I have a confession to make: I used to be a feminist.
You’d never think that if you looked at me now. I willfully submit to the authority of my husband, my pastor and the inerrant Word of God. The thought of being a stay-at-home mother when my husband and I are blessed with children fills me with joy, and I am highly satisfied with the vocation that I have been called to fulfill. So how in the world was I ever a feminist?
Let’s turn back the clock a few years…
It was the Fall of 2011, and I was entering my first year of college at a small Evangelical Christian University in the Midwest. I was young, nervous and impressionable. Never before had I been forced to defend my beliefs, my faith or even what I had in my lunchbox. To put it simply, I had grown up in a bubble of protection. Due to this, I had never come into contact with the harshness of reality and its many challenges. My goals and aspirations were filled with a zeal to help those around me. I was majoring in Music Education with the goal of teaching elementary school students. My hope was to help children discover the same comfort and healing that I had found through music. Actually, it was my over-developed sense of empathy and compassion that became the very snares that entangled me in Feminism in the first place.
With the invention of social media my generation has ditched private journals in favor of exposing their hearts to the entire world. So many of my friends and classmates created blogs to chronicle their struggles and triumphs at college. I felt the need to do the same. I chose the website Tumblr as my platform not knowing that I had just thrown myself wholeheartedly into a feminist stronghold. As I fell down the rabbit hole of Tumblr I was introduced to ideas I had never heard before. Shrodinger’s rapist, the gender pay gap, the evil patriarchy, rape culture, toxic masculinity, fragile masculinity, the glass ceiling, intersectionality, the male gaze, manspreading, mansplaining, the pink tax, safe spaces, LGBTQ+ rights and so on and so forth.
I was appalled at the perceived injustices that went unchecked. How could these things happen in a civilized society? How could I stay silent and not fight when my sisters were actively being oppressed? I had to help. To my credit, I had never heard these arguments or issues before. My parents had never taught me about such things because they weren’t issues we were faced with. My bubble of protection had shielded me from such rhetoric a little too well, and I quickly found myself in an echo chamber.
While I was drinking from the ideological firehose of Tumblr I encountered a completely different sub-sect of feminism at college. This is the hybrid known as Christian Feminism. A majority of my friends at school were just as curious about Feminism and the siren song of Social Justice as I was. In our quest to learn more, we found self-proclaimed Christian Feminists like Jory Micah and Nadia Bolz-Webber. Through them, we learned about the fight to break the stained glass ceiling, the sexism of the Apostle Paul and the abusive men who barred women from the pastoral office. I was hooked. Aside from being pro-life, I considered myself fully aligned with the goals of feminism and nobody could tell me otherwise. And then God sent two men into my life who challenged everything.
When I met Joshua Rosebrough on the dark and dreary night of November 17th, 2013, I had no idea what I was in for. He was funny, charming, witty, handsome and a bit eccentric, but what stood out the most was how confident he was in his convictions. While he showed me he was knowledgeable about Church history and Christian doctrine, he was not entirely familiar with Christian feminism. I quickly realized that he was NOT a feminist, but I was dead set on converting him. I didn’t know it at the time, but my beliefs drove him to plumb the depths of the internet for answers about feminist ideology. During the time we were getting to know one another, he began to ask questions about what it was I believed.
Feminists are not unfamiliar with controversy. Oftentimes those who openly oppose feminism don’t hide their disdain and are usually vying for a fight rather than an open and honest discussion. These interactions become less an intellectual conversation and more like guerrilla warfare. I had become so battle hardened in the trenches of the internet that I had begun to believe that those who opposed feminism had no compassion or love for their neighbor. It was this jaded mindset that left me utterly defenseless when Josh would ask me simple questions. It wasn’t so much the questions themselves that disarmed me but rather the way in which he asked them. He wasn’t trying to win an argument. He wasn’t trying to destroy me. He honestly wanted to know and understand my opinions.
As he continued to learn more behind the scenes his questions became more focused. We had made it a habit of civilly discussing our ideological differences, but then he started asking follow up questions that called everything I thought I knew into question. He had already won my trust and respect so I couldn’t openly dismiss his ideas. I had to defend my ideology, but the more I tried the more holes he poked in it. Before long the pillars of secular feminism began to fall one by one. Yet, I faithfully clung to the tenants of Christian feminism.
As my relationship with Josh grew I found myself regularly joining his family for dinner. I knew that his father, Chris, ran an online Christian radio station where he discussed popular preachers in the evangelical church. However, I had never listened to it myself. Much to my dismay, he would often joke about female pastors and openly refer to them as heretics. I was scandalized. What was worse was that he would quote the writings of the Apostle Paul. Didn’t he know that those were just cultural norms that had long passed their expiration date? How could he be so callous against women who had been called by the Holy Spirit into the ministry? I reluctantly resigned myself to the idea that if I continued to date Josh I would just have to endure his father’s bigotry towards women in ministry. I told myself that it was a small price to pay for a boyfriend who I really liked.
I began to do a little research on Chris Rosebrough and his infamous Fighting for the Faith radio program. The stories he covered seemed so outlandish that I thought they couldn’t be real, but they were. I was hooked. Listening to FFtF became a daily ritual, and the more I listened the more I learned. In the same way that my secular views had been shaken, I found my beliefs regarding Christian feminism being called into question. Time and time again Chris would cite the writings of the Apostle Paul and make the claim that women who called themselves pastors were in direct violation of scripture. The cornerstone of Christian feminism is to forcibly separate the writings of Paul from the ministry of Jesus Christ. Jesus never explicitly forbade women from assuming the holy office of Pastor, but Paul clearly does in 1st Timothy and 1st Corinthians.
