Christian feminism

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Christian feminism is a school of Christian theology which seeks to advance and understand the equality of men and women morally, socially, spiritually, and in leadership from a Christian perspective.[1] Christian feminists argue that contributions by women, and an acknowledgment of women's value, are necessary for a complete understanding of Christianity.[2] Christian feminists believe that God does not discriminate on the basis of biologically-determined characteristics such as sex and race, but created all humans to exist in harmony and equality, reguardless of race or gender.[3] Christian Feminists generally advocate for anti-essentialism as a part of their belief system, acknowledging that gender identities do not mandate a certain set of personality traits.[4] Their major issues include the ordination of women, biblical equality in marriage, recognition of equal spiritual and moral abilities, reproductive rights, integration of gender neutral pronouns within readings of the Bible, and the search for a feminine or gender-transcendent divine.[5][6][7][8] Christian feminists often draw on the teachings of other religions and ideologies in addition to biblical evidence, and other Christian based texts throughout history that advocate for women's rights.[9] [10]

The term Christian egalitarianism is often preferred by those advocating gender equality and equity among Christians who do not wish to associate themselves with the feminist movement.[11]

History[edit]

Some Christian feminists believe that the principle of egalitarianism was present in the teachings of Jesus and the early Christian movements, but this is a highly contested view by many feminist scholars who believe that Christianity itself relies heavily on gender roles.[12][by whom?] These interpretations of Christian origins have been criticized by secular feminists for "anachronistically projecting contemporary ideals back into the first century."[13] In the Middle Ages Julian of Norwich and Hildegard of Bingen explored the idea of a divine power with both masculine and feminine characteristics.[14][15] Feminist works from the fifteenth to seventeenth centuries addressed objections to women learning, teaching and preaching in a religious context.[16] One such proto-feminist was Anne Hutchinson who was cast out of the Puritan colony of Massachusetts for teaching on the dignity and rights of women.[17]

The first wave of feminism in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries included an increased interest in the place of women in religion.[18] Women who were campaigning for their rights began to question their inferiority both within the church and in other spheres, which had previously been justified by church teachings.[19] Some Christian feminists of this period were Marie Maugeret, Katharine Bushnell, Catherine Booth, Frances Willard, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton.

During the 1960s and the 1970s many evangelical women were influenced by the civil rights movement.[20] Christian Feminists began writing and publishing articles that addressed reproductive rights as well as inequality in marriage and in the religious hierarchy.[21] In response to these articles, groups such as the EWC or Evangelical Women's Caucus, and the ESA or Evangelicals for Societal Action were formed in order to create a social movement in the church towards equality, which was motivated by the Christian Feminist ideal that God created all people as equals.[22]

Issues[edit]

Women in church leadership[edit]

The division of Protestant belief systems into different sects allowed for women to acquire far more leadership positions in the church, as certain sects then had the freedom to advocated for female leadership.[23] In both mainline and liberal branches of Protestant Christianity, women are ordained as clergy. Even some theologically conservative denominations, such as The Church of the Nazarene[24] and Assemblies of God,[25] ordain women as pastors. However, the Roman Catholic Church, the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Southern Baptist Convention (the largest Protestant denomination in the U.S.),[26] as well as The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church), and many churches in the American Evangelical movement prohibit women from entering clerical positions.[27] Some Christian feminists believe that as women have greater opportunity to receive theological training, they will have greater influence on how scriptures are interpreted by those that deny women the right to become ministers.[28]


Interpretations of gender based scriptures[edit]

Many of the Christian ideals concerning gender stem from interpretations of the Bible.[29] Christian feminists have often argued that the Bible is problematic, not because of the text itself, but because of the Christian scholars who have interpreted the scripture throughout time.[30] An example of these inconsistencies can be found in the creation story of Adam and Eve; some Evangelicals believe that Adam and Eve were created at the same time, while others believe that Eve was made from the rib of Adam.[31] There is also wide debate within many Christian sects over the fault of Eve concerning the consumption of the forbidden fruit, and the entrance of sin into the world.[32] Historically, a great deal of blame has been placed on Eve, but many Christian Feminists have worked to reframe the story, and shift the blame equally between both parties, as both partook of the fruit.[33] The story of Adam and Eve is just one example of a text which Christian feminists believe is patriarchal in nature due to its interpretation.[34] Some Christian Feminists made the decision to abandon direct scriptural use in their fight for equality, while others relied on verses that opposed patriarchal ideals, pointing out the inconsistencies within the Bible.[35] The following passages act as examples of these inconsistencies.

