Finding Feminism

What Is Victory?
April 28, 2019

Finding Feminism

Written by Vinnie MacIsaac 

 

I am finding feminism because I am male.

While I am a Feminist, I am still finding it? Why? I am a male. I know this statement bothers some of you, and I am sorry but is it time a male in a leadership position said it. Like most males born on planet Earth, I was not outright born, nor raised, to be a Feminist. I was raised to think and believe in my “Maleness” as making me stronger, privileged, and entitled to specific roles and perks that little girls in my grade school class beside me could not grow up and have. I did not know I thought that way or was taught that way. But just like my “Whiteness” leaves me blind to the undeniable white privilege society assigns to me, my “Maleness” leaves me blind, by default, to what perks I get in life because of my gender.

However, I am not a little child on the schoolyard teasing girls or pulling ponytails. I am an adult and a Christian. So, I have to be grown-up enough to see my biases for what they are and to put away silly, spoiled desires to embrace that favor and power I was promised at birth, just for being male. I must not only admit women are my full equal in every single way but additionally, I must seek to invite them to every single table of privilege I have been invited too because that is how justice works. The Apostle of Love calls me to this truth by saying, “When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.” 1 Corinthians 13:11

So many proclaimed Christian men are nothing more than what Paul would call childish, mere boys, seeking to hold on to their “Old Boys’ Club” privilege that is rooted in fear,  anger, and desire of the power of domination rather than love, maturity, and grace. They will defend their fear and anger with ridiculous assertions like, “that is what is wrong with this world, no one raises the kids anymore,” or “God does not approve of Women not knowing their place,” or “They want to take our place! They are trying to emasculate us.” I need to draw a line here and point out not all males are in fact this way. But some of us are and others of us are not aware we are. It is only those who refuse to let go of power out of fear that I am accusing of being childish and using maleness in a childish way.

Let’s be clear; I am not talking about Feminism as a political moment, or a civil rights movement or some cultural wave. My feminism does not come from Betty Friedan[i], Gloria Steinem[ii], or Jennifer Baumgardner[iii], but instead Moses, Jesus, and Paul (yes, Paul).

MOSES

In the beginning, Moses wrote, God made man. And, true to form, much has been made out the fact that Adam was created before Eve. However, I’d like to point out what should be obvious; the creation order does not equal ranking. Have you ever stopped to notice God made the 1st day of the week before the last day of the week?  Yet it was the last day of the week he sanctified as Holy?

“And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it: because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made.”[iv]

The point is, God does not think like Man. Creation order means nothing to Him when we talk about value, just as birthing order didn’t either (ask poor Esau and Ishmael) in certain contexts. When we think even deeper Mankind was not made until the 6th day so what comes first is not always what is of prime value. Moses went on to tell us why God was not finished. God was not done because Man is never full, never complete, and most of all, can never receive from God the pronouncement of “Goodness,” when he is left to reign alone.

“Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone. I will make him a helper suitable for him.”[v]

Notice everything God makes is good; but not Man, alone! Ouch, that hurts the ego, guys! Yes, Yes, I know that at the end of the 6th-day Man is declared “Very Good.” But it is humankind, as we shall see in a moment.  God goes out of his way in Genesis chapter 2 to put our male ego in check by making it abundantly clear, male leadership alone was not good enough for God to trust his creation too until He also created female leadership. Remember the role of Adam and Eve was to be the caretakers of this world. They were put in charge of Eden, over all other created beings.  Adam, alone, was not suitable for the task. So said, Moses and God! So God added in Woman to bring forth the fullness of maturity to Mankind.

Really, the question of full equality between genders is answered before we ever leave chapter one of Genesis. A careful read of the section as it pertains to the intrinsic value of Mankind shows there is absolutely no wiggle room on either gender having the upper hand.

“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.”[vi]

Moses brings us right to the point: Man, as in Mankind, Humanity, is not entirely in the image of God until God creates two genders. There is no escaping this foundational Torah value that women reflect the perfect representation of God on the exact level as man. Please stop the free-flowing eisegesis of the creation narrative to hold up a non-biblical position the creation order is the reason males should always lead. It is not a matter of who was made first, who is first and who is second, it is a matter that Humanity is made up of two genders and neither gender can fully or adequately represent God all to itself.

