Photo courtesy of Max Pixel | Throughout the history of Christianity women have been protrayed as sources of evil and distraction from men living a pure life as Christians. Copy Editor Sylvia Chemweno argues that this view of women in the Church is contradictory to the message of Christianity and explains why her religious beliefs and her political beliefs are not independent from one another.
As a feminist, I will say that my faith plays a big role in my activism. It is through my faith that I believe that every person should be treated with equal respect and have their human dignity valued without being discriminated against because of their identities.
I was raised as a Pentecostal Christian. Going to church as a child, it was really interesting learning the biblical stories, and I would be lying if I didn’t say those stories motivated me to go church. Among these are the story of creation, Abraham, Lot and Samson. These stories are about men of God and evil women, women who tempted the men into sinning against God.
And as I grew up, I came to learn many biblical verses that portrayed women as evil and inferior. This understanding came through going to church sermons where the preachers would justify their beliefs that women are inferior, because God created man before woman and then would fail to explain the other two accounts of creation. The funny thing is that a preacher said a woman was made from a man’s rib, which is why women have more ribs than men. I felt so stupid when I realized that we all have the same number of ribs. This is just one example of many misinterpretations of the Bible that promote misogyny and patriarchy.
Having all these teachings undermine my existence and value as a woman, I questioned what kind of God would create human beings and say they look equal before His eyes and then make me feel less valued? What kind of God would say I (as a human being) am created in His image and then would also justify me being treated as inferior because of my gender? What kind of God would call me to share the Good News to the world and also say I should not speak in the church?
These questions, along with many others, made me question what I was taught in church. I questioned the church’s doctrines, and I became more aware of sexism in the church, how the Bible is used as a tool to perpetuate women’s oppression, encourage rape culture, foster toxic masculinity and preserve gender-based violence.
This contradicted the other teachings I learned about Jesus (my favorite activist), who happened to be the role model to “all” Christians. Jesus taught against injustices. My understanding of Jesus’ teachings was so different from what most preachers taught. So I started to concentrate on his teachings and the stories of women in the Bible like Deborah, who was a judge and is my inspiration when it comes to my interest in leadership, Esther and so many more.
When I started to become vocal in my feminism, some friends asked me if I was still a Christian. What fascinates me is that my advocacy to treat people with respect and dignity can be used to question my Christian faith. I do what I do because of my spiritual beliefs. It is because of my Christianity that I am a feminist – not the other way around.
My feminism is not independent of my spirituality. I am not an expert in theology, nor am I a preacher, but one thing that I believe is that God created me for a purpose that is not going to be limited by my gender. I also believe God gave me wisdom to discern what is wrong and the courage to speak out against inequality of any kind, including gender inequality. For me, this is a shallow explanation of Christianity and feminism because there are so many sexist beliefs deeply rooted into the Christian faith that require us to demolish and redefine what it means by saying we were created in God’s image.
Sylvia Chemweno is a senior biology major and copy editor for the Newswire. from Iten, Kenya.