Wednesday, January 8, 2014

currently reading: Jesus Feminist

"exploring God's radical notion that women are people, too"

"I'll never fit in with Christian women..."

I said these hushed words to my husband as we left a small group one night.  

Looking back, I can see that it was kind of a silly statement.  The night had been discussions of children and cooking and clothing - things that I actually do enjoy, but they felt frivolous at the time.  I was missing deep conversation and connection.  During the long, lonely hours as a SAHM I was (am) mentally wrestling through all that I read on popular Christian sites.  

Why were these amazing debates taking place online and in books where Christian women spoke with strong voices and yet, when I went to Church, I felt like all the women talked about were recipes and kids and decorating and dieting?  Was the conversation only happening online?  

Reading Sarah Bessey's book, Jesus Feminist
, I'm realizing that I was wrong ( and that I should probably get used to that feeling).  I think that all over Christendom these women - strong women who want to challenge and to be challenged - do exist.  But maybe, like me, they're used to churches telling women to be "gentle and quiet", but not telling them to use leadership skills.  And they're used to churches with a "brain-check" at the front door next to the coat check.  And they're used to feminism being "the f word" in Church.  And so, like me, these women have decided to just take the easy route and keep their voices to hushed tones.

But what I'm realizing is that strong women who want more from the Church are all around me.  And I'm so excited to see where that takes me in the next year of hard conversations and growing friendships and women challenging women to do more and be better.

Whew.  All that was just an intro to my thoughts on the book.  I'll try to hurry up after this.  :)  

{I am a bit self-conscious about posting pictures of myself...and I am a Jesus feminist ;) 
 Also, if you didn't know, Sarah collected pictures of people with similar signs.
I didn't come up with this idea on my own. }

 surprised me.  I expected Sarah Bessey's writing to be bold and scandalous and very heavy on research.  And it was, in some ways.  But what surprised me was how personal this book was.  Sarah wrote to ME.  Her words were like a thick blanket wrapped around my shoulders, cocooning and comforting.  She asks her readers to "lay down our ideas, our neatly organized Bible verses, our carefully crafted arguments" (p.1) and instead, invites us to a conversation.     

From the beginning, Sarah wrote gently and kindly and truthfully.  While many people might have negative stereotypes they associate with the word "feminist" (read: angry, bitter), Sarah's tone is completely different.  It was a bit off-setting for me at the beginning because this book was not what I expected.  If you're looking for a book goes through each verse pertaining to women and painstakingly proves (or disproves) why you should be a feminist, this is not the book you're looking for.  This book is about leaving our entrenched sides and coming together to see the Kingdom of God at work.  It was obvious that the book was well-researched, but it was not scholarly.  

I loved how Sarah used her own life stories (and those of her friends) in this book.  She writes of childhood and childbirth, marriage and ministry, hurts and happiness.  She combines stories and Scriptures and quotes and hard truth, and when it all comes together, it works.  It captured my attention and engaged both my brain and my heart.  

One part stuck out to me: "Often when a woman exhibits leadership, she's accused of having that Jezebel spirit.  I look forward to the day when women with leadership and insight, gifts and talents, callings and prophetic leanings are called out and celebrated as Deborah, instead of silenced as a Jezebel" (p. 92)  Yes.  Yes!  I wish this wasn't revolutionary in western Christianity, but it is!  And I too look forward to the day when women are celebrated as leaders, scholars and pastors in the Church.  

I've read criticism that Sarah's book didn't go far enough.  And I understand where those people are coming from.  In some ways, I do think she could have pushed further.  But I think she ended up with a gracious book that will speak to both sides and will start the conversation rolling in churches.  Rather than focusing on the minute details, Sarah looks at the bigger picture.  To her, being a feminist is being part of the Kingdom of God here on earth.

