Growing up Southern Baptist, “feminist” was a dirty word. Feminists were really “feminazis.” They burned bras, hated marriage and kids and disdained anything normally considered female (the color pink and … I don’t know … emotions?)
That view of feminism is still pretty common today, especially in the Evangelical church, but I found it interesting when I looked up feminism in Merriam-Webster, that this was the definition I found:
“the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities.”
I mean, I’m on board with that. It’s not my life’s mission or anything, but I believe that men and women should have equal opportunities. And my guess is that whether or not you consider yourself a “feminist,” you do too.
This has been a big topic within the church recently. Women who want to follow God are asking: Why can’t I use my God-given leadership skills within the church? Why am I considered selfish or catty or manipulative for wanting to use gifts and talents that God has given me?
And recently, in the secular realm, Sheryl Sandberg launched her “Ban Bossy” Campaign, which encourages individuals to stop calling females, especially young girls “bossy.”
I get it. I really do.
It’s irritating to be called pushy or manipulative or bossy for exercising leadership skills — especially when a man might be honored for exercising the same skills. It’s frustrating to feel limited by others and have non-Biblical traditions cited as a reason you can’t be treated or viewed equally.
Too often the Christian circle wants to talk about where we should land on the feminist spectrum. Around whether Jesus was a feminist or not and what those hard female Biblical passages mean.
These are fairly fruitless discussions because first of all, as we’ve established, “feminism” means vastly different things to different people. Many arguments about “feminism” really boil down to semantics and that’s a dumb argument to have.
It’s also fruitless because feminism is a secondary issue and worldviews and Biblical interpretations relating to feminism have always varied and will always vary. We’re never all going to agree, and both sides will use Biblical passages and logical and illogical arguments to defend their viewpoints.
We’ve spent so much time arguing about semantics and using the Bible to attack others and defend ourselves that we haven’t really learned how to discuss this all constructively or considered how Jesus would handle this situation.
So maybe the best question isn’t what word we pin to our vests, but what we plan to do with those beliefs.
I, for one, plan to put a stop to the pity parties — to the complaining, campaigning and crusading.
We love to think that being a Christian means demanding our rights, as though Jesus walked around demanding everyone agree He was God’s Son and that they treat Him as such. He was God’s Son, He told people so, He gave them the opportunity to treat Him as such, but He didn’t seem to vex Himself when people didn’t. He did what He came to do, He did so beautifully, and while He is the world’s most famous martyr, He never played the part.
I understand that, unlike Jesus, we’re not God, we don’t have complete wisdom, and our causes are not nearly as important as His was, but we have a lot to learn from His example in this area or any area where we may disagree with other Christians.
Speaking the truth is a good thing, that’s what Jesus did, but we all walk a fine line between speaking the truth and demanding our rights. Which is why I feel there are a few truths in the feminist discussion that we can all agree on, whether we self-identify as complementarian, egalitarian, or somewhere in the middle (which is where I always find myself).
When you speak, don’t shout
Do your thing, live your life, do what God has called you to do. And if someone challenges you or asks you about it, kindly explain what you believe.
Too often, someone with an agenda purposefully puts themselves in a controversial situation just to make a point. They ask for permission on what they know they’re called to do so that when it is refused, they can fight tooth and nail to make everyone else see their point of view.
Quit asking permission. Quit fighting. Quit making gender equality your life goal. Make doing what Jesus has called you to do your life goal. And whatever you do, do it humbly and do it well. More often than not, that will change more hearts than arguments will.
When you speak, do so with love
When we react with hateful and rude speech, not only are we flat-out refusing to follow Christ’s example and commands, but we are further perpetuating the stereotype that women are catty, emotional, and even, dare I say, bossy. Love is what changes things — acting and reacting in a graceful manner even towards those who share vastly different opinions.
That doesn’t mean pandering. Jesus was firm, He didn’t waver, but He was loving. And hopefully if there’s one thing that Christians can agree on, it’s love. God is love, after all.
When you speak, don’t force
Jesus didn’t feel the need to force His identity on people who were trying to kill Him, so why in the world do we think it’s right to force ours on people who simply disagree with us?
Some people have a Biblical conviction or a deeply embedded tradition about the role of women in the church/home that, right or wrong, is not going to change. Trying to drag those views out of them will do more harm than good.
So if that’s the case, let it go. It’s not our job to change minds and hearts.
And if you feel you can’t stay in your work/church/social environment because of its stance when it comes to feminism, it’s okay to leave. Better to leave than to stay just to cause controversy.
There are enough debates about this going on, and I think they will always be going on. I don’t want to add to the noise, I want to for once bring up something we can all agree on — that no matter what our views are on feminism or the role of women, there’s a constructive and Christ-honoring way to have these conversations.
What do you think? What are some other ways we can follow Christ’s example in this area?