Can the Bible and Feminism exist alongside each other?

Before you start reading, let me give you a warning. This post will be long, possibly controversial, and quite probably boring.

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you probably have realised that I am a Christian. If you have stumbled across Countercultural. CounterCouture for the first time, surprise! This apparently means, according to a wealth of popular culture, that I have signed up to a belief system that oppresses women in favour of men. On paper this hardly makes sense for an opinionated person like me (opinionated evidence can be found here, here and here) who values her independence to follow such a belief system. Yet I continue to follow the teachings of this, supposedly patriarchal, book and believe it. Is this possible for someone who also shares much in common with modern feminism (here)?

Well, I’ve been doing a little bit of reading to try and figure out whether I can be a Biblical Christian and support feminism or not. I started off my reading with these four articles:

So, here we have one neutral article, one that is clearly against feminism and two are clearly for feminist ideas. All are valid points of view but they also deal with very different forms of feminism. For example, Matt Walsh’s argument about why Christians should ditch feminism suggests that his experience of feminism has been with the more rampart, argumentative group of man haters feminists. His article was the first that I read and he is so vehement that it was almost enough to make me take back anything that could be remotely feminist. While his support for traditional marriage and his anti-abortion stance is something I agree with, I would ask his opinion of the successful single woman. The reason for this is that as much as he supports traditional marriage values, I feel he does this to the point of implying that family life should be a women’s sole aim. I’m afraid I could not disagree with this more. As a single Christian woman, my aim in life is not to find a husband and settle down. My aim is to live more like Christ every day, and to be successful in the areas He has gifted me in. Therefore, I cannot agree with someone who expects me to aim to marry, even though I accept that is a legitimate choice for all women. And I would say that Paul agrees with me on this;

To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is good for them to remain single as I am. But if they cannot exercise self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion.

 In complete contrast, we have the ‘Vicky Beechings’ and ‘Sarah Besseys’ of the world, who are most definitely for the Christian feminist movement. Having read both their articles on why Christianity and feminism can go side by side, I would argue that both women are at the ‘pro-equality’ end of the feminist spectrum. This is opposed to the ‘superior-women’ ideologies of more radical feminists. Matt Walsh actually claims that the ideals supported by Vicky Beeching and Sarah Bessey are not feminist but actually Christian. Both women, I believe, would agree with such a statement.

However, in a world where Christianity has been (mis)labelled as of a male-led society, saying that Jesus was a feminist serves as a way to open up the debate. It has definitely encouraged me to read some of my best-loved passages anew and look at other passages I don’t know as well. Take, for example, Proverbs 31. A passage I have routinely been disinterested in because (and here I am guilty of pic’n’mix theology) I am fed up of the married-good-wife-mother line that the church is so good at encouraging. Yet Vicky Beeching has made me want to read it again, with her description of the Proverbs 31 woman as a career woman, a strong wife and mother and a role model. Most definitely not someone who could be describe as quiet or sitting at home patiently waiting for her husband.

If I were to use an example from records of Jesus’ life, I could suggest Mary and Martha or the prostitute who washed his feet. However, the one I would like to use comes from Luke 8, which Sarah Bessey brought to my attention.

 Soon afterward Jesus began a tour of the nearby towns and villages, preaching and announcing the Good News about the Kingdom of God. He took his twelve disciples with him, along with some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases. Among them were Mary Magdalene, from whom he had cast out seven demons; Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod’s business manager; Susanna; and many others who were contributing from their own resources to support Jesus and his disciples. 

Here we see women known within their community actively following Jesus, alongside the twelve disciples. It is even stated that they were supporting (financing?) Jesus and his disciples as they travelled across Judea and Palestine. Clearly, these were women who had control over their own finances, choices and life. You could hardly say that Jesus did not treat the genders differently when He is being supported by the very people He is accused of oppressing. Instead, throughout the Gospels we see evidence of Jesus teaching men and women together. From Martha being advised to follow Mary’s example (Luke 10: 38-42) through to teaching a Samaritan woman (John 4: 1-41), Jesus did not ignore opportunities to teach women or men.

From these various examples, I hope I have demonstrated that Jesus was most definitely not interested in keeping women oppressed. If anything, He was willing to support and protect them against those who wanted to oppress women. None of this contradicts the teachings we have from the Gospels, where Jesus’ main concern is explaining who He is and that only He is the way to forgiveness and heaven. Every bit of teaching to every person builds on that core message. (Sorry but that whole thing about goodwill to all men is only half the picture.) Thus the feminism that I agree with is not at odds with the Gospel I believe in.

Unfortunately, there is a strong branch of feminism that does not agree with the Gospel. This strong willed group of women have been termed ‘man-haters’ and are amongst those who would have you believe that Christianity still attempts to oppress women.* Unfortunately, this group often come across as arrogant and demanding, which has led many people to condemn all of feminism. As I hope I have shown, we should not condemn all feminists as they do not all fall into this group. Rather, we should understand that in a fallen world everything is tainted by sin. This is what has happened, as something that started off supporting equality and respect has being turned into something oppressive.

Effectively, feminism and Christianity actually share many similar characteristics in regards to equality for all. However, both have been manipulated into oppressive beliefs. It is time for women and men to study their Bibles and take feminism back to where it started. In the teachings of the man who was the Son of God. Only through Him will everything be as it was meant to be.

xxx

The post Can the Bible and Feminism exist alongside each other first appeared on CounterCultural. CounterCouture.

*I accept that historically there were occasions when the church did appear to oppress women.

One Response to Can the Bible and Feminism exist alongside each other?

  1. I really love this post. Unfortunately I believe both terms “Christian” and “femenisim” are no longer defined as what they originally mean. See the US’s cultural Christianity and ever growing pro-abortion and anti-traditional marriage population.

    I really resonate with your words. “The feminism I agree with is not at odds with the Gospel. Unfortunately, there is a strong branch of feminism that does not agree with the Gospel.”

    In today’s argument of feminism and Christianity, I think it’s really important to define each one clearly as the terms have been muddled.

    Thanks for this insightful read.

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