PAUL

Which brings us to the Apostle Paul, and his infamous statements in 1 Timothy 2:11-15[vii]. While admittedly, as the Apostle Peter as told us[viii], some of Paul’s writings can be hard, at times, to understand. Still, that is no excuse to deliberately abuse them to make your own theological point. Peter (not me), would go so far as to say men who do such things to Paul’s work are, “ignorant and unstable people who distort.” Since that is a severe charge I have set up the following guidelines to be sure I correctly understand Paul in this difficult passage:

  1.  Whatever Paul means, Paul can’t disagree with Moses.

  2. Whatever Paul means, it must be consistent with his greater narratives and own practices.

  3.  Whatever Paul means, it is not devoid of Paul’s own culture as a Greco-Roman Male Jewish Teacher of the Law. 

Paul writes,

“A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. But women will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety.”

First, let us note the intent of Paul is consistent with his other work and also directly connected to his culture. We read this passage with very western and modern eyes. Yet, the truth is, Paul was a teacher of the Jewish customs. Those customs, at the height of the Rabbinical schools, not only forbade women to speak, but even to learn at all past the basics of Torah. This shift happened after the return from Exile when fears arose that all the intermarrying with other cultures would continue to cause confusion and disobedience. So, new ways of teaching would not include wives, who had often married in from other nations and foreign religions.

Thomas Lea (dean of the School of Theology at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary), and Hayne P. Griffin (commentator and author) make the point that Paul is actually, in this passage, seeking to uplift the value of women out of the oppression of male-dominated Judaism of the day:

“Paul’s command that the women “learn” reflects Christian practice, which differed from the customs of Judaism. Judaism would enforce physical silence on women without concern for their growth in knowledge. At this point, Paul was not borrowing from his Jewish heritage but was reflecting, as a Christian, a greater appreciation for the role of women in spreading the gospel. Paul’s commands encourage the women to give attention to God’s message in order to learn the essentials for Christian growth and development.”[ix]

We must not fail to notice Paul wants women to learn all things men know. This is indeed progressive thinking for a first-century Jewish teacher of the Law! It also tells us Paul is not seeking to uphold the oppressive behavior of the times, but, move us forward in thinking. Paul is not trying to simply shut women up in the church. Instead, he seems to be addressing an issue on contention on how they need to learn, not if they should learn.

Lea and Griffin further develop this idea;

“Paul was not demanding physical silence, but requesting a teachable spirit … The submission did not demand a surrender of the mind or conscience or the abandonment of the duty of private judgment. It was a warning against abusing the leadership of the congregation by disrespectful, boisterous actions”[x]

It is also imperative to note that the very context of this statement is that Paul was dealing with worship issues in the church, of which he gives criticism to both men and women. To the males he tells them to be more expressive to God and lift up their hands in the air and praise God rather than be so contentious with each other; but to women he tells them, watch your modesty and be appropriate in your worship[xi]. (see 1 Timothy 2:1-10) The point is, there is a greater context here. Paul is asking the woman in the church to be more silent, and that context is the severe disruption issues going on in the local church.  Secondly, he gave a rebuke to both the men and the women. But of course, our “maleness,” (as society bias in general) ensures we note the one and ignore the other. For every man who wants to complain when a woman teaches I better catch them worshiping with their hands in the air whenever they are in church! What’s that you say, men, you only take as literal the part about women? Sadly, that is how male privilege works and as students of the Bible, we must guard against such practices.

Dr. Knute Larson (teacher at Trinity and Grace Seminaries), supports this same key idea;

“To learn in quietness and full submission does not mean women should never talk. Quietness, here, means peaceableness. It could be that as women experienced new freedoms within the Christian community, they began to throw off restraint. Their disagreements, questions, and assertions then became not a learning experience, but a disruption that worked against true worship. Paul did not want the women to be contentious. His main concern was the establishment of orderly worship.  Paul concluded this sentence with the startling statement: she [women] must be silent. Again, this is not a gag order on women. It means that they are not to writhe under the spiritual authority of the church leaders. Paul’s continued concern is for order, for respect, for a good reputation within the community.”[xii]

