Why The Evangelical Church Needs Feminism

Thursday, October 3, 2019

woman with hat sitting in road during sunset

I haven’t always believed that the church needs feminism.

I remember sitting in my living room with new friends who had come for dinner, trying to convince a woman who was studying to go into full time ministry that her role was at home caring for her husband and future children.  Today I cringe to think of it.  I cringe at the way I attempted to squash the Holy Spirit’s leading in her life based on my own biases and upbringing.  I cringe at the way I callously used my own fear and misunderstanding to restrict a woman who was seeking the Lord with her whole heart. And I cringe to think of a time when I thought fit to tell God what he could ask from a life He’d redeemed. 

The books I read and my experiences among church people back then confirmed my patriarchal worldview.  I read toxic books about being a help-meet, that discouraged close female friendships and shamed women for wanting to be anything more than professional slipper fetchers.
I started saying things like “the only thing I regret about my tattoos is that I didn’t wait to ask my future husband.  It’s his body too.”  Completely dismissing my own history and experience, completely dismissing my own personhood.

And when I was at the home of a fellow Christian, and I leaned over to change my newborn baby’s diaper, and a man 20 years my senior look down my shirt to see my bra, when I was shamed and given a sweater to put on, I did.  I accepted the shame and put on a sweater and sweltered under a mini-sermon about good places to buy modest clothing.  Because my t-shirt was slutty, and my body was wrong and men who look down women’s shirts are A-OK.

Friends, The church needs feminism.   

The body of believers that God calls His Own needs to be advocating for the social, spiritual, political and economic equality of women to men. 

The church needs feminism because when I was at Bible College, one of the girls in my dorm got pregnant by one of the boys.  She said it was rape, he said it wasn’t.  She was asked to leave, and he was asked to stop impregnating people.  

The church needs feminism because a teenage girl at a church I once attended was shamed for wearing pretty summery dresses because old men were ogling her and discussing her body.  Because it is more shameful for a young woman to dress in comfortable seasonal clothing than for elderly men to objectify a teenage girl.

The church needs feminism because that god-awful book about being a loyal help-meet and not having a personality or hobbies or friendships of our own is still being handed down to young women in our churches under the guise of so-called Biblical womanhood, is still available on Christian bookstore shelves.

The church needs feminism because our bible study materials available for women speak more about laundry than they do theology.  Because young men are taught to lead while young women are taught to protect their purity.

This is not okay.

The church needs feminism because every damn summer we end up debating whether or not a Christian woman can wear a bikini, while Christian women across the world are doing bold and incredible work for the gospel. They are stepping into peoples lives and pains in practical and noble ways, preaching and affirming the gospel with their words and lives, but we don’t trust them to dress themselves for the beach.

The church needs feminism because purity culture is just a rewiring of our society’s hyper sexualization of women, still reducing a woman’s value to little more than how she looks and dresses, by reframing it as modesty.

The church needs feminism because the very word, with all it’s radical implications of women being valuable people, equal to men, is still considered a bad word in some of our churches.

Folks, Jesus was a feminist.  

Jesus was powerfully, wholeheartedly, feminist.  His interactions with women in the new testament radically interrupted the patriarchy and misogyny of that day and ours.
  • Jesus rebuked Martha, as she called for Mary to return to her socially right place in the kitchen, and encouraged Mary to continue to sit and learn, to pull up her seat as an equal and valid human being to the men surrounding her.
  • He advocated against slut shaming by returning our focus to our own sins. “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.” 
  • He sent his most precious and vital message through women, as it was women who first preached the most glorious sermon that Our Lord is Alive. 
No, this is not a God who lackadaisically accepted the misogyny of this world. He countered and rebuked it over and over.

The church needs feminism, because the church needs the heart and truth of Christ.  

A part of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the good news that Jesus delivered to a broken hurting world, is that the lines we draw between ourselves are being erased by His kingdom.  That when we stand before God we are no longer male and female, Jew or Greek, slave or free. Our strivings to be worth more or less than the next person are over, that we are a treasured creation of the holy God, dressed in the righteousness of Christ, redeemed and made whole.

Friends, the church needs feminism not because it’s a nice ideology, but because we have an opportunity to raise up the next generation of women and men with the profound knowledge that they are capable of anything the Lord calls them to.  That their worth does not lie in their body or sexuality or even their attempts at purity, but in the magnificent substitution of Christ’s perfect righteousness afforded to us by the cross.

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