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Inspiration

A Biblical Approach to Feminism

Feminism-in-the-Bible

If feminism had a poster girl, it could be me. Independent, willful and in love with my work, I could be a prime candidate for the tribe at the forefront of change in the world of women. But even after 10 years in the workforce and involvement in multiple committees and nonprofit interest groups, I don’t call myself a “feminist.”

We are often told, as Christian women, that to be a Christian is to be a feminist. But is this completely true? Truth be told, the feminism of today is a far departure from the feminism that brought us the right to vote, to work and to attend college.

It is important to know the history of the feminist movement in order to understand it in light of the Christian faith. Feminism had its beginnings in a worthy cause: the right to vote. Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton fought hard for women to have the full rights of citizenship. But as the movement progressed (historically divided into three “waves” throughout the 20th century), it was used as a vehicle for other purposes.

What began with good intentions has been adopted by our secular culture and often twisted to demean purity, family values, children and Christianity itself. In the name of sexual freedom, women are encouraged to find “liberation” by sleeping with multiple partners. Many are discouraged from the idea of marriage because it is “limiting,” and even more are turned off by the idea of having children because they can be an impediment to a successful career. These themes have become increasingly evident in the feminist subculture and associated media. It is not surprising that the secular feminism of today is not the same feminism as Anthony’s and Stanton’s of yesteryear.

So how should Christian women approach the cause of feminism? This brings us to an important question.

 

Was Jesus a Feminist?

Jesus was radical in his approach to women in ancient culture. Women in Hebrew, Roman and Greek cultures were little more than elevated servants. The Jewish people had so hardened their hearts they had even set up specific laws to allow men to divorce their wives for the smallest of offenses (Matthew 19:8). Women caught in adultery were often stoned, while the male offender could go free with a small punishment. And just as we see in today’s culture, women were viewed and used as sexual objects rather than treasured the way God intended from the beginning.

Jesus did not succumb to these cultural norms. He commanded men to control their eyes and hearts when it came to women (Matthew 5:28). He ministered to women on a regular basis, healing them physically and spiritually (Mark 7:26, Luke 8:2, Matthew 9:18-26). He also accepted the help and affection of his women disciples, including Mary and Martha (Luke 7:36-50, Luke 10:38-42). And perhaps most importantly, God chose the lowliest of women—Mary—to bring Jesus into the world in the first place.

But Jesus’ treatment of women was not because Jesus was a “feminist.” We cannot take modern-day terminologies and movements and expect to fit God into them for the sake of a cultural agenda. Jesus cared about women because Jesus cared about ALL people. This is where secular feminism fails to meet the standard of holiness highlighted throughout Jesus’ ministry.

The problem with modern-day feminism is that in its effort to elevate one population, it can demean another. In shining a spotlight on the needs of women, it often ignores—and even mocks—the needs of men and children (especially in the case of the unborn, with Planned Parenthood acting as a primary vehicle of modern-day secular feminists). The subtle message that women are smarter, better, stronger and more deserving than other people is woven through the magazines, blogs, websites and media perpetuated by secular feminist journalism. It is subtle, often written under the guise of “equality.” But secular feminism is incongruent with the example of Jesus and his treatment of women because Jesus treated men, women and children with the same level of value. He didn’t have to put one down to treasure another.

 

Our Response to Feminism

Does this mean we ignore the needs of women completely? Certainly not! It means we approach the feminist movement with great discretion and wisdom. It means we are followers of Christ before we are followers of any other movement or cultural agenda. In truth, this is the only way to see true, lasting change in the world of women.

The biblical approach to feminism means imitating the example of Jesus. Jesus valued every person as an individual. In order for women to cultivate lasting change in today’s society, they don’t need to scream louder, break more ceilings or climb more ladders—they need to imitate the radical example of Jesus, who listened to the needy, bent down to the burdened and healed the helpless. Jesus raised women up in a culture that brought them down, but He didn’t do it by adopting the cultural norms of the time—norms that allowed for certain groups of people to be devalued.