Whatever is going on in that local church (Likely Ephesus) is a regional problem[xiii] unless we are prepared to call the Apostle Paul a hypocrite since, in fact, Paul not only allowed women to teach and pastor in other places but even seems to have played some role in placing them there.[xiv] Paul, it seems, either made Phoebe a Deacon or at the very least approved the role according to Romans 16:1[xv] I must remind you, just so there is no mistake, that Deacons in the New Testament church had an expanding role and were eventually permitted to teach, preach, and baptize (see Acts 6-8 for a detailed account of the ministry of Stephen, Phillip, and the other deacons).  Teach, preach, and baptize; I wonder what modern day church role we could equate that too? Then there is Priscilla[xvi] who according to Acts 18:26 was not only a teacher but was a part of the team Paul allowed to correct (aka have authority over) Apollos’ (male) shaky theology. Paul himself calls Priscilla “my co-worker in Christ,” (Romans 16:3). She is not his helper, his secretary, nor his assistant. She is his equal, co-worker. Then there is the Apostle Junia [xvii] [xviii] [xix] [xx] who was a woman and who, in Romans 16:7, Paul praises for her for work that was outstanding compared to other Apostles. The list of women in Ministry whom Paul worked with and greeted, seriously is too long to generate in this article.[xxi] However, what is clear is that Paul had no hang ups eroding his Greco-Roman Jewish Male culture when it came to putting primacy on the work of the Gospel.

Why does Paul appeal to Adam and Eve for his reason for women to not over-power the men in the church?[xxii] It seems clear that Adam showed submission to a fallen Eve and that lead him into sin. Paul is right that Eve, not Adam, was deceived. But, that does not mean all women are overall deceived more than men![xxiii]. What it does mean is that a man ought never to forsake his own convictions or conscience to follow his emotional bond with a woman, as did Adam, and many men since to their ruin. Had the order of events gone the other way around, so would his logic. The fact that Paul outlines the order of creation and the order of the fall does not make him at all disagree with Moses’s meta-point that Mankind is equal in their value and reflection of God. It merely means Paul is using this Hebrew thought process for a Hebrew custom, the same way he did in Corinth when he felt women should cover their head in prayer[xxiv] which is purely a cultural custom and not a Biblical mandate. Again, our society’s “maleness,” rears its ugly double standard, not demanding all males have short hair and all females have long hair, but by being upset by women who lead in churches or are recognized for full equality. Where is the outrage over pixie cuts[xxv] in the church instead of just women in the pulpit? It is the exact same creation headship issue that demands a woman cover her head with long hair as the command to be silent in the church![xxvi] Paul’s use of creation order happens in both places because in both places Paul is addressing worship related practices that have become out of hand and are causing a “church war,” among the saints. He appeals in both cases to creation for the restoring of order not the oppression of genders.

Paul, like us all, is working hard to overcome his cultural bias. Who of us is not, even now?—only Bigots. But Paul is not a bigot. Paul is shedding his Jewish rabbinical thinking for a new culture, with Jesus, not tradition, at the center. He makes his position as clear as anyone can in Galatians with his ultimate Gospel anthem:

“There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”[xxvii]

Those who abuse and twist 1 Timothy 2:11–15 and other cultural tight ropes Paul walks are no better than Colonial era Christians who repeatedly clung to “Slaves, obey your earthly masters,”[xxviii] insisting on a literal understanding of the text to keep a hold on to power all for themselves. How did they do that? The same way they do now, insisting or a “plain reading,” rejecting higher thinking skills, and outright ripping passages out of, both, context and greater Biblical narrative; all the while ignoring culture, language, and truth.

JESUS

Then, there is Jesus. Oh my Jesus, my ever so lovely, and loving Jesus. He does not care what the power brokers have to say. Women are welcome. Prostitutes even! He set the “Woman at the well,” free to be the very first Christian evangelist ever, and many believed on her account! See Jesus, did ask her about her husband(s), not so they could teach her at home in silence—for they were scoundrels! Instead, so she could bring the Gospel to them; not the other way around!  You see, Jesus is all about letting go of power, not holding on to it! He is the great Equalizer. He is a servant leader and does not lord overpower like the Gentiles[xxix]. All can come to Him. All are welcome with Him. All are equal to Him because He died for all!