  • Galatians 3:28. "There is neither…male nor female for all are one in Christ Jesus."
  • Deborah of the Old Testament was a prophetess and "judge of Israel"[36]
  • Genesis 2:20. The word translated "help" or "helper" is the same Hebrew word, "ēzer," which the Old Testament uses more than 17 times to describe the kind of help that God brings to His people in times of need; e.g., "Thou art my help (ēzer) and my deliverer," and "My help (ēzer) comes from the Lord." Never once in all these references is the word used to indicate subordination or servitude to another human being.[37]
  • Genesis 3:16. "To the woman he (God) said, 'I will greatly increase your pains in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children, yet your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.'"
  • 1 Timothy 2:12. "But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence."
  • 1 Corinthians 11:7-9. "For a man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God, but woman is the glory of man. For man was not made from woman, but woman from man. Neither was man created for woman, but woman for man."
  • 1 Corinthians 14:34. "The women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says."
  • Colossians 3:18. "Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord."
  • 1 Peter 3:1. "Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives."
  • Ephesians 5:22-24. "Wives, be subject to your husbands as you are to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife just as Christ is the head of the church, the body of which he is the Savior. Just as the church is subject to Christ, so also wives ought to be, in everything, to their husbands."

Reproduction, sexuality and religion[edit]

Conservative religious groups are often at philosophical odds with many feminist and liberal religious groups over abortion and the use of birth control. Scholars like sociologist Flann Campbell have argued that conservative religious denominations tend to restrict male and female sexuality[38][39] by prohibiting or limiting birth control use,[40] and condemning abortion as sinful murder.[41][42] Some Christian feminists (like Teresa Forcades) contend that a woman's "right to control her pregnancy is bounded by considerations of her own well-being" and that restricted access to birth control and abortion disrespect her God-given free will.[43]

A number of socially progressive mainline Protestant denominations as well as certain Jewish organizations and the group Catholics for a Free Choice have formed the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice.[44] The RCRC often works as a liberal feminist organization and in conjunction with other American feminist groups to oppose conservative religious denominations which, from their perspective, seek to suppress the natural reproductive rights of women.[45]

In general, many Christian Feminist scholars hope to work towards a society in which female sexuality is not condemned by the church, but acknowledged as a natural part of the human existence.[46] During the reffermation, recognized theologians such as Martin Luther and John Calvin stressed the importance of chastity and marriage, leading to further repression of female sexuality within the Christian tradition.[47] Many Christian Feminists have stated that men in powerful religious positions have often used the scriptures, and teachings from theologians such as Clavin and Luther to both dominate and repress women sexually, a problem which Christian Feminists believe needs to be solved immediately.[48]

Female Centered Depiction of the Birth of Christ

Feminine or gender-transcendent God[edit]

Some Christian feminists believe that gender equality within the church cannot be achieved without rethinking the portrayal and understanding of God as a masculine being.[49] The theological concept of Sophia, usually seen as replacing the Holy Spirit in the Trinity, is often used to fulfill this desire for symbols which reflect women's religious experiences.[50] How Sophia is configured is not static, but usually filled with emotions and individual expression.[51] For some Christian feminists, the Sophia concept is found in a search for women who reflect contemporary feminist ideals in both the Old and New Testament. Some figures used for this purpose include the Virgin Mary, Mary Magdalene,[52] Eve,[53] and Esther.[54] Others see God as entirely gender-transcendent,[55] or focus on the feminine aspects of God and Jesus.[56] A female depiction of the Christ figure, known as Christa, recently arose in an attempt to allow for the power of the Christ figure to be applied to both the masculine and the feminine.[57] Some Christian feminists use and promote gender-neutral or feminine language and imagery to describe God or Christ. Christian Feminists also call for a gender neutral reading of the Bible, as male pronouns are heavily used as compared to female pronouns throughout the text.[58] The United Church of Christ describes its New Century Hymnal, published in 1995, as "the only hymnal released by a Christian church that honors in equal measure both male and female images of God."[59]