So as Christian women, we should be asking ourselves if the movement we align ourselves with is increasing the value of all those we encounter, or if we are in fact perpetuating the very problem we want to defeat. Jesus’ way is the only way to love, honor and respect those around us. Jesus knew the deepest needs of a woman’s heart and showed us how to address those needs. So if we are going to follow a “feminism,” let’s follow the kind Jesus exemplified. His is the kind that changes society—one woman’s heart at a time.

Image: Lightstock | Pearl

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16 Comments

  1. Project Inspired

    Posted by ctren on September 9, 2015 at 20:57

    I too believe that everyone is equal, regardless of gender, ethnicity, or sexual orientation (although I’d prefer to not start a debate on that one). Someone I know has worked on this website, called One in Christ and it has a petition you can sign, to promote women’s ordination in the Seventh Day Adventist Church. This is something very near and dear to my heart and I would love for you guys to check it out, even if you’re from a different denomination. The message is still the same: Women and men are equal in God’s eyes, so why can’t they be ministers or pastors? I appreciate this post Phylicia (pretty name and what a unique spelling!).

    http://www.one-in-christ.com

  2. Silvey

    Posted by Silvey on August 20, 2015 at 20:25

    I personally identify with a feminist. Because, while it is easy to note the flaws of modern day feminism, it is also easy to note the flaws of modern day Christianity. I believe that, as a Christian, I am to love all people, to stand up for those who cannot step up for themselves, and to hold myself in the knowledge of God’s view of me. feminism often speaks up for victims of abuse and rape, not just women, but men too. It speaks up for children and how letting boys be rough and teaching teen boys that they are entitled to sex because “boys will be boys” and teaching girls that shoulders are going to make boys want to have sex with you is a warped and twisted mentality. Feminism at its core seeks to right the wrong mentalities that our culture accepts because often we have never learned the difference. And that is why I believe to be a Christian is in a sense to be a feminist. Because just as all Christians are not defined by the hurtful people who use God to slam others and condemn, feminists are not defined by mysandry and hateful people. Because feminism is not God driven, it does have some moral flaws. But the whole point of feminism is to allow people to live how they choose and make decisions about their future without fear of ridicule. So that is why I identify as a feminist. More importantly, why I identify as a Christian feminist.

  3. emma_rose327

    Posted by emma_rose327 on August 4, 2015 at 08:51

    Wow preach it sister! I’m honestly so sick of this culture’s obsession with “feminism” and all of the horrible things we try to justify in the name of “equality.” You make such a good point that secular feminism today is not what it started out as, and not following the example of Jesus! I love love love your take on this issue.

  4. Pianist 4 Christ

    Posted by Pianist 4 Christ on August 4, 2015 at 05:25

    I do not label myself as a feminist. I think that both men and women are equal before God and are loved equally by Him but are created with different roles. God did not create women to sleep around with as many men as possible because it is “liberating” or abort their babies because having them would “limit their freedom.” No, He created us girls to be faithful and loving wives and to teach our children to walk in the way of The Lord, and although today’s feminists may say that I will never get to experience anything and I am missing out, they are really the ones that are missing out on having the assurance of salvation and freedom from sin in Christ Jesus. I pray that God can help me be patient with people who disagree and show them what Christ’s love is like.

  5. Project Inspired

    Posted by Mads on August 1, 2015 at 19:08

    This article would be fantastic if what you’re talking about (as is what the people in the comments talk about) isn’t feminism. The belief that women are better and/or should be elevated above men is actually known as Misandry, and is not in congruence with what you call “secular feminism”, which is focused around equality.

    A lot of people don’t see this because of the root of the word-fem, or girl. It’s called Feminism because it believes in elevating women-hence the root-to male standards.

