I read an article this morning that started out with the question, “If you are a Christian, is feminism the enemy?” I almost laughed when I read this. To me, that question is rhetorical. Of course it is. Christians have been affirming their animosity with feminism for years. Just take this quote from Pat Robertson:
“The feminist agenda is not about equal rights for women. It is about a socialist, anti-family political movement that encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians.”
These are not words said between friends. To me (and others) it seems very clear that Christianity and feminism are not friends and can quite correctly be called enemies.
Nevertheless, this article which I found of the Bible Society website posits reasons why the two are actually more friendly than you think. Let me give them in brief:
- Feminism does not represent all culture, so Christians can’t claim that it is a cultural enemy.
- Feminism is a broad movement where people disagree on many things, so Christians cannot claim that all feminists are antithetical to their religion.
- Feminism believes in the equality of men and women and so does Christianity.
Thus, Christianity should look at the areas of common ground between the two instead of being oppositional. Maybe that way the world can be improved for women.
Now, I have to admit that it is nice to see at least some Christians trying to look at feminism in a positive way. It makes me feel like maybe there is some hope of improvement in the world. But beyond my emotions, it is also hilariously stupid.
In order to argue that Christianity and feminism are not inimical to each other, you have to ignore the very foundations of Christianity itself. I’m not talking about later church teachings which affirm the image of God in women (something mentioned in the above article). These are later editions to theology and were not part of the original thinking. Instead, I’m talking about the Bible itself which “Christian feminists” have to either ignore or explain away in order to support their designation.
Let’s look at one example from England which was reported in The Telegraph last year. In February of 2014, the Church of England was looking at fast-tracking the selection and posting of women bishops. At the start of the synod where this was on the agenda, the reading from the Bible designated or the day was from 1 Timothy.
“A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner.” (1 Timothy 2:11-14)
Awkward! Just when your church is looking at actually legislating full equality of men and women, the Bible comes and reminds you that Christianity doesn’t allow for that. In fact, one of the founding members (St. Paul) very much is in the camp of not allowing equality between men and women and he has theological reasons (Genesis) to back up his view.
How do “Christian feminists” deal with this problem? The article in The Telegraph offers one commonly recommended solution. “Stop reading the Bible like a car manual.”
“This is inevitable when there are still so many Christians who read the Bible like a car manual or a science textbook, rather than the collection of historical writing, poetry (and, dare I say it, fiction) that it is. There are many intelligent people of faith who would never dream of reading a poem or even a newspaper, thinking that what they’re reading is 100% empirically true then and forevermore; yet when it comes to the Bible they throw all their God-given interpretative faculties out the window, because they believe that scripture is divinely inspired in such a literal way that it’s as if the ‘truths’ of the Bible have been dropped out of heaven, completely intact and written out word-for-word.”
Well, there’s one solution. But what does it force you to do? In essence, you have to treat the Bible like “fiction” or like a fable, which are not literal stories and accounts but metaphors for ways of life.
This is far too close to the same thinking explored in the Australian Rationalist which I wrote about earlier in the week in the post “That Old Testament Religion.” That view of the Bible led to the inevitable and logical destruction of Christian religion as a whole and for good reason. Without the ability to take the Bible literally, the Christian religion has no more foundation than a religion based on the talking animals in Aesop’s fables. Either the Bible is true and literal or it is on par with Aesop and should be taken in the same way as a story about talking foxes is.
“Christian feminists” like those in the Church of England, the Episcopal church in America and evangelicals who like to use the term face the problem of revising their religion to suit their opinions. They literally have to pretend that thousands of years of Christian history do not exist in order to achieve full equality between men and women. Their religion simply is not founded on that principle and is, instead, rigidly patriarchal and misogynistic.
Now they can try to argue that what they are really doing is correcting the mistakes of men over that history, a claim I have heard before. Sometimes people make mistakes. But they are not talking about doctrine that was mistakenly added in by men with an agenda. They are talking about the Bible, the founding document of their faith. Without it, they have no religion. With it, they are in the oxymoronic position of being a “Christian feminist.”
So what’s the choice here? Is the Bible wrong? Is the Bible not to be taken literally? Neither option bodes well for a person’s continuing faith. Which brings up the inevitable conclusion: either admit that your religion is openly antithetical to your feminism and remain a simple “Christian” in line with what it really teaches, or admit that your religion is wrong and leave it behind as a flawed and fallible man-made and man-run institution claiming divine inspiration in order to pursue its own agenda of power.
Christianity and feminism really are an either-or proposition. You cannot have both. It really is that simple.
[The quote from Pat Robertson is taken from the Salon article “Christian leaders have always been misogynists.”]