Patriarchy has controlled social and religious institutions through self-serving manipulation and theological malpractice for far too long.
As a person of faith, I strongly advocate for feminist theology as a basis for developing a holistic approach to reading and applying sacred texts.
As a male member of the human race, I advocate for feminism – the belief in social, economic and political equality of the sexes – in order to combat a patriarchial system that has dominated cultural institutions throughout history.
During the week that we celebrate International Women’s Day, I am reminded of all the strong and intelligent women in my life. From my Indigenous and English ancestors to my remarkable wife, each one has modeled in their own way a fierce passion for life and equality.
French feminist Simone de Beauvoir noted during the late 1940s, “I am too intelligent, too demanding, and too resourceful for anyone to be able to take charge of me entirely.” The women in my life demonstrated – and continue to demonstrate – that same independent spirit, fighting to be recognized as equals with men.
Civil rights advocate and feminist Angela Davis once quipped, “Feminism insists on methods of thought and action that urge us to think about things together that appear to be separate and to disaggregate things that appear to naturally belong together.”
Davis was absolutely right; her words set forth the foundation for why I call myself a feminist.
Growing up in conservative Oklahoma, patriarchal ideology and theology fueled both my intellectual and theological development. Women were seen as the fairer of the sexes, ordained by culture and the divine to live a life of dependence and submission.
Pastors and politicians railed against feminism, claiming it would destroy their sacred institutions. In reality, they were frightened about losing power and privilege.
Gloria Steinem clarified the objective of feminism by suggesting, “Feminism has never been about getting a job for one woman. It’s about making life more fair for women everywhere. It’s not about a piece of the existing pie; there are too many of us for that. It’s about baking a new pie.”
Therefore, I want to encourage culture and the church to start warming up the oven. It’s time to bake a new pie.
With more and more women rising within the institutional ranks of education, business, law, politics and the church, the old patriarchal paradigm needs to be thrown out and replaced with a truly egalitarian system.
As a follower of Jesus, my faith compels me to advocate for an egalitarian system. While some argue that the Bible is purely patriarchal, I argue the exact opposite.
It is not in spite of the faith that I am a feminist, it’s because of it. Because I read scripture through a lens of inclusivity, God’s desire for an egalitarian system abounds throughout the pages of the Bible for me.
Why am I a feminist?
In both creation narratives in Genesis 1 and 2, God creates male and female as co-equals. There is no evidence suggesting God created humanity with a preordained hierarchy between genders. It is not until the fall of humanity in Genesis 3 that we hear about the consequence of sin bringing division between men and women.
Therefore, I believe that God’s true intention is for humanity to live within an egalitarian system as laid out in the created order. It’s only when humanity chooses the path of sin that patriarchy is allowed to dominate and rule.
As people who take the Bible seriously, we need to think long and hard about what type of divine imagination we want to pursue. As for me, I’ve always been partial to the garden.
Religious fundamentalists have always had a problem with Jesus because his words and actions exemplified an egalitarian theology and praxis. From his encounter with the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4) to elevating Mary Magdalene to an apostle to the apostles on Easter morning (John 20), Jesus valued women and treated them as equals to men.
Some point to the fact that Jesus chose 12 men to be his disciples, but we would be remiss to forget all the women who sat at his feet as students (for example, Mary in Luke 10:39) and who discipled men after his resurrection (Priscilla in Acts 18). The evidence is overwhelming that Jesus treated women quite differently than the patriarchal systems in place.
3. The Holy Spirit.
From the Hebrew Bible to the Christian Testament, the Holy Spirit worked in the lives of both men and women, revealing the will of God through the consciences and actions of human beings.
In Isaiah, the prophet reminded his listeners that it was God’s Holy Spirit leading the people out of Egypt. The Hebrew word used to identify the Holy Spirit is ruah, which is feminine in nature.
The Holy Spirit is called an “advocate” by Jesus in John 14. The word he chooses is paraclete, which means “advocate” or “helper.” In the second creation narrative of Genesis, God creates a woman and calls her a “helper.”
Again, this moment occurs prior to humanity’s fall. Therefore, being a “helper” does not suggest a hierarchical structure. Instead, “helper” places the woman on equal footing with the man as co-equals and co-dependents.
4. The first-century church.
The early Christian communities elevated women to positions of authority and leadership. There is no doubt the first-century church advocated for the equality of women, which by modern-day definition makes them feminists.
The Apostle Paul set the tone for this egalitarian theology when he wrote, “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28).
When writing to the Romans, Paul acknowledged that Phoebe was a “deacon at the church at Cenchreae” (16:1) and that Junia was considered “prominent among the apostles” (16:8).
Both examples demonstrate that the first-century church followed the teachings and examples of Jesus, treating women as co-heirs to his kingdom.
5. I am human.
While my theological convictions are primality built upon the Christian scriptures, another important factor to my claim as a Jesus-following feminist is the acknowledgment of my humanity.
Under the “God” section, I made the argument that God instituted an egalitarian system within the garden. It was only when humanity fell to sin that a patriarchal system emerged.
Living and advocating for the patriarchy means living as though we are not fully human – as broken beings living in a broken system.
To be fully human as God created us, we must strive toward “garden living,” which means living an egalitarian existence.
More simply stated, to be fully human as God created us – males and females, as well as those who challenge some traditional thinking about these categories – must live as equals with equal opportunities for all without any limitations.
Maya Angelou once wrote, “Each time a woman stands up for herself, without knowing it possibly, without claiming it, she stands up for all women.”
If I could add to Angelou’s beautiful prose, “Each time a woman or man stands up for women, without knowing it possibly, without claiming it, we stand up for all women.”
CEO of Good Faith Media.