“Do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man. She must be silent.” 1 Timothy 2:12
People always lean in close and ask in hushed tones: “You go to church? But I thought you were…you know. A feminist.” They whisper that last word just a bit more audibly than a whisper. They scratch it out as if it was a different type of F word. One that is definitely not compatible with someone who engages in some seemingly arcane rituals every Sunday morning.
But as a person who is as proud of my Christian faith as I am of my F-word feminism, I do not reply with a whisper. I proclaim in a loud, bold voice that, yes, I do go to church. Every Sunday. And I bring my children. I am a feminist parent because of my Christian faith, not in spite of it.
I am a feminist Christian parent because of women like Shiphrah and Puah, two midwives who bravely defied the orders of the king of Egypt in order to save Moses and other babies. I am a feminist parent because of women like Lydia, a business owner, entrepreneur and international marketing executive a few thousand years before that was even a thing. I am a feminist parent because of women like Mary Magdalene, not a prostitute or harlot as the male religious leaders who have shaped early Christian dialogue would have one believe, but a woman who wrote her own Gospel and was one of Jesus’s closest friends and disciples.
I am a feminist parent because there are literally hundreds more women like this, each of whom deserves an equal place along Matthew, Mark, Luke and John as we continue to understand Jesus’s story. Their voices deserve to be heard above chauvinists like Paul, men who other male religious leaders have chosen as the voice for all of us. Men have been in control of the Christian narrative for far too long, and it’s time for modern-day Christian feminists to take it back. Sorry, Paul; it’s Puah’s turn.
I am also a feminist parent because of women like Kristin and Breonna. And Susan and Ann and Heidi. I am a feminist parent because of all the strong, kind, fearless women of God who are called to be ordained ministers and leaders in my faith community. They are my personal counsel, my children’s godmothers, my spiritual leaders and my dear friends. They are women of great faith who preach the Gospels’ message of love and hope and tolerance, both to me and to my children. Our faith and our lives are richer because of each of them.
Most importantly, I am a feminist because Jesus was. From the woman looking for a lost coin to the Samaritan woman at the well, Jesus often uses women to teach his most important lessons of love and compassion, and he spent much time in the company of women and used them as examples to his male followers. In fact, because Jesus was both human and divine, and because God is both male and female, Jesus can also be thought of as both male and female. At our dinner table, we thank Sister Jesus for our daily bread.
My children are growing up in a church in which little boys and girls have equal value. There is no role in the ELCA Lutheran church that cannot be held by a woman. My daughter will have the same opportunities as my son, and when she grows up, she can choose to become a pastor and preside over communion, marriages and funerals. She could even become the bishop, following in the footsteps of our current bishop, Rev. Elizabeth Eaton.
I am able to call myself a feminist Christian parent because of this universal acceptance, but also because my faith teaches love. Not just an earthly love, but a beautiful, mind-blowing, bigger-than-we-can-imagine, other-worldly love. It teaches acceptance when someone else’s love looks a little different, and it blesses love in whatever package it happens to come in. It teaches that every person has inherent value and worth, regardless of any earthly decision they have made, and it teaches that each of us is promised an eternity of paradise because of the unbelievable grace and love of God, not because of a lifetime lived without sin or with enough good works and repentance.
Much has been made of the dangers of a dogmatic, exclusionary religious faith tradition. Some question how anyone can overlook all the vitriol and hate the Bible espouses. While this is certainly true, no faith tradition that wishes to persevere can be free from growth and change. Christianity has changed immensely since the early followers of Jesus were fed to the lions in ancient Rome. The individuals who call themselves Christians today are among the most open-minded, progressive-thinking people I know. They do not treat the Bible as a literal guidebook, but as just one way of connecting with the cosmos. A small group of men may have shaped the early teachings, but the story is not over. My children—and enlightened people like them—are hard at work on the next chapter.