thoughts on being a “Jesus Feminist”

A few weeks ago, for the first time, I used the word “feminist” to describe myself.

Not because something radical has changed about what I believe about women and men, but because I’ve realized that I’m no longer interested in hiding from a word in order to avoid other people’s ideas about that word.

Of course, it’s not quite fair to say that nothing has changed.

I listened to classmates declare that they have gotten “Him’d” out of male depictions for God.  I announced my intention to refer to the Holy Spirit as “she” instead of “he” or “it.” (“You’re one of those people,” responded a friend.)  I realized that I can’t stand words like “brotherhood” to describe the Christian family, and I cringe when a song refers to “men” and means the whole body of Christ.  I have even started to wonder about words like “fellowship.”  (I’m not a fellow, after all; can I still have fellowship?)  When a popular Christian musician replaced “men” with “saints” in a carol on his Christmas album, I stopped rolling out pie crust to share my excitement with my husband.  (“Did you hear that?  Let saints their songs employ! Saints, not just men!”)

I have started to read blogs of women like Rachel Held Evans and Sarah Bessey, women who claim “feminist” as a description for them, too. Several months ago, I encountered announcements for Sarah Bessey’s recently published book, Jesus Feminist.  She writes about how “following Jesus made a feminist out of her.”

Apparently following Jesus is making a feminist out of me, too.

This newly recognized-and-openly-named feminism keeps popping up at the most inconvenient times, making me wonder if there isn’t a way to shut it off, at least temporarily.  Buying Christmas cards this year was even more of an ordeal than it usually is.  My husband and I have always scoured the cards in order to find ones with art we like, but this year I rejected more than one hopeful because of the message inside.

Things like, “May His light shine on you always” or “May He bring peace and love to you” or “Let your hearts be filled with Him so that His grace may be with you now and always.”

I had no idea that Christians had decided it’s okay to replace God with a deified, uppercase He/Him/His.  Many of these cards did not even name God, instead offering those capitalized male pronouns as if that communicated the same thing as God’s name.

This woman, this feminist, this Christian isn’t going to settle for that any more. 

I am not going to settle for a Christianity that excludes half the world from full participation.  I am not going to settle for a paradigm that lifts up maleness at the exclusion of femaleness.  I am not going to settle for a Church that makes God over in our own images.

I am a feminist for women long gone who fought to give me the right to vote, to own property, to speak my voice.  I am a feminist for mothers and grandmothers who raised children in the hope that their daughters might not face the same prejudice they endured.  I am a feminist for the sweet and precious little girls in my life who should not have to live in a world where women are ignored or belittled for no reason but their gender.  I am a feminist for men who respect women and recognize the mutuality of the life we share.  I am a feminist for myself, for the voice that God has given me.  I am a feminist for the Church, that it might be the full and vibrant body of Christ in the world.

But aside from all those things, I am a feminist because my faith compels me to be.  Because I believe that Jesus Christ has called men and women to partnership and equality in doing the work of the Gospel.

Let Saints their songs employ.

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11 Responses to thoughts on being a “Jesus Feminist”

  1. Tim Folkerts says:

    In defense of lines like “May His light shine on you always”, Christmas cards are logically about Christ. Since Christ is generally considered to have had a male human form, then the card is effectively saying “May Christ’s light shine on you always”. IN that sense, the male pronoun seems reasonable.

    Otherwise, I agree with the advantages of inclusion. I must admit that it still sometimes feels ‘wrong’ for a brief moment when I hear unexpected words in familiar old hymns, but the dissonance serves to reinforce the need for a world where we are all equal.

    • emwartick says:

      I don’t have a problem with the use of male pronouns, particularly in contexts where it makes sense, like in reference to Jesus Christ. It bothers me when it’s ONLY the uppercase He/Him/His used to refer to God without any antecedent.

  2. Josh says:

    Where in scripture do you find justification for referring to the Holy Spirit as she?

    • emwartick says:

      In the Hebrew, the word for Spirit is ruach, which is feminine; in Greek, it is pneuma, which is neuter. I am not suggesting that the Holy Spirit is female any more than I would suggest that the Trinity is male; however, I am generally using feminine pronouns for the Holy Spirit as a reminder to myself that God is not gendered, just as I generally use male pronouns for the first and second persons of the Trinity.

  3. J.W. Wartick says:

    I think it is a very important thing to remind ourselves that God is not male. I find that I am made very uncomfortable by the notion of referring to God as “she” or referring to the Holy Spirit as “she.” Upon self-examination, I find that the reason for this discomfort is largely due to the fact that I am so much more comfortable relating to God as male and thinking of God as male. Intellectually, I believe that God is neither male nor female but Spirit; but that intellectual understanding has not yet overcome the lengthy period of considering God in only masculine terms.