Before reading this book, I was comfortable calling myself a Christian and a feminist.  But Sarah's book helped me delve deeper into the conflation of those, which I appreciate.  This is a book I plan to read again and will recommend to friends, both male and female.  I am already looking forward to the conversations that will take place because of Jesus Feminist

My rating: 5 stars

{Finished book on my little red desk}

If you've read Jesus Feminist
 (or read Sarah's blog), I'd love for you to let me know what you thought! :)

**This post contains Amazon Associates links


  1. I have not read the book nor do I know all of your personal views on the subject, but I will share mine. With all due respect to your opinions, personally I think the feminist movement is a result of the fall. Look at Genesis 3:16: "Yet your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you." What I mean is, God designed from the beginning for the husband to rule over the wife, but because of the curse, women now desire to lord over their husbands rather than be submissive. I have been tempted to think in a feministic way, but then I remember this verse. God has already said in his word that we women would try to be like men, yet we still fall into it trying to take or share the role of men. Men and women are of equal value, but they have different jobs. Feminists are trying to take men's jobs because they are dissatisfied with their own. I was studying communism recently and learned that feminism originally started off of a branch of communism. It's all a part of their agenda. The hidden goal of feminism is to destroy the family, which interferes with state brainwashing of the young. Displacing men in the role of providers also destabilizes the family.
    Why would we as women of God think that He would give us a job...motherhood, being a homemaker, or a submissive wife... that is undesirable and unprofitable? Why do we feel the need to be bigger and noticed? Why are we revolting against the bible?
    The world, the church, and the home need Godly woman who are proud to be woman. Proud to look like women. Proud to act like women. Proud to take the job that God has given them. We need woman who understand that they have one of the most precious and valuable jobs in the kingdom of God--raising children to be soldiers of the cross. This does not mean that woman aren't thinkers, or encouragers, or doers, but it does mean that we know the differences between men and women's roles and we cherish that difference.

    Feminism is a silly and selfish movement created to cause contention in the family. It's not biblical and it is certainly not beneficial to the women or her family. I believe that instead of increasing a woman's value, feminism is destroying it. I hope you will look into this a little farther... look at it's origins, it's purpose, and it's effect. And it might be beneficial to look at it from the other side. Maybe try reading a book to see and understand a non feminist perspective? It's always good to be informed of both sides, because frankly, in my experience, neither side represents the other quite the way they really are.

    I hope this didn't come across as rude. Again, I don't know everything you believe or stand for, I am just sharing my heart. I have always had a speck of rebellion in my heart about a woman's role, but I am learning that it is a most beautiful role and one worth celebrating. I am just sharing what I believe and I hope you will take it with smiles! :) :)

  2. Hi Sarah Jane!

    I wanted to start by saying thanks for taking the time to comment! I can tell that you spent a lot of time writing out your thoughts and I appreciate your honesty. I also want you to know that for several years of my life, my views would have been aligned very closely with yours, so, while it might not seem that way, I think that I might understand where you're coming from and understand your arguments. You mentioned that I should look into books with anti-feminist perspectives. I'm not trying to be flippant with your suggestion, but I can assure you that I have read many, many books from that point of view. I'm hoping this will be a thoughtful, respectful reply that will help you see why I choose to identify as a Christian feminist. Thanks in advance to taking the time to read this comment as I'm guessing it will end up being a long one and I can already tell I'm going to have to divide it into separate comments as it's too long! :)

    You started out saying that the feminist movement is a result of the fall and you reference Genesis 3. You wrote that "God designed from the beginning for the husband to rule over the wife". Like you, I used to use that verse to defend complementarianism. However, I've since come to see it differently. Genesis 3 is NOT God's plan for the world - the hierarchy between men and women came when evil entered the world! One of my professors put it beautifully when he said, "We are to live a Genesis 2 life in a Genesis 3 world." Looking back at world history, we can see extreme oppression of women through the ages. Does God delight in this? Is that His original plan? Does that make it okay? I believe Christians should fight for women and I believe that's what Jesus did in His time on earth. The way Jesus interacted with women was completely revolutionary in His time. I love that!

    Regarding the roots and intentions of feminism, I would encourage you to do some research. Feminism is the belief that women have equal worth with men - and I think that is a truly Christian idea. First wave feminism started with a lot of things we take for granted. And many of the early feminists were Christians (which is awesome)! The fact that I went to college and am eligible to vote in the United States is because of women who fought for those rights (including, at times, being jailed). Before feminism, husbands could rape their wives and it was all fine and dandy. Before feminism, if a woman was widowed her property and money could be taken away even if she had children who were depending on her to live. You wrote that "Feminism is a silly and selfish movement created to cause contention in the family." Ouch! As a feminist, I really hope you'll learn some more about feminism! :D If slaves wanted freedom after the Civil War would you call them silly and selfish? Were they just trying to stir up trouble by wanting to be considered equal with white people? Or is it that a person (male or female, black or white, Jew or Gentile) has an inherent worth in God and that we should fight so that each human life is valued?

