By Kristen Johnson
Finally – a book for women of faith. Perhaps you were taught that women were to be a man’s “helpmate” as the best role. Perhaps you were taught that though women are valuable in the Church, they aren’t valuable enough to be ministers over men. Perhaps you felt angry or confused by these and other anti-feminist messages – well, you aren’t alone and I have a great book for you to read.
It may come as a shock to the general public, but girls really are taught these messages in Churches, back when I was a kid, and, yes, even today. Sometimes it’s subtle and sometimes it’s blatant. (Try getting a job as a female minister in quite a few US denominations – not gonna happen.) Many women are taught that God’s highest goal for us is to get married, to allow the husband to take the spiritual lead for the household, and that women are to be submissive, particularly in Church. ( I am extremely happy to confirm that my denomination, United Methodist, “allows” female ministers and the three I have had in the past have all been fabulous women of God!)
The wonderfully fabulous book Femmevangelical, by Pastor Jennifer Crumpton, spoke volumes to me and it will to you too if you have been both baffled and pissed off by messages presented to you about feminism and a woman’s required role in the Church. Pastor Crumpton takes a very serious and hard-hitting look at the Bible, the twists and turns men have added and deleted from it to frame their own nauseating message of patriarchy, and a whole lot of history. Just a few tidbits that I never knew or thought about:
- There are ancient artworks that have been discovered showing clearly women working with the Apostle Paul. As if that isn’t shocking enough, the women have literally been scraped over in the paintings. Patriachy had to be protected to the point of destroying artwork.
- Women wrote gospels! Of course, they weren’t included as Canon when the Bible was pieced together……
- It’s perfectly okay to be bothered by stories in the Bible of women being treated like sex slaves, rape victims, etc. As a matter of fact, we should be looking at the message of freeing women from oppression when we read these stories.
- It’s okay to be bothered by writings by Paul (and others) which put us in a subservient role. Jesus doesn’t put us in these roles – as a matter of fact, when Martha complained about Mary learning and ignoring the housework Jesus said she was exactly where she should be. I never thought about that – Jesus thought a woman was perfectly capable and deserving of learning.
- Names, labels, society’s messages, media messages – all of these things contribute to how women view themselves from childhood all the way to adulthood. Scary stuff – I learned a lot of it in college 20+ years ago and it’s not like it’s gotten any better since then.
The biggest question for all of us is presented towards the end of this wonderfully empowering book – what would you do if you weren’t afraid? Imagine if every young girl and adult woman actually did what they are capable of, without fear of retribution from our patriarchal society. What a world we might have.
Indeed, the overwhelming message of love is present throughout the book and I just loved it:
If you love people, you struggle with them rather than against them. If you love people, you advocate for them and what they need in order to have abundant life, even if it is different from what you need, even if it seems to threaten your own sense of comfort.
And amen to that.
Big big thanks to Ms. Crumpton for a wonderfully uplifting, challenging, and encouraging book. As a feminist of faith, I no longer feel so alone by my confusion. In fact, I feel like I can conquer the world – and by that I mean challenging myself to love people like Jesus did and to serve the world as He commanded us to do.
1 John 3:18 (NRSV): Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action.
Serve all with love.
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