A Christian Theologian’s Perspective on Feminism By David Buhrow

The following is a guest post written by David Buhrow,MA, Theology Instructor at Notre Dame College.

I am a Christian. Not a “Catholic” Christian or a “Protestant” Christian, just a Christian. I spent most of my early life thinking we (Christians) were making a fairly good effort doing what Jesus would do. I never thought much about this whole feminism thing until I happily, discovered that my firstborn was a girl. Then, everything changed. This little one, this new life, arrived into our world and our world was not ready for her. At the prospect and the potential of her venturing into the world and being able to discover everything for the first time, I found myself frightened and grieved by the ill-fated history of women and the little that the Church has done to resolve the problem. My once ideal and naive understanding of Christianity as being liberating and freeing was dashed to pieces in the hopes of my daughter finding a place in this world and within my Christian faith.

I cannot understand how we have come so far in “Christendom” just to learn that we have not yet begun to “fight the good fight.” When you read the Gospels, you quickly learn that Jesus was a Liberator. He sought to liberate anyone and everyone to free us from each other and ourselves. Paul quoted in Galatians a primal Christian baptismal creed that cries out for freedom and liberation: “There is no Jew or non-Jew, slave or free, male and female.” In this he saved the best for last. He doesn’t say “male or female” as if we should be identifying the differences within Christianity, but “male and female” identifying the unity within our diversity. Paul later writes a series of epistles and letters that seem to have forgotten the basic principles that he allegedly set forth in the Letter to the Galatians. 1 Corinthians 15 mentions a myriad of “witnesses” to the resurrection of Jesus Christ without ne’er a mention of a female. But, when we look back to the 4 canonical (i.e. chosen by men at the leading of god) Gospels, that are supposed to be foundational to our faith, the women were the first and some of the only witnesses to Jesus’ posthumous physical appearances. The men were gone, scared away from Jerusalem, in abstentia, AWOL, missing. Hence, Jesus in his resurrected condition, after enduring hours of debilitating torture and death, and then a shocking-to-the-system resurrection, had to travel on foot all the way to Galilee to “find” his disciples who were “hiding” some 65 miles away.

Due to the fateful fact that the number of literate men outnumbered that of literate women in first century Palestine, the men ruled the day in Christianity. The Christian Bible was written and edited and chosen by men and the Christian women were ghettoized to the nurseries and kitchens and choir lofts of our faith. The liberating sayings of Jesus were deemphasized and replaced by an emphasis on what Jesus would do. This immediately marginalized all women because Jesus was a male (which the church continues to use as argument for male priests) and it alienates most of us because Jesus was thought to be perfect which becomes less and less of a possibility as the history of the world “progresses”.  We still have not figured out how to act on the sayings of Jesus which are all inclusive and have unfortunately traded them in for a “What Would Jesus Do?” theology which alienates and/or marginalizes us all.

How does Christianity recover from this? Feminist ideas and ideals about freedom and liberation should be the norm not the combatant, defiant form of contemporary Christian theology. Christians should be doing the true, honest and honorable, just, pure, lovely and good acts that are so simply spoken in the sayings of Jesus. (Philippians 4) We should be able to talk about god and theology without getting into a deeply heated discussion about marginalized people. I should not have to be concerned about what is in the future of my wife and daughters within the limits of Christianity. And it should not be necessary to write articles like this.

Categories: Christianity, Feminism, Scripture, Theology

Tags: , , , ,

3 replies

  1. AMEN!!!!


  2. Dear David,
    Congratulations on your baptism into feminist theology and equally your catharsis about patriarchy. To be able to view the world from the perspective of your new daughter (and wife I assume) must come with some anxiety about their future with regards to safety, health, reproduction, sexuality, education, employment, and of course their religion (to name a few).

    I see you teach at a Catholic college. I’m wondering how your epiphany into feminism will shape your teaching? It matters little what subject is taught in theology, one can always bring women to the forefront as subject and not object. As you so insightfully stated, women have been there from the beginning in all areas of formation, from deacons, presbyters, teachers, visionaries and healers.

    I hope your concern translates to your students, female as well as male through the dynamic field of feminist theology.

    Blessings on your journey!


  3. David, I love your thoughts. Thank you so much for articulating them. I have heard from more than one man that they became feminists or pro-feminists the day their baby daughters were born. People like you give me hope!


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