Previously I explained why many Christians consider feminism a dangerous and anti-Christian movement. We should not make the mistake, however, to think that all Christians are against feminism. Far from it, actually. In recent decades there has been an increasing number of Christians who have embraced feminism or aspects of feministic thought.
There are in fact very good reasons why the Church ought to be willing to listen to feminism. Maybe it will be a bit sobering for a lot of Christians to realize that truth can also exist outside the church, but if all truth is God’s truth and if the Church has not the monopoly on truth (which indeed it doesn’t) maybe it is time to join those Christians who have welcomed feminism as a gift from God.
Here are a few reasons why Christians ought to welcome feminism
1. Feminism has Christian roots
Feminism has its roots in Christian movements for social justice and equality in the 19th century. So in spite of radical elements and critical attitudes toward Christianity among many feminists, there is a core of shared values: women and men are equal before God. The main message of feminism is one that lies buried in the Christian tradition itself.
2. Being a feminist doesn’t equal being a radical
Christians do not have to embrace revolution, picture God as a female, or worship Christa instead of Christ to be feminists. Accepting the basic tenet of feminism, namely that women are co-equal with men, is in fact completely biblical. The feminist movement is very diverse and embracing its core message does not imply anti-Christian ideas or radical forms of theology that lots of people wouldn’t be comfortable with.
3. Christians should acknowledge that patriarchy means oppression of women
Many Christians have accepted the feminist analysis of the patriarchy, the system by which our civilization is run in which men are always in charge. They realize that the way our society and our churches are organized is a form of oppression of women.
4. The Bible supports the equality of women
Opponents to feminism will often quote from the Bible to prove that feminism is unbiblical. True if read at face-value in a quite literal way, the submission of women to men seems to be normative. But as all serious students of the Bible know, interpretation is tricky business. Those who oppose the equality of women by means of a literal reading of the Bible, don’t apply the same literalism when it comes to many other passages of Scripture.
Christian feminists will point out that those who think the Bible opposes equality of women are already committed ideologically to an anti-feminist point of view. A right interpretation of the Bible will show how in a subtle way, the inspired Scriptures show support for the equality of women even when the writers themselves lived in a cultural paradigm where such an outlook was impossible. What such an interpretation looks like will be explained in another article.
5. All truth is God’s truth
All truth is God’s truth and if the Church is failing in pursuing it, it may well come from outside the Church. Think of the call for independence in the message of Gandhi in India in the struggle against Christian England, the analysis of the Industrial Revolution by Marx, or the war Greenpeace wages in order to avert ecological disaster. Instead of harbinger of truth and liberation the Church has often been a reactionary force that sought to suppress freedom and the margin so as to maintain its political power in society.
Luckily there are places where Christians have taken the lead. The 18th and 19th evangelicals in England with Wilberforce as their leader fought against slavery. Liberation theologians and Roman Catholic clergy (bishop Romero) stood up against the economic oppression in South America. In South Africa Christians joined the fight against Apartheid, while Martin Luther King derived his methods and message during the Civil Rights Struggle from his Christian faith. Christian feminists recognize the truth in the message of feminism; they acknowledge its link with Christian truth and the work of the Holy Spirit in our time.
6. Feminism is a Threat to the Ones in Power
Finally, one more reason needs to be mentioned. As long as the Church has existed, men have held power in their hands. This means that the Bible was written by men who mostly thought that women ought to submit to men. The Bible was interpreted by the tradition which consisted of men who mostly thought that women ought to submit to men. And so, when Christians reject feminism, they are essentially saying: “We have never been able to consider the other voice. We know nothing else.”
We must realize that men have always held the position of power in the Bible, in Israel, and in the Church. Giving up that monopoly or sharing it with women would basically mean giving up power. Ultimately nobody wants to give up power. The cost is simply too great for men. Feminism is thus a threat to the ones who currently hold power. Conservative Christians should at least be willing to consider this matter. In the end such a desire for power and maintaining that power is itself an argument for the truth of the feminist message. The very fact that feminism at a deep psychological level is rejected simply because of a power struggle should be enough reason to consider and even welcome the balancing message of feminism.