9.08.2009

Why I am not a Feminist

I’m a Christian, not a feminist. As a Christian I am a follower of Jesus Christ. (Matt 16:24) I confess and profess that Jesus is Lord and believe in my heart that God raised Him from the dead (Romans 10:9). My calling is to become like Christ (Romans 8:29), and to do that I must love, serve and worship Him foremost. (Matt 22:37). If I were a feminist my focus would be on women and equality and power. Since I’m a Christian, however, my focus is on Christ, and His truth and grace and power, (John 1:17), which allows men and women to submit to one another in love, in full submission to Christ (Eph. 5:21).

As a Christian, I don’t function in a feminist paradigm. “Feminist” may be defined as “one who believes in the principle that women should have political, economic, and social rights equal to those of men,” (Webster’s Dictionary) and I do adhere to that principle. Gender equality, however is not what feminism is about. Feminist Legal Theory (or FLT) has become a huge area of jurisprudence promoting an existential essentialism that is focused on women and women’s subjective experiences alone. I’ve argued elsewhere that feminism has cannibalized the movement for women’s rights with reproductive rights alone. (See The Rise and Fall of Women’s Rights: Have Sexuality and Reproductive Freedom Forfeited Victory? 6 WILLIAM & MARY JOURNAL OF WOMEN AND LAW 381, (Winter 2000)(co-authored with Colleen Holmes). A feminist paradigm is destructive to women, and as a woman who loves Christ, I don’t function in a feminist paradigm.

On the contrary, I function in a biblical paradigm. I function in a biblical paradigm that holds truth as transcendent, based on the creator of men and women (not based on men or women themselves) - a Christian paradigm. Christians do not have to be feminists to believe in social justice or gender equality. Feminism is not something that needs to be added to Christianity in order for the church to honor women. In fact, the man who foremost honored women was Jesus Christ.

Jesus Christ was revolutionary in His view of, value for and treatment of women. From associating with the woman at the well (John 4), to teaching Mary and Martha (Luke 10), to entrusting women as the first witnesses to His resurrection (Matthew 28) Jesus treated women with respect, dignity and equality. The gospel itself is pro-women.

It is as unnecessary for a Christian to be a feminist as it is for a Christian to be a humanist. These worldviews do not need to be blended, as a Christian worldview already has the highest view of humanity, and the highest view of women, and the highest view of men. In fact, anyone who thinks that treating women fairly is a feminist thing to do rather than a Christian thing to do does not understand Christianity. Feminism owes any concept of gender equality to Jesus Christ alone.

Furthermore, when I squabble about power or personal status, I display a lack of faith in God’s plan. When disputes arise between men and women, or over men and women, and particularly in the church, a lack of faith is displayed in God’s plan. In fact, it was for freedom that Christ set us free, and free indeed (Gal 5:1). Free to be reconciled to God (2 Cor 5:18) in Christ, where there is neither male nor female. (Gal 3:28)

Azusa Pacific University Dean Sarah Sumner argues that the debate over women in ministry has been improperly reduced to a debate over roles, rather than an understanding of the differing natures of men and women as designed by God. (See her book Men and Women in the Church, IVP at page 30). Theologist Ann Arkins argues that “Christians and feminists are agreed in wanting the job market to be fair, but we are not agreed on the purpose of life itself…There is indeed an essential difference between Christianity and feminism, but it is a difference we have not just with the women’s movement but with almost any philosophy in our society. We do not live for the here and now; we believe in a hereafter. We cannot live to please ourselves…We may not simply work for a just society; we have a gospel to proclaim which is even more urgent. (See her book, Split Image, IVP at 253). (See also generally John Piper and Wayne Grudem, Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, IVP.)

I am not a feminist because I am a Christian, indwelt by the living God who died for me, offering me life by His loving grace. My identity is in Christ, and the power of His resurrection. I am created by God as a woman, equal in personhood and potential and possibility for all He’s called me to in this life and for eternity. Feminism is about women’s power. Christianity is about Christ’s power. And my life as a woman is about Christ’s power in me.

Professor Kohm teaches Gender & the Law at Regent Law. See her scholarship on the issue of gender equality, read her recent article published by Duke University Law School: Lynne Marie Kohm, A Christian Perspective on Gender Equality, 15 DUKE J. GENDER L. & POL’Y 339 (2008).

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