See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Hassey, Janette (1989). "A BRIEF HISTORY OF CHRISTIAN FEMINISM". Transformation. 6 (2): 1–5. JSTOR 43052265.
  2. ^ Harrison, Victoria S. "Modern Women, Traditional Abrahamic Religions and Interpreting Sacred Texts." Feminist Theology: The Journal of the Britain & Ireland School of Feminist Theology 15.2 (2007):145-159.
  3. ^ McPhillips, Kathleen. "Theme: Feminisms, Religions, Cultures, Identities." Australian Feminist Studies 14.30 (1999).
  4. ^ McLeod-Harrison, Mark S. (September 2014). "Christian Feminism, Gender and Human Essences: Toward a Solution of the Sameness and Differences Dilemma". Forum Philosophicum. 19 (2): 169–191.
  5. ^ Daggers, Jenny. "Working for Change in the Position of Women in the Church." Feminist Theology: The Journal of the Britain & Ireland School of Feminist Theology 26 (2001)
  6. ^ McEwan, Dorothea. "The Future of Christian Feminist Theologies--As I Sense It: Musings on the Effects of Historiography and Space."
  7. ^ McIntosh, Esther. "The Possibility of a Gender-Transcendent God: Taking Macmurray Forward." Feminist Theology: The Journal of the Britain & Ireland School of Feminist Theology 15 (2007): 236-255.
  8. ^ Polinska, Wioleta. "In Woman's Image: An Iconography for God." Feminist Theology 13.1 (2004):40-61
  9. ^ Clack, Beverly. "Thealogy and Theology: Mutually Exclusive or Creatively Interdependent? Feminist Theology: The Journal of the Britain & Ireland School of Feminist Theology 21 (1999):21-38.
  10. ^ Hassey, Janette (1989-04). "A Brief History of Christian Feminism". Transformation: An International Journal of Holistic Mission Studies. 6 (2): 1–5. doi:10.1177/026537888900600201. ISSN 0265-3788. Check date values in: |date= (help)
  11. ^ Groothuis, Rebecca M., Ronald Pierce and Gordon Fee (eds.), Feminism Goes to Seed Archived 2016-03-04 at the Wayback Machine.
  12. ^ Gallagher, Sally K. (2004). "The Marginalization of Evangelical Feminism". Sociology of Religion. 65 (3): 215. doi:10.2307/3712250. ISSN 1069-4404.
  13. ^ Beavis, Mary Ann. "Christian Origins, Egalitarianism, and Utopia." Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion 23.2 (2007): 27-49
  14. ^ Bauerschmidt, Frederick Christian. "Seeing Jesus: Julian of Norwich and the Text of Christ's Body." Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies 27.2 (1997):189-214.
  15. ^ Boyce-Tillman, June. "Hildegard of Bingen: A Woman for our Time." Feminist Theology 22 (1999):25-41.
  16. ^ McEwan, Dorothea. "The Future of Christian Feminist Theologies--As I Sense It: Musings on the Effects of Historiography and Space." 79-92.
  17. ^ Ellsberg, Robert. All Saints: Daily Reflections on Saints, Prophets, and Witnesses from Our Time
  18. ^ Hassey, Janette (1989-04). "A Brief History of Christian Feminism". Transformation: An International Journal of Holistic Mission Studies. 6 (2): 1–5. doi:10.1177/026537888900600201. ISSN 0265-3788. Check date values in: |date= (help)
  19. ^ Capitani, Diane. "Imagining God in Our Ways: The Journals of Frances E. Willard." Feminist Theology: The Journal of the Britain & Ireland School of Feminist Theology 12.1 (2003):57-88.
  20. ^ Gallagher, Sally K. (2004). "The Marginalization of Evangelical Feminism". Sociology of Religion. 65 (3): 215. doi:10.2307/3712250. ISSN 1069-4404.
  21. ^ Gallagher, Sally K. (2004). "The Marginalization of Evangelical Feminism". Sociology of Religion. 65 (3): 215. doi:10.2307/3712250. ISSN 1069-4404.
  22. ^ Gallagher, Sally K. (2004). "The Marginalization of Evangelical Feminism". Sociology of Religion. 65 (3): 215. doi:10.2307/3712250. ISSN 1069-4404.
  23. ^ Hassey, Janette (1989-04). "A Brief History of Christian Feminism". Transformation: An International Journal of Holistic Mission Studies. 6 (2): 1–5. doi:10.1177/026537888900600201. ISSN 0265-3788. Check date values in: |date= (help)
  24. ^ Church of the Nazarene Manual. Kansas City, MO: Nazarene Publishing House. 2017. p. 192. ISBN 978-0-8341-3711-0. Retrieved 20 August 2018.
  25. ^ "The Role of Women in Ministry" (PDF). The General Council of the Assemblies of God. 1990-08-14. p. 7.
  26. ^ SBC Position Statements - Women in Ministry
  27. ^ SpringerLink - Journal Article
  28. ^ Harrison, Victoria S. "Modern Women, Traditional Abrahamic Religions and Interpreting Sacred Texts." Feminist Theology: The Journal of the Britain & Ireland School of Feminist Theology 15.2 (2007):145-159
