Christianity and Feminism: Can They Coexist?

By: Sadie Miller
For many years now, feminism seemingly becomes more and more intense with each passing year.  The debate grows even stronger when you bring religion into it with feminists arguing that religion is terrible for women because men control them by forcing them to submit. When you hear Christianity and feminism the two terms seem at odds with one another, so is there a way for these ideas to coexist? Is it possible to be both a feminist and a Christian? Well, According to one writer, it is. In an article titled, “Why You Should Be a Christian Feminist” Amy R. Buckley offers her account of how Christian women can stand for feminism by holding fast to Genesis 1:26-27 that says all people are created equal because they were made in the image of God. As she studied the history of “biblical feminism” she found there were many women who found ways to fight for women’s rights stating,

“Although women had no legal vote, Christian feminists agitated for laws to protect women and children living in squalor. They founded social service agencies and promoted education and training-so women could support themselves and their children during the period of social and economic upheaval following the Industrial Revolution.”

She compares “first wave” feminists from the 19th century which included women such as Angelina and Sarah Grimke, Lucretia Mott, and Elizabeth Cady Stanton with “second wave” feminists who hold many strange views about women and their place in the world. In regards to first wave feminists she says,

Similar to first wave feminists, egalitarians maintain that all humans-male and female-bear the image of God with equal rights and responsibilities. While men and women differ physiologically, they are made for the purpose of completing each other in a unity (Genesis 2:24); domination has no place in God’s created order. Justice entails interdependent partnering between men and women who have equal access to the gits of the Spirit (as Providence determines.)

The key phrase there is “domination” which has no place in God’s created order. This means that neither men nor women are meant to rule over each other because the only true ruler is God who created both of them.

While Buckley believes that it is possible to reconcile the ideas of feminism and Christianity, there are still some who say otherwise despite the title of their own journal. In a journal called Feminist Theology, authors Dawn Llewellyn and Marta Trzebiatowska argue that the two ideas are different and primarily focus on the differences between secular and religious feminism in our society. In their article titled, “Secular and Religious Feminisms: A future of Disconnection?” both women argue that there is a “lack of relationship” between secular and religious feminism and they believe that secular feminism is to blame for much of the discord that occurs today. The reason for this, they claim, is because secular feminism does not consider the ideas and women of religious feminism, but rather chooses to dismiss it altogether. They present their argument not to solely lay blame on secular feminism but to attempt to foster an understanding between the two feminisms stating, “Both secular and religious feminists must engage in an act of mutual recognition through acknowledging each other’s languages as legitimate.”

However, at the same time, the writers maintain that this relationship is not possible with the current divide between the sacred and the secular stating,“Third wave feminism contains the tools within its ideological framework to approach and incorporate the insights of religious feminists and women’s experiences of the sacred, but has yet to do so.”

Again, there appears to be a battle between the secular and religious feminists even though these women seem to fight for there to be a mutual understanding of both sides in the goal of reaching and making a difference in women’s lives. As the article comes to a close, Llewellyn and Trzebiatowska continue to call out the feminist movement to add even more emphasis to the discord and to show it doesn’t have to be this way. They also won’t be able to impact people if things stay the way they are. The women call out to the secular movement saying,

If our feminist future maintains a mission to locally empower women, then it is not sufficient for feminism to consider or impose a secular language of gender analysis on to the lives of women whose values are framed by religion. Instead, secular feminism must learn the language of religious women globally through engagement and dialogue to begin to account for women in relation to her many identities and experiences.

Both of these articles show the conversations that need to happen between the feminist sacred and secular in our cultures and societies. The question of whether feminism and Christianity can coexist still applies, but it’s good to know the efforts being made to provide a bridge between the two sides. This is good for all women everywhere, sacred or secular, feminist or not. I look forward to how these relationships will improve as time moves forward and more discussions take place.




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