  3. I understand that many Christians are skittish about the term "feminist" because they see some aspects of feminism that they strongly disagree with. I think many conservatives would be surprised to know that you will find many, many feminists who are pro-life, who think it's great when a parent stays home to raise a child and who are still very feminine! I think it's dangerous to say that because some people who we disagree with use a term, that we should not use that term. Here's a better way to explain it. :) I vehemently disagree with some Christians, take for instance, Westboro Baptist Church (if you're not familiar with them, perhaps consider looking them up so that you can have some context). I find it abhorrent that they picket soldiers funerals - this one feels the most personal to me because my husband is in the Air Force. But I find all of their protests to be awful and unChristian. I *could* let their abuse of the term "Christian" stop me from calling myself one. But, as you very well know, that's only one kind of Christian. Does that make sense? I think, too, of 19th century Christians who defended buying and selling people with the Bible. Or people who defend polygamy with the Bible. I still call myself a Christian because I can see past people misusing the term. And I feel the same way about calling myself a feminist.

    You wrote about feeling the need to be noticed and be bigger. I understand where you're coming from with this one because there are certainly admonishments in the Bible for us to be meek and humble. However, I believe that most of those admonishments are for both men and women. And, I believe, that each person needs to examine their own heart. If we're honest, there are probably some men who became pastors because they wanted attention. Does that mean that we stop all men from being pastors because a few of them might have the wrong intentions? Further, God does call us to be meek and humble, but there are also times when He has called us to be bold.

  4. You'll notice that I'm a stay at home mom. In the picture above I said I was a semi-reluctant SAHM. That's because I'd love to be a seminary and be learning more about Jesus. :) At *this point* in my life, however, I am learning a heck of a lot about Jesus by being a SAHM. This is our own personal decision for our family: while our son was small, we wanted one of us to be home with him. We do hold seriously the role of parenting. If my husband's job allowed it, we might do things differently (i.e. have my husband work from home part time while I'm in school). But it doesn't. So for right now, I believe I am called to be home. In all honesty, it's hard for me somedays. I loved being in school and I have plans of going to grad school someday. Perhaps my wording on the sign came across wrong? I ADORE my son! I am GLAD that I get to be with him each day. But that doesn't mean it's always easy. Sometimes I hear Christians say that God's highest calling for women is to be a mother. But I disagree. Isn't my highest calling godliness?? Is my husband's highest calling in life to be a father? Should he stop working to stay home and raise our son? This next part moves into the complentarian/egalitarian debate (which is a different one than the feminist debate), but here it is nonetheless: I think people are gifted differently and that they should use the gifts they are given. Perhaps most women are more nurturing - awesome! Be nurturing! :) But for the woman who is gifted in leadership? Be a leader! That's awesome too! Sometimes we are called to give of ourselves for the sake of another, and that's what I believe I'm doing right now with my son. But we have to be careful before we follow that line of thinking too far. For instance, Christ says that we will suffer for His sake. But if I know of a husband who beats his wife, I mostly certainly will NOT tell her to stay for "Christ's sake".

    Obviously this is a huge topic that has been debated for years (and will continue to be debated for years). There's so much more I want to say!!!!!! I don't think we're going to settle the argument in a few blog comments. :) But I would encourage you to do some reading and praying on the topic. Start out with Jesus Feminist (I'd be happy to send you a copy if you would be interested) and perhaps check out both Half the Sky and Half the Church.

    Again, thanks for taking the time to respond and to read this! :) I'm thankful that being Christians doesn't mean that we have to all think the same way and that we can discuss and disagree and still be friends (via the internet). :) I truly hope that my point came across kindly.