  29. ^ Kobes Du Mez, Kristin (2015). "A New Gospel for Women: Katherine Bushnell and the Challenge of Christian Feminism". Oxford University Press: 27–28 – via EBSCO Host.
  30. ^ Mohrmann, Margaret (2015-04-24). "Feminist Ethics and Religious Ethics". Journal of Religious Ethics. 43 (2): 185–192. doi:10.1111/jore.12093. ISSN 0384-9694.
  31. ^ La Croix, Richard R. (1984-01). "The paradox of Eden". International Journal for Philosophy of Religion. 15 (3): 171–171. doi:10.1007/bf00137064. ISSN 0020-7047. Check date values in: |date= (help)
  32. ^ La Croix, Richard R. (1984-01). "The paradox of Eden". International Journal for Philosophy of Religion. 15 (3): 171–171. doi:10.1007/bf00137064. ISSN 0020-7047. Check date values in: |date= (help)
  33. ^ Harvey, Richard (1991). "Early English Feminism and the Creation Myth". The Historian. 54 (1): 35–48.
  34. ^ MCCHRYSTAL, DEIRDRE KEENAN (1993-09). "Redeeming Eve". English Literary Renaissance. 23 (3): 490–508. doi:10.1111/j.1475-6757.1993.tb01071.x. ISSN 0013-8312. Check date values in: |date= (help)
  35. ^ Mohrmann, Margaret (2015-04-24). "Feminist Ethics and Religious Ethics". Journal of Religious Ethics. 43 (2): 185–192. doi:10.1111/jore.12093. ISSN 0384-9694.
  36. ^ Deborah the Prophetess Archived 2007-12-19 at the Wayback Machine.
  37. ^ "Ezer Kenegdo" Word Study. God's Word to Women, 2011
  38. ^ Campbell, Flann (1960). "Birth Control and the Christian Churches". Population Studies. 14 (2): 131–47. doi:10.2307/2172010. ISSN 0032-4728. JSTOR 2172010.
  39. ^ Ordaining Women: Culture and Conflict in Religious Organizations
  40. ^ Paul VI - Humanae Vitae Archived 2011-03-19 at WebCite
  41. ^ Southern Baptist Convention Resolutions on Abortion
  42. ^ Sin of Abortion and the Reasons Why Archived 2007-08-06 at the Wayback Machine.
  43. ^ Colker, Ruth. "Feminism, Theology, and Abortion: Toward Love, Compassion, and Wisdom." California Law Review 77 (1989):1011-1075.
  44. ^ RCRC—Member Organizations Archived 2007-03-16 at the Wayback Machine.
  45. ^ National Women's Law Center
  46. ^ Nove, Alec (1990), "Friedman, Markets and Planning: A Comment", Studies in Economics and Russia, Palgrave Macmillan UK, pp. 153–163, ISBN 9781349109937, retrieved 2018-11-07
  47. ^ Radford Ruether, Rosemary (1998). Introducing Redemption in Christian Feminism. Sheffield, England: Sheffield Academic Press. pp. 13–14. ISBN 1-85075-888-3.
  48. ^ Nove, Alec (1990), "Friedman, Markets and Planning: A Comment", Studies in Economics and Russia, Palgrave Macmillan UK, pp. 153–163, ISBN 9781349109937, retrieved 2018-11-07
  49. ^ Kim, Grace. "Revisioning Christ". Feminist Theology: The Journal of the Britain & Ireland School of Feminist Theology 28 (2001):82–91.
  50. ^ McCoy, Maria (2015). Ignatian Spirituality and Christian Feminism. pp. 99–100.
  51. ^ McEwan, Dorothea. "The Future of Christian Feminist Theologies--As I Sense It: Musings on the Effects of Historiography and Space." 79–92.
  52. ^ Winkett, Lucy. "Go Tell! Thinking About Mary Magdalene." Feminist Theology: The Journal of the Britain & Ireland School of Feminist Theology 29 (2002):19-31.
  53. ^ Isherwood, Lisa. "The British Christian Women's Movement: A Rehabilitation of Eve." Feminist Theology: The Journal of the Britain & Ireland School of Feminist Theology 15.1 (2006): 128-129.
  54. ^ Fuchs, Esther. "Reclaiming the Hebrew Bible for Women." Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion 24.2 (2008):45-65.
  55. ^ McIntosh, Esther. "The Possibility of a Gender-Transcendent God: Taking Macmurray Forward." Feminist Theology: The Journal of the Britain & Ireland School of Feminist Theology 15 (2007):236–255.
  56. ^ Kim, Grace. "Revisioning Christ." Feminist Theology: The Journal of the Britain & Ireland School of Feminist Theology 28 (2001):82–91.
  57. ^ Nove, Alec (1990), "Friedman, Markets and Planning: A Comment", Studies in Economics and Russia, Palgrave Macmillan UK, pp. 153–163, ISBN 9781349109937, retrieved 2018-11-07
  58. ^ Kurian, George Thomas (2011-11-25), "Women and Theology", The Encyclopedia of Christian Civilization, Blackwell Publishing Ltd, ISBN 9781405157629, retrieved 2018-12-11
  59. ^ http://www.ucc.org/about-us/old-firsts.html

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]