A recent article published by New York Magazine discussed the insurgency of feminism in Christian culture, most notably the term “Jesus feminism.”
Writer Alissa Quart interviewed self-proclaimed feminist Sarah Bessey for her article, a 34-year-old mother of three who is set to release her book Jesus Feminist: Life on the Other Side of Our Church’s Gender Debates this year.
“I am a feminist because Jesus made me one,” Bessey stated, asserting that it is her mission to revive feminism in the church.
“The word feminism in a lot of evangelical churches is a bomb being dropped,” she explained. “I’d like to reclaim our place in the history of feminism, in secular scholarship. Feminism has a lot of roots in women of faiths.”
Bessey, who lives in Vancouver, British Columbia, said that she believes that to be in favor of the rule and authority of men is to essentially be sexist.
“I am against systemic patriarchy and the effect it has in America and the world,” she declared. “It is not God’s dream for humanity. Women are not just what they look like, how much they make, how thin they are and how ‘hot’ they are.”
Quart noted that feminism in the Church is not a new concept, as a number of professing Christian women throughout history were self-described feminists, with one of the most well-known women’s rights activists being Susan B. Anthony. Anthony was a leader of the 19th century feminist movement, which included the fight for women’s suffrage. She is also the author of “The Women’s Bible,” which she penned with Elizabeth Cady Stanton and a panel of 26 women.
“Whatever the Bible may be made to do in Hebrew or Greek, in plain English it does not exalt and dignify woman,” she stated, expressing her dissatisfaction with the English translations of the Bible.
However, upon the release of Anthony’s feminist Bible, some women were outraged, decrying her redefinition of the Godhead as “a Heavenly Mother, Father and Son” and her notions that Christians should pray to their “ideal Heavenly Mother.”
Today, the pro-life organization The Susan B. Anthony List carries on in her name, although it states that it rejects a number of feministic principles. Groups such as Feminists for Life, however, are much more outspoken in their feminist beliefs.
Last November, popular praise and worship artist Vicky Beeching, known for her songs “Above All Else,” “Yesterday, Today and Forever” and “Great is Your Glory,” wrote an article outlining her beliefs that Jesus was a feminist. She also appeared on BBC News to explain why she believed women should be permitted to serve as bishops in the Angelican church — a proposition which was shot down by leadership.
“My Christian friends chide me for my overtly feminist views, while the atheist-feminist circles I move in despair at my commitment to what they see as a patriarchal religion,” Beeching wrote in Jesus Was a Feminist and So Am I. “It would be much easier to choose one or the other — Christianity or feminism, but I believe they should be — and are — utterly compatible.”
“Empathizing with my non-religious feminist community is easy. From an initial glance, Christianity does seem overtly male. Its language is strongly masculine, using terms like ‘father and son’ rather than ‘mother and daughter’ to describe two thirds of the Trinity,” she continued. “I’ll be honest, I have found the dominant male imagery of the Christian story difficult to embrace at times. The Church has also directed its fair share of criticism toward me for being a woman who is passionate about teaching theology, and for campaigning on issues of gender equality. Suffice it to say, it has not been an easy journey.”
Beeching, like Bessey, contended that feminism needs to be “reclaimed” in Christian culture, noting that a number of women followed Jesus during his ministry.
“Even if I can convince my feminist friends that the Christian faith embodies radical equality for women, it is still a hard sell to persuade my Christian friends to embrace the term ‘feminist,’ she stated. “[T]he Church must continue to move forwards in living up to the high standard set by Christ Himself. Hopefully He’ll continue His work of turning over temple tables in our generation until women have an equal voice and an equal place inside the doors of His house.”
However, some outline that the concept of feminism cuts against God’s very design for creation.
In his article entitled Men and Women and the Creation Order, Pastor William Einwechter of Immanuel Free Reformed Church of Ephrata, Pennsylvania stated, “[A]ll of Scripture is engaged in either the promotion of the creation order or the illumination of the creation order. This fact is entirely true of the creation order of the positional priority of the man and the submission of the woman to him as his appointed helper. All of Scripture promotes and illuminates this created order and applies it to all areas of life.”
While Beeching asserted that Paul’s writings in Galatians, which state that there is “no longer male or female in Christ,” support her feministic beliefs, Einwechter took a different position on the matter.
“[T]he claim of evangelical feminists that Galatians 3:28 removes the idea of male headship from the kingdom of Christ is … definitively refuted,” he stated. “In its context, Galatians 3:28 is stating the equality of spiritual privilege and covenantal standing for all who believe in Jesus Christ, irrespective of ethnic, social or sexual differences. In the terms of the Abrahamic covenant, all are the seed of Abraham by faith in Christ; this is the focus of Galatians. In terms of the Davidic covenant, the appointed order of authority for Christ’s kingdom is God – Christ – man – woman.”
“[T]he Word of God confirms and illuminates the creation order of distinct roles for men and women,” Einwechter continued. “In the Bible, the man is seen as the leader, provider, and protector of his family, and the woman is portrayed as a keeper at home who supports her husband, nurtures her children, and manages her household.”
He asserted that while the unbelieving world rejects God’s created order in almost every facet of life, Christians must be different.
“[E]very aspect of life and every area of government in our society is currently out of order — at least to some degree. Because of this, seeking to live according to the creation order will be difficult and perhaps costly,” Einwecheter concluded. “Though God’s people cannot impose the creation order on an unwilling society, they can get their own lives, houses and churches in order in obedience to God and as a witness to the truth of God’s appointed order. … In conclusion, we assert, on the basis of the Genesis account of creation of the man and woman and on the teaching of other Scriptures, that the creation order establishes a full complementarian view of the relationship between men and women.”