In contrast to my last post about femininity, it’s worth addressing feminism, as femininity’s counterpoint. More specifically, modern expressions of feminism tend to be the greatest opposition to authentic and biblical masculinity, which is why I’m writing about this in the first place. But to have a fair discourse on the subject, we must understand that not all feminism can be lumped into one category. That being said, consider the following:
- First Wave Feminism – This started as early as 1848 with the first Women’s Conference in Seneca Falls, riding on the coattails of the abolition of slavery. Its primary focus was toward equalizing legal rights and acquiring the right to vote. This phase lasted through the 1950s.
- Second Wave Feminism – Although the first wave was about very basic legal rights, from 1960-1990 the range of issues opened up drastically. Significant targets that were affected included representation in the workplace (from 24% in 1953 to 76% in 1990), reproductive rights (ex. Roe v. Wade), and a redefining of family roles, such as converting the term “housewife” (which had been around since the 1200s) into “homemaker” in the ’70s and ultimately “stay at home mother” by 1990 – each of these drastically altering the expectations of non-working women and how they related with their husbands and their authority within the household. The crowning achievement of the second wave was the institution of no-fault divorce laws, beginning with California in 1969.
- Third Wave Feminism – Lasting from 1990 until 2008, the feminist goal here was to abolish all gender role expectations and stereotypes, treating men and women as having no appreciable differences. Whereas second wave feminism condemned female involvement in things like pornography and public displays of sexuality, much of the third wave encouraged it, believing it was a sign of women finally embracing their sexuality, as men had already done. The focus became less political and more about transforming individual identity, which carried over into the LGBT movement. There also became an underlying current of female independence – not needing a man to get by. This enhanced and encouraged female promiscuity because monogamous marriage was no longer a goal in and of itself; rather, financial independence and sexual expressiveness took its place.
- Fourth Wave Feminism – From 2008 to the present, feminism now exists predominantly on social media platforms for the uplifting of women and degradation of men. To quote wikipedia, “the internet has created a ‘call-out’ culture, in which sexism or misogyny can be called out and challenged immediately with relative ease” – yet any effort to call out women for misandry (female degradation of men or masculinity) is not tolerated. Any signs of traditional or historical masculinity are shamed as misogyny or otherwise deemed threatening. Social campaigns began gaining traction by using inaccurate or exaggerated slogans that stir up emotional reactions rather than assessing facts. Out-of-context title-shaming (“You’re a sexist!” or “mysogynist!” or “chauvinist pig!”) became the norm for manipulating social behaviors through crowd mentality.
- Fourth wave feminism has also been credited for the rise of the Social Justice Warriors – men who promote socially progressive views in order to win the approval of women. They believe that by supporting the underdog they will be seen as a “hero of the commoner,” earning them admiration from the fairer sex. In short, they exchange or rationalize away genuine critical thought for a boost in their reputation, known as virtue signaling.
What should the Christian think about all of this? The Bible does not take a hard-nosed stance on the viability of some of the early feminist movement. The church’s ability to maintain biblical intergender dynamics is not dependent upon the political climate the church lives in – if the men leading the church are strong enough to function within their own framework of operation apart from political pressures.
In fact, the overall tone of Scripture assumes that Jesus and the apostles never sought political revolution as a means of enacting biblical changes in a society in the first place. So, if the general public wants to stray away from God, we have no imperative to change what they’re doing – our only imperative is to ensure those within the Church continue to live in godliness. That said, there is no prohibition from getting involved in politics, and I imagine God would be well-pleased if someone could enact the ministry of reconciliation (2 Cor. 5:11-21) from the top to make the world a little more as He would prefer.
The problem is that many church leaders throughout America are more concerned with getting people in the door than pursuing godliness. This is why we see so many churches watering down the Gospel, preaching prosperity through faith rather than the cost of being a disciple, and ultimately failing to show any interest in the fulfillment of the great commission itself (which they redefine as “invite someone to church” – i.e. get them in the door).
As noted above, I don’t like to be the one to stand in the way of non-Christians from their sin. I can’t stop non-Christians from sinning. The Bible tells me that everything they do is sin, so stopping one sin only leads to another. Even to that end, I can’t even distinguish what is sin and not. Is a monarchy sinful as compared to a deomcracy? These are political structures that don’t have a moral character. What about feminism or matriarchy as compared to masculism or patriarchy? As Paul says quite boldly in Romans 14:14, “I know and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself, but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean.”
So, from a political landscape perspective, is feminism sinful? No, it’s just an ideology. But if it is implemented in a manner inconsistent with godliness and biblical teaching or done for wrong motives, then yes, it’s sinful. Unfortunately, the modern stereotypical feminist does not appear to be maintaining these attitude from a place of godliness, although I’m sure there are some who can and actually do – at least the best we, as fallen humans, know how.
To that end, I fully embrace first wave feminism and much of the second wave. I start to reject feminism when it left the legal arena and moved into dictating how families should function, as the Bible prescribes this quite clearly. From a political perspective, the world can proceed as it likes. “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15).
MODELS FOR ENACTING CHANGE
With the above in mind, there are two primary models for enacting change, if one does want to respond to the rapidly changing political climate:
This approach says that people follow positional leaders at the top, who have at least the appearance of authority. Because the masses view themselves as powerless to fight the system or are otherwise easily manipulated by marketing and propaganda from the top, the only real way to change the culture of a society on the whole is to transform the leadership so that everyone else will follow. Specifically, through political tactics, social media campaigns, journalism, etc. awareness can be raised to the degradation of masculinity in society, including within the church, and with enough numbers, finances, popular faces, and overall support, leadership will have to take notice and start changing the rules, otherwise people with right views can be elected into leadership to change things from above. When this change from above occurs, society will follow.
Although we don’t see Jesus or the apostles employing this tactic in Scripture, it is certainly a popular one among most Christian organizations. For example, the Christian Legal Society, Alliance Defending Freedom, and International Association for Religious Freedom all target the political sphere in order to effectuate a positive change in the culture for Christians+. Within my own ministry association, the Navigators Church Ministries teaches that the best way to change a church culture into one of disciple-making is to start with the pastor, have him reach the elders, and move on from there.
The alternative to the top-down approach is the discipleship model, which is what we do see Jesus and the apostles employing. It is a very long and difficult process and is often rejected because it does not reap immediate or fast-paced results and often goes so far under the radar in its earliest phases (sometimes intentionally) that it’s hard to see from a logical standpoint how it could ever truly change a culture. The premise is that by reaching one other person, the following year you and that other person can now reach two more, and then it multiplies to 4, then 8, then 16, then 32, then 64, 128, 256, 512, etc. – and after enough time and generations of multiplication, the growing numbers become hard to ignore.
Perhaps the most central aspect of the bottom-up model is that the few who are sold-out on the vision that they want to see enacted at large must be living it out in their own lives. We must be a shining beacon of the model example of what we are asking the rest of the world to do – and we must show them that it works.
Comparing the Two
Where the top-down approach often leads to hollow compliance and external motivators (i.e. people following because they have to), the bottom-up approach leads to dedicated compliance from internal motivators (i.e. people following because they want to and believe in the cause). As a result, proponents of the bottom-up approach believe that this system leads to greater authenticity within the culture and is thus less likely to be uprooted by a sudden change in political climate (which can explain why Christianity has survived throughout countless political movements), whereas the top-down proponents would argue more along the lines of the difficulty of turning around a ship, even from the captain’s chair – and specifically that hollow compliance is better than no compliance at all.
Wherever you fall on the spectrum of how you view feminism or how to enact change, it’s important at least to be moderately informed and to know what social factors are influencing the way you experience life.