Feminism has deeply pervaded society—all levels of it. The ideology has influenced the make-up of our postmodern culture. The war cry of the battle for gender liberation rings loudly in the heart of this age. We witness people everywhere caught up in the passion and fervour of its tide.
And not many Christians find it objectionable. Feminism seems to be built on the noble principle that all human beings are equal. That is a foundational tenet of the Christian faith. But is it that straightforward? Can a Christian be a feminist—in the 21st-century form of the movement?
The common understanding is that this is possible. “Anyone who believes in the equality of the genders is a feminist, whether you accept it or not,” they say—even to those of us who shy away from being branded a feminist.
To be sure, there is a grain of truth in that statement. But a deeper look into the matter could reveal some profound incompatibilities between this celebrated movement and the Christian logos.
First of all, what do we mean by ‘equality’? Though we tend to use it casually, we must realise that the term can have various nuanced interpretations. The Bible says that all human beings are equal because we are created in the image of God. This bestows profound worth and value upon each man and woman—whatever be their station in this earthly life.
Thus the Christian idea of equality derives from a sense of our being—of what we are. Men and women are equal by virtue of what we are—both being image-bearers of a Holy God. Nothing and no one can dispossess us of this privilege. This is antithetical to what feminism has become.
The Christian idea of equality derives from a sense of our being—of what we are
Feminism is defined as “the belief in full social, economic, and political equality for women.” The feminist understanding of equality here is all about the outcomes of the conditions of life. We might say that such equality derives from outside a person, i.e. whether people are equal or not is dependent on external factors. For example, we will be able to say that men and women are equal if they have identical roles in marriage, or if they receive the same wages for the same job, etc.
But here’s what we know—from the Bible and our own experience—about this external world upon which the feminist is dependent for equality: this world is fallen, corrupt and miserable. And it will be so until the very end!
Yes, we are encouraged to always stand up for what is right. But it is futile to expect fairness from a sinful world—much less, subject ourselves to a temporal determinant for our worth.
This leads us to another important matter. For us who have been saved by the blood of Jesus Christ, our worth is rooted entirely in Him. Our lives are hidden in Him. All our strength and sufficiency must come from Christ alone.
To seek this power instead from the empowerment offered by a worldly ideology disrupts the Christian attitude of utter dependency upon the life-giving Spirit of God. How is this significant? Because feminism—in both theory and practice—places great emphasis on a sense of collective identity and strength that is drawn from the pooled resources of its adherents who propel each other towards the achievement of equality of outcomes.
But for a Christian, equality is not something that needs to be ‘achieved’ or something that we have to contend for. The Bible says, “There is neither… male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28). Fair and perfect equality has already been extended to us by virtue of our faith in Jesus. If so, what is the need for us to associate with a movement that seeks to achieve equality apart from that which can be found in Christ?
The Bible also makes it very clear that men and women have different roles to play on this earth. With regard to marriage, wives are told to submit to their husbands. This is certainly incompatible with mainstream feminism because, as we discussed earlier, its dogma is concerned with achieving material equality in various spheres of social life—here, marriage. But as Christians, we must understand that equal people are often given ‘unequal’ roles.
Doesn’t the very nature of every institution remind us that each role played is important—all for the trouble-free functioning of the establishment? Feminist perceptions of equality conflict with biblical teaching, especially with regard to the overthrowing of ‘gender roles’ which is an important element of its theory.
Fair and perfect equality has already been extended to us by virtue of our faith in Jesus
Another important facet of feminism is that its ideologies were formulated by people with varying beliefs—often directly opposite to the biblical worldview. It is impossible to become a feminist without absorbing the doctrines found within—sexual liberation, bodily autonomy, freedom from traditional notions of marriage and family, preoccupation with trifling concerns (pronouns, for e.g.), antipathy towards men, etc. Many such beliefs subvert the moral principles revealed in God’s word and therefore, cannot be accepted by a Christian.
Does this mean that we shouldn’t speak up when we see women being mistreated or oppressed? Certainly not! The Bible clearly says, “Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all who are destitute. Open your mouth, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy” (Proverbs 31:8-9).
However, our motives for doing so should be born out of our realisation of the inherent worth that every human life has in the sight of God. There is no need to draw motivation and purpose for treating all human beings with dignity and respect from an ideology that is filled with error.
Finally, we can never remind ourselves too often that all the deep cravings of our heart—for love, dignity and respect—find full satisfaction in Christ. Galatians 5:1 says, “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” Let us, therefore, take care not to be enslaved by the ideologies and philosophies of the world. Let us rather be slaves to Christ for He is the Truth that has set us free.
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