    One more thing, I am thinking of turning this response into a post of its own because I know many people who have the same concerns with feminism that you do. If I chose to do that, would you prefer me mention your name and link to your blog or omit your name? I certainly wouldn't want to bring any negative attention your way, so if you feel more comfortable going unnamed, that would be fine. But I spent a lot of time working on this response and it sums up my views well, so I'd like to use it again. So just let me know what you prefer. Thanks! :)

  5. i really want to read this book, cal! can i borrow it from you once school is out in june? i know i won't have time before then and it would just be sitting here in my apartment for months..haha. anyway loved reading your review and you look great in the picture too! love you!

  6. McKenna, you most certainly borrow it! Just let me know when and I'll send it your way. :)

  7. I thought you did a fantastic job of laying out your opinion on why you've moved from complementariansim to egalitarianism. You're very gracious and obviously well read. I am proud of you.

  8. I should've said *argument* instead of opinion.

  9. Marlena, thank you! That means so much coming from you!

  10. Hi Callie,
    This is Julita from CU. Thanks for the book review and I will put Jesus Feminist on my summer book list. I am all for equality among men and women yet I guess I am at a point of discovering what I believe concerning women leadership in the church along with the "roles" of men and women within a marriage relationship.

    I grew up with very traditionally conservative views for both marriage and leadership in the church. However women in the Bible such as Deborah and Esther show profound leadership that I have to heavily disagree with someone that says women cannot have leadership positions in the church, outside of children's ministry. I do get somewhat confused though, when I read passages in the Bible that basically states that a woman should not teach a man. Some would say that this means a woman could have a pastoral role in the church but she would still need to be under male authority. Yet still others say that you have to take into consideration the historical context of when these passages of scripture were written. What are your thoughts on this?

    Concerning marriage, it seems to me that the whole women submitting to their husbands vs. spouses submitting to one another is a both and kind of situation. Meaning that since Eph 4:21 talks about submitting to one another, then husbands and wives clearly need to submit to one another, not just the wife to the husband. Especially since (at least according to my understanding) when you are married, you are your spouses and your spouse is yours (i.e. you are one). However, there still seems to be clear "roles" in Eph 4:22-33. And I am not talking about roles such as women must stay at home and men must be out in the workforce. But roles meaning God charging a man to sacrificially love his wife (like Christ loved the church) so much so that he is in a sense committing to serve her ("Christ came not to be served but to serve"). And not only that but (to me) it seems as though the male is the primary leader, meaning that he is responsible for caring for, nurturing, guarding, and protecting the home (since that is what Christ as our Good Shepherd does for us, his sheep) and will have to give an account to God on the leadership of the home. Yet with his leadership, he isn't to be lording over anyone like some task master or using his leadership to get his way.

    As for women, in all honesty I dislike the whole idea of submission because to me it seems like you're a kid again. However, God obviously knows what he is talking about and to me, submission is willingly placing yourself under the care of another yet not signing up to be abused or silenced.

    I am really curious to hear your thoughts on the matter of roles in marriage since I am still somewhat in the process of discovering my own. Thanks, Callie! I always enjoy reading your blog posts.

  11. I appreciate your review of the book "Jesus Feminist" and as I have read through the comments I feel compelled to share how I too have moved from complementarianism to egalitarianism. I too used to think that Genesis 3:16 and Ephesians 4:22-32 meant that I should be a complementarian, and live the life of a stay-at-home mom, even though my heart's desire was to go to graduate school and pursue work in a hurting society (in addition to raising children). I had a fear of the word “feminism” and thought that those who used this word to describe themselves were trying to hurt men, bring them low, and disgrace them. Then I read more about the history of feminism. There are three waves of feminism. The first wave focused on increasing the civil rights of women (a woman's right to own property, vote, etc.). Second wave feminism is hard to characterize, but from what I understand, I think this may be the type of feminism that Sarah Jane is referring to: a group of people who were fond of not having children because it required some kind of relationship with a man, using IVF so as not to involve men in the process of child bearing, and, in general, seemed hostile towards men. (If anyone wants to learn more about the varieties of feminism here is a great resource: Feminism (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)

