I'm a feminist, in case you hadn't noticed. I'm proud of the honorable and noble history of feminism. So, I don't mind being called a feminist. It feels good to hear the term. No matter that some would like to demonize the term "feminist," it's an ancient ploy, making something that is clear and honorable into an epithet.
And, I am what is called, or has been called, a Christian feminist, or biblical feminist. That's just a descriptive term. More recently, the term "egalitarian" has been attached to people who believe, as I do, that the Bible supports equal opportunities and full humanity for women. "Egalitarian" is good, I'm happy with that too. But, it's only a matter of time before opponents to egalitarianist views find egalitarians who can be disparagement fodder and use their actions or words to try to discredit that term too.
Christianity Today, the Evangelical Christian news magazine, has a relevant online article I'd like to respond to.
The article, "A Peace Plan For The Gender War", presupposes, by its title and contents, that there is a war. I'm not so sure there is a war. I guess it depends on one's definition of war. Personally, I think of war as having two sides attacking each other, aiming at conquest. I've been involved in the issue of equality for women in the church in one way or another for many years, have written several books pertinent to the subject, and it doesn't look like a war to me.
What it looks like from my perspective is an effort on the part of egalitarians to share information, to educate their fellow Christians about some historical oversights in the area of Bible Interpretation.
We've been doing our homework, finding that previous hermeneutical errors were not limited to insisting the Bible teaches that the world is flat, witches can be discovered by several invasive and dangerous methods (and should be killed if they prove to be witches by such tests), slavery is OK, and kings have a divine right to rule.
We've, for the most part, been pretty decent in the manner in which we've shared our hermeneutical discoveries about biblical support for the full humanity of womankind. There's no war there.
Now, we have been attacked. Not by a large contingency, but by a loud one. Does that make a war? I don't think so. It seems to over dignify attempts at character assassination, victimization of individuals, and organizational takeovers to call it a war.
So, to me, the premise of the Christianity Today article is faulty. It is probably encouraging to those who would like everyone to believe there is some great battle going on to see that title, but it presupposes much too much. The sky isn't falling, it's just rain.
I don't think there is a war, but a fundy fuss fest, with a few players who have political clout because they can swing votes.
The writer starts out "A Peace Plan For The Gender War" with several disclaimers. He's only trying to bring some togetherness between what he sees as opposite, warring camps.
He then sets up hypothetical bad boys and bad girls polarities. On the bad boys' side he lists the historical outrages and misogynistic woman haters, and John R. Rice type "woman in her place" (very small place) tracts. On the bad girls' side, he puts, of all things, radical feminism. He says,
"The gender issue is also framed by abusive sexism's polar opposite, the ugly face of radical feminism."
What? That's quite a juxtaposition: centuries of death, destruction, and woman hating actions opposite a few radical feminist books, speeches, and marches. No war there, and a bit of a pitiful effort to find a substantial opponent too.
You would be very hard pressed to find a biblical egalitarian or biblical feminist who shares the views of radical feminists. So, why put them in the piece at all? Doesn't make sense. They don't represent anyone except a very small minority of feminists, secular or otherwise.
Next, the writer of the article says,
The rise of contemporary feminist hermeneutics can be traced back to The Woman's Bible, a revisionist rendering of the Scriptures edited by Elizabeth Cady Stanton and published in the 1890s. The purpose of this project was to turn the Bible into a weapon in the struggle for women's liberation.
Not really. The hermeneutics biblical egalitarians use are the same ones contemporary lawyers use to interpret the law, and the same ones taught in all Bible colleges and seminaries. We aren't using "feminist" hermeneutics. We're using just plain vanilla hermeneutics, the kind our opponents will find if they take a short walk over to their library.
Then comes the central point of the article:
Many complementarians believe the inevitable logic of the egalitarian view leads to radical feminism. Likewise, many egalitarians see the complementarian position as a slightly updated version of the old chauvinism, an effort to suppress the full exercise of women's God-given gifts. Both fears are motivated by legitimate concerns, and we will not move forward until these concerns are fully heard.
How well studied biblical scholars using universally acceptable hermeneutical principles to examine Bible texts could lead to radical feminism is a mystery I'm not man or woman enough to fathom. That is what is called a "paper tiger." And, it's not that those who hold such views need to be heard, we've all heard them, repeatedly. It's that those who hold such views need to stop demonizing those who don't hold such views.
As for egalitarians seeing the female restrictive proponents as a slightly updated version of the old chauvinism--well, that's precisely what it is. It's easy to trace it historically.
And, as for the term "complementarian," a spade is still a spade. By their works ye shall know them. Egalitarians are complementarians. In fact, we're probably more complementarian in our actions and beliefs than the hierarchical traditionalists who've changed their name to "Complementarian." We believe women and men are complementary to each other. We also believe in allowing them full use of their abilities and full access to opportunities.
The article ends, after some "play nice now" exhortation, with the platitudinous:
The two sides may never come to full agreement, but passages like these suggest that there is no reason we cannot work and pray together on issues we do, in fact, agree upon. This is not a call to give up our distinctives or to cease trying to convince one another. It is, rather, a call to disagree in genuine love and in the context of the greater mission of the church—to do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God.
What this article looks like to me is a bit of setting up a false premise of a war, attempts to legitimize a valid opposition between polarities without accurately identifying what the differences are, and ending with a soothing, play nice now exhortation.
And, I suspect the whole thing is actually addressed to the fundys, attempting to get in under their radar, smooth their feathers, and say, OK, now guys, you're getting embarrassing, stop the attacks and get down on your knees, where if you'd spent more time, you wouldn't be attacking in the first place.