RELIGION

Not all people who believe in God hate women

Jonathan Smith
Jono Smith

By Jonathan Smith

This letter is in response to this terrible article from Joy Magazine.

Dear Joy,

It is with great sadness that I once again read an article (Captain Coward, in April 2012) in your magazine that is not only poorly researched, that contains glaring logical fallacies and assumes biblical authority where it is lacking, but creates a crass generalisation and uses cheap shots to advance a certain view of Christianity within certain denominations. When reading your ‘Values’ of seeking unity, of encouraging thought and discussion between believers, I am at a loss as to how you can continually allow articles that only cover one side of the spectrum to be published. And this is a common occurrence month after month.

The article in question has so many fallacies, presumptions and judgments that it left me angry and sad, not willing to glorify God (as stated in your mission statement). This entire article is written to deconstruct a certain extreme view point and uses excesses of the feminist movement as an example of the norm. This is poor quality journalism, and cannot lead to proper engagement.

So for now, just one or two points to note. Firstly, I am a deeply committed Christian man, who follows the Bible and seeks to follow Christ and advance his kingdom. I am also a feminist and proud to be one.

You see, the basic definition of a feminist is someone who sees men and women as equal. Or tongue in cheek, a feminist is someone who sees women as people. I acknowledge that our history is of the abuse of women, of keeping women under wraps, of control. Equality is still not achieved, and so I strive to work against this injustice; sexism is as bad as an injustice as racism. Christians need to stand on the side of Justice. This deeply biblical belief is summed up by writing in Galatians that in Christ, there is no distinction, all are equal.

So in the article, when the author ‘bemoans the feminist movement’s catastrophic influence on the Western world and in particular – men’, I take offense.

I see the advances my wife and women in society have made, when I see that she is an equal, when I see that in Christ she is able to work as an equal partner with me. Would the author return to a world where some men refuse to speak to my wife since she has studied? Because she is a women? To a world where her intellect is limited to baking? Is that the world of Freedom in Christ?

I take offense when the author implies feminism supports pornography; many feminists are at the forefront of highlighting the abuses and hyper-sexualisation of women that this creates.

I am deeply offended when the author speaks of “Self-sacrifice, masculine strength and valour” as being lost. Surely self-sacrifice and valour can be exercised by  women, and masculine strength is a social and cultural construct that itself is forced on to many men?

Would you really return to the world of this author who seems to views life as a ‘1950 American sitcom’ with a stay at home mom? He forgets those biblical women who worked so hard and ran their own business and were in charge of their own lives and houses (like Phoebe and Priscilla).

I take offense when the author uses extreme examples of the feminist movement to dismiss the equality of women; it’s the same as saying all Christians are evil because of what was done in the Crusades. That does not work. Freedom in Christ is not conditional to your social control.

Egalitarian and complementarian are two deeply researched and widely held views within Christianity; both have their foundation as a biblical one and both are still Christian. By only allowing extreme complementarian views to be aired, you are not only easily condemning Christians who hold the exact same respect for biblical authority as others in a different camp open to ‘judgement, you are stopping any conversation and development. I am sure no one in either camp will agree with the oppression of women at all.

Please Joy, can we allow a broader view of biblical voices, and develop views of men and women like me, who are willing to be equal to each other, to work and serve with each other and to show the rich diverseness of equal leadership.  I am what a feminist looks like; and many others with me. Please stop the straw-figure burning,

Yours in Christ

Jonathan Smith

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3 thoughts on “Not all people who believe in God hate women”

  1. The struggle for gender equality is a societal and cultural problem, which is shared through religious, politics, time and space. I cant help but think sometimes that there is a primordial aspect to the struggle for equality.

    I am a christian and understand why some people might come to the incorrect assumption that Christianity is anti egalitarian. I mean, look at the book of Genesis chapters 1- 6. It’s been approximately 6,000 years since Adam and Eve defied God and ate from the Tree of Knowledge yet their story still has an influence on gender politics. There is the image of the woman as the evil temptress which lives on to this day, and not just in the spiritual sphere, we see this when a woman is faulted for leading a man to evil thoughts or behaviour.

    The offensive notion that a woman can provoke rape by the way she is dressed or by the her dance moves is a by-product of this mentality. This mentality exists in non-Christian societies as well. The laws in many Muslim countries which require women to cover up from head to toe are clearly based on a fear of women’s influence.

    Adam and Eve both received punishments for their wrongdoing, affecting all men and women of future generations, but Eve’s curses included the added shame of subordination. God said “And he
    shall dominate you,” and I would be lying if I didn’t admit that every time I hear that line I want to declare myself a heathen. But even more troubling than the curse itself is the way I’ve seen it used to justify maintaining the status quo of male dominance. Mostly, I hear the argument from men, but some women are affected by this mentality, too. They argue that sexism is woven into the fabric of creation, as if existence itself would somehow disentangle if we were to end gender inequality.

    Not only are these women suffering from a kind of slave mentality, they are also overlooking a simple truth: a curse is not a positive or desirable condition. In fact, describing something as a “curse” means just the opposite that this is not the way things ought to be. Nor does the fact that G-d is the author of a curse imply that G-d wants us to accept it as a fact of life. This is something negative, reflecting the negative change that occurred in creation with the first sin. In other words, something to change.

    People who are opposed to the struggle will attempt to use whatever ideas and coercive means they can. There are christian men who justify inequality, there re men and women out there who claim that it is tradition, cultural or African to perpetuate gender inequality.

    This is a problem we all share all over the world and we will not win the battle if we continue to tear at each others’ faiths and beliefs without going to the core of the problem. The problem for example is not the idea of Christianity itself, but people out there who use that particular faith to make themselves lord over others.

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    1. I am not a Christian – for the reasons both Jono and Miranda are very aware of (and a number of others!). Pretty much HAVE declared myself a heathen –> a decision affirmed every time I try and read an article like the one in Joy (couldn’t get past para three — life is just toooo short!) Having said that, I deeply appreciate Jono’s article and Miranda’s response. The expression of these opinions and attitudes from the Christian community far too scarce. More of this kind of dialogue would go some way to redress the balance: it does seem the loony conservative Christians have hijacked the discourse.

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