Saturday, May 15, 2010

Jesus and Feminism

Recently I did a face book post that went something like this. "Jesus was the biggest feminist that lived." I got a range of responses from religious IC going Christians who tried to pigeon hole me into saying what issues of modern feminist Jesus wouldn't agree with to people outside of the IC who couldn't say amen enough. It seems as though I had hit a "hot button", no, more like a land mine, without realizing what I was doing. After leaving the IC I began to realize for the first time that Jesus was in the business of taking women out of their oppressed societal roles and giving them freedom and equality with men. It blew me away...I couldn't believe that after being raised in the church for 35 years I hadn't seen it before. This was yet another unspoken rule of the system - women submit to men, follow them, do as they tell you, and know that their word is the ultimate truth and authority. The idea of mutual submission was never a part of my life in the IC.

Jesus was constantly liberating women: The Samaritan woman who Jesus spoke to at the well. Not only was she a woman, but she was Samaritan - considered to be the lowest minority to the Jews and they refused to even speak to Samaritans. But Jesus spoke to her and she chose to follow Him then spread her salvation story all around town. Many consider her the first evangelist. The woman caught in adultery is another. This woman had been oppressed by the religious leaders, (I can relate to her on many levels and her story brings me freedom.) Jesus comes out and tells her that He doesn't judge her. The story of Mary and Martha is another. Jesus actually encourages the sisters to sit and learn from Him, putting them in a student role. He brings them out of the house wife role, how amazing is that? In those days women didn't learn under rabbis, (unless you were very wealthy, which was rare.) These examples show that Jesus was radical in His feminism for that day! When I realized how revolutionary Jesus was in His treatment of women the thought came to me -

Why is the church even more oppressive of women than the world 2000+ years later??

Why is it that modern feminism emerged from the secular world not the church. If feminism like Jesus was a proponent of had started in the church would we have abortion?? Could it be that in abdicating our role in liberating women we inadvertently caused the deaths of millions of lives? I think this is very possible. Then we picket abortion clinics in protest...

I can't tell you how many times I was told by a male church leader or pastor that my ideas, thoughts, impressions, etc. "needed to wait", "I'll pray about that sister", "thanks for the advice, but we don't need to do that now", etc., etc. It was as if what I had to say didn't matter - that I didn't matter. The only women who were listened to and respected seemed to be those with scales for skin,...and they were usually pastors but seemed to be more like men in their thinking and actions. I wasn't one of those, never have been honestly. Even so I got right in there with the pastors and shared my opinions, (still do in blog land and am rarely treated as an equal by male pastors, big surprise), only to be poo poo'd. All of this to say, where did this treatment of women in the church come from anyway? Why have there been so few women pastors over the ages and why do they have to act like men in that role?

Maybe it's been here from the beginning...remember how the disciples didn't believe Mary when she told them that she had seen Jesus? They had to actually enter the tomb and from the way his grave clothes lay could tell that he had risen. They needed proof - they couldn't simply take Mary at her word and trust her...why?...because she was a woman? Not to put men down, and please don't misunderstand me, but it seems that women responded to Jesus very differently from men. Mary washed Jesus feet with her tears and the disciples were disgusted. But Jesus saw that she was actually prophesying His death. She could see something the disciples were blind to.

Could it be that women's ability to have faith is the thing that has caused them to be oppressed by men in the church? Could the inherent differences between men and women be the root of the issue?

I believe this is the main reason women don't have a voice in the church. In fact, I thought about doing a blog like this for a while but kept putting it off because I didn't think anyone would be interested in hearing what I had to say. For so many years I've been conditioned into believing that my voice didn't matter, wasn't important, etc. I'm finding that there are very few blogs written by women who have left the IC. Most of them are by men, generally men who were pastors or leaders, and they have large followings. Of course they would, duh?! (Don't mind my sarcasm, please.)

The more I've thought about this the more I realize that if women in the church could find their voice and become who God had called them to be we would be a powerful beautiful force to be reckoned with. If we can shake off all of the crap that men have put on us, that we have put on ourselves, that the institution of church has put on us, and see ourselves not as women - but as children of God with every right and privilege men have, we would be a sight to behold. As I continue on my journey of freedom I ask myself this question, "Who are you in God's eyes? If Jesus walked in the room today, who would He say you are?"


