I get uneasy with the topic of feminism. Yes, I am a woman. I’m probably what most people would consider an independent and relatively successful woman. I have a master’s degree, I have moved more times than I care to recall, building community from scratch every time, and I pay all my own bills. I do not particularly like being cat called when I walk or run down the street, I do not think it is fair that a man would get paid more to do the same job as me in most professional (and not professional) environments, and I do not like the color pink. I’m not a stay at home mom.
But it still turns me off.
In case you live in a box, this past weekend hosted the VMA awards as well as the Grammys. If you haven’t seen any news anywhere, let me tell you that everyone is ogling over Beyonce’s performance at the VMAs. In fifteen minutes, she sang a medley of songs on the topics of oral sex in the back of a limo, telling a guy to “tear that cherry out” and a tribute to her reign as queen, “Bow Down”, complete with derrieres adorned only in glitter as the background dancers, Beyonce herself climbing and posing upon a cushion chair, and sitting spread eagle to acquaint everyone intimately with her crotch for substantial portions of the performance. And the word with which she defined herself before her toddler daughter, husband and the world was, “Feminist”.
Not twenty four hours later, the Grammys aired, during which Sofia Vergara mocked our society by standing on a turntable which turned her 360 degrees while Bruce Rosenblum, chairman of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences said, “What truly matters is that we never forget that our success is based on always giving the viewer something compelling to watch.” It was a joke. Vergara, completely clothed, stood on a pedestal for people to look at in order to mock our societal and media trends.
Would you believe that people are up in arms? Beyonce can strip for the world, dry hump chairs and poles but as long as she touts the title “feminist”, she is strong, independent, beautiful and in charge. Vergara, on the other hand, who would simply mock society by giving the audience “something to look at” is now the victim of sexism. As normal, everyone has an opinion.
This whole conversation makes my head and heart hurt. Why? Because anytime we waste our energy labeling ourselves anything else than Christian, we have lost our way.
There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
– Gal 3.28
The feminist extreme is out exerting “equality” by essentially demanding excess. “Women can do the job better” and “stand up and take the lead” demands that we be first, not equal. We want preference. But the call of Jesus is to die to ourselves. To suffer the offense. To love one another irregardless of gender, color or social status. Because in Jesus, there is no preference; male or female, race or social status.
God is fundamentally concerned about justice. He is the one who established the Law (the covenant with Moses, His perfect Law) and thus gave us the structure and outline for all systems of governance and accountability. He Himself will judge every sin. Every sin. Nothing will go unpunished. Sexism, racial injustice and social prejudice included.
However, if I waste all of my time getting upset because I live in a society where women are objectified, where I personally get cat called and honked at every time I go outside for a run, or even when I might make less money than a man just because I am a woman, all I will do is give myself an ulcer and live a miserable life. Why? Because you cannot change society unless God changes the heart first. Sure, maybe if I push back hard enough, get enough people to sign my petition and make enough noise, a law might be passed to make cat calling deemed as harassment. Maybe the police would even start to enforce it and people might start to stop whistling, making vulgar gestures and beeping their horns.
What eternal significance does it have if I make more money, walk down the street in peace, or get more societal respect? None. Absolutely none. If I spend my whole life fighting for the equalization of women in the work place, I might help women to have more money, but they will still go to Hell if they do not know Jesus.
How do you label yourself? Are you a woman? Are you consequently a feminist?
Paul makes a radical statement:
Only, as the Lord has assigned to each one, as God has called each, in this manner let him walk. And so I direct in all the churches. Was any man called when he was already circumcised? He is not to become uncircumcised. Has anyone been called in uncircumcision? He is not to be circumcised. Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but what matters is the keeping of the commandments of God. Each man must remain in that condition in which he was called. Were you called while a slave? Do not worry about it; but if you are able also to become free, rather do that. For he who was called in the Lord while a slave, is the Lord’s freedman; likewise he who was called while free, is Christ’s slave. You were bought with a price; do not become slaves of men. Brethren, each one is to remain with God in that condition in which he was called.
– 1 Cor 7.17-24
Paul essentially says here, your physical circumstances are not what are important. It is your heart. Slavery, persecution, success and happiness are not. These things are all fleeting and they ultimately do not matter. What matters is “keeping the commandments of God (v 19). And Paul is not watering down the situation! The early church was suffering persecution. He himself was in and out of jail, was beaten, was stoned, put on trial and suffered more than you or I. He was not speaking to a system of slavery that was fair, he was speaking to Christians who’s lives were in danger for the simple fact of being a Christian.
So if Paul can tell people who are living as slaves to be a slave to the glory of God, and not fight for themselves but to obey the commandments of God in their current slavery, why would I be justified in being angry because of the issues today? I am not being beaten, I am making money, and live in more ease and comfort than most of the world. And for those who are concerned that I just have not experienced it enough, I did live for four years in a society where I was the hated minority and wrestled with it daily.
Am I preaching pacifism here? No. Paul does say, “but if you are able to become free, do that” (v 21). And like I said, God is the judge and He has put powers in authority over us for a purpose (Rom 13.4). If you have the calling and gifting to be a part of moral and ethical change in politics, then be about it! God is concerned about justice, and we most certainly should stand up for those who do not have a voice. But if we are called to show preference to one another, put others before ourselves and love our neighbors as ourselves, how can I justify being angry if someone else gets paid more, or if I am routinely wronged (Rom 12.10, Phil 2.3, Matt 22.39)?
My point is this: If you are a Christian, be a Christian. A mini Christ. And this is a matter of the heart. How do you respond when you are hated? How do you respond when you are persecuted or harassed? Do you get angry and get up on your little soapbox and preach that you deserve better? Or do you bless those who persecute you (Rom 12.14)? Do you lash out when someone takes advantage of you? Or do you go the extra mile (Matt 5.41)? Do you love your enemy and pray for him (Matt 5.44)?
Instead of looking at myself, and thinking about what I need or deserve, I should be concerned about the heart and eternity of the one who is hating me, who is persecuting or abusing me. That does not mean I willingly stay in a situation that is to my detriment, but it does mean that my response is concern for other’s souls and eternities. Because even if I succeed in changing their behavior, nothing of eternal value has been accomplished.
Every society needs to see change and reform, including ours. And at the risk of sounding cliche, I would remind us that it starts with me. It starts with you. I am not going to honor God and show others how to love by getting angry and crying about social inequality. I will honor God by loving those who persecute me. It has to be the love of God in my heart, the conviction to live my life as unto Him and not unto man, and to do all things to His glory. I must respond well and in love, and when I find the opportunity to affect laws or societal governance, then I step up. If you have a job or a position whereby you can make a difference, then impact the world – and that for the sake of Christ! Make equal salaries between gender and race. Enforce laws of harassment and do away with racial profiling. But do it because Jesus declares us the same, without distinction. And love those who persecute you in the process because what matters is keeping the commandments of God.