A very dear friend responded to my recent blog post, Why I Won’t Settle For Feminism, with some pretty great questions that sparked a conversation between us. I think her questions did well to point out areas that I overlooked addressing in my previous post, and I’d like to address them here.
If you haven’t read the original post, this add-on won’t be very clear, so I ask that you read my original posting first.
The subjects of “dead-beat” dads, sexual abuse and ridiculous social laws pertaining to women abroad and in our early history are ugly and wrong. I think it’s important to make the distinction that none of those things that oppress women are part of God’s design, and I don’t think Feminism is the only thing to try and rise against them. Those things are a result of devaluing women, which God does not do. He created us and we are of great importance to him, equal in every way to men. But I think the problem with Feminism is that it has fed us the lie that it is the only fix for those injustices. That simply isn’t true. Real, scriptural design says otherwise.
I also think it’s worth distinguishing between Feminism and the Suffragette movement. While Feminism claims to be a continuation of Suffragette vision, I don’t believe this is really the case, and I think that many of the early Suffragettes would be appalled at the Feminist ethos. The Suffragette movement came from a place of seeking to end real oppression that existed among minorities that included, women, blacks, and those of low socioeconomic status. I still believe it had some flawed principles, but it did succeed in providing important legal rights for those people groups and helped to bring attention to very real oppression.
Feminism on the other hand was born out of the Sexual Revolution and most of its ideals are centered around sexual freedom, and abortion is a key point of Feminism because of its roots.
While I believe there are many reasons women make the devastating choice of abortion, it is a very real and unfortunate fact that it is being played within the political mainstream as a way to neutralize the sexes. I think this is deplorable, and I am honestly ashamed of women for allowing this to go on without speaking against it.
I think there is a place for gentleness when we speak on abortion, I know women who have chosen it from a place of fear, confusion and even persuasion, and I have infinite grace for them. But I think just as Jesus dealt with people both gently and firmly there is also a place for anger towards sin (especially sins against the innocent), and I think Jesus would be upending the tables in the temple of Feminism because it is largely responsible for a lot of problems and very much so for the deaths of the unborn. Yes, sin is the root, but I think because Feminism is rooted in a sinful ethos it has to be addressed firmly. The Feminist movement is largely part of why many women experience the fear that leads them to abortion, and I know women personally who have chosen abortion out of their need to fulfill the Feminist mantra of “equal sexual freedom”. I think the women and men that speak for Feminism feed the deception that leads to false hopes and when those hopes are threatened many women make fearful and devastating decisions. I also think Feminism has exacerbated the problem of irresponsible fathers and broken families (though clearly they are not the only sinful movement responsible for this, as I mentioned Male Chauvinism is horrible, and I think Jesus would upend those tables too, I am choosing to address Feminism because so many people don’t see it for the problem it is).
I also want to be clear that I am not saying my family was the only model or even the ideal model of a biblical family. But I think it was a good example of what scripture describes.
Scripture says the wife is to submit to her husband, that the husband is responsible for protecting and providing for his family, and that the wife’s main focus is in the home. Those are our specifics and I think they play out in different ways. I don’t think this means only homeschooling, or that women cannot work outside of the home, or that in some extenuating circumstances the husband couldn’t stay at home (due to disability, loss of job, etc). But the overall framework for a biblical family is there and I think we have to try and fit within it if we want to be faithful to our Creator.
My point in bringing up my childhood was simply to address that gender neutrality does not exist and that the diversity within my family (specifically between my brothers and myself) was a natural thing, and not socially constructed. Because Feminism tries so hard to say society defines femininity and masculinity, I wanted to bring an example–namely myself–as someone who is feminine in the way scripture describes but doesn’t fit into the social dogma of our culture’s definition of femininity.
I am also aware that we live in a fallen world, where husbands leave or abuse their wives. God does not call women to submit to abuse and those men are not doing what God has very clearly told them to do, and that is to love their wives above themselves. Abuse and abandonment are clearly not part of God’s design. And where the husband leaves the home it is the Church’s responsibility to step in and help fill the needs of a single mother (or in reverse single fathers), and our Christian brothers are called to protect their sisters, so in examples of abuse, the Church should be stepping in on behalf of women.