  1. "So if the Son sets you free, you are free through and through."(John 8:36 MSG)
    But lo, man said "'Tis not a good thing, for a chaos will occur if we let the people believeth this. So shall we hide this truth from their eyes for their own sake . . . (and to keep our control secure as well . . ." (as recorded in the chronicles of Wol Ulchabhan ap Padraig).

    Actually, a Major Theme of Jesus' ministry was to set all people free. Women, Men, Children, Cultures . . . you name it. But I find it interesting that Jesus didn't focus on any one particular purpose (probably one of the reasons why the Zealots didn't like him.) Jesus could have addressed directly the Roman occupation, the corruption in local Government, the unfair class system that had developed, etc. But instead Jesus talked a lot about "The Kingdom of God". Which, according to McLaren in his book "The Secret Message of Jesus", the term "Kingdom of God" is an invite into God's way of addressing all the ills that plague this world.

    I think we have a long way to go . . .

    It took over 1800 years for slavery to be addressed, and we still have a long way to go in that still.

    You brought out a good point when you questioned why it was that the cause for women's freedom and equality did not come from "the church" but instead from elsewhere. The answer to that is "over determined" as M. Scott Peck would say.
    But overall I think it would boil down to power, control . . . and fear.

    We have a long way to go . . .
    Lord help us.

  2. Yes, we do have a long way to go. But I think that in getting the issues out there we're taking a monumental step in the right direction. In identifying the issues the church has neglected to champion we're admitting our wrong and allowing God to step in, bringing His kingdom. It makes me wonder how many other things are out there that we have neglected to deal with...

  3. Quote from old article
    Shall A Woman Preach?
    BY Mrs. Bessie Copeland Morris
    (my 3rd great-grand-uncle was a preacher and missionary in this denomination and his wife was a pioneering educator of women)

    Shall a woman preach? Yes. Why not? She is admitted to almost every other profession in life. Why not also be ambassador for Christ? By this I do not mean, that women should indulge in the modern theological, metaphorical, scientific, sermonic preaching, so prominent in our pulpits today.

    It is a great pity that the men have fallen into such a trap. Because such preaching is unknown in the Bible, and it is, in my estimation, a great misfortune that it has become known in the church.

    More than nineteen hundred years ago the Lord whom we all adore, positively commanded, "Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature." It was the gospel of Christ--the gospel of love and power that he wanted preached, and not star dust and rose water, and the political issues of the day.

    It is a scathing rebuke to us as followers of Christ, and to the churches at large, that there are more unevangelized heathen today than when the commission was given. If every minister in the wide world would begin to preach Christ and Him crucified, this old sin-cursed earth would experience a great revolution in a few months, and the empty churches would be filled with people anxious to hear. Christ and Him crucified would sound like a new doctrine in some churches.

    We need the doctrines of Christ preached, and I say, shame on any man who would dare snatch the sweet message of Christ's love from any messenger, be that messenger, man or woman, when the present needs are so great.

  4. Don't let them buffalo you. You have a voice, your voice is important. NEVER let a mere mortal man tell you that you can't do what you know God has told you to. The oppression of women goes way back into the goddess religions. A tribe of warrior priests invaded the middle east and brought patriarchal thinking with them. Its believed that they were the ancestors of the Levitical priesthood. Women who have made it in ministry have by and large gone about it in a masculine manner...that defeats half the purpose. There are those people who can only respond to a woman and they need to be touched by the mother heart of God. Pulpit ministry, of course, needs to be androgenous(sp?). Blogs by women who have left the church are hard to come by. Michelle Van Loon at: theparablelife has left...she goes here and there but has expressed dismay at the IC in about the only one I know. My next couple of posts are about leaving. It isn't as bad as it used to be, but there are still bible schools that won't allow women to take a course in homeletics. Keep writing and keep talking. Your voice is important!

  5. Brian - Thanks so much for the quote! It's awesome and very affirming to me.

    PL - Thanks for the encouragement! I am in a place now where I am beginning to use my voice and it's so liberating! Thanks for sharing your blog too. I'll check it out.