into shady sales, assault, harass, etc. Now, looking back I’m not sure that was the message my parents wanted me to walk away with when I entered college but it was. This perspective made me headstrong and determined, I understood nothing as boys only and girls only. So, for me, feminism is equality to others and that simply because I am female doesn’t make me less or limit my abilities. It’s a simple definition but one important to understanding the rest of this post.
So what does my feminism of that have to do with my faith?
Needless to say, I wasn’t taught to be submissive but instead to respect and treat others with respect, men and women. I think this is why the book of Esther speaks to me so much. This young level headed girl clearly understood the situation she was in and did not cower, she made bold brave choices rooted in her faith and God rewarded her and her people for her bravery.
Also, Paul is a little too wishy-washy on the subject of women in church for my liking. But the key here is Paul was focused, laser-focused, on the advancement of the Bible. Sometimes this meant encouraging women to lead, and others for them to not. This doesn’t mean God made us ‘inferior’ and that we aren’t meant to preach or teach. It means God gives some of us gifts to lead and He gives others gifts of advancing the gospel in other ways. What I love about the Bible is God using women to show men we are far from weak, we stand tall in the most horrible situations, we take scary risks, we do what is necessary and often we are criticized for our hair, our dress, and often our sin when men aren’t.
Take the woman from John 8.
The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery; and making her stand before all of them, they said to him, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the very act of committing adultery.
Stop right there.
The Pharisees bring one of two people caught in adultery to Jesus, notice it’s not the guy. Do we know her story? Are we just assuming she always wanted to grow up and be a prostitute? Are we assuming she is a prostitute and not a victim of human trafficking who had no choice in the matter of what was done to her body? Also, WHERE IS THE GUY?
Back to the story.
Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now, what do you say?” They said this to test him, so that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground.
He bent down and wrote on the ground, now let’s dwell on this a moment. Jesus is talking to a crowd of people and they’ve tossed this poor woman into the middle of the conversation. I imagine her standing there in silence not saying a word, looking at the ground in fear. Now, Jesus this teacher from Nazareth next to her and bends down begins writing in the sand. I also like to imagine empathy in His eyes as he bends down to write in the sand looking at her first and then the ground.
When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” And once again he bent down and wrote on the ground.
What did he write? Theologians have debated this for centuries, I can only imagine he wrote out a list of sins and when these Pharisees and Scribes realized they too were guilty of lust, gluttony, pride, envy, greed, and so on they wanted nothing to do with the situation. It’s like borrowing your sibling’s stuff without returning and then they point out you’re unnecessarily angry at them when you loan something to them and it’s not returned in the timeline you demanded.
The conversation stops, you were the first one in the wrong.
When they heard it, they went away, one by one, beginning with the elders; and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus straightened up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, sir.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you. Go your way, and from now on do not sin again.” John 8: 3-11
This poor woman, we don’t know her story we don’t know the situation she is in that caused her to be found out by the Pharisees. I’m not saying she is in the right but I can tell you those casting judgment on her are in the wrong.
My faith is built around the idea, the notion, that I am worthy. God made me just the way I am for a reason and I am no less valuable simply because I am female. There are a lot of demeaning and hurtful portions of scripture toward women, that are painful to read & to understand in the context of scripture.
Women are strong, intelligent, empathetic, cunning, we create life and we encourage life. God never refers to us as weak, Peter does. Personally, you have to be an incredibly strong person to grow and birth another human being, although I haven’t done this the women who have are far from ‘weak’.
Let’s head back to the OT for just a moment, aside from the verses that include the children of Israel raping, murdering, and acting violently against women let’s remember in Judges 4. God appointed Deborah as Prophetess over the nation of Israel. Deborah. A woman. Wife to Lappidoth (whoever that is). And in the same chapter another woman, Jael saves the nation of Israel by stabbing a guy in the head with a tent peg and a hammer. And it wasn’t like she just hammered it into his skull she made sure that sucker went all the way through his head and out the other end. These are not timid, submissive, quiet women.
My feminism reminds me that I am valuable to my husband and that I contribute more to my marriage than the term housekeeper and wife. I earn an income, seek out and pursue my passions, support him, and in turn, he encourages me to do what sets my heart on fire. He is not the head of me, I am not the head of him, we are co-leaders in this journey. (Some call this egalitarianism)
My feminism and my faith make me a better daughter, sister, friend, and wife. My feminism and my faith show me how to step up to the challenges God gives me and allow me to step back at other times. He shows me I need Him and I glorify Him through my strength & independence within Him.
There are so many more amazing women that God works through in the Bible, the idea that women are not equal to men in the eyes of God seems to me nothing more than a poor reading of the Bible. You can make the Bible say a lot of things that are unsavory, but if the message that Jesus spread while He was here is true then to love God with all your heart soul and mind, and to love your neighbor as yourself are the most important commandments. Loving God as a strong-willed, independant thinking woman doesn’t make me less loved by the Almighty.
I’m no theologian, these are just my thoughts.