A funny thing happened this week on Facebook. I was “outed” as a feminist. To my knowledge, that had never been a secret, but it caught some folks off guard. Apparently, their ideas about feminism clashed with their ideas about Christianity, and they couldn’t wrap their heads around someone who believes in both.
See also Jesus and the Role of Women by Zhava Glaser
Rather than ask questions, they went for the jugular. They called me names, called me insane, and a great cry rose up to “block” me. (Oh no. Please. Don’t block me.) To be fair, that’s standard Facebook etiquette. I just found it a little hard to swallow when those same people went on to post lovely pictures with inspiring Bible quotes about kindness.
While I identify feminism with a compelling hope for social equality, there are still Christians who believe…well, I’ll just let Pat Robertson explain it:
“[Feminism] is about a socialist, anti-family political movement that encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians.” –Pat Robertson, as quoted in the New York Times, August 25, 1992
It’s an old quote but it’s making the rounds on Facebook, to thunderous applause. Or teary-eyed laughter, depending on your bent. The quote itself is bizarre on so many levels. I wondered why anyone would forward it. But after consideration, I see that this quote precisely encapsulates some people’s fears. And those who misuse the name of God to manipulate followers (::coughPatRobertsoncough::) capitalize on those fears.
Why would they do that? Besides the obvious (humans resist change), there is a more pressing concern: Politics. It’s interesting that this quote stresses political motives three times. If you’re a student of the Bible, as Robertson says he is, you know that the number three is of special significance. When something is said three times, take notice.
If we take out the emotion and the non-repeating accusations in Robertson’s quote, the one main point we’re left with, the reason for the scare tactics, the point he says three times–socialist, political movement, destroy capitalism–is fear of political change. And that is the reason this quote is still popular 25 years after it was first printed. Politics in the US is scary right now.
So, anyway, the Facebook people felt that I misrepresented myself by claiming to be a Christian for 38 years, studying the Bible, writing about Jesus, staying happily married to a man for 32 years and counting, staying home and homeschooling my five children, and admitting to feminist leanings only whenever the subject came up. I can see how that might confuse people into concluding that I’m a sleeper agent that will one day talk straight, Christian women into leaving their husbands to become Wiccan lesbians. Because, socialism.
My grown kids tell me it’s a generational thing. It’s the word that’s offensive, not the idea. They say the term feminism no longer means equal rights; it means anti-male. For that reason, a lot of people who genuinely believe in equality don’t call themselves feminists.
I get that. Some women who hate men call their hate feminism. Some men hate women and call it traditional values. Haters say anything to justify their own bad behavior. I’m still not throwing out the word.
A woman who seeks to put men down is a sexist. A person who seeks to lift women up to create equality is a feminist. The men and boys in my life know that I’ll fight just as ferociously for their rights as I do for females. They also know I probably won’t have to.
Why not use a more neutral term, like humanism or egalitarianism? Because humanism includes rejecting a belief in a Higher Power, so that doesn’t fit my Christian faith. Egalitarianism encompasses so much more than male/female relationships. And it’s tame. When we hear the word feminist, the female cannot be ignored.
I will continue to call myself a feminist as long as women and girls worldwide are considered the property of men; as long as women and girls worldwide are denied education, jobs, and decent healthcare; as long as women and girls are blamed for “provoking” or “allowing” violence against themselves; as long as preachers blame wives for their husband’s infidelity, and encourage women to stay with abusive men; and as long as the Constitution of the United States does not guarantee equal rights to all persons regardless of their sex.
When injustices against women and girls are righted, we will no longer need to keep emphasizing female empowerment. Until then, I’m a feminist. Deal with it.
“There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 3:28, NIV
1/22/2017 UPDATE: More Facebook drama ensued after I posted the link to this post on my wall, as one dude started right up with stereotyping. That led to a back-and-forth between us. I stopped, and he and his buddies continued. At the end, it was one dude literally saying nothing else except for calling me a “feminazi”.
Anyway, one of my real-life friends told me face-to-face that I sounded angry in my response to the dude on Facebook. I wasn’t angry. (If I get angry, I say so.) But since I respect my friend’s judgement, and I know she’s got my back, I deleted the comments, but left the link.
Whew! I’m glad this week is over. Be well, peeps.
Your Story. Your voice. the best it can be.
A personal blog by John Parsons, author of the Hebrew for Christians web site.
Your Story. Your voice. the best it can be.
Your Story. Your voice. the best it can be.
Your Story. Your voice. the best it can be.
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A lovely, well reasoned argument. It’s a shame your online community can’t be as logical and rational as you. Poor advert for their humanity. Religion and equality shouldn’t be mutually exclusive in a modern world, they need to get with their times. Christianity is over 2,000 years old, things have changed! Well done you for maintaining your faith and adopting progressive ideas about the world without compromising.
Thank you, Laura! The online community in general is mean-spirited, I think. Personally, I believe that a faith worth following will work for all people, in any part of the world, at any point in history. I appreciate your words of encouragement.
