Feminists were always the enemy. Enemies of natural order. Enemies of the men that God placed in charge.
When I was fresh out of college and fully immersed in my evangelical swing, I knew that I was called, that God had marked me. But I was also aware of my place in this world as a woman. I remember having an argument with a friend one day about my strong views. He questioned many of the Christian community’s views on women. He didn’t understand the “order” by which we structured things in the church that subjected women to an inferior status.
I gently reminded him that the Bible points out that men are the head of women and that our submission to them was freeing to women. We were the lesser, weaker, more inferior being and he didn’t understand or accept that. He told me that if that was freedom then he pitied me. I stood my ground in protest. He stood his. We agreed to disagree and I chalked his views up to worldly bondage and secularization.
Weirdly enough it took a man to challenge me – not a woman.
Fast forward to seminary.
I remember seeing a class offered called “Feminist/Womanist.” A friend of mine asked if I was going to be taking that class and I remember responding with such disgust as though I would not want to take a class like that because I did not want to be associated with being a feminist. A year later they offered the class again. This time I was about two semesters into my newly shifted worldview and I noticed that one of my favorite professors, Mark Taylor, was teaching the class. I figured I would give it a shot.
I read books by Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza and Kelly Brown Douglas. We talked through our pre-conceived notions and stereotypes. We watched videos that shed light on women’s oppression, past and present. We talked through those complicated scriptures in the Bible and decided to commit ourselves to not blaming God for any patriarchal inconsistencies. We talked through historically, why it was necessary for Womanism to branch off from Feminism, and the complexities of race and ethnicity in the face of sexism. I was both enlightened and apologetic.
Weirdly enough it took a White male systematic theologian to challenge me – not a woman.
So you see, it was two men that I attribute to bringing me to this place of Womanist/Feminist identity. Two men that I am -to this day- very grateful for. So no I don’t hate men. I hate oppression. I hate abuse. I hate injustice. I hate anything that would keep anyone -male or female- from being 100% fully and authentically all that they were created to be.
I would be remiss to ignore the reality that our Christian community has created a culture of suppression and reproach in relation to our women. We continue to encourage and/or overlook popular pastors like Mark Driscoll who boldly proclaim that “women are unfit because they are more gullible and easier to deceive than men.” We listen to popular speakers like John Piper insist that women need to stay in their place even amidst abuse (“If it’s not requiring her to sin but simply hurting her, then I think she endures verbal abuse for a season, and she endures perhaps being smacked one night, and then she seeks help from the church”). We listen and we adhere or we chalk it up to being a harmless view.
But it IS harmful.
In “The Misinterpreted Gospel of Singleness,” I talk about something called the Accumulation Theory. This is “the view that the impact of any one message on any specific person may be minimal, but consistent, persistent, and corroborated messages result in minor changes among audiences that gradually add up over time to produce significant changes in society or culture.” I go on to say that “I, personally, am against systems that communicate harmful messages and push to establish them as normative. It’s particularly difficult when one specific message has been so deeply ingrained within the psyche of our society and of Christian culture.”
It takes a rather aggressive approach to counter these messages. And I believe that it is the responsibility of both men and women in the church to do it. It takes both men and women to lay aside their fears of empowering women, put aside assumptions, hold leadership accountable and shift the culture. Now is not the time to blame women or consistently accuse us of complaining, ranting and raving and hating men. For many of us that is not the case at all. It’s just that it takes a consistent movement of change in language, systems, traditions etc. to reverse a culture of patriarchy.
Men, we love you. We honor you. We don’t want to take your place as men as much as we don’t want you to take our place as women. We want to walk together. We want to make this world a better place together. We need you as much as you need us. We love men and respect men.
When I take a stand to defend women, it’s not because I hate men.
It’s because I love my neighbor as myself, and that includes speaking on behalf of those who cannot always speak on behalf of themselves.
View a video of John Piper’s comments here: Does a woman submit to abuse? For more on Mark Driscoll’s comments, read this blog.
I think the accumulation theory is an important one for those of us in egalitarian movement to consider. Sometimes we get discouraged and wonder why we should keep speaking up. But it’s important! And I think we don’t necessarily have to be giving long eloquent speeches or writing lengthy articles (although there is a need for that as well!). We just need to keep the message of verses like Gal. 3:28 and Ephesians 1:4 at the forefront! Love that these verses are emphasized in egalitarian resources like http://gal328.org/ and https://www.facebook.com/FullRights.
Thanks for including those links. Very helpful!
This is excellent and so important for men to understand of those who are seeking equality! You offer encouragement when we are discouraged by the slow progress of change. You are so right: “It’s just that it takes a consistent movement of change in language, systems, traditions etc. to reverse a culture of patriarchy.” Both small and large movements, both noticed and unnoticed acts of empowerment and embracing between genders. One word, one act at a time. I keep trying to remember this as I follow Christ into my freedom one step at a time.
Thank you for a well written and powerful piece.
Thank you so much!
It’s hard to believe a video like this of John Piper. Obviously a man who has no real idea of the world of domestic violence! Thanks for your post Khristi. I, too, began my Christian life thinking that what I’d been enculturised in was what the Lord was saying and it was only the years which have taught me about the dignity of women and the pure lunacy of a theology that would say that one person is more equal than the other. The Bible is full of instances of women in leadership; anyone prepared to look with an open mind can’t fail to see that. It’s a great post and really helpful.
Thank you so much! It’s been a long journey but a necessary one. 🙂
Well done! Thank you for this fine essay, Khristi. My own views on roles/gender were also birthed through conversations and classes led by male professors. I celebrate the ways in which we are the same and ways in which we are different and am grateful to live in a time when such good, rich work is being done to help us appreciate who we are together, male and female.
So grateful for those men who take on the responsibility to encourage women’s voices. I should go back and thank them personally! Thank you.