It is also worth noting that single females are called to submit to the Church, and the male headship and teaching that is within that framework, but they do not submit to men in the same way that a wife submits to her husband.
I know that there is so much sin and brokenness in our world. My point is that Feminism is not the answer to it. Christ is. And I think we would spend our time better seeking to repair that brokenness within the framework God has given us, instead of trying to do away with his design as Feminism does. I think that men, women and the Church at large haven’t always done this the best way, but there is a movement toward improvement. But I also think that Feminism has muddied the waters and confused a lot of people and I believe it has a very large responsibility in the shaping of abortion in our country and thus the death of millions. Which is why I have chosen to address it in a less gentle way.
And while I am primarily addressing women in my writing I acknowledge that men are just (if not more) responsible for the damage that Feminism has caused, but I think other authors have addressed them better than I could, and I feel it is my place to address women specifically.
I hope this clears up some of what I may have left ambiguous in my last post.
Like Christianity, feminism is a spectrum of beliefs. The core of feminism is: the advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of political, social, and economic equality to men. What form that takes differs more than the denominations do from each other. We still need feminism to advocate for equality and rights the world over as Christianity has been dragging its feet on these issues for centuries.
Christianity is equally guilty of having masculine and feminine stereotypes, spend a little time in the womens’ bible study section of most stores and you’re more likely to see every shade of pink. Christianity singles out the singles, ignores them if they’re over 40, and elevates femininity, masculinity, marriage, and family as if it were the end all and be all of living the Christian life.
Complementarianism isn’t the only way that works, egalitarianism fits those whom complementarianism fails. In the same way a child needs to be told no, the occasion arises where the best interests of a family begins with telling a husband no on bad investments and similar situations. Never being told no is not godly.
While I agree that both Feminism and Christianity contain spectrums of belief it is also important to note that they both are based from a singular idea. Christianity is based on Scripture, and the telling of the life, death, resurrection and supremacy of Christ. Feminism is based on and founded from the Sexual Revolution. There is no removing this fact from the history of Feminism and it very clearly permeates the different “denominations” of feminism, just as Christ permeates the different denominations of Christianity.
I agree that Christians have been guilty of perpetuating hurtful stereotypes, I very clearly speak against this in both my posts. Some Christians have overlooked singles, I agree, but that is not a Christian problem, it is a sin problem that Christians commit. Scripture clearly values men, women, singles, married and widows. And if we are seeking to follow Christ we will value people the way they should be, no, the Church has not always done this well, but Feminism isn’t the way to fix that, returning to real Scriptural mandates is.
I completely disagree that we need Feminism. And I also disagree that “Christianity” as a whole has drug its feet in the realm fighting for the oppressed. That’s a serious overlooking of history. Christians were the first to intercede on behalf of women’s rights in India (read the story of Amy Carmichael) when the rest of the world wasn’t even paying attention. Christian women were the LEADERS of the suffragette movement seeking to free women, children and minorities from oppression; and Christianity is at the forefront on the war against abortion seeking to save the lives of millions of FEMALES and MALES. No, Feminism isn’t necessary, but real Christians are. I agree not all Christians have stepped up to their calling, but Feminism won’t fix that, only Christ can.
And as for your comment regarding Complementarianism, I’m assuming that you’re not meaning to equate a husband with a CHILD as it would seem, regardless, Complementariansim and Egalitarianism cannot both be right. And Egalitarianism just simply isn’t compatible with scripture.
Feminism and Christianity simply cannot coincide. And as I said before, the vision of Feminism is too small for me to accept.
The first-wave feminists were abolitionists in the 1800s who also focused on suffrage. The second-wave feminists were a part of the Sexual Revolution in the 1960s. Third wave feminists start in the 1990s. Humanity and sexuality are as intertwined as DNA, one cannot continue to exist without the other. We’re not nearly done with these issues and we will continue to see them play out for decades to come. Our country was founded on ‘life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness’ that’s still true in a secular context, and I don’t see why it isn’t true in a sacred context even if it’s not a verse in the Bible.