  12. So in this case I think we need clarity when we use the word “feminism.” Callie’s comments have clarified what is means to her to describe herself as a feminist. When I use the word, I am not attempting to describe myself who wants to see the downfall of men. Rather, I want to see the raising up of women in our culture. I agree wholeheartedly when Callie writes, “I believe Christians should fight for women and I believe that's what Jesus did in His time on earth. The way Jesus interacted with women was completely revolutionary in His time. I love that!” In Ephesians, right before the verse that talks about how wives should submit to their husbands, Paul writes, “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ”. When a woman’s voice is silenced, her opinion is neglected, or her skills and talents are downplayed (an abuse I often committed against myself), this is certainly detrimental to society, the church, and her family. Christians should be fighting for everyone to use their God-given talents. Women should not be shamed when they use their leadership skills, and men should not be regarded as “weak” when they are stay-at-home dads. Christians should see the value in all humans and fight for the rights of everyone to fulfill the roles God has designed for each of us, rather than defining someone’s worth or talents by their gender.
    Through much prayer and studying, I am a recovering complementarian, and some days the word “feminist” still rubs me the wrong way, but I pray that one day the Church will be the leader in championing the role of women in whatever role they are gifted and called by God to fulfill.

  13. I will very briefly put in my two cents. I came from the same background as Callie (obviously, since we are sisters) and gradually began to change my views over a long period of time. A few years ago I went back to school to get a degree in Women’s Studies. Although I had been identifying as a feminist for quite some time, I was still nervous that I would find this stereotypical angry man-hater once I went to the university.

    Instead, what I found was a wide variety of students and professors. One of my professors was an essentialist (which is a branch of feminism that believes that women and men inherently have feminine and masculine qualities that make them better suited towards nurturing, the workplace etc.) And despite having many classes, I did not encounter one student or professor that fit into any of the stereotypes of feminism that I had heard.

    Feminism is an extremely broad concept with no hierarchical structure. It is the belief that all people are equal and deserve equal treatment under the law. The previous commenter was right that the first wave focused heavily on civil rights. The second wave was in large part about equal pay, the right to work and own money, and reproductive rights. (FYI – the reproductive rights covers a large range of things some of which was abortion rights, but also included laws against marital rape and the forced sterilization that was happening to minorities and mentally ill.) Now we are in the third wave, which has distinct characteristics but is yet to be fully defined.

    The one piece of advice I will give here to the first commenter or to others is something that has been extremely valuable to me. Go to the source. Don’t rely on others opinions about a book, movement etc. A good scholar is well informed. If you do have interest in learning more, one of the first books I read was ProLife Feminism Yesterday and Today. It is a collection of essays, speeches etc. from probably a hundred different people. This is a good way to see the diversity of opinions over the last two hundred years.

    Best Wishes.

    -Gina Glorioso Rendall

  14. Thank you for your very detailed reply, Callie! I think that you are right in that we will not solve such an argument here in a few comments, but nevertheless I just want to clarify a few things.

    Even though I am not a feminist, I wholeheartedly disagree with the way women used to be treated. Abuse is never acceptable in women, men, or children. And I do believe that women should have the right to vote and go to college. The feminists that I am against are the ones that abandon their children so they themselves can have a self fulfilling career. They put their young kids in daycares or schools where they have no idea what they are being taught... or worse, don't care. To me, that seems very selfish. What profit is it if you help others in the world, but lose your own children? It would be better not to have any.

    Dueteronomy 6:4-9 shows us that God cares very much how we train our children. "Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates."

    "She looks well to the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness." Provers 31:27

    Proverbs 31 is the well-known passage about the wife and mother of excellence. From the description of her, we learn that this mother did work outside of the home. However, her family never lacked anything. She maintained a proper balance, so her family never suffered. Her family was always her priority.

    I would not be half the person I am today had my mom not devoted her time to raising me and my siblings. My dad was and is a large part too, but his primary role is to be the main breadwinner(notice I did not say sole breadwinner... I see nothing wrong with a woman earning money so long as she puts her first domain, the household, first). I myself plan to be a teacher. If I ever marry and have kids, I will still be a teacher so long as I can still fulfill my God ordained role to take care of my family at the same time. If not, then I may drop being a teacher for a while. Family comes first. A husband might turn down an offer for an opportunity to make more money because it make him spend too much time away from his wife and kids. The sacrifice goes both ways. Raising a family is a lot more than keeping the dishes washed and the beds made(as I am sure you know), it's about passing on a deep faith, educating not only in basic living and communication skills, but worldview and logic--teaching your kids to think for themselves in a fallen world.

