Like many Christian girls, I was raised to believe that the feminist movement was wrong.
Feminism was portrayed to me as a way for liberal, non-Christian women to hate men and praise abortions. Feminists were said to be women who don’t understand God’s natural order, who refuse to accept patriarchy as God’s sovereign design for humanity – nothing more than a group of non-submissive women who don’t know their limitations or how to stay in their “place” within their families and within society.
And so I didn’t identify as a feminist. I didn’t want to be “one of those” women. The ones who didn’t fall in line and do all the right things. I wanted to be a good Christian girl.
But there was a problem.
From a young age, I couldn’t make peace with how I saw women silenced, controlled, abused. Unable to think independently or make important decisions for themselves. And in the church, told they had no leadership abilities, couldn’t work in ministry, couldn’t teach men.
It didn’t make sense to me. I felt at war with my faith and with my personal convictions regarding a woman’s purpose. My own religion made me feel limited and small, made it seem as if my dreams were my own, not from God.
And for awhile, I lived my life guarding my heart from the Lord. Not trusting Him fully because I didn’t believe that I was as valued by Him as a woman. Believing that I had to choose between being a Proverbs 31 woman or living out the dreams that were like a fire inside of me. Frustrated that the things that I felt like I was born to do seemingly contradicted what I was told was Biblical womanhood.
But as I got older, I knew that I couldn’t continue serving God this way. I couldn’t keep pretending that I was free, that I felt valued, when the truth was that I didn’t think God treasured me as much as He did the men.
So I went on my own search for the truth. It wasn’t enough anymore for me to know that I was included in the people He died for. I needed to know specifically how He regarded me as a female. What was God’s heart for me? What did He have to say about how women are treated, the abuse that women experience while it’s being justified by scripture?
“Lord, let me see the truth”, I prayed.
As I read the Gospels over and over again, one thing was evident – these women loved Jesus. They didn’t just enjoy His company, they adored Him. They were devoted to Him and desired His time. They were committed to serving Him and being near Him.
Why? Why would they feel that way about a man who supposedly didn’t value their place in this world?
Because never in their lives had they known a man like Jesus.
Jesus wasn’t scared of the cultural barriers and divides of that time. He wasn’t afraid of meeting women exactly where they were, looking them in the eye, and speaking directly to them.
He loved without pressuring, He taught without condescension. He didn’t patronize or belittle the women for their lack of knowledge. There was never shame or condemnation but rather an introduction to a better way. In a time and culture where women were invisible and unimportant, Jesus allowed them to participate in the redemptive work of the Kingdom and showed them the power of resurrection. He didn’t treat them differently from the men and desired greatly to heal and set them free.
Jesus showed women their worth while at the same time drawing them to a deeper place in Him, never viewing them as too weak and never limiting their purpose to serving the men, but rather offering them a seat at the very table they had always been excluded from.
His love was revolutionary and freeing.
Oh how this truth wrecked my heart. Jesus wasn’t bothered by man-made limitations and exclusive circles. He couldn’t be constrained by cultural norms. He was a Savior who thought that women were people too.
And this is who He still is. The same yesterday, today, and forever.
Jesus made me a feminist.
Many would be surprised to know that the first feminist movement began by Christian women as a response to slavery, child labor, domestic violence, and poverty. They desired to see women have the ability to live freely and support themselves and their children financially during times of social and economic upheaval. But beyond fighting for just the rights of women, these feminists believed that all human beings should be treated with dignity and honor and equality. They worked as ministers of reconciliation – founding social services agencies, rescuing slaves, and advocating for the very rights that I get to enjoy today.
But like all good things, the enemy has taken feminism and has twisted it into something it was never meant to be : a war between pro-life and pro-choice values.
I am a Christian. I am a feminist. And I am fiercely pro-life.
And there are many people who don’t think that I can identify as pro-life and as a feminist. They believe that my pro-life stance sets women back centuries, and therefore they aren’t interested in marching along side of me as we continue the fight for equality for all people. They are self-imposed gatekeepers who don’t think I belong in this redemptive movement.
They stand on the value of choice until that choice is different from their own.
That’s not pro-woman, that’s pro-agenda.
But there are also many people who call themselves pro-life but don’t seem to have a regard for all human life.
That’s not pro-life, that’s pro-birth.
I believe in the sanctity of life from conception to death. And I think it’s our job as Christians to protect the value and integrity of all human life – from the unborn to the refugees fleeing war and terror, from the impoverished families to the child stuck in the foster care system, from the homeless to the immigrant, from the wrongfully imprisoned to the guilty sitting on death row.
We shouldn’t identify as pro-life if all we want is for children to be born. We should also desire for all humans to have access to all the things that should be considered fundamental human rights – food, clothing, shelter, education, protection, and healthcare.
Oh how I want to see abortion ended in my generation. More than anything do I desire to see the day that babies are no longer extinguished before they take their first breath.
But for those of us who call ourselves pro-life, the banning of refugees should also break our hearts. The number of children in foster care should make us sick. We should hit our knees over sex-trafficking, homelessness, families torn apart, domestic violence, marital rape, war and torture, lack of appropriate healthcare for the disabled and the mentally ill.
Our pro-life stance should include concern for all human life. Even the lives that don’t look like ours. Even the lives that scare us.
I am a feminist because of my pro-life ethic, not in spite of it.
And so I don’t fit in anywhere. I’m too liberal for the conservatives and too conservative for the liberals. I’m somewhere in the middle, trying to find balance in the tension and hold to my conviction that the Kingdom of God transcends our two-party system and talking points and the politicizing of people’s suffering.
And I know I’m not the only one.
There are other women out there who believe that you can fight for women’s rights while at the same time advocating for the unborn. Women who understand that feminism means championing the dignity of all life, including life inside the womb.
We are women who aren’t afraid to use our collective and prophetic voices to speak to the end of abortion but also to defend the marginalized.
We are feet-washers and cheek-turners and advocates for the vulnerable.
We are pro-life feminists. And our marching orders have always been the same:
seek justice, love mercy, walk humbly
And no matter how hard they try, the gatekeepers can’t keep us out. We will continue to rise up and march together as ministers of reconciliation, like the women who came before us, protecting the value and integrity of all human life.