  6. Litechina

    Posted by Litechina on August 1, 2015 at 12:39

    Personally I identify myself as a feminist. I believe in equallity for all genders. I am a also a Christian or better yet a follower of Christ.

  7. Project Inspired

    Posted by Luthien22 on July 31, 2015 at 20:06

    As a Christian feminist (note the order there), although I understand where you’re are coming from, I personally disagree with your main point, which is not identifying with modern feminism because of issues with it. Christians have issues with how they treat people sometimes; does that mean we disavow the term Christian for “Jesus liker person”? I haven’t ever met anybody who thought that feminism in its current state is perfect (and if you ever do, run *far* away). The real question is how we can best critique it and help it to improve. I’ve chosen one school of thought, you have chosen another. Which is fine- we’re different people after all, and our conclusions may change through time and experience.

    Also, to address your first point about often being told that to be a Christian is to be a feminist, maybe it’s the conservative Christian background, but I encountered egalitarianism, not feminism, more. Feminism was the F-bomb. Again, differences in personal experience.

  8. rainbowuni

    Posted by rainbowuni on July 30, 2015 at 20:17

    Some feminists are extreme. “Women are better than men!” “Abort all pregnancies!” But, as you can probably (hopefully) imagine, their numbers are very small. They’re the equivalent of WBC in Christianity—small but loud. Would you choose not to call yourself a Christian because some “Christians” don’t believe what you believe?
    I identify as a feminist, and I align with the more modern version of feminism. I don’t hate men. I don’t hate children. I’d love to get married and have children someday. There are several issues that affect men that I would be a voice for as well—things like being expected to conform to society’s definition of “masculinity,” or being expected to be chivalrous, are things men have to deal with that I’d much prefer they didn’t.
    Feminism doesn’t encourage sexual promiscuity—it simply discourages the notion that once you have sex, you’re dirty and impure—it discourages the judgement and name-calling of women who’ve had sex at all, as if they’re not even humans deserving of respect anymore. It encourages freedom from the constraints society (mostly men) expect of women (without expecting the same of themselves).
    Feminism still stands for allowing women the same rights and opportunities as men. The only difference is, it has progressed to the point that it is no longer a societal expectation that women get married at a young age and immediately get pregnant afterwards, only to stay home and raise kids their whole lives. Society has started to recognize that women are capable of doing more than bear/raise children—is that a bad thing?
    Also, Planned Parenthood is popular among feminists for providing women with rights to their body. Not just abortion (though the fact that they provide the service, and were a major voice in support of it when it wasn’t a legal option, doesn’t hurt) but all sexual and reproductive care—without judging. (It’s not popular because all feminists just want to murder children.)

    • phyliciadelta

      Posted by phyliciadelta on July 31, 2015 at 07:02

      Lisa, you are right on many points here, and throughout the post I make sure to articulate that not ALL feminists hold this view. However, the sexual revolution of the 1960’s changed the face of feminism in America. Gloria Steinem, one of the most celebrated feminist leaders, presented this changed ideology, saying: ““A liberated woman is one who has sex before marriage and a job after.” Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood, set the trajectory of PP’s values long before the results we see today when she said, ““The most merciful thing that a large family does to one of its infant members is to kill it.” Sanger was not only an advocate for abortion among the poor, but also among the handicapped and even the black population, in full support of sterilizing black men and women in order to “exterminate the Negro population”. This was the intention from the beginning. There are many clinics and doctor’s offices that provide safe, healthy care for women without simultaneously offering abortive options.

      It is because of the roots of these movements and organizations that we must be careful to evaluate them in light of our faith first, choosing with wisdom when and how to take a title that aligns us with movement that has changed drastically in the past 50 years. American women are the least oppressed and most free in the entire world. What a Christian “feminist” can do is find ways to reach out to the world of women who still live in oppression without endorsing the values associated with a movement that can be – though not always is – hostile to Christianity.