Hey, Kathryn–As a Bible-loving, Black Pentecostal Pro-Life Democrat, I’m glad to read your perspective and it represents a balanced view of issues of that most Christian women of color grapple with daily. Most African-American Christians are theologically very conservative, and politically very liberal, for a multitude of historical reasons. We have always interacted in both spheres, and it is our bedrock Christian faith that has always informed
our thrust for equality and justice, as well as given us the strength to fight injustice we STILL encounter in every
arena of public life. There were many African-Americans of Christian faith at the Women’s March on Washington
yesterday (January 21, 2017); again, most of them would be theologically pro-life, and very supportive of full equality under the law, universal health care, support of public education (pre-school–university level); immigrants’
For most of us, the work of justice is ALSO the work of God, Who demands justice in both Old and New Testaments.
Many of us do not share the same values of liberation movements that conflict with our Biblical faith–for example,
most of us are pro-life, most of us accept biblical definitions of marriage, etc. But just like Christian men may
serve in secular governments and or movements as their vocations, Christian women may also be community
organizers and activists on any number of issues, including human justice issues. The same is true in many
African countries where devout Christians–including women–are members of parliaments or heads of state.
The Afro-Brazilian Benedita Da Silva is an outstanding politician who was the first Black Brazilian
senator–a Pentecostal woman who battled her way through crushing poverty and systemic racial
disenfranchisement. In fact, many of the social change movements in Brazil are a result of Pentecostal
and charismatic engagement in community issues that impact the churches and the people they serve, such
as drug addiction, land rights, domestic violence, racial discrimination, gang and police violence, political disenfranchisement, etc.
Many African-American women who serve in local, county, state and federal government (including Congress)
are devout Christians of various faiths–and many of them are firmly rooted in their churches and actively
participate there as well. This has been historically true for African-American women since the slavery
period–community activism went hand-in-hand with strong biblical faith. Black Christian women constantly
led slave revolts and provided reconnaissance to Union troops during the Civil War.
As the granddaughter of a labor leader and the daughter of a Civil Rights worker, I fully understand why my
mother worked so hard to help make a world in which I had the opportunity to go to college and graduate
school, and work in a professional career of my choice. When women achieve equality and are fully
enfranchised in all the arenas of life, those women who are Christians can also positively impact their
communities in which they serve, thus bringing the resources of their Christian faith to act as “salt and
light” to the secular world to which we have all been called to spread the Good News.
Charity – Bless your heart! You know that moment in the Charlie Brown movie when Lucy says something, and Charlie Brown yells, “THAT’S IT!” That’s exactly how I felt reading your comment. You get it. It is a shame that our churches are still so segregated, but I see that civil engagement more within African-American congregations, too. Thanks so much for weighing in.
Found it. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nPeFGda8l4I
Glad to be of help!:-) I think many Christians who have no acquaintance with Christians of color really do not understand how we apply biblical faith to current issues, and why most of us usually do not join “evangelical”
movements, although we may share the same theology. The perspectives of historically disenfranchised people
are different from Christians who have never experienced racism as a system that negatively impacts us in every arena of life, including economics, politics, the workplace, education, etc. For example, it has been encouraging to read how the strong charismatic and Pentecostal churches in Brazil have not only contributed positively to the spread
of the gospel in the nation, but are also continually challenging the very unjust structures of racial and class
injustice. Another positive benefit of Brazilian Pentecostal movements has been how their theology has ushered
in a new era of positive Black identity which is rooted in the biblical view of humans created in the image of God.
This identity challenges the Brazilian secular views of African-descended people, who are seen only as “bottom
of the barrel” pagans and Afro-descended women in particular, which the white-dominated society still treats as
worthless people fit only for manual labor and sexual exploitation. When Christians seriously decide to impact
their communities with the Gospel, they can do much to re-shape not only the spiritual condition of downtrodden
people, but also can help challenge the secular views of societies, thus bringing a Christian influence to the
cultures of the society in which they live and work.
I agree. When we look at the Bible through Western culture, we miss so much. Just getting to know Middle Eastern (especially Hebrew) culture makes a huge difference in understanding the Bible.
Coincidentally (?), I’ve been hearing good things about Brazil lately. I didn’t know anything about the Pentacostal movement or about women’s status there, though. Thank you for sharing.
You are always an encourager! Hugs!
I see the generational difference in the use of the word feminism to do less with it representing a good or bad thing, and more to do with how the meaning has changed over time. Most of my age-peer friends include intersectionality as part of feminism, but many of my older friends don’t see the need. Different times with different cultures and social norms require changes in tactics and understandings of what needs doing. Feminism has waves, and many people can’t escape the thought-wave they rode on as young adults. That’s not necessarily bad, and it’s totally normal. But, it is part of why dialog like this is important.
I enjoyed reading your reasons for sticking with feminism, both as a label and a social/political idea.
Yes, Jess, absolutely. This is why we can’t let labels define us, or judge anyone based on their labels. Different people mean different things when they use the same word. We have to talk with people and really listen.
PS- I readily admit that my choice of the label feminist is rooted in my generation’s hope that someday the Equal Rights Amendment will be added to the US Constitution. But since I’m old, I think I can get away with that.
And at least I don’t use the term “Women’s Libber” anymore. 🙂
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