July 20, 2018
Written By: Marissa Kusayanagi
Over the past year, an awakening has occurred concerning equal rights for women in a way that has sparked attention across the country. The media took hold of this movement for women, and eventually, so did the entire nation. Hollywood, pop stars, hotel employees and so many more joined the movement. Women started to walk out of their homes and their offices with heads held high because of this flame that ignited in the country. Time Magazine released an edition with the cover featuring leaders in the #MeToo movement.1 The “Person of the Year” was not one individual but multiple women, known as “The Silence Breakers”. Countless women shared stories of mistreatment in the workplace and this sparked a fire in the hearts of many.
As the country begins to move in the direction of being a safe space for women in the home, public sector and workplace, I began to wonder what this means for the church. The Christian Church is divided in countless ways, but especially in regard to the role of women within its four walls. I grew up in a church in Southern California where women were accepted into leadership roles, but that was not the case when I moved to the Bible Belt. New to a different culture, I began to realize women did not have leadership roles and were sometimes not allowed to voice opinions. There are numerous arguments on where women belong, what their title should be, and who they should be allowed to lead. All of these issues are worth evaluating and digging deeper into what the Bible says is vital, but there is a simpler issue at hand (is this issue feminism?).
Feminism is a movement, a principle, and a voice for the advocacy of equal rights for women. There have been four “waves” of the feminist movement; each one represents a different point in history where women fought for rights. The women’s suffrage, which occurred in the nineteenth century, is known as the first wave of feminism.2 The second wave of feminism took place in the 1960s-70s, where women were concerned about economic and social justice.2 In the mid-1990s women created the third wave, which promoted intersectionality within the feminist movement.2 As women began to include intersectionality, they started to realize that all of the issues in regard to feminism needed to be in the public eye. Women started to speak out about mistreatment in the work place and body image, which turned into the fourth wave of feminism.
Modern day feminism may be perceived differently than the past, but the same passion is behind the movement today – equal freedoms for women. In the beginning of this discussion I mentioned different feminist movements or promotions that occurred in the public sector. As aforementioned, Time Magazine released their annual issue, Time’s Person of the Year, with the women who spoke out about abuse in the workplace.1 The famous magazine chose “The Silence Breakers” as the most influential group of people for the year. Following the magazine issue, Time released a book called, Firsts: Women Leaders Who Are Changing the World, to highlight women all over the world and their accomplishments.3 The book and web series identify these individuals as the first women to achieve a high status in their field of work. For example, Serena Williams was recognized as the first tennis player to win 23 Grand Slam singles and Nikki Hailey the first Indian-American woman to be elected governor.3 The nation took hold of this movement and realized that women being in leadership is rare. Today, 20% of Congress and 23% of the Senate is female.4 Only 39 women have held the position as governor and currently there are six female governors in total.5 There are currently 23 women as CEO’s of Fortune 500 companies.6 These numbers are mentioned to express how women in leadership roles are still unique, but there is a hope to increase those numbers. As the nation moves toward creating a space of freedom for women in leadership and professional settings, the church seems unsure about this movement.
When it comes to the church, there is a slow and quieter uprising for women, as female leaders are beginning to take on the challenge. Beth Moore is an example of a woman that is fighting this daily battle in the church today. She is a Christian author and speaker who is familiar with the issues at hand. Each woman in the church possesses a different story that contributes to the overall heart behind this issue. Beth Moore published a blog, A Letter to My Brothers, to call upon the men in the Christian Church and challenge them to see where the principles are wrong.7 She explained her uncomfortable interactions with men in the church and the ways they disappointed her. Beth Moore encouraged the men of the church to see women as equals and to embrace them into conversations.
Q Ideas is an organization that advocates for Christians to discuss challenging and uncomfortable conversations. The goal of Q is to create a space for thought-provoking dialogue about culture, social issues, and various other topics. This summer, they started a new campaign called “Q Questions”, where they ask important questions and let leaders answer. One of the questions was “How Can We Stop Objectifying Women?”, and there are few discussions that dig deep into the roots of this issue.8 A popular Christian author and speaker, Jefferson Bethke, spoke on the objectification of women in the church. He said a profound phrase, being “the culture can exploit the female body but then Christian culture can say, just hide the female body”.9 The Christian Church is allowed to tell women what not to wear because it is her responsibility to keep men from stumbling. As a teenager, I was told countless times to cover myself up with the sole purpose to protect my Christian brothers. I entered college and agreed to follow a dress code surrounded by the conversation that men needed protection. From my perspective, this created a culture within the church that women were the source of men’s temptation and that women are objects of sin. In his speech, Jefferson Bethke also mentioned the importance of viewing the human body as a representation of God and not a “vessel of sin”. A woman is constantly hearing that she needs modification or alteration but the last place she should hear that is in the Church. I believe that the Church should embrace women and allow them to walk with freedom instead of shame.
There are plenty of churches across the world that fight for women to be extremely involved in the church. Blue Ridge Community Church in Lynchburg, VA, is an example of a church that champions women each day. I actually took a piece of Pastor Woody’s sermon and wanted to explain the Biblical perspective in regard to feminism.
Often times in church doctrines, people will speak upon the Scripture found in Ephesians 5:22, “Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord” (Ephesians 5:22, New International Version). People in the church forget to look at the verse before Ephesians 5:22. In Ephesians 5:21, Paul speaks to the church of Ephesus and says, “submit to one another out of reverence for Christ” (Ephesians 5:21, New International Version). Why does the Church claim that women are immediately inferior to men? Paul clearly explains that there is a mutual submission between man and wife.
More importantly, Jesus Christ was known as a man that defied the culture and engaged with women. Jesus knew women were considered worthless beings but ignored what the world defined as worthy. Women were constantly involved in Jesus’ time on Earth and were known to have close relationships with Him. An important piece of Scripture is in John 20, when Mary visits the empty tomb:
He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?
Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.”
Jesus said to her, “Mary.” (John 20:13-16, New International Version).
The first woman to see Jesus rise from the tomb was Mary, a woman, the most unlikely individual to be used in the specific encounter. The testimony of women in the courts at that time were not considered valid, so why of all the people would God use Mary? Jesus Christ loved men and women the same; He believed they all were worthy of His love.
The goal is for the conversation about women to change. Women are capable of being leaders, but most importantly are seen as equal to men in the eyes of God. My hope is for women to walk into a church and feel empowered by the men in the room. No, this might not be easy, but the conversation must change if the church wants to make an impact in the culture of today.
My prayer for my brothers and sisters in Christ:
Allow space for one another to lead in the church. Empower each other, like you would empower your children. Love more and criticize less. Create space in the church for growth, conversation and a transformation.
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