It’s probably not good Christian decorum to admit this. But decorum isn’t really my thing anyway.
For a time in my life, I genuinely thought God was the worst. There, I said it.
I never doubted he was real and active in this world, but with every ounce of my angry heart I doubted his goodness.
I resented God for making injustice his standard. I saw him siding with the powerful and forgetting the marginalized, and I resented him for it. I recognized inconsistency in a God who would create women to subjugate them.
For much of my life, I viewed God as preferential, legalistic, and distant. But I still accepted that God, even though my place in “his” hierarchy made me feel less than.
I held onto my faith through high school, just barely. I rationalized. I took deep breaths, counted to ten, and exhaled. I bit my lip and clenched my fits. I was silent. I tried to trust God, while simultaneously believing he didn’t want me.
There were still a lot of things I loved about God. But over time, it became steadily more difficult to reconcile my love for God with his rejection of me. Patriarchal theology had forged a one-way relationship in which I could love God, but he couldn’t possibly love me.
In my second year of college, I became a feminist. I found hope for women in secular feminism that I’d missed in Christianity. For the first time, I felt validated, empowered, and wholly human. I was welcomed and honored, invited and celebrated, heard and acknowledged.
I would later realize that there was hope for women in Christianity, but it had been obscured by unbiblical teachings on gender. I want to emphasize this fact. I, a seeker of God and long-time member of the body of Christ, did not find hope in Christianity as a woman. I “walked out” spiritually, because patriarchal theology presented a God that loved men, but merely tolerated women.
For a time, I was fulfilled in my feminist ideology. It seemed to have all the answers. And I didn’t have to fight for recognition of my full humanity anymore. I was among people who already accepted my right to stand beside them.
But there was still something missing. There were things I eventually realized that feminism could not give me. It could not fulfill my soul-longing for meaning and purpose. It could not grant human beings sacred dignity the way that being created in the image of God does. It could not call me to sacrifice beyond good will. It could not make me love people the way God designed them to be loved. It could not redeem and restore like Christ does.
Faith in Jesus could command and change me in ways that feminism could not. I realized, after a year of trying to convince myself that it wasn’t so, that I needed God. I needed the God of the Bible who raised up the unlikely and powerless. I needed the Jesus of the New Testament who let invisible women into his very public world. I needed the Holy Spirit who inspired Paul to write Galatians 3:28.
I want to clarify here. Secular feminism offered me many things, and it still does. Feminism gave me a lens by which to critique the world, a community of support from which to do so, and a platform to fight from. I am thankful for the work of many feminists, both Christian and secular.
I do feel the need to say this, because feminism gets a bad rap among Christians. The word itself carries so much baggage. But, as polarizing as feminism is, the purpose of this article is not to prove its worth and relevance.
Still, for the record, it was Christian feminism that reawakened my long-dormant faith. When I discovered that there were communities of courageous men and women publicly identifying themselves as Christian feminists or egalitarians, I felt alive again. My family of believers had not failed me. The church could still stand for justice. It might yet give voice to the voiceless. The dusty pages of my Bible appeared crisp and fresh with the conviction that men and women were functional equals.
I have always believed in God. But I didn’t always believe that God loved me. Patriarchal theology gave me no reason to think that I mattered like men mattered. For much of my life, I felt like I was standing on the very edge of the body of Christ, just waiting to be pushed out. I wondered if anyone would notice, if God would notice.
It took me a long time to realize that the God I thought I knew was a distortion of the real thing, obscured by bias and earthly power games.
Thankfully, God always reveals himself. When I needed him most, he showed himself to be a God of justice. Now I follow him joyfully, finally sure of my worth in his eyes.