To be, or not to be, a feminist

I love Sarah Bessey’s book, Jesus Feminist: An Invitation to Revisit the Bible’s View of Women. In it, she says, “Jesus loves us on our own terms. He treats us as equals to the men around him; he listens, he does not belittle; he honors us; he challenges us; he teaches us; he includes us–calls us beloved….  Scripture affirms and celebrates women.” She writes a compelling argument for being a Christian feminist.

I agree with Sarah Bessey! And in a secular sense, I agree with equal pay, equal rights, freedom from sexual harassment and abuse, freedom from gender discrimination, the abolition of sex trafficking etc. I especially believe women are equal in the Kingdom and that they are not limited in the role they can play in the body of Christ.

But there’s something about the word “feminist” that has always bothered me. The term “feminism,” especially in a secular sense, can represent things I don’t particularly want to be associated with–like abortion and the whole gender/marriage debate. Feminists are often portrayed as putting down men, or at the very least, not needing them.

So it was with great interest that I learned during a lengthy car journey, that the highly talented musician/singer, Laurie Thornton, who was driving the car, had studied Arab feminist (an oxymoron?) literature in college. We had a fascinating conversation, and she expounded on an idea that made great sense of what makes me cautious about feminism.

Here’s what she said: the problem is that most people believe there’s a finite amount of authority available. (I’m not sure about the word authority here, but I don’t know what other word to use. Bear with me–it will make sense.) The only way that one gender can have more authority is if the other gender has less. So if men are the ones to have authority, then women, by definition, have to have less. In feminism, often the reverse is seen to be true. If women have authority, it comes at the expense of men. There’s only one pie–the question is how is it shared?

But our God isn’t like that. There isn’t a finite supply of authority. He can create more.  The pie is infinite. If women are to have authority, it doesn’t need to be at the expense of men. God will give them an authority of their own without diminishing that of men.

It’s the difference between having a bucket of water and a hose. We treat authority as though there’s only a bucket of water available. In reality, God has a hose and there’s plenty for everyone.

Feminism

Photo Credit: AP Photographie  via Compfight cc

My apologies that the link to the printable version of A Simple Guide to the Challenging Scriptures for Women didn’t work in the last post. That is now fixed.

Jesus Feminist

With a title like Jesus Feminist: An Invitation to Revisit the Bible’s View of Women, especially with the further subtitle of “Exploring God’s Radical Notion That Women Are People Too,” I expected a book that was strident and argumentative. But I was instantly won over by the welcoming and gracious, generous and vulnerable writing of Sarah Bessey.

It’s hard to know how to describe this book. Perhaps the thing that comes across most strongly is Sarah’s love for Jesus that permeates every page. Written with poetry and beauty, the book is a clarion call for women (and men) who long for freedom to step out into the fullness of their giftings and potential.

While she doesn’t gloss over the problems, Sarah encourages women to forgive and leave behind the limitations and hurts they may have experienced in a patriarchal system, and to move on into a work of healing and loving, of justice and community. Over and over again, she affirms the worth of women, commissioning them to go and heal others, to disciple and minister, to set others free. While the arguments she uses are Biblically sound and thought provoking, they are seasoned with such grace that they are somehow less confrontational and more winsome.

One of the signs that God is on the move concerning women in our generation is the number of books that are coming out on the topic.  Jesus Feminist is one of those books. It’s written from a different perspective to many of the books on this topic–more personal, less combative. Well worth reading.