    I wonder whether I will ever get over this discomfiture. I hope that I do. I believe that God is not male; but in practice I clearly make it seem as though God is, in fact, male. It is something I need to work against. The amount of discomfort others express with similar discussions demonstrates, I think, how pervasive this same feeling is. We’re all about acknowledging that God is not male (or at least, we should be!), but when the rubber hits the road, we are unwilling to put it into practice.

    I have found some way forward in reading Proverbs 8 and finding the typology of Christ as found there. In that passage, of course, Wisdom is female and yet is alongside God at creation (which implies the deity of wisdom–see Isaiah 44:24). Thus, Wisdom seems to me to best reference the pre-incarnate deity, and the language of begottenness is similar to the language which properly refers to the wonder of the Incarnation. Yet the “oddity” of seeing wisdom as God and yet a woman has helped me to reflect more upon my own concept of deity and how it has colored my relationship with God.

  4. Pingback: Really Recommended Posts 12/13/13- Bonhoeffer, Creationism, Feminism, and more! | J.W. Wartick -"Always Have a Reason"

  5. I applaud you and welcome to the Modern Age. The Church is essentially feminized, so why not God.

    • emwartick says:

      I’m not sure I understand your statement that either the church or God are “feminized.” I’m not trying to feminize God by referring to the Holy Spirit with feminine pronouns, but rather remind myself that God is not gendered and therefore not male. Could you clarify what you mean by feminizing the church?

      • Josh says:

        This reply will be long, but I think it is necessary. Within the last two years, I have gone from what one might consider “feminized” to a very pro-traditional, pro-complementary person, and my goal is to make you rethink a mistake I – and others – have made before you encounter its logical conclusions.

        The feminization of Christianity is obvious to most of us:

        “But aside from all those things, I am a feminist because my faith compels me to be. Because I believe that Jesus Christ has called men and women to partnership and equality in doing the work of the Gospel.”

        Jesus has said that men and women are co-equals in regards to their eternal destiny and their value as human beings. He says that we are all “one” in this sense. But Jesus also, as God, -created- men and women differently and distinctly (see church hierarchy, descriptions of marriage in Scripture, biology, history, and anything other study of human behavior). We are unique, complementary, and different, all the way down to the structure of our brains (

        “I am not going to settle for a paradigm that lifts up maleness at the exclusion of femaleness. I am not going to settle for a Church that makes God over in our own images.”

        The Bible, as Revelation, reveals God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. That’s God’s choice. May I ask why you think that only today, in the 21st century, post-feminist, first-world West that you think we finally don’t need God’s self-description? Why do you think a new description is better?

        I’m not arguing that God is “male” in the human sense. Clearly, as Spirit, He is not. But I don’t understand why we should have the privilege to feminize Him, if He revealed Himself to us in -mostly- masculine terms.

        The Bible and traditional Christianity don’t diminish women while lifting up men. They simply treat the two differently based on their differences. To a post-modern, post-feminist, this is simply unacceptable. But there are a lot of things in Scripture that are unacceptable to post-modern, post-feminists that probably shouldn’t be.

        Do you believe that women have been systematically oppressed in history until the feminist movement? Do you think that the Christian view of the world is the Marxist view – nothing but the fight between oppressors and oppressed? Do you think the feminist movement has been a Christian movement?

        I propose an alternative. Male and female social roles developed out of male and female biological and psychological differences, themselves created and designed by God. Society, in the form of marriage, defended the “weaker” or “more fragile” sex (yes, women are physically weaker than men). It prevented men, who could otherwise have a field day sexually, from doing so. It forced a man into a monogamous relationship with one woman. It allowed one parent to raise children, the other to provide for the family. Out of thousands upon thousands of years, we slowly found a system that best emphasizes the strengths of men and women while covering their weaknesses. Women were professors and teachers at medieval universities. They were deaconesses and mothers and were often well respected. Men fought and died for them. They were not treated as equals in essence, but equals in dignity and destiny.

        And then, radical egalitarianism, radical secularization, Marxist philosophy, and self-actualization therapy became all the rage, and people rejected the history that preceded them. The fruits were the feminist movement, “benevolent” governments that exacerbated poverty, a blind eye to the differences in male and female health, abortion on demand, no-fault divorce, a child-support system that absolutely kills fathers and rewards mothers, and skyrocketing rates of single-parent households, homosexual movements, same-sex marriage demands, the un-defining of marriage altogether, transgenderism as a positive character trait instead of a mental issue, and all sorts of other inversions of traditional human life.

        I don’t expect you to think all of these things could possibly be related at my word. But I hope they’ll inspire you to slow down pursuing an ideology that has, as best I can estimate, damned an entire culture to a bleak and difficult future.

  6. caplawson says:

    Reblogged this on Captain Lawson and commented:
    Interesting read

  7. Pingback: Feminist art and anti Vietnam war protests | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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