In ‘A Case Of Conscience Resolved’ by John Bunyan, he argued that it was not permissible for women to gather together and pray, basically banning what we now know as women’s Bible studies and that was in the 1600s. Christianity was once working hand in glove with the state to maintain control of medieval Europe and they did nothing to improve the lot of women or slaves.
In many places I’ve read, women are often considered to be a perpetual child. She is seen as such historically under the care of her father and of her husband once she is married off. This is the norm in much of the Middle-Eastern world. Yet when the argument is made of men, simply out of maleness it doesn’t hold water. I propose that it never did hold water in the first place. With education, respect, and confidence, men and women oftentimes reach the same conclusion so long as they are allowed to agree. When women are called to submit, they never get the chance to realize that they are equals and are allowed to tell their husbands that a bad investment will ruin them. Sometimes people do stupid things over and over again, if you never tell them no, they never learn. Men aren’t Christ, they’re not bastions of perfection who never ever go wrong, nor should women treat men as if they are.
Again, Suffragettes were not Feminists. The title of “First-Wave Feminism” was attached to the Suffragettes by Feminists in the 1960s. My point is that Suffragettes and Feminists, while they may have a crossover in some areas are fundamentally different because of the basis of their ethos.
Nothing I have mentioned has nullified “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” (though I also think their is some flaw in this notion, that’s another debate), Christianity doesn’t threaten that, Feminism however, by it’s support of abortion DOES threaten the life liberty and pursuit of happiness for millions.
I didn’t deny that Christians have been guilty of the sin of male Chauvinism, my point is that both Male Chauvinism and Feminism are flawed because BOTH deny the design God has given us.
I also think you have an incredibly flawed picture of what biblical submission looks like. What you’re describing isn’t what scripture describes (though I agree it is what many Christians have been guilty of).
Submission DOES NOT negate equality. And the design is for a wife to submit and a husband to love. Both elements are necessary for success.
Yes, men and women do stupid things over and over, but submission is gracious and allows mistakes because as wives our HOPE is not in our husbands or ourselves but our God. This does NOT mean we don’t have a voice in decision making, IT IS OUR JOB to offer biblical wisdom to our husbands, and in loving us they should hear us, and yes, ultimately they are the authority of the marriage and we have to have enough faith in our God to submit to them. I’m sorry, but Scripture is really clear on that.
No, men are not Christ,I never said they were. And submission doesn’t treat them as though they are perfect.
Like I said before, Feminism is not compatible with Scripture, nor is Male Chauvinism. It is the Christian’s job to change our sinful selves to modeling his design, not the reverse.
The question I think you need to ask yourself is whether you submit to Christ, or the Feminist ethos.
I for one choose Christ.
I choose both. I love God and love my neighbor, I will not be a respecter of persons because God is not a respecter of persons. Meaning that he does not treat people according to their rank, status, or importance.
I’m sorry, but I think you are gravely mistaken. God doesn’t need Feminism to be added to his already perfect design. His design is perfect in the way it calls us to treat people. Feminism adds nothing to that and only detracts from it. I hope that you can see at some point that all that is necessary is simply Christ, not Christ and Feminism, not Christ AND anything. Just Christ, as he is, and as he calls us to live.
I understand, but i don’t get why it’s not a contradiction for God to not be a respecter of persons (Acts 10:34) and yet insist that only men may lead, isn’t that favoritism? To me, it’s Christians that believe in “Christ and Complementarianism” are guilty of the exact same thing. Since there is no marriage in heaven, nor will people be given in marriage, at one point both sides of the coin will fade away.
It’s not Christ and Complementarianism; it is simply Christ, Complementarianism is simply the title of the structure of marriage that is explicitly described in Scripture.
I think you’re view of submission is very low; the point is not that submission or leadership are a measure of equality, rather that they are EQUAL but DIFFERENT roles and both are necessary and explicitly designed for each sex. They are not interchangeable just as our sexes aren’t. Submission is a very high calling that requires a strength of character and faith for women to do it well, just as leadership is a high calling that requires men be strong in character and faith.
