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I’m a feminist, and a Christian. To many, this sounds like an oxymoron.
But in Bible study meetings on campus, in a welcome-back barbeque at church,
in church council meetings, baking for a potluck and from the pulpit, it’s my
scrappy, daily fight for justice. Click on the images below to see the resources
that have helped me as a woman of faith and a feminist. Or read the
Author Rachel Held Evans takes on a social experiment: she vows to take all of the Bible’s instructions for women as literally as possible for a year. It means growing out her hair, making her own clothes, covering her head, obeying her husband, rising before dawn, abstaining from gossip, remaining silent in church, and even camping out in the front yard during her period. Her book A Year of Biblical Womanhood is an exercise in scriptural exploration and spiritual contemplation. What does God truly expect of women, and is there really a prescription for biblical womanhood? The answer will surprise you.
I flip through Geez magazine whenever I get a chance. It’s been around for five years with 18 issues so far and close to 2,000 subscribers. They had a feminist faith issue, and their writer’s guidelines specify pitching under-reported stories on feminism and other fights for equality, including queer issues and race relations.
Pastrix by Nadia Bolz-Weber
In her book, Bolz-Weber reclaims the term “pastrix” (pronounced “pas-triks,” a term used by some Christians who refuse to recognize female pastors) in her messy, beautiful, prayer-and-profanity laden narrative about an unconventional life of faith. Bolz-Weber describes it as a book “for women who talk too loud, and guys who love chick flicks; for the gay man who loves Jesus, but who won’t allow himself to be talked to like that again.” I dig it.
Some readers of Rachel Held Evan’s blog were so inspired by Held Evan’s feminist understanding of the word eshet chayil that they got it tattooed. Eshet chayil is a Hebrew word, meaning woman of valour. The descriptor is used in Proverbs 31, which is a twenty-two line acrostic poem in Hebrew. The poet lists and praises the everyday accomplishments of an upper-class Jewish wife. “Like any good poem,” Held Evans writes, “the purpose of this one is to draw attention to the often-overlooked glory of the everyday.” The term eshet chayil has long been a blessing of praise in the Jewish community, she continues. Some Jewish husbands sing the line from Proverbs 31 to their wives at Sabbath meals. Women use it to cheer one another on after reaching a milestone. Great women of the Christian faith, like Sarah and Ruth and Deborah, are identified as women of valor.
But in some parts of Christian culture, Proverbs 31 has become a to-do list: “(The poem is interpreted) as a command to women rather than an ode to women, with the home-based endeavors of the Proverbs 31 woman cast as the ideal lifestyle for all women of faith,” Held Evans writes. By the end of her book, A Year of Biblical Womanhood, Held Evans set a goal to take back eshet chayil as a blessing, not a to-do list, by identifying and celebrating women of valour. These women of valour are changing the world through daily acts of faithfulness.
And she inspired some readers to the point they got inked.
I think an eshet chayil tattoo really adds a certain je ne sais quoi to Rosie the Riveter. This is an iconic image from a series of posters the Westinghouse Company’s War Production Coordinating Committee in the Second World War. This representation of Rosie is from J. Howard Miller’s “We Can Do It!” poster. The poster would be colloquially renamed to the Rosie the Riveter poster after the war. The poster was rediscovered and appropriated in the 80s as part of the feminist movement. This appropriation is much like what Held Evan’s did with eshet chayil, making the Hebrew term a part of the Christian feminist movement.
No time for a book? Try an Instagram or Twitter feed. I love Emelina for the way she critically thinks through tweets that break down Christian modesty culture and why feminism is important. “We (feminists) wrestle, make pronouncements, and tell our stories, but then we go back to living them… We take on all of the weight of the feminist label. We set things on fire. We stand with humans of all genders. And then we put out the fires and return to the radical tasks of building careers, raising children, fighting depression, being healthy partners and safe friends, figuring out what we want to do right now and doing it, preaching truth, and learning to love those deepening smile lines in the mirror. We stand with humans of all genders in this, too,” she writes.
I love Pastor Jes Kast-Keat for her #thisiswhatapastorlookslike posts. Here’s the story behind the hashtag in the words of Kast-Keat: “I will never forget the night I arrived in New York City for the first time. I randomly sat next to a fashion designer on my plane ride, which I found thrilling. Usually I enjoy my personal space on a plane but my whole world was about to change and my excitement was boiling over to the seat next to me. She was kind and asked me what I was doing relocating to New York. ‘I am studying to be a minister and I have a church that’s invited me to do an internship.’ She looked me up and down and said ‘You are a minister?! What a fashionable minister. I would have guessed you were in the arts. I wouldn’t have left the church if I had a minister like you!’ Little did I know this was the first of a thousand conversations that would take place exactly like this.”
Christena Cleveland has great posts on the intersectionalities of race and gender. Check out her Twitter feed for reams of content on reconciliation and faith. On her Twitter feed, she recommends posts from how to survive seminary as a person of colour to giving a list of 101 culturally diverse Christian voices.
Sarah Bessey is the author of Jesus Feminist, a memoir about gender and the church. She also has some seriously fabulous blog posts. In one, she gets real about women’s ministry. She explains that feminism is a movement that includes men. She wrote another that argues marriage among Christians means equality not submission. I love her blog because it’s sassy, smart and unsatisfied with the status quo. Bonus: She’s Canadian.
Fighting for gender equality is part of other fights for equality, including the work of LGBT activists. Justin Lee is an author, speaker and executive director of the Gay Christian Network, a nonprofit organization dedicated to building bridges between Christians and the LGBT community. Lee identifies as a gay Christian. He has some of the best Tumblr ask me anything responses I’ve ever seen when it comes to orientation, faith and the church. Some highlights: Lee’s story and faith, on the portrayal of men and women and on broad statements about gender.