[Editor’s Note: This post originally appeared on CBMW about five years ago. It was written long before Courtney Reissig (then Courtney Tarter) was married or had children, but we felt that because of it’s reception back then and because she is working on expanding this article into a book, it was a timely piece for Karis. We’re also including this because, in light of CBMW’s $30k matching campaign, we wanted to show how complementarianism has impacted the lives of young complementarian leaders.]
When we think of a feminist we can all probably think of a person we know, or know of, who typifies the feminist ideology. There are all types of fixtures of feminism ranging from Presidential candidates to evangelical scholars to college students—and I am one of them. Prior to conversion I was the stereotypical Generation Y feminist—anti-marriage, anti-child rearing, and corporate ladder hopeful. After conversion I sang a slightly different tune, although held onto many of my previous ideals regarding marriage and settling down. I simply masked it with a missions/ministry focus, content to be the single girl on a mission to save a third-world country for Christ. What I did not want, or think I needed, was the idea that my changed life meant changed priorities. It was not that I needed to find a husband or chuck any career aspirations, the problem was that I thought feminism was an outside of the church issue, at least the conservative church that I belonged too. I had no notion that my heart, at its core, was fighting against the authority of God in the Scriptures, and still does have a lot of change left to be done to it.
I may have moved out of the militant feminist camp, but I most certainly have been a part of one too many male bashing conversations in a dorm room and coffee shop with my girl friends. What we must understand about feminism is that it did not originate in the wake of the women’s liberation movement of the 1970’s. And the mother of feminism is far older than Ms. Magazine and her friends. Feminism started in a garden in the Middle East thousands of years ago. Feminism is at the very heart of our fallen nature, and manifests itself in many different forms.
Recovering from feminism must first start with an embracing of the gospel of our Lord, Jesus Christ. Only then will we see the roots severed because we will be clothed in the humility of Christ, who willingly submitted himself to the Father on our behalf. For older women it will mean embracing and modeling femininity, motherhood, and marriage in a Titus 2 way. For younger women it will mean knowing the godly women in our congregations better than we know the celebrities on late night television.
Feminist ideology is not simply relegated to the brash Gloria Steinem types, or even the female executive with the corner office. Rather, feminism rises up in ordinary women in our congregations, homes, and in the least obvious place, the mirror. Feminism is in the core of our hearts apart from the saving work of the shed blood of Christ, and not simply because we are militant against male authority, but primarily because we are opposed to the greatest authority of all—our Creator. The feminist is not some abstract “out there” woman. She is staring right at us every morning when we put on our make-up.
If we are going to make any headway in the gender discussion, we must first admit that our problem lies much deeper than a woman filling the pulpit on Sunday morning, or stay-at-home dads. Our problem lies in the fact that there is no one righteous and we are all opposed to God—we are all feminists at heart. And we can’t wake up one day and decide to be a Proverbs 31 woman any more than a man can decide to lead like Christ. Instead of seeing our gender differences as mere cultural constructions we must first admit that there was something far greater going on in the Garden than we now realize, and when Creation fell, it was distorted. In creating man and woman differently, God was pointing to the beauty of the Trinitarian relationship, and the relationship between Christ and His Church. The fact that we fight against it reveals our depravity even more.
Many times we are so busy looking for the woman with the hyphenated name that we miss the woman who scoffs at a man for opening the door for her. Both of these actions are products of our feminist heart. My “recovery” from feminism is not about learning how to bake pies or a decision to be more feminine (though these are important and helpful things), it is about repentance. Repentance of my desire to be in control and to raise my fist against God’s created order. Only through repentance and faith in Christ am I, or any one for that matter, able to renounce rebellion and submit to the lordship of Christ. It also means truly believing that God’s Word regarding gender, and everything else for that matter, is true. Recovery for many of us will mean a reversal of the way we approach women in our congregations. It is no wonder why so many young women don’t desire motherhood when what they often hear from older women is to “get your degree first and live your life,” acting as if marriage and children was the final stamp on the end of your life as you know it.
And when I still feel the judgment rising up in me when I see a young woman joyfully choosing marriage and a family over a college degree, I realize that I have a long way to go before this feminist is fully recovered. As I grow in my walk, there is a great hope in the Holy Spirit’s promise to complete the work that Christ began (Phil. 1:6). From the time the first feminist (Eve) came on the scene, until now, we have been in a cosmic battle against the flesh and Satan because he hates the image of Christ and his Church. We await the final consummation of the good work that was started by King Jesus on Calvary. With the curse came the promise. Feminism was, and will finally be, defeated when the Seed crushes the Serpent (Gen. 3:15). And that’s good news for recovering feminists like you and me.
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