It’s ironic that you paraphrase that discussion Jesus has with the Pharisees regarding marriage and heaven, because IN CONTEXT Jesus is condemning the Pharisees for trying to muddy the waters of God’s design for marriage to insert their own design, and that’s exactly what you’re doing. It’s true that marriage doesn’t exist in heaven, but it DOES exist on this side of eternity, and it plays a CRUCIAL role in displaying God’s kingdom; and the explicit roles of submission and leadership are essential to that picture.
Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything.
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless. So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself; for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church, because we are members of His body. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and shall be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church. Nevertheless, each individual among you also is to love his own wife even as himself, and the wife must see to it that she respects her husband.
As I said, God’s design for marriage is specific, and it is not compatible with Feminism.
Lydia, first of all, I commend you for taking on such a controversial topic in a public space. However, I do have a few things that I’d like to say in response, but please know that I speak in love and for the purpose of mutual understanding and dialogue:
1) Is it really fair for you to define feminism as being only rooted in the sexual revolution? I feel like it’s somewhat akin to a non-Christian trying to define for Christians what their faith entails. I agree that there are aspects of feminism that are incompatible with orthodox Christianity, but I am not prepared to say that there isn’t anything Christians can learn from feminists, or that a person can’t be both a Christian and a feminist.
2) I have struggled for a long time with understanding the passages you have quoted that tell wives to submit to their husbands. I believe that the scriptures are God’s word, and should thus not be taken lightly or ignored, and yet I have heard those words used to browbeat, abuse, and control women far too many times to be able to hear them without flinching a little. In my experience, the marriages that have portrayed the relationship between Christ and his Church the most clearly have not been the ones that were explicitly vocal about the wife’s submission to her husband; rather, they were the marriages where both members actively sought to live out Colossians 3:12-14: “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” I am not saying that it is impossible to be vocally complementarian and live out Colossians 3, but what I am saying is that the passage that seems to more consistently help produce good fruit in people’s lives is Colossians 3 (and others like it), not Ephesians 5 (and others like it). I am sure that is mostly because as fallen human beings we far too often try to seek out justification for our sins, and we find some passages of scripture more amenable to that than others. Nonetheless, I am somewhat of a pragmatist, so because I have found focusing on being altogether more Christ-like in my interactions with my husband produces more good fruit than agonizing over what being biblically submissive actually looks like, I will continue in my approach until I am convicted to do otherwise.
Thank you for such a thoughtful and thought-provoking comment. Let me say first that I only see graciousness and humility in your words and I very much appreciate that.
I’ll do my best to answer your questions.
1) I do actually think it’s fair to define Feminism as rooted in the sexual revolution, because historically it is. Just as I think it’s fair for people to define Christianity based on Scripture. The ethos of Feminism is based in it’s roots, just as Christianity is based on its roots in Scripture.
I totally agree that not everything about Feminism is contrary to Christianity, but my point is that in order to be for the “good” parts of Feminism you don’t need to be a Feminist, you need only be a Christian. The additional areas of Feminism (where they begin to contradict Christianity) are unnecessary, and because I think the ethos is flawed at its roots that plays out in many ways that have been destructive and I think abortion is the most destructive of all.
2)I completely understand your hesitancy towards those passages. Having experienced a relationship prior to my marriage that did just that I know first hand how people twist God’s words for their own use. And I know the men who have used that verse to brow-beat women, and totally misidentified what real submission is will be held accountable for that by our very just God.
That said, I don’t think we can let those men take that verse as their own. It doesn’t belong to them, and the way they have enacted it is a horrendous mockery of God’s beautiful design.
And while it may seem like a more pragmatic approach to simply avoid that verse, I don’t think it’s the right one, because,
“1 Timothy 3:16, All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness.”
I don’t think we’re being faithful if we ignore those verses. And I also think we are being too easy on the men who have used those verses for their own treachery if we do.
I think instead we have to really look at Scripture, all Scripture, and really figure out what God says a wife’s submission looks like, not according to Male Chauvinists and not according to Feminists.
And I also totally agree that our interactions with our husbands (and their interactions with us) MUST be Christ-like, but I think Submission and Leadership, when done according to God’s design, fit into that perfectly.
