“A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit her to teach or have authority over a man. She. Must. Be. Silent.” - 1 Timothy 2:11-12.
I remember reading those words for the first time right after I graduated from college. In that season God’s voice had been so clear about the type of woman He wanted me to become, but those three short sentences were not. I sat there reading the passage over and over; trying to find something I hadn’t seen before. The black and white lettering seemed so stark, so clear; so… black and white.
See, if you know me I think the last word you might use to describe me is silent. I’m ambitious. I’m independent. I'm opinionated. And you can normally hear my boisterous laugh or loud voice long before you see me enter a room. So, where does this leave me? Am I destined to be some kind of unfit wife?
Throughout the years I've sat in numerous churches, yet I can never ignore the slight pang I feel in my heart as preachers encourage women in the congregation to be "quiet" and "submissive", to not pursue careers and to instead learn to be a "good wife." Growing up in these conservative circles often times I heard more about being a “submissive wife,” than about establishing a loving marriage.
In many Christian communities being a “biblical man” or a “biblical woman” is just as high of a priority, if not more so, than being a biblical person. I’m not sure how we came to the conclusion that men and women are to imitate Christ in different ways but I’d like to know where people see Jesus emphasizing that a man’s highest calling is to be a leader and a decision-maker, and a woman’s highest calling is to be a nurturer and “advice-giver.” From what I know about the life of Jesus, he called us to love God and love others selflessly. End of story.
That brings me to the dreaded f-word. In some circles, using the f-word is dirty, outrageous, and even offensive. Of course, I’m talking about the word feminism. But, let's take a closer look at what exactly feminism is. According to Merriam-Webster, the definition of a feminist is someone who “believes men and women should have equal rights and opportunities.” Notice how it doesn't say women who refuse to take their husbands last name, never want to have children, don't care about personal hygiene, and get pissed when a man gets her car door or pays for her meal on a first date. I've heard people accuse women who support the feminist movement of being "power-hungry" or "selfish" and even say that feminism has no place in the church because "women were made to help their future husbands achieve the purpose God has for his life" - as though God did not have one for me, too.
As a Christian, to me, feminism is about seeing and valuing women as Jesus did. I’m always moved by the stories of Jesus’ interactions with women in the gospels. In a time and culture where women were uneducated, looked down upon and viewed as property, He saw them and treated them as ones who were honored by God and deeply loved. If the church followed the example of Jesus in how he treated women, it could heal the world. Just like the human body, the whole flourishes when every part is made stronger. In my eyes, Christians should be on the front lines of the feminist movement, because God is a God of justice who loves us all equally — and we should aim to perfect those traits within the church, and within ourselves.
Photography by Garrett Lobaugh