[OPINION] Can Christians be feminists?

By PresidentSea (@SeadimoTlale) 

This article was first published here

black women in church


But I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God.”  (1 Cor 11:3 NIV).For a man…is the image and glory of God, but woman is the glory of man.  For man was not made from woman, but woman from man.  Neither was man created for woman, but woman for man.” (1 Cor 11:7-9 NIV).

Christianity is sexist.  Christianity is a religious system that endorses the oppression of women.  According to Christianity women are second class citizens of society.  1 Corinthians 14:34-35; Ephesians 5:22-25 and Colossians 3:18 all speak about how women should submit to a man.   Submission is defined as ‘the action of accepting or yielding to a superior force or to the will or authority of another’.  According to Christianity, women are therefore inferior to men or men have authority over women.

Women who subscribe to Christianity subscribe to a system of oppression against themselves.  It is like if black people were to willingly subscribe to Apartheid.

The bible tells us about the existence of a very dark and horrible world.  The existence of an eternal fire even.  However, there is salvation from all of this evil.  A messiah.  A saviour.  A man.  Almost like one long Tyler Perry movie.

The Creator of the universe in the bible is a man.  His son, our ultimate savour, Jesus Christ, is a man.  That man’s disciples, all 12 of them, were men.  All the high priests, the educated people, the other righteous people and leaders of societies were also men.  John the Baptist.  Look at the books of the bible: Matthew, Luke, John, James, Mark, Timothy, Peter, Joshua, Samuel, Job, Ezekial, Daniel, Joel, Amos, Zachariah.  Why is there 1 Kings and 2 Kings but no Queens? But hey, there is Ruth, Jude and Esther so I guess that makes things okay…

The bible is about men.  The man was created first, in the image and likeliness of God.  God being the supreme power.  The woman was created as an afterthought.  From a man’s rib even.  Not in God’s image.  The woman is the man’s assistant.  That is why she was created.  We first learn of this in Genesis but the message is reiterated throughout the whole bible.  Both testaments.

Some of the most important men in the bible had multiple wives and many many children.  The most important woman, however, was a virgin.  She gave birth to ‘the most important’ man ever born.  And she was a virgin.  Did I mention that she was a virgin?  The other women who feature really well in the bible were prostitutes.  Another was a weak woman who talked to snakes and became the first sinner.  Because of her the whole human race continues to suffer today, thousands of years later.  Adam and Eve lived in the same jungle but it was the woman who got to deceived because women are so weak right?

The irony is that most Christians in South Africa are women.  Or rather, most church-goers.  In my experience women are the ones that go to church regularly with their children if they have, and the men will go now and then but it really isn’t a big deal if they do not.  Now I do not know if this trait is a general trait of Christianity or limited to townships, which is where I grew up and therefore made my observations.  Regardless, townships make up a large population of South Africa therefore the observation is valid.

In most churches the majority of the congregation are women.  But more often than not, the church leaders are men.  Imagine you are in a room that has 8 women and 2 men and you need to elect 2 leaders and you elect the men.  Logic? Sense? Oppression maybe…?

There are many people who argue that it is the women who elect to not be leaders.  And this is bull.  There are systems in place, written or unwritten, that prohibit women from rising in the ranks of church leadership.  Look at Catholic churches for example.  I know you can probably tell me about some church that has an amazing woman leader/priest/reverent etc.  And that is good for her.  Really.  But what about the other women? What about other congregations? Other Christian domains?  Are  we going to ignore the norm because of one exceptional woman?

In my church for example.  Or the church mom makes us go to on Sunday…women are literally 85-90% of the congregation every single Sunday.  But the church leaders are all men.  Every single one.  Every Sunday the service is hosted by one of the lekgotla (because we do not have a priest – well we do but his white and speaks Afrikaans and only comes to church twice a year – but that is a story for another day).   When women want to lead the service they have to apply.  Even then it is never one women who gets to lead the service, they always have to lead it collectively like women aren’t strong enough to perform male roles in churches.  I know my church might be a bit extreme but there are many like it in one or many ways.  And this is my point.

This irony defeats my point because I am trying to illustrate that Christianity is oppressive to women, but then why is it that there are generally more women in churches than there are men?

I am not saying that Christianity is wrong.  Or any religion for that matter.  In fact it is important to afford people hope, a sense of belonging to a greater cause than oneself.  It is great to have faith.  But blind faith is dangerous!  As women, we cannot subscribe to a system that blatantly seeks to oppress us by calling ourselves Christian, going to church and doing other religious activities that include ‘living a Christian lifestyle’ of which a main feature is submission; and then claim we care about the plight of women.  That we want to advance as women and we seek liberation.  Hence I strongly believe that feminists cannot be Christians.