I can’t thank you enough for your comment. Thank you for approaching with such respect and gentleness. I’d be happy to dialogue with you any day 🙂
Thanks for the reply, and sorry it’s taken me so long to write a response (life gets busy). While I agree that whatever is good in feminism can be found in Christianity, I do think that as fallible human beings a lot of people will overlook those “feminist” aspects, and thus secular movements like feminism can be beneficial to Christians, by drawing our attention to aspects of the scriptures that we may have previously overlooked or dismissed.
Also, I may have over-emphasized my pragmatic attitude towards those passages of scripture dealing with submission and headship in marriage; I don’t avoid them, and quite honestly think about them often, because when I’m not quite sure what to do with a passage of scripture my mind will return to it over and over again. I simply meant that when it comes to a matter of emphasis for practical living, I choose to focus on being Christ-like, because that is clearer and less problematic to me. I would find it helpful if you could provide a specific example of what it means for you personally to live in submission to your husband’s leadership, because I have seen so very few good examples of this that I am left confused as to what it actually looks like. However, I know that’s a very personal question, so feel perfectly free to not do so.
I think your reply is two parts so I’m going to address them as such here.
I’m not certain I can think of any examples where Feminism has brought our attention to scripture in a way that doesn’t devalue it.
I suppose I can agree that a secular movement has value, in that their assertions require us to return and truly read scripture and find out what truth is. But I don’t think there is anything inherent within Feminism that is valuable on its own, I think because it is so rooted in the sexual revolution and “liberation” it for the most part belittles scripture and the very message of the Gospel. But you are right, Feminism has caused me to spend much time in Scripture in seeking to defend a non-Feminist perspective. But I feel much the same way about Fascism and any other “ism”. As each is a secular approach to fixing the world and bringing its own version of utopia but with dogmas that are rooted in a human-centered ethos they are doomed to fail and anti-thetical to the Gospel by nature.
As for the second part of your comment regarding practically what submission means I think that might be the most perfect question.
I think anyone who struggles with these passages with specified commands should ask that question exactly.
I think to begin with its important to recognize the command of “wives submitting to their husbands” is partnered with “husbands loving their wives”. Both of these commands are equally challenging. A husband is commanded to love his wife to the point of death, and this command doesn’t offer a caveat of “when she deserves it”. It is simply to love as Christ loved the church, and Christ loved the church when we were sinners, his enemies. If this is the love a husband has for his wife then it must be all the time and especially when she doesn’t deserve it. My husband chooses to love me even when I am my ugliest, I promise you, that isn’t easy.
As for our portion of the command, this applies the same way. We are commanded to submit to our husbands, there isn’t a caveat here of “only when he deserves our respect”, but simply to submit in likeness to how the Church submits to Christ. This means even if I disagree with a decision my husband makes, I submit to him as the final authority to our home (if you need a specific example, when my husband first began medical school he was looking at schools all over the country, I did not think it best to move to the option he had chosen, I told him what I thought and how I felt, but I left the final decision to him). And that isn’t easy.
For my husband to love me, even when I am cruel and selfish requires that he have faith in Christ and that he trust Christ to protect his heart.
When I am submitting to my husband’s decisions that I don’t agree with it requires that I have faith in Christ to ultimately hold our future and to guide it and my husband.
I think it’s important to look at the whole of what marriage is as well when we are asking what our roles in marriage look like.
Marriage is an image or shadow of the relationship Christ has with his Church and as such our adherence to the roles described in scripture illuminates that picture to the world.
I think if we are approaching our marriages as you said, loving one another like Christ, then those commands aren’t difficult, submitting to our husbands isn’t hard when they lead well, and likewise loving their wives isn’t hard when we respect them; but we aren’t perfect and those commands to love and submit have to be followed when it’s difficult. Because that’s what sets our marriages apart in a way that reflects who Christ is.
Part of why the Feminist movement is so destructive in nature is because the very attitude it uses to “address men” is one that is disrespectful and usurps authority; very much like chauvinism is careless and unloving. They both are antithetical to the direct Commands we are given in how to treat our spouses and as such they are antithetical to the Gospel as a whole.
I hope this answers your question. As I think it’s a very good one! Let me know if I need to clarify better.
Once again thank you for your comment, I truly appreciate your tone of respect and your very poignant thought-provoking questions!