I grew up in a Christian family and went to Christian schools for most of life. Both of my parents teach Bible study. Every Sunday, I’d be woken up early to go to church, sing Christian songs and hear the word of God spoken from the mouths of pastors who supposedly knew more or better than we did.
I hated it.
While growing up I was unable to reconcile the beliefs I had inside with what was preached to me. Nobody could explain to me that creation, as depicted in the Bible, was not the scientific explanation and that they were not incongruent. Women did not have access to leadership positions within the Church I went to, and in my head this translated to them – us – being treated as second-class citizens. The church I attended, and still do attend when I go home, is extremely queerphobic. It also has a mission focus, with members raising money to fund their voluntourism trips overseas, where they would spread the Word and seek out social media photo opportunities.
It was only when I moved away from home at the age of 15 and, for the first time, could examine my faith in newfound independence, that I truly choose to be a Christian.
On campus, I am known as a proud feminist, one who stands for equality strongly and proudly. I am queer, I am an activist, and I pride myself on being analytical, logical and rational. When people become aware that I am a Christian, however, they are often surprised. But I do not see these two aspects of my identity as separate or incompatible at all. In fact, it is because of God that I am a feminist.
From the teachings of the Bible, it is clear that Jesus was a feminist. Throughout His life, as detailed in Scripture, He empowered women and those without privileged backgrounds; He worked towards the equal treatment of all, which was something completely against the culture of the time. He fed the hungry, valued those with disabilities, and condemned the treasuring of earthly belongings and those who protected their wealth instead of helping others.
Furthermore, contrary to the beliefs of many, women are not considered lesser than men in the Bible. Some Christians interpret Eve being called a “helper suitable for” Adam in Genesis 2:18 (NIV) as an instruction that women should be considered lesser to men, and as subservient to them. But the word helper – “ezer” in Hebrew – is used far more frequently to describe God. It has no implication of servitude, but rather, implies valuable and vital strength.
Another common misconception is that God is a divine being with the characteristics of a man, which is the result of God often being referred to with the pronouns ‘He/Him/His. Personally, I conform and refer to the Holy Trinity as “God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit”. This is because I have not come across any alternatives that seem organic in their use, and it also enables me to easily engages with Christians I am not familiar with. Despite this, I see the interpretation of God being gendered as a man as incredibly patriarchal. The very idea that we could fit the Lord, God Almighty, into boxes of earthly characteristics and social constructs such as gender is, in my opinion, plainly demeaning. He transcends our understanding and the limitations of human gender and sexuality. Interestingly, while “He” in Hebrew as used in the Bible has grammatical gender, which is not an indicator of God having an actual gender, the Holy Spirit, or “Ruach Elohim”, is actually a feminine noun in Hebrew.
The actions of and the messages conveyed by the Church are incompatible with what I know of Christ, from my journey and study of the Bible. In so many ways the Church has failed miserably in being the essence of Christianity and upholding the teachings of God, with the Scripture so often being used to justify the mistreatment of others. I still try and attend church as I believe fellowship is important, but I do think it is vital that Christians do their own devotions to never stay stagnant in their faith, and continually question and grow in their knowledge of God instead of merely following what the doctrine their church teaches.
I believe in God because He has touched every experience I have had in this world. He has been there through my struggles with my mental and physical illnesses, in questioning and coming to terms with my romantic orientation, through family and personal crises, and in the moments of joy and success I have had in my life – only God has been through it all with me.
Being a feminist, for me, isn’t a political statement. It’s about basic human decency. And although the Church sometimes seems to forget it, Christianity is a feminist religion – and without it I would be nothing. Do not let the failings of humanity, and the Church, steer you away from God and the Christian religion. For God, I would argue, is the fiercest feminist of all.