  15. (continued)
    The bible teaches clearly that the husband is the head over the wife.
    "For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior." Ephesians 5:23
    Someone pointed out Ester as being a leader. Yes, she was. But notice one thing.. she was a leader with her husband. And her husband, the king, was over her, just as God ordained the family to be. I think this is something that some women miss... God did not ordain that ALL men be over ALL woman. The wife is subject to one man and that is her husband. You don't have to obey or be submissive to any other man, or any one else's husband.
    God has called men to serve as leaders in marriage and the church, and women to submit themselves willingly to that leadership, as they labor together in their distinctive roles. The husband is to be gentle, kind, and a loving leader.(Just like Christ is to the Church) The wife is to be obedient, submissive, a strength and counselor to her husband. They are suppose to move through life as one, fighting for one cause and training their children. They complement one another and were designed for each other. God said that woman is man's helpmeet and that man needs woman.

    In the church, woman are to remain silent... meaning they are not to teach men.
    "But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet. For it was Adam who was first created, and then Eve." 1 Timothy 2:12-13
    Some would like to say that this was a culture thing, and thus does not apply to us, but I would like to point out that the reason for this command is "for it was Adam who was first created". This is not a command only for the believers of Paul's time. The elders of the church are to be over ALL of the members, men and woman... and woman are not to be elders or pastors. I would argue that any woman that felt "called" to be a pastor is mistaken. God never contradicts His own words. This does not mean that woman cannot be leaders or speakers in other areas of life. Again, woman are subject to only their husbands and not all of men.

    Though man is subject to God and woman to man, we are all equal in God's eyes because we were made in His image.
    "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus." Galations 3:28

    I will also say that rhereth is right in that I am speaking of the second wave of feminism(?), also called marxist feminism and it is the only wave of feminism that I am familiar with. I would love to look into the whole of feminism at some point, but being a busy high school student who is in the process of starting an art business, I unfortunately don't have the time right now.

    Thank you for being so kind about this, Callie! I have met woman who have told me and my sisters that we are wasting our lives, but you are not at all that way. We might not agree on everything, but you seem to be open to people being diverse and I think that is great! And I will also say, that after explaining yourself, even though we definitely don't agree on everything, you recognize that you and your husband have an obligation to raise your son for the Lord, and you are striving to do so. I think that is wonderful :) :)
    You are welcome to use anything I have said in your blog post, though for privacy reasons, I would prefer my name be left out.

  16. Callie, what an amazing review! I might have to pick a copy of this up as well.

  17. Callie, what an amazing review! I might have to pick a copy of this up as well.

  18. @Julita,
    I just found a picture of the six of us RAs from the beginning of senior year - it made me smile and now it's in my desk! :) Thanks for the comment! If you do end up reading Jesus Feminist this summer, I'd love to hear your thoughts!

    I'll say upfront that I'm still studying these subjects (and maybe always will be?). Regarding women in Church leadership, I've also heard those two distinctions (i.e. women still need to be under male leadership and this no longer applies because it was cultural). At *this point* in my life and in my studying, I lean more towards it being a cultural issue. This isn't the ideal platform to explain all of why I believe that, but I'll give a quick summary. I think the verse you were referring to I Timothy ("I do not permit a women to teach or have authority over a man"). I think it's wise to look at the whole context here. Just a few verses later, Paul writes that a woman will be saved through childbearing if they continue in faith and love and sanctity with self-restraint. What the heck does THAT mean?? :) Scholars have offered up ideas, but there isn't really a general consensus or a theory that fully explains it. While this doesn't mean that we can fully dismiss the passage, I think it's important to admit that we're confused on that part. And if you look at the verse immediately BEFORE that part, it talks about women not braiding their hair. No churches that I know of condemn hair-braiding because they wisely understand that that was cultural. So I would be careful before using that passage (that we don't understand/don't take literally) as the platform on which we form a very serious doctrine (about women's roles). Getting a little more specific, the NT Church was in danger at this time - the idea of women being welcome, being treated equally and being able to prophesy, was REVOLUTIONARY. This was a crazy patriarchal society. I'll quote Sarah Bessey (who is quoting John Stackhouse) because I happen to have the book next to me and they put it much better than I could: Paul was "giving the church a few instructions on how to 'survive and thrive in a patriarchal culture that he thinks will not last long and to maintain and promote the egalitarian dynamic already at work in the career of Jesus that in due course will leave gender lines behind.'" I've also read (and I believe Sarah talks about this) that women were so thrilled that they were welcome in the Church and so eager to learn (we forget that this is a culture where women received little to no education), that the women in Corinth were interrupting church gatherings constantly to ask questions. So rather than it being a strict line-in-the-sand for future generations it was more akin to: "hey ladies, we're so glad you want to learn, but we do want to finish the meetings for everyones benefit so maybe you could ask your questions at home since your husbands are more educated than you." I'm sure my explanation of this has left you wanting (or confused!) because it's a big thing to fit into a paragraph (and I'm still working through it in my own brain), so you'll probably want to do more research. Slaves, Women and Homosexuals (William Webb) would be a good book to look into on this topic, but I'll warn you that it's weighty. I have yet to make it through! :) The parts I have read, however, have been excellent.

