Our world is not a safe place for women. Feminism comes in many forms, but is ultimately a reaction against injustice faced by women. The church gets feminism wrong when it attacks feminism, rather than attacking the injustice reacts to.
Jesus gets feminism right by showing, in his death and resurrection, that God loves everyone equally and hates all injustice. Jesus came to restore our relationships with God, and with each other, and to overturn unjust systems developed by sinful humans.
HEAD // GOD’S STORY
The Bible is the story of God making all things new, restoring broken human relationships and eradicating injustice through the Cross, and by uniting his people in Jesus. It is the story of God making a safe place where all his people – male and female – are equally loved, and equally valued.
HEART // PEOPLE’S STORIES
Jen Pollock Michel, How Complementarian Theology Speaks to the Latest Internet Meme
Melinda Cousins, How does the Church respond to #yesallwomen
Suzanne Burden, Dear Church: How will you respond to #yesallwomen
Steve Cree & Andrea Pryde, Jesus, feminism, church roles and ministry at Living Church
I was sitting in the seat behind the youth leader who was driving when he reached his hand back and started caressing my thigh. His wife was in the passenger seat next to him. He made eye contact with me in the mirror as if to dare me to say something. I had no idea what to do, so I closed my eyes. I was barely a teenager.
I later discovered that was what everyone else in the church was doing as well – closing their eyes. I was perplexed that people simply didn’t see his hand on my developing breast while we were watching a movie, or they didn’t notice how long and how close he held me for in the ‘greeting time’. Didn’t they see? Couldn’t they help me? Or did they believe church was such a safe space that that they missed what was before their eyes?
Things continued for several years. When I eventually spoke up and told my parents, they were horrified, but the backlash from the rest of the church was swift and immediate. ‘Everyone knows B gets a little handsy. Why are you making a fuss?’ It turns out, they knew youth group was an unsafe space and had left me vulnerable. B taught me my body was his to use, and apparently my church ‘family’ saw no problem with that.
We stood in church and sang together about how God is a refuge and a protection and a strong tower, and then my family was told the Most Unexceptional thing for us was to leave the church. That ‘solution’ treated me as the problem and the guilty party, and B’s entitlement to me didn’t abate. Deprived of access to my body at church, he played games with my mind. He’d line up for my checkout at Target though there were other free ones, reminding me I had no choice but to serve him as he ‘accidentally’ brushed my hand. B wasn’t the only one sinning against me; the congregation had upheld him and exiled me. That added an extra layer of abandonment.
In a new church, I heard a lot about forgiveness and reconciliation, and I was tormented by the idea that God would not forgive me ‘as we forgive those who sin against us’. I battled to forgive B and the others in the church, but I struggled to know what that looked like in practice. Did I have to become friends with him? I still felt he was an unsafe person for me to be around, both physically and psychologically. My new church preached forgiveness, but all I heard was condemnation. It seemed no matter where I went, there was no rest.
There’s a beautiful picture of rest in the Bible where a lamb and a lion lie down together. That can only happen because the lamb is completely confident that she is safe. Otherwise she would be frozen, trembling, or running a mile. That kind of rest is almost inconceivable to me. I’m in my thirties now and I’ve experienced great healing from these experiences. I’m married, a mum, part of a church community and a feminist. I can testify to the wholeness brought by Jesus the Healer (in part through a good psychologist.) And yet, adrenalin still shoots through my veins upon seeing B’s picture. I do not yet experience full calm because the world I live in does not allow me to. Yet, that is what Jesus promises – a world where even the threat of danger is no longer a theoretical possibility. I work now to see that little bit more safety in our world, in faith that what we start with Jesus he will finish.