This is the final in a series of three articles, looking at feminism from a Christian perspective. Find the first one here and the second one here.
I am not a feminist in spite of being a Christian. I am a feminist because I’m a Christian.
Here are three ways knowing Jesus and reading the Bible motivates my feminism.
The Bible affirms that the flourishing of women as essential to the flourishing of humanity. In the early chapters of Genesis, we have a humanity without a woman, and it is declared to be not good! Male and female together are in the image of God, and together they are given the creation mandate to run and fill the earth.
There’s no sense in which he is ruler and she the ruled. They are to rule together, so if we end up in a situation where she is oppressed, we need recognise that this is not God’s plan for humanity in general or women in particular. In fact, if women are unable to participate fully in that creation mandate, humanity is impoverished, and unable to carry out that work which they have been given by God.
In Genesis, the flourishing of women is not only key because she is the image of God; it’s also key to bringing about God’s purposes on the earth.
Now, the Bible also has lots of examples of women being treated deplorably, from Sarah to Jephthah’s daughter to Bathsheba. However, these are by and large examples of what happens in a world that does not listen to God. The Bible is very pro-woman and the dignity of women. If you think feminism is also pro-women and on about their dignity, that’s a good reason to participate in it.
The Bible also animates my feminism with its strong calls for justice for women. The charter that God laid out for his people includes specific instructions to care for women, especially vulnerable women. Time and again God is described as the defender of the widow, and so his people are also to care for widows.
We see this in Jesus’ treatment of women too. Think of the woman in Luke 13 who was crippled and the synagogue leader told her to come back on another day to be healed, because she was there on the Sabbath. Jesus is outraged by that! He heals her and he restores her in front of everyone, and he describes her as a daughter of Abraham, that is, a part of God’s family and an inheritor of God’s promises. There is no hint here that she just ought to make do with her lot or accept the synagogue leader’s treatment of her. Jesus puts this to rights.
If you look at the way society treats women, and everything within you cries, ‘that’s not right!’ I want you to see that as a God-given instinct. In other words, I see feminism’s concern for social justice as God-given, because it is also a concern of the Bible.
Finally, the Bible’s picture of the new creation makes me want to work for peace and wholeness now. Jesus work of ‘making everything new’ (Revelation 21) is already underway. When Jesus turns up in Luke 4, he proclaims the year of the Lord’s favour, that he has been sent to set the oppressed free. He’ll complete that work when he comes the second time, but he’s already doing it. He’s already going about building that world of peace, harmony and wholeness - shalom is a word the Bible uses for it.
Because we know that in the new creation women will flourish and experience great wholeness, we ought to be pursuing that now. Jesus is pursuing it. Because I think feminism can contribute to the flourishing of women now, that’s a reason for me as a Christian to participate in it.
Tamie comes from Adelaide and lives in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania with her husband and two sons. In partnership with CMS Australia, they work with the Tanzanian Fellowship of Evangelical Students (TAFES). She and her husband blog here