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Anti-Christian Feminism is Anti-Third-World Feminism

By Mary Morgan
March 8, 2018


As an asexual, feminist Christian I find myself caught in the intersection of conflicting identities. There are no stop signs at this intersection. It’s every woman for herself. I feel I don’t belong in the LGBTQ+ community because of how sexualized and anti-God it truly is, or in the feminist community since my religious beliefs are often seen as the cause of patriarchy, or sometimes even in the Christian community because I feel that I have to hide my other identities. I was always taught that feminism was evil and that God was really the only one who cared about the plight of women. But if God cared about sexism, didn’t that make Him a feminist? And if He was my moral compass, and He said feminism was evil, I wasn’t sure I could believe that His morals were truly just or even logical. I was never taught to read the Bible for myself and was only fed the most sexist of interpretations. I started to resent my roots and distance myself from Christians. I realized I needed to reconcile my faith with my feminism: either they had to agree, or one had to go, and this wasn’t something I could do in the company of other Christians. I read the Bible for myself, by myself, and when I had questions, I did my own research instead of relying on the interpretations of people I knew. I decided to learn Hebrew and Greek, and I read other Jewish texts and historical commentaries from Christians and non-Christians alike. I researched feminist theories and set out to define it in a better way than the bra-burning anarchy and chick fights that were described to me as a child. It was then that I discovered Third World Feminism: a response to Western feminism which uses an appropriate cultural lens to see the agencies women have within their own culture. The Bible says nothing about feminism, for obvious reasons, but it says a lot about women and the oppression they face. At its roots, Christianity is not a Western religion, so it cannot be interpreted correctly through Western feminism. Objections raised against Christianity and its Jewish history look at five main aspects of the Bible: the curse, the law, the leadership, the gospel, and the kingdom. To accept these objections is to deny the agency of Christian women everywhere.

The Curse:

When I first met Trevor Petty, a Christian whom I think truly embodies all that a Christ follower should be, I started a study with him based in the first three chapters of Genesis [1]. In the first two chapters, we see the perfect harmony and intimacy between God, humanity, and creation.  But in chapter three the condition of humanity takes a turn for the worse into a lifetime of shame, fear, and guilt; their actions bring upon them a curse of suffering, oppression, toil, and death. This is the beginning of human oppression, especially sexism. It should be noted that this curse is not a reflection of God’s original intent for humanity. Historians often differentiate between texts as descriptive, describing how things are, and prescriptive, prescribing how things ought to be. The curse of Genesis three is descriptive, describing what is going to happen to humanity, but does not show that these results are God’s desire for humanity. To illustrate this, before the presence of God departs from humanity, He also leaves them with an important promise of when things will be fixed, one we’ll see more clearly illustrated in the gospel portion.

The Law:

Some laws from the old testament seem to have obvious inhumanity. For example, a woman was expected to marry her rapist (Deuteronomy 22:28-29). But this law isn’t as simple as it sounds. Women who were not virgins were not seen as suitable for marriage, but because they lived in a society even more patriarchal than our own where they could not earn a living or own property the way women of today can, women without a male caretaker were vulnerable to poverty, starvation, and further oppression. Furthermore, other societies at this time had no laws that functioned to hold a rapist accountable to the woman. Some required fines to be paid, but it was rarely used to sustain the woman’s livelihood. This law had dual functions of ensuring the woman’s livelihood and to hold a man responsible for making this restitution, thus curbing the likelihood that a man would get away with rape with no consequences. This marriage was to be his life sentence of providing for the woman he wronged. God also has other seemingly strange laws meant to curb animal cruelty and mistreatment of foreigners, and to promote sustainability and hospitality, causes often taken on by feminists.

In her 1984 book, Feminist author and professor Dr. Trible names four Biblical narratives  “The Texts of Terror.” These passages tell of the cruel fates of Hagar, Tamar, the unnamed concubine, and the daughter of Jephthah. Seeking to “[highlight] the silence, absence, and opposition of God, as well as human cruelty,” Trible misses some vital information. Hagar was spoken to directly by God, an honor normally reserved only for the priests, and He provided for her needs and preserved her livelihood (Genesis 16; 21:8-21). Tamar eventually brought her own persecutor to justice and was considered righteous because of it (Genesis 38:26) and even remembered in the genealogy of Jesus (Matthew 1:3). All four were remembered in the oral tradition and later the text of the Bible. Hanna Gaddini, writer for the Junia Project, a Christian feminist publication, says, “The fact that these women occupy the same space in the Bible as the renowned patriarchs reminds me that our God not only invites the broken to be an essential element in God’s redemptive narrative, but God demands that the abused be remembered and honored as an essential element necessary for redemption.”

