FEMINISM V. CHRISTIANITY
by Bob Wheeler
There is no doubt that Feminism has been one of the most influential forces shaping contemporary culture. It has altered the relationship between the sexes and with it the structure of the family. What is more, it has provided inspiration for the gay rights movement. “Equality” has become the byword of our generation.
The emphasis on equality is very much in keeping with the spirit of American democracy, which probably explains why the logic of women’s and gay rights seems so irresistible. Don’t we all believe in fair play? Why should anyone be discriminated against? Shouldn’t we be tolerant of others?
The relationship between Feminism and Christianity, on the other hand, is a bit more complicated. Throughout the Bible women play a subordinate role to men, and wives in particular are exhorted to be subject to their husbands. Feminist theologians have resorted to exegetical gymnastics to explain away these passages, but their explanations look forced and contrived. Most mainline Protestant denominations now ordain women and in some cases even practicing homosexuals. In the final analysis these churches has sold out to secular thinking.
It was the great feminist writer Simone de Beauvoir who put her finger on the real issue. In the introduction to her classic work The Second Sex, de Beauvoir describes the predicament in which women typically find themselves. As human beings they have a natural desire to be free and independent. But as she exists in human society she is most often consigned to a subordinate role. The question then becomes, how can she achieve genuine self-fulfillment.
All of which raises a profound question about the nature of reality itself. De Beauvoir asserted that “The biological and social sciences no longer admit the existence of unchangeably fixed entities that determine given characteristics . . . Science regards any characteristic as a reaction dependent in part upon a situation.” Here she undoubtedly has in mind the Theory of Evolution. Nature, presumably, is in a constant state of flux. That being the case, there is nothing in the ultimate nature of things requiring a woman to be “feminine.” That is just an artificial role forced upon her by society. De Beauvoir then notes: “Yes, women on the whole are today inferior to men; that is, their situation affords them fewer possibilities. The question is: should that state of affairs continue?” Her answer, of course, is “no.”
But de Beauvoir assumes that a woman is “a free and autonomous being like all human creatures.” But is she, or all other human beings for that matter, “free and autonomous” in reality? What if we were actually created by a Supreme Being? What if there really is such a thing as Intelligent Design? Would we still be “free and autonomous”?
The biblical answer is an emphatic “no,” and herein lies the major difference between biblical Christianity and contemporary secular thought. We are here on this planet by design and purpose. It is our Creator who determines the conditions of our existence, and that includes, among other things, gender roles. None of us are free to live unto ourselves, but each of us, as human beings, male and female alike, are required to live our lives for the glory of God and the greater good of humankind. Marriage is an institution ordained by God, and it entails a lifelong commitment with definite responsibilities for both husband and wife.
Are gender roles artificial and man-made? Then so are women’s rights. Both presuppose a fixed moral order to the universe, derived ultimately from a Supreme Lawgiver. Take away the Lawgiver, and nothing is left but the law of the jungle. No one would be in a position to question the way things actually exist now. Who says women have “rights”? The U.S. Supreme Court? The King of Saudi Arabia? On the secular view of things, what you see is what you get.
Ultimately both our rights and responsibilities derive from God. Our proper goal in life is to be the human beings, the men and women, that God intended us to be.
We did not bring ourselves into existence.