Digging Deeper: Approaching Feminism with the Mind of Christ

By Ellie Corrow

The latest Taylor Swift video ("The Man") features the recording artist transformed into a man wherein she proceeds to claim that life would be so much better for her if only she were treated
like a man. Catchy tune or not, her message is clearly meant to proclaim a common gripe of feminism. While one might see this as at least a sugar-coated venting session by a popular singer, many times we hear shrill voices in defense of feminism. Do we need to listen to these voices? Is everything labeled as "feminism" a bad thing?

The Feminism Label

Even the word "feminism" conjures up a variety of negative images for Christians, as its obvious influences are splashed all over our news and entertainment, Taylor Swift being just one example of many. In the Christian view, feminism can be thanked for everything from widespread family breakdown to the celebration of abortion as a constitutional right. You don't have to spend much time in social media before you find feminists who insist that controlling men and guaranteeing access to abortion are at the heart of the movement. These are views that should be rejected, as they are clearly at odds with Christian teachings about the equality of the sexes and the sanctity of life. As Christians, we should never be supportive of movements that seek advancement at the expense of our neighbors.

It's pretty straightforward then, right? All feminism is wrong and in direct contradiction to the teaching of Scripture! Well, it's not quite that simple. Despite how unified feminism appears to be, historically it has been quite diverse, and some of this diversity is still evident today. For this reason, we are better off looking at the various forms of feminism that litter our modern landscape, rather than assuming feminism is, or always has been, a singular, clearly defined movement. For example, are we discussing early feminism that was very prolife and saw abortion as an attack on women, or the feminism that proudly asks women to #shoutyourabortion? Obviously, in the first form there is much the Church can stand behind,
while the second is quite alarming.

Despite this diversity, the Church can be guilty of oversimplifying and dismissing an entire movement, out of fear of its effects on Christian men and women. Here is the bottom line: Jesus does not give us a spirit of fear, and we should not allow fear to shape how we interact with our neighbors, especially if that fear would ask us to silence and dismiss those neighbors. Instead, it can be helpful to approach each issue with grace and humility, wondering what it is we can learn, especially from people whose experiences are very different from our own.

In the case of feminism, if we listen, we might hear outright and open rebellion against God's Word, or we might hear fear, or the stories of centuries of women's oppression, and the denial of rights on the basis of sex. Agreeing or disagreeing with a person's solution to an obvious problem, like sexism, is a very different thing from dismissing their concerns entirely, which is what happens when the Church assumes that all brands of feminism work against the Christian faith.

What if We Were to Listen?

In contrast to the blanket dismissal of feminism, some Christians have asserted that Jesus was a bit of a feminist in how He elevated and protected women, particularly in a culture not especially prone to do so. We should not try to read our Lord's words and actions through the lens of our modern culture. However well-intentioned, this is simply not a good approach to reading and understanding Scripture. What is plainly evident is that Jesus interacted with women as if they were, well, human, as so well profiled by Dorothy L. Sayers in her book Are Women Human? Who would deny that women are human? Isn't that just obvious to anyone? Not always. Throughout much of history women have been treated as second-class citizens, without benefit of status or rights, except when granted to them by the men in their lives.

Unfortunately, the tendency to dehumanize other people groups because they are smaller, weaker, or lack a voice is common to mankind, and we don't have to think too hard before we encounter instances in our own world. We not only see it in the genocidal horrors of the 20th century, it's evident in the schoolyard bully, and even in ourselves when we laugh at another's expense. For this reason, we cannot be trusted to look to our own thoughts, actions, behavior, or even cultural norms to determine what value to place on another.Instead, Jesus provides the answer to that question by dying for every, single person, purchasing their redemption, not
with gold or silver, but with His innocent suffering and death. When we see Jesus treating women with dignity and respect throughout the Gospels, we see that He is affirming their
diverse humanity, as women, and that should set the norm for how we act toward others.

Christ Is the Answer

Do we need feminism to shape our view on how to treat women? No! Jesus does that quite nicely for us, if only we have ears to hear what He is saying. He is not saying that men and women are the same, save for some anatomical differences, as some feminists would assert. He is saying that women should not be oppressed and dehumanized, reduced to roles only women can fill, and instead should be valued in their varieties of gifts and roles.

If we use the mind of Christ as we address feminism, we are freed from the demands of acceptance or rejection of an "-ism", and instead are able to listen to our neighbors, hear how they are suffering, and consider whether there are unnecessary burdens we can help lift with the easy yoke of the Gospel. In this way, we can graciously give our neighbors the dignity and respect they deserve, as ones for whom Christ died, ministering to them with the grace we
ourselves have so abundantly received.

This article was originally published in the spring 2020 issue of Higher Things Magazine.

Deaconess Ellie Corrow is the missionary care coordinator at the LCMS Office of International
Mission and serves on the board of directors for Higher Things. She lives in Ballwin, Missouri, with her son, Andrew, and a few dogs and cats.

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