They brought down one of the most powerful producers in Hollywood. They marched in protest of the election of President Donald Trump and helped to redefine beauty standards in the media. Whether someone supports them or not, feminists are making their voices heard and heard loudly.
Feminism has a lot of influence in today’s popular culture and it still is an uncomfortable topic in some Christian communities. Feminism, by definition from the Oxford dictionary, is, “The advocacy of women’s rights on the ground of the equality of the sexes.” By this definition, it seems as if Christians should get behind this movement. However, some Christians still believe the role of women is dependent on men.
Recently, there has been a movement within the church, pushing for participation in both feminism and Christianity. This new movement calls for changes such as equal leadership roles for men and women in the church and believes Jesus to be a feminist.
With these conflicting ideas it begs the question: can one be both a feminist and a Christian?
An article from Christianity Today answers this question by saying while the church supports women, its definition of women’s rights varies greatly from that of the world. The article’s author, Wendy Alsup, claims the main difference between modern, western feminism and the church’s view of women is centered around the idea of independence and how it’s defined. She claims western feminism says women are fully independent and do not need men, while Christianity calls for co-dependency between men and women. She writes, “Instead of a social justice that gives woman complete independence from man, God wrote a story that advocates social justice in interdependent relationships between men and women. God lifts up women but not in a way that frees woman from dependence on man or man from dependence on woman.”
On the other side, the new movement within the church embraces both feminism and Christianity.
One of the leaders at the forefront of this movement is Sarah Bessey, author of the book “Jesus Feminist.” In an interview with Religion News Service, Bessey explains her approach to Christianity and feminism saying, “When I say ‘Jesus made a feminist out of me’ it also means that Jesus shapes my feminism, rather than the other way around.” She explains, “When I decided to become a disciple of Jesus, it meant that I wanted to live into my right-now life the way I believed Jesus would do it–that included my passion for and advocacy for women’s voices and experiences, healing and justice.” Bessey believes the Bible gives numerous examples of Jesus uplifting women and treating them equally to the men he interacted with.
Perhaps the void between support in both feminism and Christianity lies in misunderstandings.
For example, some Christian women may believe if they declare themselves to be feminists they cannot be a mother and take care of the home. Bessey addresses this misunderstanding by saying, in the same interview, the key to embracing feminism as a Christian is in “the motivation for our choices.”
A woman can choose to leave her career to raise a family, so long as she did it because she wanted to and not out of obligation or social expectations. The key is that women feel empowered in their decisions.
I believe the divide between feminism and Christianity lies in the movements secular feminism has pushed. These movements include issues such as abortion and sexual liberation, where secular feminists, with no religious ties, have pushed for acceptance on issues which stand in opposition to Christian principles.
This is where it gets tricky. Can someone support a social movement, like feminism, even when parts of it do not align morally with their religious beliefs, such as Christianity? I believe you can. As a whole and by definition, the feminist movement is about all aspects of equality for both men and women.
I believe as a Christians those principles and values should come first and that people are allowed to disagree on certain aspects of a movement they decide to support. After all, Christianity differs on certain practices, yet the common belief in Jesus dying on the cross for all our sins is the core belief of each denomination. Similarly, while one might disagree on certain issues within the feminist movement, people can still be a feminist if they work to support the foundation of it: equality.