With the International Women’s Day taking place on Friday, March 8, I want to make this declaration clear: “I am a feminist.”
Gloria Steinem once said, “A feminist is anyone who recognizes the equality and full humanity of women and men.”
For Christians who read and take the Scriptures seriously, a feminist theology emerges out of God’s sincere desire for justice and reconciliation.
The Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, reveals the flawed culture of dominionism while attempting to enact justice and inspire reconciliation that leads to an egalitarian society.
When sin entered the world, as told in the creation narrative of Genesis, humanity began its existence as a patriarchal society.
Not until after humanity’s fall do we see the sinful choice by one gender to seek control and authority over the other.
Therefore, the question quickly emerges, “Should people of faith be satisfied existing in a fallen culture, or should we seek after God’s desire to bring God’s will ‘on earth as it is in heaven?’”
It’s because of the Bible that I am proud to consider myself part of a growing movement called “feminist masculinity.”
As a middle-aged man, I have committed myself to work toward a church and culture that values and practices gender equality.
For too long now, the church has taught and practiced a patriarchal theology. When reading the Gospels, it becomes quickly apparent that Jesus did not see his movement as being dominated by males. He embraced and empowered women for ministry and leadership.
Working within a patriarchal faith and culture, Jesus departed from that view as he spoke with and discipled women others rejected.
After Jesus ascended, the church followed Jesus’ example as women leaders emerged like Junia, Phoebe, Lydia, Eunice and Priscilla.
As a feminist, there are some guiding principles I would like to offer for consideration:
- Reject patriarchal theology.
Patriarchal theology can be defined as the creation of theological constructs placing males in authority over females.
Often, proponents of such theological malpractice attempt to disguise this belief using “complementary” language focusing on divinely preselected roles for both males and females.
While men and women have often gravitated toward specific roles throughout history, this trend has not always been absolute.
Often, even in the Bible, we have witnessed women leading their people and households toward a more just society.
God uses both men and women for the divine mission, but there are times when women are more gifted and skilled for the tasks at hand.
To create an oppressive system that attempts to define spiritual and civil roles based upon gender falls way short of God’s redemptive hope for the world.
- Embrace egalitarian theology.
Egalitarian theology strips the notions of preselected gender roles, replacing them with freedom for any individual to follow the calling of their Creator.
God created males and females mirroring the Imago Dei (image of God), mutually instilling them with the authority and freedom to follow the Holy Spirit’s guidance. They are not restricted by the rules of this world but are free to pursue God’s calling.
With women and men standing side by side as co-laborers in this world, then individual traits can determine human responsibilities.
No longer bound by gender-based theology, females and males will be unleashed to follow personal characteristics and qualities.
Gender roles will be less emphasized, enabling the tasks at hand to be engaged by the most creative, qualified and passionate person.
- Advocate for gender equality in culture.
Once the theological framework of egalitarianism is established, then disciples should seek justice in the world.
From the education of girls to equal pay for equal work, Christians should be at the forefront of advocating for gender equality.
Around the world, women have been the most significant people group to be harassed, oppressed and marginalized.
The United Nations understands the importance of this venture by including the following among its Sustainable Development Goals: “Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls.”
Listen to these horrifying stats:
- Globally, 750 million women and girls were married before the age of 18, and at least 200 million women and girls in 30 countries have undergone female genitalia mutilation.
- In 18 countries, husbands can legally prevent their wives from working; in 39 countries, daughters and sons do not have equal inheritance rights; and 49 countries lack laws protecting women from domestic violence.
Here are more stats from the United Nations.
- Champion gender equality in the church.
Embracing egalitarian theology and advocating for gender equality in the world are not enough; Christians must also model equality in the church.
For too long, leadership positions in the church have been limited to males. With the rise of religious fundamentalism within evangelicalism, women were subject to second-class treatment and limited leadership roles.
More recently, however, there have been some positive trends emerging. The Barna Group noted in 2017 in their State of the Pastor report an increase in female ministers within mainline Protestant churches.
Over the last 25 years, female pastors have increased with one in 11 churches having a female senior pastor.
Baptists are even seeing some increases in opportunities for female senior pastors, though not at the same rates as other denominations, as documented in “State of Clergywomen in the U.S. 2018.”
If we ever want the world to treat women as equals with men, the church will need to take the lead and model gender equality as a witness for the gospel.
- Invest in gender equality.
If gender equality ever has the possibility of succeeding on a global scale, we need to invest our resources. Through strategic giving initiatives to mentoring young females, the church must begin investing in this growing movement.
Queen Rania of Jordan declared, “I’ve always believed that when you educate a girl, you empower a nation.”
Building off that notion, more than any time in the history of humanity, the world needs female leadership, wisdom, compassion and strength.
Humanity should lean into the United Nations goal to bring greater hope for the future.
The church should lean into Paul’s challenge that we are all equal in Christ, and we are all equipped for ministry.
I am a feminist not because I reject Scripture; I am a feminist because of Scripture.
I am not a feminist because I feel guilty about the past; I am a feminist because I have hope for the future.
I am not a feminist because I reject some preconceived notion of the universe; I am a feminist because I truly believe God created a world where women and men must stand side by side as partners with each other and with God.