Let’s Talk About Being a Christian Feminist

Stephanie C. Odili
Aug 26, 2019 · 8 min read
Miguel Bruna for Unsplash

Nothing can be permanently correct. Things can and should be questioned’—Stephanie C Odili.

In recent times, there’s been a lot of conversations on the issue of being feminist and being Christian. Some may wonder why there’s any problem with it, as it is very easy to believe in God and still stand for equal rights. However, the tenets of Christianity makes it compulsory that you read, believe in, and practice everything written in the Bible. After all, its the word of God.

It is no surprise that there is a great deal of tension between religious beliefs and feminist values. The Bible—the word of God according to Christians —is seen as being a tool to promote misogyny, sexism, and submission. I would be highlighting it for Christians and all others who call it a hoax every time it comes up.

On sexism, the gospel according to Luke 23:49 says

“And everyone who knew him, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance observing these things.”

Including the women? Are women not part of the “everyone”. Why was there a need to separate women from the entire human race? Yes, the usual explanation is that those times were sexist. That also poses another question of ‘why were times ever sexist in the first place?’ From what point in time did the world decide that women were to become second class citizens? Isn't it crazy that the above verse spoke about everyone that knew him, and of course, including the ‘ones whom they never expected’—women? Or maybe it’s the curse God placed on women according to Genesis chapter 3 verse 16 that we’re still suffering.

To the woman, he said, “I will make your pains in childbearing very severe; with painful labor, you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.”

Also, in the same gospel of Luke chapter 24 verse 11, it says

“Their words struck the apostles as nonsense, and they didn’t believe the women. Then proceeded to discredit their words because they’re women”.

Imagine the sexism! Just to give some context, Jesus had just risen from the dead and had made himself known to the women, who ran to the community of believers (the men) to announce this. And it is recorded that these women’s words struck the minds of the male apostles as ‘nonsense’. They must have thought— ‘what the hell do women know?’. Not only did these women’s words strike the apostle as nonsense, but they also proceeded to discredit it because they’re women. If this isn't clear cut sexism then I don't know what is. The only good thing about this was that Peter believed the women and immediately ran to the tomb (verse 12). And I have to ask, what if he didn't believe it? Those ignorant men would have sat there not knowing the Lord rose. Pathetic. To men like these, you better step out of yourself and your sexism.

As a woman, according to the book of Titus chapter 2 verse 5, here is everything you must be or at least die trying. We must be:

  • Self-controlled

Phew! So much to be and do. If you’re like me and cannot be confined to these rules while men sit around and not be held accountable for nothing, then please join me as we read Mona Elthahawy’s new book.

On submission, which by the way is the hill that most men have chosen to die on. The letter by Peter chapter 3 verses 5–6 says that

“…the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to adorn themselves. They submitted themselves to their own husbands, like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her lord. You are her daughters if you do what is right and do not give way to fear.”

So, we’re all supposed to submit ourselves to men with whom we equally signed legal documents because our mother Sarah did it and it's considered right? Hmmm, I don’t think so.

Another one is from the letter to the Colossians chapter 3 verses 18–25 which was basically instructions for the Christian households.

“Wives, submit yourselves to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them.”

Under the same breath, the most popular of them all is from the letter to the Ephesians chapter 5 verses 22–29.

Wives, be subject to your husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. As the church is subject to Christ, so let wives also be subject in everything to their husbands. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. Even so husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no man ever hates his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, as Christ does the church…

About being head of the house, just watch this video by Eniola Hu, I have no energy to explain that. Whenever this passage comes up, men and footsoldiers of the patriarchy are ready to bring up this defense for men

“But there’s also a part of the bible that says men should love their wives the way God loves them. Do you know how hard that is?”

Wow. It’s their excuse to claim that they are not misogynistic as if love and submission mean the same thing. What does it mean to love? To be selfless. What does it mean to submit? To subdue yourself and be made subject. Love doesn’t make you submit, it doesn’t make you a smaller version of yourself, that’s not what it does. If anything love should amplify who you are. I first spoke about this in my interview with international journalist Aisha Salaudeen.

Speaking about misogyny, the first letter to the Corinthians chapter 14 verses 34–35 says “Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience as also saith the law. And if they will learn anything, let them ask their husbands at home: for it is a shame for women to speak in the church.

I don’t see people criticizing this part because we now have female pastors. It makes me think, does it mean that we’re capable of dropping passages that are outdated and no longer favor us? No comments.

Personally, when people ask me if I am Christian first or feminist first, I tell them that I chose to be a Christian, but I did not choose to be a woman. Who would want to be a woman in a world like this anyway? I didn’t pick womanhood, it came naturally. A lot of religious men use the bible to subdue women, after all, there is evidence of it (as stated above). There’s always something about a woman breaking herself into half for a man. When I am reading the bible and I see where it’s written I feel sad. So, I will spend the rest of my life fighting to have a say in society. Religion is a choice but you don’t choose who you are.

Speaking with 27 people, 46.4 percent of them believe that Christianity comes first. 21.4 percent of people are of the opinion also that feminism comes first. The remaining 31.1 percent of people, like me, are of the opinion that they are either incomparable and exist alone or it's equal. Being a feminist means being an advocate, basically, everything highlighted here. And being Christian means being Christlike which is to live a life of love for others and for yourself.

It is important that we remember that people read and encounter God differently, thereby leading to several interpretations and denominations. The true Christianity and behavior of Christians would be to ask themselves— ‘is this verse in line with the covenant of freedom ALL Christians are to experience in Christ’s death?’ if the answer is no? then do yourself the favor of passing on that. For every ‘no’ answer you get, you’re supposed to then realize that it's not applicable to you in this day and age. This is 2019 and not 1BC or 5AD and so, it is imperative that we let go of bondages that no longer fit into our freedom and our feminist fight for female freedom.

With this understanding, and drawing from what writer and feminist —Angel Nduka Nwosu—said some time ago, I believe myself and other Christians should first accept that parts of the Bible/the writers are sexist. But we’re not going to constantly dwell on that. Instead, we’re going to ignore these sexist verses because they do not just hold in bondage women who have been set free by Christ, they are also not reflective of the character of Jesus who treated women with respect. And also, whom, Christianity was literally built and based on! No matter how much we try to uncover the context of misogynistic verses, the fact remains that there are sexist verses in the Bible that can’t be explained away no matter how much we try.

I must also add that when reading the new testament, especially the letters; bear in mind that they’re actual letters written to specific people. The people of Corinth, Thessalonia, Rome, etc. You from Ikotun should stop carrying it on your head. This is why you keep losing the flow and the context of the message.

GREG KANTRA for Unsplash

If you are truly Christian, you shouldn’t be homophobic, you shouldn’t be against women preaching in church, you shouldn’t support any form of submission and women’s oppression. Because frankly, these doctrines are antithetical to the character of Christ. Read Galatians chapter 3 verse 28 :
“There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

To quote Photographer Chidi Ashimole—Feminism is the equality of the sexes and promotes the appreciation of the humanity of all kinds and species and choices, no matter the differences…Feminism is the Christian thing to do.

As for me, I advocate for all women, and I believe in God. Call me a Christian feminist if you like.

The Ascent

A community of storytellers documenting the journey to happiness & fulfillment.

Stephanie C. Odili

Written by

Novelist, poet, and editor. Purchase my books here—http://stephanieodili.com/books/

The Ascent

A community of storytellers documenting the journey to happiness & fulfillment.

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