The Intern’s Corner: Does feminism have a role in Christian ministry?

By Pat Trask, GCSRW seminary intern

I admit it—the waves of feminism have washed by me over the years. I was the only daughter in my family, and I grew up in a maledominated community. From my family, I knew the world was open to me, even as a young woman. As a tomboy, I never understood the need for women’s studies courses or the reason for bra burning, because neither my family nor my community expressed these beliefs. Nevertheless, as an adult, I refuse to believe feminists are “man-hating”, “whiny” or necessarily “liberal.” (These epithets, as well as others, are specifically mentioned at Who Needs Feminism? To admit to being a feminist submits a person to these and other epithets with the person sitting in judgment not even knowing anything else about you. I have seen and experienced first-hand animosity toward women who assert themselves, so I understand how it sounds and feels. However, I do not understand how people claiming to follow Christ can express such opposition to anyone who professes to be a feminist or who acts in such a way that they might be considered a feminist.

As a baseline, I offer this definition of feminism from a Google search: “the advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of political, social, and economic equality to men.” In her recent article, “So you want to be a feminist, huh?” Niki Fritz writes this for the Redeye:

“Feminism, at its nitty-gritty core, is a two-parter. First, feminism is the idea that men and women should be equal in the work force, at home, in society, on all of the levels…The second, more vital and often contentious part of feminism is the understanding that men and women currently are not treated equally.” (redeyechicago.com, September 10, 2014)

 As people of faith, refer to Galatians 3:26-29, in which Paul admonishes the church at Galatia, among other things, that:

 “You are all God’s children through faith in Christ Jesus…There is neither Jew nor Greek; there is neither slave nor free; nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. Now if you belong to Christ, then indeed you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to the promise.”

 In the light of the Scripture, then, feminism is one method by which people, as part of their theology and ministry, attempt to bring about the promise that women’s rights are equal to those of men. To raise up the need for women to assert those rights is not a hateful act any more than choosing to eat Chinese food for dinner expresses a hatred of Italian food. To stand up for the rights of a woman, not because she is a woman but because the system historically has not beheld her equally, is not much different from saying all people should be able to breathe clean air or drink clean water. People are often perceived as “whiny” by others who have not heard clear, articulated, calm, quiet requests that have been repeatedly shared for so long, and now the speaker must adopt a different voice in order to be heard at all. Women’s voices have been silenced systemically, publicly and privately, by friend and foe alike for so long that their voices need to be lifted, at times, by others. This will help all of us claim our voices, not silence men in favor of women.

The General Commission on the Status and Role of Women steps into the role of voice-lifter quite naturally. The Commission does not take a position on men and it is not angry. Our society benefits when all persons are valued. God, who loves us all, calls us all toward a promise of equality, socially, politically, and daily. Listen now to the voices and behold a world of hurt and anguish, or wait until the pain is so great that a louder voice must be used. Women all over the world want to be heard. They want to be treated fairly. This is a desire of all people. To profess to be a feminist or to live a life concurrent with the beliefs of feminism is to live a life as identified in the Scripture. I think that is something worth buying into, don’t you?

pat trask for web

Pat Trask, a former attorney, is a second-year student at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary in Evanston, IL.

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