  19. @Julita (continued)
    Regarding marriage, I think you made a great point, that we tend to isolate the verses that are gender specific when the verse directly preceding them is gender neutral. In fact, I've heard many people put a huge emphasis on women submitting based on verse 22 (wives, submit to your husbands), but it's interesting to note that in the original Greek, the word 'submit' doesn't even appear in that verse! If I remember correctly, the passage reads like this: "Submit one to another out of reverence to Christ. Wives, to your husbands." So we carry over the verb 'submit' from verse 21. I believe in mutual submission in marriage, yet I can't ignore the following verses that are gender specific. Here are two main explanations I've heard on this that make sense to me. The first explanation is that Paul is writing to what our common tendencies are as women/men. In other words, yes, we need to both submit to each other, but women, this could be an area that's a bit more challenging. The husband loving his wife as Christ loves the Church...well, Christ loved the Church sacrificially. In a sense, he submitted for us (think Philippians 2:7 "He emptied Himself"). The second explanation goes back to the patriarchal society that Paul was writing to. This was a society where men were the tyrannical rulers of their household and had absolutely no checks or balances to their power. So the very idea that Paul gave them restrictions on their treatment of their households was a big deal. Scholar would say (again) that Christians needed to survive this culture and needed guidelines for moving from patriarchy to God's kingdom ways. So Paul is writing those here. If someone were to press me further on it, I might add that Paul gives instructions to slaves and masters (something Christians hopefully don't condone today) and tells fathers alone to raise their children in the fear of the Lord (does that mean he doesn't want women to teach their children? He certainly praises Timothy's mother and grandmother for doing just that). Many people I know think that husbands are held to a higher standard and think that they are primarily responsible for their families. I am not altogether irked by this idea, but I don't know that I have heard a solid, concrete argument that I believe holds up.

    I know what you mean about submission feeling like you're a kid. It's difficult for me and I will be the first to admit that I really do need to grow in this area. But I think I grew up hearing about submission to parents and submission to husbands. I guess right now in my life I feel that my primary area of submission is to the Holy Spirit and then to my husband (mutually) and to my church leaders (assuming they are biblically "sound"). And taking Ephesians into account I suppose I should be submissive to other Christians as well. And perhaps it's our own understanding of the word that makes us dislike it? When I'm submitting to other Christians the wording sounds like I would be rolling over and letting everyone tell me what to do. But what I actually mean is that I am showing preference to them and trying to honor them by thinking of their needs first. I could totally improve in that area.

    Anyway, a long, long answer to your questions. :) Thanks again for commenting! I really enjoy having these discussions and, since leaving CU, it's been hard to find people who care to think these issues through. :)

  20. @Bekah,
    I loved what you had to say and appreciated your input. One part especially stuck out to me. You wrote, "When a woman’s voice is silenced, her opinion is neglected, or her skills and talents are downplayed (an abuse I often committed against myself), this is certainly detrimental to society, the church, and her family. Christians should be fighting for everyone to use their God-given talents. Women should not be shamed when they use their leadership skills, and men should not be regarded as “weak” when they are stay-at-home dads. " I think it's especially interesting that you realized you were downplaying your own talents. Sometimes I think Christians give up too much in the name of humility, but I think we have to conflate that with using our gifts well (not sure that sentence came out correctly, but I'm hoping you get my point). Anyway, I think this summed it up for me: "Christians should be fighting for everyone to use their God-given talents." yes, yes!!

