(The inner struggles of a Bible-believing Christian feminist)
In case my interpretation of the terminology is different from yours, I’d better start with some definitions. Radical means from the root. Feminism means advocating for women’s rights on the grounds of gender equality.
I believe that men and women are equal in importance, significance and the contribution they can make to society. I believe they were always intended by God to be so;
Genesis 1:27-28 shows that male and female human beings were given exactly the same job description and that He was delighted with this state of affairs (vs31). In fact, the sole reason given for creating two genders at all was to facilitate relationship, companionship (Gen2:18). The first human was physically divided by God, so man and woman are two parts of the same thing – a human being! (It strikes me that this is a bit like God the Father and God the Son being two divine persons of the one Creator.) Human beings were created in God’s image to be relational, like God. In Eden, they were in perfect harmony with each other, just as they were with God. At the beginning of time, or root, men and women enjoyed gender equality.
After the fall and as a consequence of their sin, human beings were cursed by God. (Gen 3:16-19) All that was intended to bless – childbirth, work and the relationship between men and women, became corrupted. And amongst other horrors, the subjugation of women began. This is not a justification for oppression, it is a consequence of sin and therefore to be resisted.
I believe that men and women are equal in importance, significance and the contribution they can make to society. I believe they were always intended by God to be so
The meta-narrative of the Bible reveals God’s heart. Unlike the surrounding pagan nations, God gave His people laws designed to ensure that the vulnerable, including women, were properly protected. The prophets repeatedly berated the Jewish nation for its injustices towards the powerless. By the time Jesus was born, Jewish religious leaders and the wider culture had a completely degraded view of women. (A prominent 1st century sage Rabbi Eliezer stated that he’d rather see the Torah burned than taught to women.) Into this toxic environment steps Jesus. I think we have lost sight of just how revolutionary his ministry was in respect of women. He spoke to them in public, taught them, ate with them, accepted financial support from them, stayed in their homes, allowed Himself to be touched by them – all things that flew in the face of what a Jewish man would usually have done. He used examples from the everyday lives of women in his parables, He treated them with compassion and dignity; in short, He treated them like human beings, exactly as He treated the men he met. Sounds both radical and feminist to me!
Jesus came to Earth through the body of a woman, He revealed himself as the Messiah for the first time to a woman, after His resurrection He appeared to women first, even though women had no legal status as witnesses. In the ministry of Jesus I think we see a restoration of women to their rightful place as equal co-workers with men in working out God’s plan for humanity and creation.
We have all learned that words matter, that the language we use matters. God spoke creation into existence, Jesus is The Word, the Bible is the word of God. Early on in the human story, the gift of language was identified as carrying enormous power (Genesis11:6). Language is one of the key identifiers of humanity, it has the capacity to bless or blame, help or hurt. I am not a language scholar and I can’t read Hebrew, so I have to rely on centuries of translation, transcription and interpretation from the hands of many scholars – as far as I know, all of whom were male, living in a culture that at best, valued women as property, not persons. I wonder how much this toxic cultural context distorts what is in the translations of the text we now have?
Readers of the Bible challenge Facebook page might have read my struggle with a particular passage in 2 Samuel 12. Following the episode where King David commits adultery with Bathsheba, thereby causing her to commit adultery too and resulting in the contrived death of her husband, the text records that God sent His prophet Nathan to rebuke David. Nathan tells David that God says “I gave your master’s house to you and your master’s wives into your arms.” (2Sam12:8) and “Before your very eyes I will take your wives and give them to one who is close to you and he will sleep with your wives in broad daylight.“ (vs11). How would this sound to a woman who has survived sex-trafficking? Or domestic abuse? Or rape? How does it sound to you?
I know how it sounds to my daughters. How then do I hold together the ideas expressed in 2 Peter 1:20-21 and 2 Timothy 3:16 with these ‘words’ from God via Nathan? We are urged to grow in our relationship with God, get to know His heart and character by reading the Bible. I do not want to know, let alone worship any being who hands out women to powerful men for their sexual gratification. I do not wish to introduce such a character to my non-Christian friends. Thankfully, the God I know, who loved me so much He sent His Son to die for me, would never do that. Which leaves me with a problem with the text! I can live with mystery but I’d prefer clarity in order that I may “be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” (1Peter3:15) Any words of wisdom would be gratefully received.
(Ed – If you have something to say in response, please submit it to Martin before the next Magazine deadline, let’s open up a discussion!)Tags: Magazine