Is Christianity compatible with feminism? Ask this question in nearly any Christian circle and you are almost sure to get some heated responses from people on both sides of the argument.
With all the connotations attached to the word “feminism” this is a complicated question to answer.
In its most basic definition, feminism is simply a striving for equality between the sexes.
Doesn’t seem all that controversial, right? But then of course feminism is attached to a more militant branch of women’s rights that emerged in the 1970’s and is often associated with liberalism or even going to the opposite extreme and disparaging men.
It’s understandable then, why the question of Christianity’s compatibility with feminism tends to be such a controversial one for so many churches and so many Christians.
Hannah Mudge, in an op-ed for Christian Today titled “Is it right to be a Christian--and a feminist?”, believes that feminism is compatible with Christianity. Mudge turns the question somewhat on its head and instead focuses on how the Church should embrace feminism--the equality and dignity of both sexes--in order to be better equipped to be involved in reaching out to women and addressing women’s issues.
The issues of domestic abuse, workplace discrimination, and the societal pressure surrounding marriage and motherhood are often discussed in today’s culture. Yet the Church often seems to be silent on these issues.
This needs to change, primarily because the Church is missing out on an opportunity to minister to a large population of God’s people and missing out on an opportunity to have women offer their insights and have them taken seriously.
Mudge notes that since many women (many Christian women) feel like they can’t openly discuss issues which are important to them within the Church, they have taken to the internet to engage in and foster these discussions.
A few months ago, Christianity Today published an article by Tish Harrison Warrren, a female Anglican priest who often speaks about women and their role in the Church. The article was titled “Who’s in Charge of the Christian Blogosphere?” and addressed the fact that many women have turned to becoming leaders in the Christian community through their online presence, in their blogs and social media accounts. The article also addressed how the Christian community should go about keeping these influential bloggers accountable when they are not under a traditional church authority.
Many of these women have been gifted with talents of leadership, teaching, and creating community, but sadly, many also feel like there is not a place for them in their desired roles within the traditional church community.
This has created something of a crisis in authority within the Christian community. In an article for Religion News Service, published on ChristianHeadlines.com, Hannah Anderson discusses Warren’s article: “Warren noted that many bloggers — and women in particular — write and teach outside the commissioning of the established church….The result is that women, more often than men, take an entrepreneurial approach to ministry. They gather communities around themselves via social media, bypassing established institutions altogether. Eventually these women may enter back into the establishment through books and speaking, but they do so on their own terms so that even as women are working outside institutions, they are remaking them in the process.”
It’s clear, then, that feminism--as defined earlier--is already a part of the Christian community. As Mudge suggests, the Church would actually be more equipped to deal with issues of women’s roles in the Church if it was more understanding of the issues that greatly affect women and embraced these issues to begin with instead of forcing women to take them up elsewhere.
This is also a great opportunity to minister to women and to show them the love of Christ. As Mudge notes, “It's vital that churches are well-equipped to support women who have experienced domestic violence or other forms of abuse from a partner [or any issue that particularly affects women, I might add]. Unfortunately, some women do not feel that the Church is a safe and sympathetic place to discuss what is happening to them – yet this should never be the case.
“We must understand that Christianity and feminism are not incompatible – and as women of faith, we have much to offer not only to the movement, but also to improving women's lives.”
With the prevalence of feminist ideas and discussions surrounding women in our culture, the Body of Christ has a unique opportunity to both minister and be ministered to. Like Priscilla (Acts 18:24-26; Romans 16:3), Phoebe (Romans 16:1-2), or other women named as key figures in the Apostle Paul’s ministry in the New Testament, women today are an integral part of the Body of Christ and the Church would do well to both embrace their gifts and seek opportunities to show them the love and grace of Christ.
Photo courtesy: ©Thinkstock/leolintang
Publication date: July 7, 2017
Veronica Neffinger is the editor of ChristianHeadlines.com