Comments 7

  1. An open comment to Rev. Schut:

    Beyond the narrative basis of your wife’s and your life-stories, is there a Biblical basis for your feminism? I observe that people were created male and female quite deliberately by God and that our sexuality is an aspect of the “image of God.” (Genesis 1:27) This leaves me with an impression that there should be some distinction between the roles of the sexes and that these roles are not interchangeable. What might those distinctions be? What might be the consequences of neglecting distinctions that God intended for our sexuality?

    Throughout the Bible there are many references to marriage as being representative of God’s love for us. One example is Ephesians 5:22-33. Another example, dark in tone, is the book of Hosea in which unfaithfulness in marriage is portrayed as analogous to unfaithfulness to God. In addition to the husband-wife relationship, the Bible variously compares our relationship with God as that of a Shepherd to sheep (e.g. Psalm 23), a King of kings (e.g. Revelation 17:14, 19:16), a Father to his son (e.g. 1 Corinthians 8:6)–none of these being peer-to-peer relationships, at least as such relationships play out in the stories of the Bible*. In light of these consistent themes throughout both testaments, how should Christians distinguish the unique roles of husband and wife in marriage? Could the events of your marriage’s history be congruent (as I believe they probably are) with a more gendered and less peer-to-peer view of sexuality?

    Is the making of any sex-based distinction necessarily denigrating to women (or men)? If we are egalitarian about sexuality and simultaneously feminist, why not be egalitarian and simultaneously chauvinist? Or is feminism the same thing as chauvinism?! Probably we should just avoid “feminism,” “chauvinism,” “misogyny,” “masculism,” etc. Being an “egalitarian” would be a better description at least. Is “feminism” the best model for understanding our sexuality?

    *One could argue that the gendered language of the Bible is merely a reflection of cultural norms of Biblical times and has no essential meaning. Once one starts down the pathway of rendering the Bible’s message in a gender-neutral manner, how much gets changed! For example, how can you fully capture all the implications of Isaiah 54:1-8 in gender-neutral language? Isn’t this passage deliberately relying on a cultural understanding of a non peer-to-peer relationship in marriage that some modern people would label as stereo-typical of Biblical times? In other words, the gendered language here is not merely accidental. The author embraces gendered language as a normative way to express desired emotional overtones in the message. How could the gendered language of the Bible be merely an accident of cultural norms? How do we know that the cultural norms of Biblical times were not actually carried forward from God’s good creation? (likely tainted by sin, but still carrying forward)

    Before I join you in also becoming a feminist, those are the questions I have.


    –Doug De Boer

    1. “How could the gendered language of the Bible be merely an accident of cultural norms?”

      Because that is how cultural norms tend to work. They are expressed in cultural artifiacts, like language and texts.

      “How do we know that the cultural norms of Biblical times were not actually carried forward from God’s good creation? (likely tainted by sin, but still carrying forward)”

      “Cultural norms” are human symbolizations in thought and language that tend to engage in reification. “Biblical times” covers many cultures, languages, and thousands of years. The norms change and differ over time and across cultures in those epochs; they are very far from our own. Common reading practices efface that distance and emphasize similarities that often are not there. The status of women in Bronze Age Palestine for example has really no comparable reality in the modern world — for which we should be grateful. What is “normal” biologically occurs along a spectrum of diversity as well, where averages and outliers do not carry some in-built moral value. Instead of reading into the Bible (and thus “discovering”) confirmation for our preferred norms, it is better to historicize the text, study the cultural history, and heed the empirical science that is relevant to understanding reality as best we can. If you think God reveals answers on all things through correct biblical interpretation this will sound enormously threatening. If you think God and reality are illuminated for their truth by a loving openness to reality, then these paths of inquiry appear as they very act and calling of faith itself.

    2. Hi Doug!

      Thanks for the engagement. Sorry it took me a while to respond. I’ve got a new daughter who is taking up most of my time these days 🙂
      You’ve asked several great and relevant questions, most of which extend beyond the scope of this piece. Not sure I have the time to offer my answer to the exegetical-type questions, and there are others far more equipped than I to answer them anyways.

      I ended up really appreciating your question, “is there a biblical basis for your feminism.” That questions seemed different to me than: asking, “what’s the biblical basis for feminism.” My gut reaction to your question was to answer the latter, rattling off the verses in the bible which seem to buck gender stereotypes. Deborah that fierce Judge, Paul’s “neither male nor female” comment, the female leadership of the early church etc. You know the list. Those are passages that have probably formed an intellectual grounding for my feminism.

      But, if I’m honest, those aren’t the passages that have truly shaped my own view of men and women. Those are the verses I’ve learned to use in a debate. But my mind is steering me in a different direction. After sitting with your question, wondering which scriptures have actually formed the basis of my feminism, three stories came to mind: The woman caught in adultery (John 8), Jesus’ interaction with the Samaritan woman (John 4), and Jesus encounter with Mary after the resurrection. Those subversive accounts of Jesus’ interaction with women are the ones that come to mind in the weekly grind, they are the stories that have formed me in ways that extend beyond the intellect. I’m not suggesting that those stories represent enough of the Christian canon to ground an entire theology of male/female, but they are the honest answer to the question, “what is the biblical basis for your feminism.”

      In regard to terminology, there are certain branches of feminism that may become conflated with female chauvinism. However, in my understanding, any form of chauvinism lies outside of the larger category of egalitarianism. Chauvinism views one group as superior. Feminism lies under the umbrella of Egalitarianism, viewing men and women as equals, yet specifically takes into account the history of female subjugation and proactively seeks to create a society wherein men and women truly do have equal opportunity.

      Thanks for reading. Peace.

  2. Job opportunities. Careers. Merit through earned degrees. It sounds like the “metrics for success” are entirely work-focused and expressed in terms of upward mobility within the social and economic status quo.

    Are you recognized sufficiently? Have you arrived? Are you free?

  3. I would say this piece is about equal protection.

    Equal protection to achieve or not achieve.
    Equal protection to climb the ladder, fall a few rungs, or totally ignore the ladder.
    Equal protection to stay at home, build a home, demo homes, or renovate homes.

    Personally, I’d rather say gut-level “yes” to equal protection for all than slog through a biblical swamp trying to figure out if someone wrote 2000 years ago to the contrary, just like I’d rather say “yes” to equal protection for African Americans in the United States as opposed to sifting through some master and slave verses, just to be sure.

    I would think that we all have personal convictions deep enough (and I would say Spirit-filled enough) that if someone’s god came out to the contrary on, we’d probably drop that god well before our conviction.

    I wonder if the author/others would agree with that?

    1. Absolutely. But I think we must also outgrow this god of liberal equality who expresses his will through rights and protections that let corporate persons be more equal than others. This god has a twin, the market, whose invisible hands decide who is worthy to be considered equally human. These gods reveal themselves as devils, just like the old gods, when we see they are concerned primarily with authority, power, and money. They are ministered to by priests who grow fat on the sacrifices we are compelled to make on their altars.

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