I’ve never considered myself a feminist. I still don’t. I cringe with a lot of people at the term because of the connotation associated with it: brash women who hate men, never smile, and want to invert every system and structure the world has ever known by creating an angry militia of man killing Amazonians ready to rid Earth and Mordor of any organism with a Y-chromosome.
Perhaps there is a slight exaggeration in there for literary purposes, but I think I’ve accurately described the perception, no?
So I’ve resisted identifying myself as a feminist. I still do. I’ve joked that I don’t think of myself as a feminist but a “non-hierarchical complementarian who desires equal treatment of genders.” Over the last few months a number of people have challenged me on this saying I’m simply a feminist in denial. Admittedly, I do identify with some of the issues feminists raise. I believe men and women, while different and complementary to each other, are equal. I believe hierarchy and patriarchy are not a part of God’s intended design. I do not ask my wife to submit to me, but rather we both work to practice mutual submission to each other as commanded by Ephesians 5:21. I hope for the day when women’s voices are valued as much as men’s voices in the church and that value wouldn’t just be lip service. I believe modesty rules are often set up and talked about as if men are helpless victims of evil seductresses; as if men have no control over their eyes, thoughts, and genitals (which enrages me as a man! Seriously. I can lead a church but I can’t not look lustfully at a women in a bikini? Stop it.)
Yet, I still do not call myself a feminist.
Maybe I’m in denial. I could be. But there is something inside of me that resists that title. That resistance isn’t directly tied to the term feminism. It’s tied to any “-ism.” I couldn’t put my finger on it until I had a recent conversation on Twitter. Questioning why so many ideologies move into an exercise of cognitive dissonance, Chris Green, assistant professor of theology at Pentecostal Seminary, gave me this insight:
— Chris Green (@cewgreen) November 14, 2013
This blew the door open for me. Ideaologies promise something they cannot deliver on: a perfected future. Pick your “-ism” and you will find a promised future free of the evil causing the need for the ideology. Feminism promises a future free of inequality between women and men. Socialism promises a future free of inequality between the rich and the poor. Nationalism promises a a future where ones nation embodies the best the world has to offer while surrounded by evil nations.
Ideologies do not appear out of thin air, but are born out of legitimate injustices. There is inequality between men and women. There is oppressive inequality between rich and poor. There are evil nations. However, ideologies are unable to deliver on their promise of a future where justice has been served,
For the Christian, real injustices need to be met with a prophetic voice crying out in the wilderness for the justice of the Lord. The same injustices that seed ideologies should be injustices that cause the Christian to stand up and decry: socio-economic inequality, racism, sexism, and on and on. It behooves our witness if we, rather than attacking an ideology because of it inability to deliver its promised future, listen to its legitimate – and often firsthand account – of injustice so that we might enter into their suffering and intercede for the Lord’s justice.
This is why I resist being called a feminist. Or a socialist. Or a nationalist. Or a conservative. Or a liberal. I fear getting sucked into the ideology until its false eschatology becomes my idolized eschatology. I believe in one true eschatology. The one where Jesus returns and the new creation is ushered in. At that point, every injustice will be put to right at the one just judge administers justice. All those -ism’s and their eschatology’s will fail to bring the holistic justice that’s coming.
My intention is not to discredit the work and hope of some ideologies. Again, feminism is something that I share many values with. I want women to be seen as equals with men. But that isn’t the end goal. It can’t be. As good of an end as that is, it isn’t good enough for the whole world and all people and all creation. Equality is great, but it falls short when we talk about a broken creation.
It also seems, at least to me, that most ideologies are still held captive by unimaginative thinking dominated by the “way the world works.” What I mean by that is, ideologies seek justice using methods known by this world. Christians shouldn’t want more of this world; we should want more of the world to come after the new creation. Christians should not use the known methods of this world; we should use the imaginatively creative methods of the Spirit. This drastically changes how we work.
Rather than desiring power, we witness to the power of being powerless.
Rather than arguing for position, we wash feet.
Rather than leading, we serve.
Rather than being busy, we pray.
Rather than thinking we have all the answers, we pray.
Rather than believing in the dichotomy of this or that, we act in the possibility of a third way.
Rather than fighting to get a seat at a table, we accept the invitation to the table set with bread and wine.
Christians are not to withdraw from the world and its injustices, rather we must faithfully engage them with the foolish wisdom of a crucified, servant King.
I’m not clear what that looks like. But I am clear that’s what I think.