Jesus is the fulfillment that ties of Moses and Paul together. The account in Genesis three of the curse of sin and the promise of redemption finds its reality in the solution to the problem of sin. Look again at what Paul was saying in 1 Timothy 2:11-15 when he writes “For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner. But women will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety.” Moses declared both genders required to reflect the image of God, Paul reminds, first that the church must be orderly, and second that this possibility came through women having childbirth.  From Eve to Mary that hope is finally found in Jesus; that very child that saves! No one, seriously teaches unless a woman gives birth she can’t be saved! Jesus was the child that saved women and that is the “faith, love and holiness with propriety,” they carry on to this day in! In that way, Women, through birthing brought the Gospel even to all men to be able to believe!

If the cross can’t, finally, make us all equal then what is the point? Israel failed to love the nations enough to give them the truth about Yahweh for they feared that they might lose their favor with God; ergo, have to share their power. They were the “in crowd,” with God. But if all knew Him, what advantage would they have? Then there were the Scribes, the Pharisees, and the Sadducees, who, when they finally figured out who Jesus was, chose to crucify Him, anyway, rather than crown Him. How can men of God, who call themselves Christians act like Scribes, Pharisees, and Sadducees fighting, not to see the truth, but so they can continue to hold on to power, even if it means murdering the cause?

If the Cross can’t convince us, men, maybe our collective last chance is the Good News of the Resurrection. The fact is all three synoptic gospels concur that women, not men, found the tomb empty. They were commissioned, on the spot, by a command from the RISEN JESUS, to Go!  Preach the Gospel of the Resurrection to the men!

Mathew 28 tells of that great command, “So they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy, and ran to tell the disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them and said, ‘Greetings!’ And they came to him, took hold of his feet, and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.’”[xxx]

How dare we, as men of God, interfere with a direct command the Risen Jesus gave to our Sisters! And for what? To hold on to power?—Heaven help us! Women, please remember, Jesus warned you, the men may not believe you, but do not be afraid is what he told you! In fact, even when you were running with joy to do just that, he caught up to tell you, you have His authority. Let no one stop you, “Do not be afraid!” He even said you, you may have to be the ones to “tell your brothers.”

I am finding feminism because I am male. While I am a Feminist, I am still finding it? Why? I am a male. And most males hate to let go of power. Most male’s hate to let go of privilege. Because often males have been raised to think they have to be the strong ones. Males believe they need to lead. Here’s the thing guys, you don’t lead. Jesus does! Only Jesus leads!  One day, you will look Jesus in the eyes, and hopefully hear, “Well done good and faithful servant.” I am a Feminist, not by culture, not by civil obedience to progressive culture, but because I don’t want to hear Jesus say, on that day, “Why did you tell your sisters not to obey my command? Why did you think it your role to teach those whom you should have been teaching you, to disobey Me?”

I don’t want to get to Heaven one day, only to find out others are not there because I twisted Paul or Moses, or disregarded Matthew 28 and some little girl grew up thinking she was not worthy or was too inferior, to follow God the way she heard His voice.

I am finding feminism only because I am following Jesus.

 

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Footnotes:

[i] An American feminist writer and activist whose 1963 book “The Feminine Mystique” was the cornerstone is a reawakening of feminism in the 20th century.

[ii] An American feminist journalist, activist and founder of Ms. Magazine.

[iii] An American filmmaker, lecturer, activist and Executive Director and Publisher of The Feminist Press.

[iv] Genesis 2:3

[v] Genesis 2:18

[vi] Genesis 1:27

[vii] We need to balance Paul’s instructions here with other passages of Scripture where Paul and others esteemed the value of women in ministry, regarding them as equal partakers in the grace of God (Gal. 3:26–29) Larson, K. (2000). I & II Thessalonians, I & II Timothy, Titus, Philemon (Vol. 9, p. 169). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

[viii] 2 Peter 3:16 “He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.”

[ix] Lea, T. D., & Griffin, H. P. (1992). 1, 2 Timothy, Titus (Vol. 34, p. 98). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

[x] ibid.

[xi] Paul wanted the women to “be silent” (lit. “to be in silence”). The word for “silence” is identical to “quietness” in v. 11 and calls for the women to demonstrate a teachable spirit. Most modern translations suggest Paul intended that the women show their teachable attitude by remaining physically quiet (cf. “she must keep quiet,” Williams). It is more likely that Paul was banning disruptive behavior,  rather than enforcing complete silence on women in worship settings. (See 1 Cor 11:5, where Corinthian women prayed and/or prophesied.) Lea, T. D., & Griffin, H. P. (1992). 1, 2 Timothy, Titus (Vol. 34, p. 100). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

[xii] Larson, K. (2000). I & II Thessalonians, I & II Timothy, Titus, Philemon (Vol. 9, p. 169). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

[xiii] Women may have rudely interrupted speakers, and Paul found it necessary to confront this insubordination as well as the previously mentioned immodesty. (Lea, T. D., & Griffin, H. P. (1992). 1, 2 Timothy, Titus (Vol. 34, p. 97). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.)

