Live Like Jesus: How Biblical Womanhood Insults the Imago Dei

In response to Throw Like a Girl: How Feminism Insults Real Women from Desiring God:

I love words and exploring their meaning. This is why I have no problem with calling myself a feminist. Evangelical critical opinions about feminism are often overgeneralized and assumed to be anti-femininity. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Feminism is, at its core, the belief that women – and femininity – have inherent value and dignity, and, therefore, deserve equality. This simple notion, that every human has inherent dignity, is validated time and time again throughout the Bible. Unfortunately, it seems that mainstream evangelical voices have more to say about their disdain for the feminist movement instead of addressing sexism and misogyny, both within and outside the Church.

The word, “feminist”, may spark negative reactions from conservative Christians, but the Church cannot continue to overlook the toxicity of biblical womanhood – all of this, coming from someone who began this blog as a “Journey to Biblical Womanhood“. What was meant to be a movement for righteousness has primarily been a white, middle-class, conservative ideal. Biblical womanhood, as it is practiced in Western Christianity, is an absolute insult to the Imago Dei. It is culturally insensitive, othering, and idolatrous.

Culturally Insensitive

I won’t spend much time on this; in fact, I already wrote a piece critiquing the mainstream feminist movement about this very issue – just to be fair. However, most of the critique I have heard from other Christians in regards to feminism have been the voices of conservative, white women critiquing liberal, white feminism. In other words, the mainstream (white) Christian culture constantly critiques the mainstream (white) feminist culture. Conservative critiques of feminism often reference women like Susan B. Anthony, Betty Friedan, and Gloria Steinem. Most of I what I read and learned about biblical womanhood came from a White, middle-class, conservative, Bible-Belt, American-nationalist perspective. Biblical womanhood is an insult to the Imago Dei when the only voices that get to speak on the topic or set the stage come from similar backgrounds. Furthermore, these voices are not solely influenced and led by scripture, rather they are led by the dominant culture in America. The Bible is not filled with homogeneity. Likewise, heaven will not be filled with middle-class, conservative Americans – or their assimilating converts.

Othering

“Othering” isn’t exactly a word, but this is my blog and you’re still reading. Biblical womanhood perpetuates the Pharisee in many of us. It upholds the idea of “us vs. them”. Most Christians I know who have a lot of negative feelings about feminism lack proximity to actual feminists. When I say proximity, I don’t mean that you follow a well-known feminist writer or celebrity on Twitter, or sat in on a think tank, or have that one family member who you only speak to over Thanksgiving dinner. What I mean is most of our circles tend to be homogeneous. We hang closely with people who look, think, and act like we do. We also tend to build close relationships with people who agree with with us on certain issues. We further validate our efforts to remain in these homogeneous circles by oversimplifying scripture like, “iron sharpens iron”, or by stating our need for “safe spaces” and like-minded community. However, Jesus did the exact opposite. From life to the desert to the cross, Jesus lived his life and sacrificed it for people who did not look, think, or act like him. Despite what Jesus did for humanity, biblical womanhood exalts comfort and sameness over selfless sacrifice. It’s easy to dismiss or even dehumanize others when you lack not only proximity, but relationship. I critique both the Church and feminism because I have built relationships within both groups, and genuinely want to see friends from both sides come together and thrive.

Idolatry

Biblical womanhood often teaches women to embody the characteristics of other women in the Bible, such as the Proverbs 31 woman. Being a “P31”, as it is called for short, is #Goals for many girls growing up in Christian culture. I, sadly, once wrote a rap when I was caught up trying to reach this goal – just to remind you that this isn’t a baseless, non-experienced critique. Growing up, I was taught that the Bible is an instruction manual on how to live. However, instead of imitating the women who have come before us, when we read the Bible, we learn more about God. As we learn more about God, we begin to imitate God’s character. All of scripture points to Christ. Teaching women to reflect the image of any human besides Jesus is idolatry. One common critique of feminism from conservative Christians is that feminists want to have equality with men, and that the Bible speaks against such equality. While the critique is supposed to discredit the movement, I can’t find a biblical issue with this. There is no mandate to imitate any woman in scripture. The Bible does tell us, however, that we are made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27), mandated to imitate Christ (Philippians 2:5-11), and are all one with and through Christ (Galatians 3:28). So yes, in that sense, I desire the status of a certain man. The only difference is Jesus joyfully gave up his privilege, experiencing God’s wrath, so that I could have life.

A woman joining the Navy should not be frowned upon or seen as a disgrace to femininity. On the other hand, despite what many advocates for biblical womanhood believe and teach in regards to feminism, a woman who decides to get married, have children, and work from the home is not to be viewed as primitive. However, this should not also be the ideal. Biblical womanhood values, I would argue even idolizes, marriage and the family. Marriage and having a family is not the end goal for all humanity, and should not be for the Christian woman. Our only goal in life is to be reconciled to our Savior and bear the image of Jesus. How that looks will vary from woman to woman.

Real Goals for All Image Bearers

We do not study our Bibles to look like Sarah, Esther, Ruth, Hagar, Mary, Martha, Deborah, Priscilla, or the Proverbs 31 woman. We’ll fall short every time, just as they did. Biblical womanhood does not create “real women”; in fact, it undermines it. The Imago Dei is whole through the finished work of Christ. We study our Bibles and learn to embody virtue like Jesus, obedience like Jesus, ambition like Jesus, wisdom like Jesus, courage like Jesus, faithfulness like Jesus, and strength like Jesus.

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4 thoughts on “Live Like Jesus: How Biblical Womanhood Insults the Imago Dei

  1. I recently shared this on social media: “I don’t want to be like the Proverbs 31 woman. Rather, I pray to keep growing in the likeness of Jesus.” Thanks for your post. It is amazing how many are offended by this or miss the point!

  2. Good points. I’m glad you raised them. I am seeing more and more women like you who were once enmeshed in and promoting the biblical womanhood movement using your voices to speak prophetically about the movement and call us all to follow hard after Jesus. May you not grow weary in doing well.

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