The Leadership:

One popular criticism of the Bible is that it is written by men, about men, and therefore, mostly for men. However, the Bible has plenty of female characters held in high regard and shown fulfilling leadership roles. Among them are Jael, who stabbed a man through the temple with a tent peg to save her people, Esther and Ruth, each of whom take their own book among the minor prophets and are well known for dismantling the patriarchal oppression of their times, and Junia, Priscilla, and Pheobe, who were all friends and co-leaders with Paul in the New Testament. Many Biblical scholars believe that the book of Hebrews was written by one of these three women and that her identity was kept a secret so her writings would be taken seriously by her Hebrew audience. Even when women are seemingly barred from leadership and ministry and commanded to practice modesty (1 Timothy 2:9-12), it is merely to maintain respect within the cultures of ancient Greece and to promote humility. The application of this passage is not meant to take away the private rights of women, such as authority in their own homes. We know that this is not a blanket statement from Paul to Timothy because of the women he associated with and led alongside.

The Gospel:

During my study with Trevor Petty, I learned that Jesus’ primary work prior to His crucifixion was to demonstrate the love of God by restoring the harmony between God, humanity, and nature. At several points, Jesus directly confronts systems of oppression against women (Mark 5; Luke 7; John 8). Jesus also regularly associates with women, a practice not common among men in ancient Judaism, especially unmarried rabbis. Among these women are several named Mary, and a Samaritan woman, who would typically be hated by a devout Jew. Jesus also shows authority over nature and uses this authority to provide a glimpse of a restored harmony between humanity and nature.

Conclusion: The Kingdom

Often Christians who accept that God cares about the oppression of his creation and the people He seeks to draw into a relationship, still hesitate to act upon these beliefs. Many believe that the harmony of human existence will only be restored after the second coming of Christ, and, consequently, we can’t do anything to ease human suffering this side of heaven. I believe this is a gross misinterpretation of the Gospel. Jesus leaves His followers an important task to carry out in the time they await His return: to advance the Kingdom. Many take this in a militaristic sense, an idea which has led to such atrocities as the Crusades, the promotion of slavery in the United States, and the rise of antisemitism in Europe. But the Bible makes clear in Ephesians 6:12 that this is not the nature of our mission. Our fight is against systems of power, against institutional oppression, against evil forces that have corrupted the world since the day of the curse. When we stop viewing other people as our enemies, we have no room for the genocides carried out in the name of God in the last 2000 years. I propose an alternative interpretation.

We know that humanity is deeply flawed, and apart from Christ we can do nothing (John 15:5) but we also know that when we are in Him and we ask according to His will, it will be done (John 15:7). We know that Christ has all authority and that He offers that authority to help us draw people into a relationship with Him (Matthew 28:18-20). We’ve examined that humanity was created to live in harmony, not oppression, that God set laws in place to curb the oppression humans inflicted on one another, and that the work of His followers and ultimately of His own Son was to reverse this curse to restore humanity to a state of harmony with God and each other. 1 John 2:6 tells us to behave like Christ, and if we have all the authority of Christ on our side, we ought to be confident and driven to make a difference in the lives of the people around us. If the Word of the Lord is living and active (Hebrews 4:12), we have no reason not to apply its principles of love and caring for others even in the modern, western culture.


Gaddini, Hannah. 2018. "Seeing Myself in the Texts of Terror." The Junia Project. November 12. Accessed 03 08, 2019. https://juniaproject.com/seeing-myself-in-the-texts-of-terror/

Petty, Trevor. 2018. Strange Revolution: Exploring the Life of Jesus. Wander Home Publishing Company.

Trible, Phyllis. 1984. Texts of Terror. New York City: Fortress Press.

[1] The study that I did with Trevor Petty is not published by itself because much of the study is an oral tradition and uses minimal notes, however many of the concepts discussed in this study and used in this paper can also be found in his book Strange Revolution: Exploring the Life of Jesus.

Disclaimer: The opinion expressed in each article is the opinion of its author and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the PUGS editors, Gender Studies program, or UNC. Therefore, PUGS e-zine carries no responsibility for the opinion expressed thereon.