The modern cultural concerns of women erupted with the January Women’s March. Many of those were outlined in a popular article in Yes! Magazine. The article resonated so deeply with today's women that it was widely shared across all the major social media properties. What about those specific concerns? Does Christianity address the concerns voiced at the march and in this article? Does the Bible help us understand where those concerns originate? Does God’s word answer them at all?
Part One: Apologetics for Women
It’s true that sometimes the way these concerns are voiced, and the ways we address them, are flawed. But that’s a different issue. Regardless of how the concern makes it way to our ears, the God who created us in his image is the spring from which many of these concerns first flow. And he has something to say about them.
In fact, many of the concerns aired in the popular Yes! Magazine piece have a counter-part in scripture. Let's look at three of the grievences in particular.
Health Care and Reproductive Rights
Many women are concerned that political leaders will gut health care and that women will lose autonomy over their bodies. Will women have access to birth control under a Trump administration? Would funding be cut to Planned Parenthood?
Underneath the variety of concerns over reproductive rights lies a long standing truth—in our broken world, women have often been left on their own with the consequences of the sexual act with a man. Before 1975, a woman had no legal recourse financially if a man walked away from his responsibilities toward a child he helped conceive. And before women won the right to vote in western countries around the early twentieth century, they had no say whatsoever in legislation that regularly affected them.
Many women see personal autonomy as the only answer to the abuses and misuses of women over the years in male-dominated societies. And they don’t see this administration as an advocate for their autonomy.
The Bible recognizes well the real abuse and misuse of women throughout history.
Take the story of Hagar. Hagar was sexually misused by Abraham and Sarah and then discarded by them afterwards. Yet, God saw Hagar, and she named him for that watchfulness. Genesis 16:13 says, “So she named the Lord who spoke to her: ‘You are El-roi,’ for she said, ‘In this place, have I actually seen the one who sees me?’”
The God who created humanity in his image didn’t create Hagar, or any woman, to be subservient to the whims of male society. But he also didn’t create women to operate in full independence of the men in their lives. God didn’t create us for autonomy; he created us to depend on one another. But most of all, he created us to depend on Him—a submission that women concerned with the abuse and misuse of our sex can trust.
We see proof of God’s watchfulness over misused and abused women in Hagar’s story. Her abuse wasn’t the result of God’s created purposes but of the Fall of Man that broke the world and marred humanity. God provided for her when she was left on her own, unable to provide for herself and her son. God later spoke laws that would protect women in our fallen world from being abused as Hagar was.
While God doesn’t support either men’s or women’s complete physical, spiritual, or sexual autonomy, he is the one who first taught the full humanity of women and how they deserve equal human dignity and rights. He was the first to speak laws into existence protecting women from sexual abuse. He is the one who watches over those of us who submit ourselves to him, in cultures that recognize the full humanity of women as well as those that do not.
After the election, I posted what I called “30 Days of Social Justice” on my Facebook page. I needed to sit for a while simply in God’s word, meditating on what he thought about the poor and marginalized, the disabled and immigrant. I have been a Christian since childhood and studied the Bible on a regular basis since youth, yet I was still struck by the wealth of specific instructions from God on the rights of the immigrant along with the care of the poor that I had never noticed before. Things like this:
“When a foreigner lives with you in your land, you must not oppress him. You must regard the foreigner who lives with you as the native-born among you. You are to love him as yourself, for you were foreigners in the land of Egypt; I am Yahweh your God.”
“If your brother becomes destitute and cannot sustain himself among you, you are to support him as a foreigner or temporary resident, so that he can continue to live among you. Do not profit or take interest from him, but fear your God and let your brother live among you. You are not to lend him your silver with interest or sell him your food for profit. I am Yahweh your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt to give you the land of Canaan and to be your God.”
Bear one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ.
As for government’s role in care for the poor, Paul tells us in Romans 13:4 that “government is God’s servant for your good.” Cries for a government that protects the poor, the marginalized, and the immigrant are not foreign to the one true God but actually find their origins in his character.
Learn to do what is good.
Correct the oppressor.
Defend the rights of the fatherless.
Plead the widow’s cause.
Woe to those enacting crooked statutes
and writing oppressive laws
to keep the poor from getting a fair trial
and to deprive the afflicted among my people of justice,
so that widows can be their spoil
and they can plunder the fatherless.
What will you do on the day of punishment
when devastation comes from far away?
Our cries for social justice are founded on the one true God who created all humanity in his image as well. There are several moments in the New Testament (Acts 2; Galatians 2:11–14) when scripture shows that the alienation of races as a result of sin is reconciled in Jesus Christ.
There is no Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
It is a Christian’s great hope for humanity that every language and race will be united in heaven worshiping God for eternity.
After this I looked, and there was a vast multitude from every nation, tribe, people, and language, which no one could number, standing before the throne and before the Lamb.
Read Part Three
When we find ourselves among women whose heart resonates with concerns over autonomy, immigration, and racial justice, we should listen and then point to the God of the Bible. Read together how he created the world in beauty and perfection in Genesis 1 and 2, including the strong helper-warrior first woman. Then mourn the destruction when sin entered the world in Genesis 3, a nuclear blast of harm whose fallout we still experience. Finally, meet Jesus in the Gospels. He is the bridge over the gulf between what God created us to be and enjoy in perfection and our current reality. He is the “exact representation” of the character of our God (Hebrews 1:3), and he brings us the hope of a different future neither government nor ourselves can accomplish on our own.
The Bible speaks clearly on the issues that capture the concern of many of today’s women. And what it has to say points back to the God who is trustworthy with our cares and concerns.
Cover image by Jerry Kiesewetter.
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