  21. @Gina,
    Thanks for sharing since you know a lot more about the history of feminism than I do! :) I'm looking forward to reading the book you mentioned! I know we've talked about this before, but I'm glad you mentioned again how you were nervous going into the women's studies classes because you thought you would find the stereotypical feminists. But when you actually got into classes and into discussions, you realized that you didn't meet anyone like that. If I remember correctly from past conversations, you were surprised to find that some students (and even some professors) were even more conservative than you were. And I believe you've mentioned that one professor in particular was one of the most devoted mothers that you've ever seen. (Please feel free to correct me if I've misquoted you - I'm hoping I remember correctly, but it's been a long day and I'm tired:)

  22. @Sarah Jane,
    Thanks for coming back and continuing the discussion! I really appreciate that all of us on this page have been able to have a thoughtful conversation, even though we may disagree on some things. :)

    I want to make it clear (for you, but also for anyone else who may read this conversation) the distinction between being a feminist and being an egalitarian. I don't think I did a good job of doing that before. Since I am both a feminist and an egalitarian, it might be easy to assume that they go hand-in-hand. But they are distinct. A feminist simply believes that women should have equality with men. That's all. And so, based on that definition, I think even you would be a feminist! :) (I say that with a smile because I can still understand what you think of when you hear the word 'feminist' just like Bekah wrote above - I'm not trying to offend you). I've heard of so many Christians who are buying jewelry (or other goods) from women in other countries so that the women can provide for their families or so that they can be liberated from sex slavery. That's awesome! And that's also being a feminist! :) I am a SAHM and a feminist - but I'm not an outlier. Those two things can definitely go hand-in-hand! Like Gina said above, there are many feminists who still think that men and women should have different roles in families and in society. On to the other way I identify myself (egalitarian). Personally, I believe that men and women should take roles in the home/church/community based on their gifting, not their gender. Bekah (above) did a better job at explaining why I believe this. But again, I think it is important to note that you can be a feminist and still think that men and women should have different roles. :)

    You can read my thoughts above (to response to Julita) about some of the specific Bible verses dealing with gender issues. But I think we have to be careful to say what the Bible clearly teaches. Because it clearly teaches that women will make people and furniture unclean while they are menstrating (Leviticus). And it clearly states that women should not have braided hair (I Timothy), that we should pluck out our eyes if they cause us to sin (Matthew and Mark) and that women should have their heads covered (I Corinthians). What I mean by this is that we all should acknowledge that we use certain hermeneutics and that none of us actually take the Bible literally. A Year of Biblical Womanhood by Rachel Held Evans is an interesting read on this topic. One of the things I am most looking forward to teaching my son is hermeneutics (and trust me, I still have so so so much to learn!). But I want to give my son a high view of the Bible, which (to me) means putting the time into learning how to read it and interpret it properly. But then again, I'm a bit of a nerd, so I have to admit that studying is always a bit fun for me. :)

    One more quick thing about the "silence in church thing". In Acts 2:18, it's says that both men and women will be prophesying and that will be a sign that the Holy Spirit has come. Then in 1 Corinthians 11:5, Paul takes it for granted that women will be prophesying in Church (he simply gives guidelines about wearing head coverings). When we look at the Old Testament prophets, most of them are doing something similar to what we refer to as preaching! So I would be interested to see if churches would build into their services space for women to prophesy, since that is clearly acceptable even in the New Testament era. Just something to think about!

    Thanks for letting me use your comments - I'll definitely leave you anonymous if I do chose to post some of this. :) I think it is great that you're pursing a teaching degree (such an important field!) and I wish you all the best with your studies!

  23. @Ellie
    I hope you get a chance to read it! :) You're welcome to borrow my copy sometime!

  24. And regarding all of those comments I just posted, I didn't have time to proofread them and it has been a loooong day, so I am sure that there are typos! :) My apologizes!


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