Christian. Feminist. Can you be both? Are the two mutually exclusive?
As a Christian, we are often taught views about women that can come across as sexist or oppressive. Often these views are ‘legitimised’ by Bible scriptures so they aren’t questioned or opposed. On the other side of the spectrum, the media tells you that women can do whatever they want. You can see women in sectors, like tech, which were previously dubbed male-sectors.
I don’t know about you guys but sometimes it can be hard to find your balance as both a Christian and someone who believes men and women are equal. Some days I still get confused about this but this is my stance. You can be a Christian Feminist, and here’s why.
The Bible says; “There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus.” [Galatians 3:28]
I believe men and women are equal and God intended them to be equal. Note: I’ve said equal and not the same. I do not think men and women were created to be the same, because if they were, God would have just made them the same. There would have been just one gender (or a non-gender). But just as our bodies are different, so are our functions. That does not mean we are not equally as important – we need each other. If for anything, to procreate and literally stopping the human race from dying out.
As sin entered the world (Genesis 1), men began to take everything a bit too far. Some men, some where along the line, took their physical strength and facial hair as a right for dominance. And begin to create the concept we now know as patriarchy.
I was reading the story of Esther in the Bible. It is a very interesting book and I would encourage all women and men to read it at least once in their lives. This book both inspires and frustrates me because there are so many things going on and just when you’ve decided that Esther is the heroine and Queen Vashti is the villain, you start to feel for Vashti.
Here’s a quick run down of the story: King Xerxes (also known as King Ahasuerus in Hebrew) was king of the Media and Persia region. He was having a banquet with his friends that had lasted for a week. They were eating and drinking merrily and the Bible says (Esther 1:8) ‘By the king’s command each guest was allowed to drink with no restrictions, for the king instructed all the wine stewards to serve each man what he wished.’ So basically everyone, especially the King, was very very drunk.
In his drunkness, King Xerxes called for his wife, Queen Vashti to come to the banqueting hall. Not because he wanted to discuss something very important with her. Not because she was vital to their decision making. Because she was pretty and he wanted his friends to look at her – literally sounds like some guys nowadays. (v10-11) ‘On the seventh day, when King Xerxes was in high spirits from wine,he commanded the seven eunuchs who served him—Mehuman, Biztha, Harbona, Bigtha, Abagtha, Zethar and Karkas— to bring before him Queen Vashti, wearing her royal crown, in order to display her beauty to the people and nobles, for she was lovely to look at.’
Now I am not the type of woman to enjoy being paraded before a room full of very drunk men, so I understand her declining the offer. Here’s the problem: this bit is constantly preached as Vashti disobeying her husband. And that’s exactly what the men in the banqueting hall said to the King (v17: For the queen’s conduct will become known to all the women, and so they will despise their husbands and say, ‘King Xerxes commanded Queen Vashti to be brought before him, but she would not come.’)
Yes she did disobey her husband, because his command was stupid and wrong. And just because he was her husband, does not mean she should obey a stupid and wrong command.
Of course we do not know Vashti’s reasons for declining – for all we know, she might have just wanted to embarrass the King. And of course it all worked out for Esther, her becoming Queen (Spoilers! Just read the book!). But I hate this idea that a woman should follow a man, whether her husband, father or brother, even if what they are saying or doing is wrong. Wrong is wrong – it does not matter who is doing it.
Until we stop hiding behind religion for the oppression of women, we cannot expect to have strong women, especially strong Christian women, in powerful places actually changing the world.
While I do believe in a structure where wives and husbands are submissive to each other, with the husband being the lead in the household (Ephesians 5:21-33), I do not believe in a oppressive structure where the woman is not allowed a voice, all in the name of being submissive. This is why I am grateful I grew up in a home that showed me that this is possible. My dad is very much the head of the household, but both him and my mum discuss and take decisions together. While they are one, through marriage, they still have their own ideas, views and thoughts that they can talk about freely, even if they ever opposing.
This is why I hate this idea of, you have to choose to be one: a Christian or a Feminist. Why do you have to choose? If you take being a Christian simply as someone who loves and follows Christ Jesus and take a Feminist simply as someone who wants equality for men and women, why can you not be both?
Of course there is more to Christianity and there is more to Feminism but in essence, they are not mutually exclusive. Until we stop hiding behind religion for the oppression of women, we cannot expect to have strong women, especially strong Christian women, in powerful places actually changing the world.
I deliberately missed out talking about the relationship between culture, Christianity and Feminism because that is a post for another day.
This post is obviously not to offend anyone, but to provoke thought. Please do comment (respectively) what you think – I’d like to hear from you!
Paula Melissa xx