  9. Speak4Elohim

    Posted by Speak4Elohim on July 30, 2015 at 15:15

    AMEN!!!!!! Thank you! I am so sick of the feminist movement and women acting like they’re better than men, or don’t need men. Ladies, we need men and men need us. That doesn’t mean everyone should be married, some God has set apart for a life of godly singleness. But people DO need each other because that is how GOD CREATED US!!! Women are not and never will be better than men. Men are not and never will be better than women. Adults are not and never will be better than children, and children are not and never will be better than adults. Lets be honest guys, the problem isn’t other people. The feminist movement these days seems to be all about “The problem with women is men!” whoa whoa whoa, hold up!!! For one, that’s SO unbiblical, and for another the problem with women AND men is hat we all need Jesus. We are lost, broken sinners. We aren’t worthy of life. But we have been redeemed by a God who created us and loves us, which gives EVERY. SINGLE. PERSON. immeasurable worth! We are equals, not because by ourselves we have worth, but because we have all been MADE equal and worthy in the eyes of the Living God. *end of rant* 😛

    • Project Inspired

      Posted by Luthien22 on July 31, 2015 at 19:58

      *shrugs* I identify as a feminist, but in my experience the majority of feminists don’t think that men are horrible and women are perfect. The issue they see is with how society as a whole treats men and women. So all your points apply in general, but they’re only valid as a criticism as certain members of the feminist movement.

    • phyliciadelta

      Posted by phyliciadelta on July 31, 2015 at 06:12

      Katie, great points! We are indeed equal based on value God applies to every man and woman. The current feminist movement is in many ways a reaction against offenses women have endured throughout history. We are not ignoring those offenses by bridging the gap of communication between men and women. Giving value to every person is what God intends!

  10. Project Inspired

    Posted by doodlepad6 on July 30, 2015 at 13:35

    I understand and agree completely with what you’re saying, but I think it’s silly to not call yourself a feminist when the word literally just means you support women’s rights. You may not agree with other feminists who support causes such as abortion but think about this: “fear of a name only increases fear of the thing itself”. There are many Christians whose hackles are raised by just hearing the word “feminist”. It’s like refusing to call yourself a Christian just because you don’t want to be associated with the Westboro Baptist Church.

    • phyliciadelta

      Posted by phyliciadelta on July 31, 2015 at 06:17

      Anna, I see what you’re saying here. The reason I am careful in taking this title is because of the current feminist movement. Simply calling oneself a “feminist” in today’s culture – with no background or further definition – leaves people to assume we are indeed aligning ourselves with the current feminist movement. I do not support that movement, so I do not take the title. Instead, I consider myself a “woman’s advocate”, and use that title in the work I’ve done to combat domestic abuse, sex trafficking, and other women’s issues. I hope that clarifies it for you!

  11. TheLongLostWeasley

    Posted by TheLongLostWeasley on July 30, 2015 at 12:16

    I loved this article so much and felt so many connections to it. I call myself a feminist by its most basic definition — the equality of the sexes. In my eyes, I look upon feminism in the same way Emma Watson does — women make up of fifty per cent of the population of Earth. We do not have nearly as equal representation in some countries’ governments, and this is disheartening. Feminism to me is just treating women with respect. I like to think of women as the moms who bring us into the world and help nurture us. I like to think of men as the ones who naturally turn out to be leaders.

    However, I cannot stand the mixed-messages that the print media/magazine industry feeds us. I think it’s confusing for a magazine like SEVENTEEN to say that pornography industry objectifies women when they are encouraging a movement where they encourage the same women (that is, their readers) to wear crop tops to school as a means of protesting the system.

    But at the end of the day, I take comfort and pride j knowing that a much important title rules over my self-given title of feminism — Christian. I love God, love His word, and love knowing that at the end of the day, he loves me no matter what. ❤️

    • phyliciadelta

      Posted by phyliciadelta on July 31, 2015 at 06:14

      That’s a great way to look at it Morgan! Our identity in Christ overrules every other title and identity we hold.