Thursday, November 1, 2007

Is God a feminist?

I'm new to the Hugo Schwyzer blog, and recently came across this post (amongst a series of feminist posts) that I enjoyed. Hugo is taken to task by Anti-Feminists who attack not only his ideology, but also his self described "passionately feminist marriage." The post caught my attention for two reasons. First, I used to be afraid of feminists (seriously) but now realize that I am one. Second, it speaks to my recent appreciation of combating social norms concerning the family sphere.

As both a woman and a Christian, I'm acutely aware of the tension between old culture roles (as are typically 'Biblically' supported) and the rise of women's equality. I used to be afraid of feminists, actually, because I thought it was really just a group of militant women trying to reverse the roles instead of equalize them (oh the ridiculous prejudices of youth). That was until a teacher told me that feminism really just means you think women should have equal status in the world (in the same way that egalitarians think about different races, cultures, classes, etc should). Ohhh... I guess am I a feminist. I've since discovered that the great part about feminism is its insistence that the world treat women as God does, as an equally loved child of His. I find myself going back to this verse a lot, but it's a great one:
"There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus." Galations 3:28

Feminism doesn't mean that a women can't be a stay at home mom. Rather, it gives women freedom to choose that role instead of being forced into it. They also have the freedom to choose a different role that they're better suited for. I use 'choose' loosely, however, because I think God gives us gifts independent of our desires, and with that a responsibility to make use of them for His glory. The same goes for men, many of whom are terrifically suited to play a larger role in the raising of their children. I hate to use a political philosophy buzz-word, but the best way for many people to 'flourish' is to give them the access to roles that society may not be accustomed to seeing them in. I think many more fathers would flourish from being stay at home dads then currently do, and there are probably many women who would not flourish as much as their husbands would from that role. And obviously, vise versa.

God didn't make us all elbows, if you'll remember (and I am in no way comparing typically female roles to elbows), but rather gifted us all with different talents and desires to make the body more complete:

"Now the body is not made up of one part but of many. If the foot should say, "Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body," it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. And if the ear should say, "Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body," it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? 20As it is, there are many parts, but one body.

The eye cannot say to the hand, "I don't need you!" And the head cannot say to the feet, "I don't need you!" On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it." (1 Corinthians 12:14-26)

Those verses are typically used in the context of church-roles (spiritual gifts), but I think it applies to all of the roles and gifts that God has given us. Typical gender roles are essentially saying that half of the body is ears and half is eyes. Well that makes for a pretty silly looking (and rather inefficient) body. God has made us wonderfully diverse in our gifts and callings, so let's not limit His options by saying God can't gift women outside the home or He can't gift men inside the home. Now this in no way means that a feminist husband is a push-over. Rather he is more acutely aware of the fact that old gender norms try to limit God's creativity and blessings. By saying that women are made for the home, you are essentially telling God that you know better than He does what all women are suited to do.

As usual, though, this message is easier proclaimed than heard amongst religious believers. I've never understood why. If you truly feel God's presence in your life, then you are necessarily humbled before His awesome glory. Anyone who has been humbled by God in their life should find it hard to suppose that they have all the answers. Feminists aren't saying that they know better than God; they're just trying to open up the possibility that God may have more in plan for women than the world has traditionally offered them.

I won't say anything about how this plays out in marriage, partly because Hugo already has a good description of how it works in his but mainly because I'm not married and won't go so far as to presume that I have anything enlightening to add to a discussion about a situation I've never been in. But go read the post, and the ones before/after it. It's an interesting discussion.

1 comment:

Hugo Schwyzer said...

By saying that women are made for the home, you are essentially telling God that you know better than He does what all women are suited to do.

Amen, Lindsey. Thanks for the link!