Is the church a few steps behind?

Is the church a few steps behind? September 17, 2011

I’ve never heard a pastor talk positively about the feminist movement.

But when I read my Bible and see verses where Jesus tells Martha to get out of the kitchen and sit at his feet like a disciple, and when I see verses where Paul tells men in an oppressively patriarchal society to love, serve, and sacrifice for the “property” known as their wives, I can’t deny it…

Jesus is all for setting women free.

Jesus is all about overthrowing society’s power structures.

I don’t believe I should even have to join the feminist movement.

Picture sort of related.

I should just be able to go to church and feel empowered and freed by Christ.

But, actually the opposite is true.

I go to church and feel weak and small. Feel limited and “less than.”

I hear that I’m “equal but different.” And I am reminded of a quote from the book Animal Farm.

“All animals are equal. But some animals are more equal than others.”

The church I grew up in glorified the stereotypical 1950s family model. Father knows best. Mother vacuums in pearls and has dinner ready when Father gets home (I actually sat through a Sunday school lesson in 7th grade in which the teacher told me that if I didn’t do this when I grew up and got married that my husband would cheat on me and it would be my fault. Awful).

But even the more progressive churches I’ve been to seem hesitant to grant women “full human” status. They let women work outside of the home, but they still don’t want to let go of the false gender roles that have limited women for centuries.

Society has a long way to go when it comes to treating women as equals, but I feel like it’s decades ahead of the average church. I don’t feel like property in society. I don’t feel like a lesser being in society. I may have to work harder than a man in order to be taken seriously, but at least I feel like I have a chance at succeeding.

Society has evolved (and is still evolving) when it comes to equality among the sexes. But churches remain a few steps behind.


Well, we don’t want to look too much like “the world.” We’re supposed to be different. We’re supposed to come out from among them and be separate. We’re supposed to be a peculiar people.

Good points.

But we’re getting it backwards!

If we look at the New Testament in its historical context, the Church was never a few decades behind culture.

It was a few steps ahead.

Paul didn’t write his letters to a bunch of women in a feminist society, putting them in their place.

Paul wrote his letters to a bunch of men in a patriarchal society.

Paul didn’t make a command when he told these men to be the heads of their households. Paul made an observation. They already were the heads of their households.

But he told them to be heads of households like Christ was the head of the church, specifically referring to Christ’s sacrificial submissiveness and humility.

This was unique and crazy and radical back then. Not because it was old-fashioned and out-dated.

Because it was ahead of the times.

The church shouldn’t be waiting on the sidelines while society moves toward equality. The church should be the starting players.

The church should be leading the way.

Needs to be.

Because I’m tired of having to rely on feminism to make me feel like I am one with Christ Jesus.

And because as hard as society tries, sometimes it misses the mark. The feminist movement needs redemption as much as anything else in this crazy world.

I’m going to talk more about that tomorrow. Until then, leave your comments and let me know what you think about the idea of the church leading society instead of slowly trailing behind it. Even if you disagree, I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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  • Great article! You’re so right!
    God created woman out of man, not so man could think he is superior but to create a greater sense of intimacy between man and woman, to create equality between man and woman.
    Man comes from dirt – Woman comes from man. It’s not a hierarchy but a deep, intimate connection!
    Maybe you would be interested in my blog: The Human/Earth Connection

  • People always complain about female inequality in the church, but I guess mine is unique in that we’ve always had female priests (or at the least deacons). It bothers me to think that there are churches that don’t give women that full equality.
    Just my thoughts~

    • It’s awesome that your church is like that. I’ve been to churches whether women have that equality too and it’s great. Still, they seem like the minority.

  • KMR

    Great writing and great thoughts. I come from an evangelical background too and I feel that as long as that group is the dominating one behind Christian movement in society, then we don’t stand a chance. And I even though I disagree with them on just about everything, I understand their points. It’s not like the leaders in this movement haven’t studied the Bible and have no support for their arguments. They just have a different interpretation of the passages – which they are entitled to (as long as they don’t pull it out if their asses which I personally don’t think they’ve done). Anyway, Christian culture is gradually moving to a post-modern mindset regardless of evangelicals’ fight against it so I do think women’s equality will eventually become a mute point. Personally though, my most fervent hope is to see a time when we all respect each other so much as brothers and sisters in Christ that fighting and judgement becomes obsolete. I think you’ll get women’s equality sooner than I’ll get my wish though.

    • true, true. Unity should probably be my main concern. Still, I wonder whether or not we can truly achieve that unity and respect for one another when over half of the church is being treated as less than human. Very good point though. Thanks for that.

  • Equality under God is just that, equality under God. Jesus didn’t just empower women, he empowered just about everyone. He empowered the crippled, he empowered the old, he empowered the worst of sinners by inversely humbling everyone who had tried to take God’s place over their lives.

    If you happen to be rich, “blameless”, a husband, a father, a master, landowner, tax collector, you have no reason, according to Jesus, to stop anyone else from their pursuit of God. Think of it as Jesus presenting that as mankind’s divine right.

    Multiple times in the Old and New Testaments, you will find lines that say “God is above me. What human, then, shall I fear?” It’s not their judgement that counts.

    This works in favor of women despite the still prevailing patriarchy. This works for the poor in spite of the beloved Prosperity Doctrine. This works for those with a past, despite the idea of some sins being more “mortal” than others.

    Man controls nothing. From dust our Earthly shells came, to dust they will return. The rest of it is God’s. To Him, your gender means nothing.

    • Thanks for your comment! it is inspiring!

      • I like halfway wrote something about four times before finally hitting [Post Comment]. The whole narrowing the gospel down to a single divine right kind of had just occurred to me while I was writing that comment. It gives me something besides just gum to chew on tonight. 🙂

  • So, I pretty much love your blog/writing. If we lived close to each other I would so want to meet you for coffee and have a conversation, but I don’t think we live close to each other!

    The whole bit about Paul writing to men who were *already* heads of households, and being radical – it’s something that, now it’s pointed out, I feel like we should understand when we read it. But of course we don’t. It’s so simple and so easy to FORGET or never even REALIZE. Thank you for pointing that out. I think it’s incredibly important.

    • Someone should invent the teleporter so I can meet everyone for coffee! haha.