You are either for woman emancipation or you are not.  But there is no in between.  That is why Christian Feminists are a lie.  Hypocrites!  Even Jesus says do not be hypocrites.

Pick a struggle!

  1. So what is your rallying call? I notice a contradiction in the essence of your article. You contend that Christianity subjugates women and yet you say that Christianity is not wrong. I miss the point of your article.

  2. I am a Christian and Feminist neither is a struggle for me. I love God. I am grateful for a Savior no matter the sex. I love being a woman. There is no collision or conflict.

  3. I am a Christian and a Feminist. I struggle with neither. I love God. I am grateful that He gave His only child (who happens to be a boy) to die for my sins.

  4. I must have missed the point of this article.
    I am Christian and a feminist.
    I dont think there has ever been a contradiction about my faith in Jesus as my personal Lord and Saviour and my belief that all humans are created equal by God. That men are no more important than women. That God values me no less than men. I see the hinge ideology behind this article was the sociological interpretation of God as a man and Jesus’ coming as a man and the predominance of men in church leadership. Yes, the church struggles with a lot of issues. We struggled with slavery in our not too distant past as we now struggle with feminism and the value of female life.But at the core of Christianity is the very notion that EVERY human life is of equal value to God and that He loved us enough to give himself for us.
    Galatian 3:28: “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” I am a Christian. I am a feminist.

  5. So how do YOU get to decide what women can or cannot be? African women have always been openly spiritual throughout history. I come from a family of women sangomas and women evangelists so I guess its no surprise to me that the church is filled with mostly women. Even iintlomba zamaqgirha are filled with women as the majority of sangoma initiates are women. Those women are not stupid they know the benefits of Faith and chose Christianity. How can you tell them they cannot be feminists. I wish feminists would support women’s rights/ and equality within the church instead of demonizing women for being spiritual. As Bell Hooks put it feminism is for Everyone.

    Heyyyi deathby “Pick a struggle”. Now tha’ts just lame.

  6. Lacks actual critique. No depth. Sea can talk (but who can’t these days?) but failed to dissect and properly substantiate claims. Verses used to project Sea’s bias. I am a Christian. I am a feminist. (Ever heard of intersectionality? IT EXISTS EVERYWHERE INCLUDING THE CHURCH). I would assume the common-thread kuthi sonke as feminist is that we are moer-klaar with being policed, why are you policing our choices Sea? This IS a problematic article, it is not inspiring conversation but alienating a whole group of women who are fighting as it is in the church to be counted. I am not stupid Sea, I am not gullible, I am not unthinking and I take seriously the claims you have made at a whim without real thought and consideration; there is a rich and wide history about the church and women- khange uqalise ukufunda nanye incwadi in this effect. I am not a feminist cause you deem that I am; the same way that I am not a Christian because a group of men endorse that I am.

    Come on, the feminist gaze is there to help us realise a world where we do have a voice at work, at home and in the church! To have an article published which alienates abantu is not helpful- it is hard out here as it is. Let us ask questions ngobuKrestu and other belief systems at large, ask questions about space and dominant voices in the church, speak about Bibles and context, bethuna RE-IMAGINATION, this is what feminism is also about!

    Sea, we are fighting feminist gatekeepers as it is out here, these gatekeeprs doing the same thing patriarchy does- police women’s decisions, why are you this person to people who experienced variant forms of oppression even when they pursue spirituality? Ungubani? Wakwabani to do this to us?! I have the right to choose a spiritual belief system, I have a right and the power to fight for my voice to be realised in that space

    Weakly written (fa’real doe), contradictions galore (you cannot quote to women the very verses you find problematic) and because of the lack of depth in this article, we have missed the opportunity to engage women meaningfully, this rant took away from what could have been an emancipatory form of engagement apho women who are oppressed in various belief-systems can find courage in each others stories of victory (believe it or not, we fight in these spaces consciously and strategically and our faiths convict us to do such).

    A scattered rant was entertained. An opportunity was missed.

    In no shape or form is this a critique on this rant, I haven’t even started, read kuqala and then we can have a considered and substantial exchange where we explore the voices of the sub-altern in Christianity and religions at large- now that’s worth talking about.

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  34. This is very one sided- its not even well researched. I am a Christian feminist. The two are not mutually exclusive.

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