Are Christian Feminists Hurting Their Cause?

by Mike Duran · 540 comments

I’ve confessed to being in no-man’s land in the Complementarianism / Egalitarianism debate.  While I think it’s pretty clear Scripturally that Men and Women were designed to complement each other and that, in that union, men were called and equipped to lovingly lead, I also believe there’s far too much evidence (both Scriptural and sociological), that women are entirely capable of leading men and teaching men, exercising equal authority, and pretty much occupying any office or role that a man could. That said, the longer I remain here and watch the debate escalate, the more I’ve found myself inching to one side.

The current “Christian feminist” movement is doing more to push me towards Complementarianism than just about anything.

It’s not because their arguments are weaker. Frankly, they have some great arguments. It’s not because their message doesn’t resonate culturally and biblically. I think it very much does.

It’s because of how they come off.

I realize this is completely subjective and anecdotal. But give me a chance to show you what I mean.

Several months ago, Emily Wierenga wrote what I considered a thoughtful post at Prodigal Magazine entitled The lost art of servanthood (a letter to my feminist sisters). Emily’s point — at least the point I got —  was that in their fight for “equality,” Christian woman might be losing “the art of servanthood.”

I fear for us, sisters.

I fear we’ve become too angry to serve, to be opened up to a larger purpose.

I fear we’ve lost the art of servanthood.

Emily concluded,

…When we stop being afraid of what men can do to us, or angry about what they have done, and start serving the God whose image they are made in, then men will start filling our church pews again.

And our husbands will rise up to their full potential to be spiritual leaders, to be prophets and priests of integrity and Pentecost, to be speakers into lives and providers of families and protectors of daughters and mentors of sons.

I celebrate us, sisters.

Not because of our gender.

But because of one man, and what He did for us.

Her tone was gracious and, I think, her point was relevant. However, the comments exploded (and are now at over 500). Some took exception to the examples Emily used, mainly of a Lebanese friend who remained in an abusive situation and won her husband to Christ, as well as Emily’s reference in the comment section that “Men are called on to submit to Jesus Christ, and women are called to submit to their husbands.” The notion that men would “rise up to their full potential” as their wife served was also lambasted.

But the tone of the comments hardly seemed commensurate to the tone of the article.

For instance, Alise suggested that Emily’s article “glorified abuse”:

“Pieces like this that glorify abuse are part of what have kept someone near to me in an abusive marriage for nearly 13 years.”

Diana called the post “downright irresponsible,” while Danielle cautioned Emily to be “excruciatingly careful about not using stories as a ways to preach an agenda or knock a different agenda (i.e. feminism) down.” Laurel intoned, “What a horrible message to send into our society.” Rose wondered if Emily was “capable of having a conversation that is in any way based in reality and not self-destructive hatred of women.”

Stephanie sniped, “This reads like The Onion,” While Angela scolded, “Shame on you Emily. Take a punch in the name of Jesus is some major twisting of scripture.” Bethany suggested the devil got the best of Emily: “I think the enemy used that amazing story to confuse you about what is and isn’t servitude.”

Then there was Elizabeth who openly wondered,

“Emily, are you being abused right now? I’m serious. Are you attending an abusive church? Because there is something going on here that is NOT just about defending a ‘biblical, Scriptural’ view of servanthood. And I have no idea WHAT is going on but SOMETHING is happening to you that is NOT OK. …your pieces have become increasingly worrisome to me. I have seen this pattern before where abused women start defending abusive behavior. I just want you to know we love you. You are not alone. Whatever it is that you are experiencing right now, you are not alone. There is help. We love you.”

Elizabeth later apologized, while Claire defended the emotional tone of the conversation this way:

“I really don’t get why people keep saying that these comments are ’emotional’…as if that was a bad thing. An unemotional or dismissive response to stories of abuse is a sign of an unempathetic psychopath in my opinion.”

But by then, the bandwagon was tottering from the weight of indignation and acerbic rhetoric.

  • “unempathetic psychopath”
  • “shame on you”
  • “glorified abuse”
  • “downright irresponsible”
  • “What a horrible message”
  • “self-destructive hatred of women”
  • “are you being abused right now?”

Frankly, Emily Wierenga’s “feminist sisters” were in attack mode. Which is ironic when they are so often the ones to appeal to… civil dialog.

Whether right or wrong, I felt sorry for Emily. She hung in there, appeared gracious in answering the challenges. But she was being unnecessarily piled on. Don’t get me wrong — some of the objectors had reasonable points. They just got steam-rolled by the snark and self-righteous indignation of supporters. The spirit of Emily’s post did not deserve the reception it received. Sure, there are things worth debating and disagreeing with in her piece. But scolding her? Claiming she’s glorifying abuse? Wondering if she’s actually in an abusive situation? Sorry. Her post had been hijacked by a movement seeking traction. From my perspective, they are losing ground with feeding frenzies like that.

I realize this is completely anecdotal. Subjective. Deciding what is Scriptural can’t be left to responses on one blog post or one’s experience with the representatives of any given position. Just because a Christian feminist is rude — or a Calvinist, Universalist,  Atheist, whoever! — does not mean their position is wrong. Bad manners and blog misconduct don’t invalidate someone’s position. Nor does grace and diplomacy validate one’s position.

Nevertheless, the comments and reactions on Emily’s post have caused me to ask whether or not Christian feminists are actually doing more to hurt, rather than help, their cause.

* * *

UPDATE: July 15, 2013 — Since this post continues to receive traffic and generated so much feedback, I thought it would be appropriate to link to the blog posts and discussions it has generated.


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