Friday, 1 August 2008

Do we call Jesus a feminist?

Firstly, the shiny new 'Carnival for Progressive Christians' is up at the wonderful Purteks. You should have a look, its fairly brilliant.

When I haven't been working and watching FAR too many soul destroying American TV shows (when did Smallville get so ridiculous??), I've been thinking a lot lately about whether or not Jesus, and therefore God (as I believe that Jesus is God), should be given the label 'feminist'.

Before I can answer this question, I need to have an understanding of what the word 'feminist' means. My working definition is that a feminist is someone who believes in, and works for, the liberation of women from the systems, institutions and beliefs that opression them. I'm aware that within that different people will have varying opinions of what is and is not opressive, but I think thats ok. I'm trying to practise a feminism that is a fairly large tent at the moment, and I think thats a good thing. Theres much more to be learned when we don't just agree on everything. I'm aware that my definition of feminism has its limits, but I think its a fairly good start.

So, using this definition of feminism could Jesus be a feminist? Well, to some degree, yes! Jesus taught women when most people considered women to be basically incapable of learning, going against beliefs of his time. Jesus trusted women to spread the news of His resurrection when women were not considered to be 'reliable witnesses' in court, going against the sexist systems of his day. Jesus had time for women (and men) who were considered unclean, and women who were judged. Jesus did and does, radically challenge all sorts of beliefs and institutions, including patriarchal, sexist ones. On top of this we are aware from all over the bible that God is a liberator, calling for and bring about our liberation both from spiritual darkness and all forms of earthly injustice, including sexist ones.

So I think I can say that I definatly believe that Jesus wasn't to liberate women and men from sexism. But does this mean I can call Jesus a feminist? Honestly, I don't think so. Feminism is limited, one of the many ways through which humans have and continue to attempt to understand all that is wrong with the world. Feminism CANNOT be fully true, because none of us fully understand. God does fully understand. God sees all of time and knows what is wrong and why, and fully understands the reasons behind it. Because of this I can never put the small labels through which I understand the world onto God.

More than this, to apply my labels to God is to do things the wrong way round. My ultimate aim is to live fully for God (although first I have to discover what that means!). I don't want to simply apply the values I already have to God. I believe that my journey in feminism has been part of this, but I need to be sure that feminism is on of the tools which I use in my attempt to understand my amazing Creator, and that it doesn't become the rule book through which I choose to define God. God is not limited to my politics.

What are you thoughts? How would you answer the question in the title?

1 comment:

Feminist Avatar said...

I think I sympathise with the idea that by labelling Jesus a feminist we are constraining what and who he is and stands for. But, I quite like the idea that Jesus' wish for social justice would have been sympathetic to the feminist movement and as such he could call himself a feminist. But, then who are we to label God?