[xiv] The New Testament has examples of significant teaching roles by women (Acts 18:26—both Priscilla and Aquilla were involved; Titus 2:3–4; 2 Tim 1:5; 3:15—women teach the faith to other women and children; 1 Cor 11:4–5—women prayed and prophesied). Paul was not suggesting that the woman is incompetent to occupy the role of pastor/teacher. His concern related to the effect the woman’s position would have on marriages in the church and on the value of the mothering role. Paul would assert the value of the role of motherhood in v. 15. For additional discussion on the normative principles of this passage. Lea, T. D., & Griffin, H. P. (1992). 1, 2 Timothy, Titus (Vol. 34, p. 100). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

[xv] I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a deacon[a][b] of the church in Cenchreae.

[xvi] Priscilla is the wife of Aquila, born in Pontus, friend of Paul.

[xvii] JUNIA A Jew who, along with Andronicus, was greeted by Paul in his letter to the church in Rome—according to the reading of some manuscripts (Rom 16:7). Paul recognized Junia as an apostle who had been a prisoner with Paul for the sake of the gospel. Elwell, W. A., & Comfort, P. W. (2001). In Tyndale Bible dictionary (p. 764). Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers.

[xviii] Junia (Ἰουνιᾶς, Iounias). A kinsman of Paul, to whom he sent greetings in his letter to the Romans (Rom 16:7). Many scholars believe that Junia (or Junias) was a woman, the first to be called an “apostle.” Junia is sometimes assumed to be the wife of Andronicus. Major Contributors and Editors. (2016). Junia. In J. D. Barry, D. Bomar, D. R. Brown, R. Klippenstein, D. Mangum, C. Sinclair Wolcott, … W. Widder (Eds.), The Lexham Bible Dictionary. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.

[xix] JUNIAS [jōōˊnĭ əs] (Gk. Iounias).† A Jewish Christian in Rome, perhaps a female associate of Paul (the wife of Andronicus?) with whom the apostle had been imprisoned. Junias was a Christian before Paul was converted and was accorded a position of stature among the apostles (Rom. 16:7).Myers, A. C. (1987). In The Eerdmans Bible dictionary (p. 613). Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdman

[xx] https://juniaproject.com/who-was-junia/

[xxi] https://margmowczko.com/pauls-personal-greetings-to-women-ministers/

[xxii] Many Christians understand this section as a cultural issue which had application in first-century society but which does not apply to today. They see it in much the same way as 1 Corinthians 11 which also uses the Genesis account as a basis for women covering their heads in public worship. It is a good reminder that each section of the Bible must be dealt with on its own claim and in concert with other passages of Scripture. Larson, K. (2000). I & II Thessalonians, I & II Timothy, Titus, Philemon (Vol. 9, pp. 170–171). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

[xxiii] Paul’s favorable comments on women as teachers (2 Tim 1:5; Titus 2:4) seem to rule out the likelihood that his intent was to characterize all women as naive and gullible. The Ephesian women may have been credulous pawns in the hands of false teachers, but Paul knew most women were not. Nor was Paul commending Adam while disparaging Eve. Paul had made clear his view of Adam’s guilt in Rom 5:12–21. Eve listened to Satan and fell for the vanity of his promises. Eve let herself be betrayed by the serpent and fell into the condition of a sinner (cf. 2 Cor 11:3). Adam listened to her and sinned with his eyes open. Paul’s point was that men, including those in Ephesus, are more susceptible to mistake and error when they carelessly surrender leadership to the woman. Lea, T. D., & Griffin, H. P. (1992). 1, 2 Timothy, Titus (Vol. 34, p. 101). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

[xxiv] 1 Corinthians 11:8–9

[xxv] A popular short haircut for women.

[xxvi] 1 Corinthians 11:1-16

[xxvii] Galatians 3:28

[xxviii] Ephesians 6:5

[xxix] Matthew 20:25

[xxx] Matthew 28:8-10

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