Listening to FFtF forced me to question my interpretation of scripture. Was it truly “God-breathed” as Chris loved to claim by citing 2 Timothy? Or was it merely a collection of antiquated writings that had long expired with their authors? The more I questioned certain passages, the more I found that reading to call the rest of Scripture into question as well. I had one of two options. Either it was all true or none of it was true. Chris kept dragging me back to the cross and pointing me to Jesus. I quickly came to understand that the authority of scripture was built upon Christ’s claim to be God in human flesh, a claim that He proved by dying and raising Himself from the grave. Based upon this criteria the only logical choice I could make was to affirm the authority of all scripture. Much to the chagrin of my feminist beliefs, this invariably included the writings of Paul. Since Scripture was inspired by the Holy Spirit, and Christ and the Spirit are part of the same Triune God, I could no longer claim that Christ was silent on the topic of female pastors.
My brain now knew that women couldn’t be Pastors, but my sinful heart continued to rebel. Why would God allow women to feel the call of ministry if they were never meant to be Pastors? How could He allow them to be hurt like this? In my confusion and anger over this issue I decided not to ask either of the Rosebrough men for guidance. I needed to discover the answer on my own. I scoured the internet for resources on this subject. Podcasts, books, articles and lectures began to consume my free time. I was starving for the truth. Eventually, I stumbled upon the doctrine of vocation as understood by Lutherans. This was my breaking point.
So much of evangelicalism is built upon the idea that good works done unto neighbors must be a grand gesture. People are constantly told to “change the world” through their works. Dig wells in Africa, build houses in Mexico, feed orphans in India and so on. What often ends up happening is that the immediate neighbors you’ve been called to serve around you are forgotten. While digging wells in Africa is legitimately a good work for your neighbor, it is wrongfully conflated as the best work you can do.
It was in this same line of teaching that I was made to believe that your feelings dictated to you what your calling or “Purpose” in life would be. I heard all kinds of lessons telling me that what you enjoyed and were naturally gifted with would show you God’s path for your life. Conversely, the Lutheran podcasts were saying that your neighbors determined your vocation. It went a little something like this. Do you have parents? Serve them respectfully and honor them as their son or daughter. Do you have a husband? Serve him faithfully as his wife. Do you have a wife? Serve her lovingly as her husband. Do you have children? Serve them by caring for their needs as their parent.
What’s even more beautiful is that the scriptures clearly outline what those vocations entail. Suddenly the path before me was clear. I didn’t have to travel to far off lands or magically pick the right career path to fulfill a shadowy dream destiny. I could serve my neighbor every day in a million different ways because my neighbor was already in my home.
Throughout my study of vocations I came to the realization that men and women have had very different vocations from the beginning of creation. Nowhere was this more clear than in the account of the Fall. When sin entered the world God did not give the same punishments to our first parents. Adam, like all men to follow, was cursed with toil and work, but Eve was cursed differently. Most people only remember half of Eve’s curse, namely the pain of childbirth, but she was also told that her desire would be to rule over her husband, but that he would be her lord. This difference in curse opened my eyes to a new possibility that my feminist ideals had never allowed me to consider. If men and women are cursed differently, then perhaps we are called differently as well.
As Christians, we are all called to die to our sinful flesh and serve our neighbor, but with different curses the sinful desires of men and women are different too. A man may sin against his neighbor and family by shirking his responsibility to teach and instruct them in the faith, but a woman can sin against her neighbors by taking that responsibility upon herself. Not only does she enable the man’s sin when she usurps his place, she is also succumbing to her sinful desire to rule over her husband. Instead, the woman who wishes to serve her neighbor dies to her sinful desire for power and influence, and then calls the men around her to fulfill their God-given vocation even though it is difficult.
Armed with this new understanding of vocation, I began to ask myself what the vocation of Pastor would entail. Thankfully I found again that I could turn to the Scriptures for the clear definition. 1 Timothy tells us that a Pastor “must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money.” While there are many women today who could easily meet many of these standards, no woman could ever be the “Husband of one wife,” regardless of what the world proclaims. If this passage wasn’t damning enough to the ideology of Christian feminism then 1 Corinthians 14:33-35 mercilessly drove the point home:
This passage is nothing short of kryptonite for Christian feminist doctrine. Rationally, this clear text should clear up any and all arguments on the matter, but the mental gymnastics of post-modernity knows no limits. Inspired by the Holy Spirit, Paul easily refuted the modern argument that this mandate was nothing more than a cultural norm. The one phrase that so many pastors conveniently skip over are the words “As in all the churches of the saints…” This singular phrase was the final nail in the coffin. My argumentation that a woman’s desire to be a Pastor was God given was obliterated. A woman becoming a Pastor is nothing short of her succumbing to the curse in Genesis and blatantly disregarding Paul’s clear teachings.
Feminism claims that it doesn’t hate men but spent an awful lot of time telling me that everything wrong in the world was a direct result of their actions. I was told to be independent, and in my independence show the world that I didn’t need patriarchs in my life. I was told that they would domineer and control my life. Yet, thanks to these two patriarchs, I was saved from Christian feminism. They were kind. They were gentle. They lovingly told me the truth and showed me the grace and mercy of Jesus where I had none before.
Not a day goes by that I don’t thank God for this patriarchy.