Cultural Commentary : Steinem I Know, and Smeal I Know, But Who Are You? American Culture Looks at Evangelical Feminism -- By: Russell D. Moore

Journal: Journal for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood
Volume: JBMW 08:1 (Spring 2003)
Article: Cultural Commentary : Steinem I Know, and Smeal I Know, But Who Are You? American Culture Looks at Evangelical Feminism
Author: Russell D. Moore


Cultural Commentary1 :
Steinem I Know, and Smeal I Know, But Who Are You?
American Culture Looks at Evangelical Feminism

Russell D. Moore

Assistant Professor of Christian Theology,
The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
Louisville, Kentucky

The increasing burden for evangelical feminists is not so much the criticism of their enemies, but the praise of their friends. After all, evangelical egalitarians must constantly make the point that their views on male/female roles are not rooted in a feminist movement intrinsically hostile to revealed Christianity. Instead, they argue, their views on gender equality come from the Bible itself. Their support for women pastors and mutually submissive marriages, they note, are rooted in a high view of biblical authority.

Sometimes it is easier to convince evangelicals of that argument than it is to convince the secular culture—especially after the secular culture reads the Bible.

When the mainstream media or religious liberal groups look at our evangelical differences over, say, baptism, they rarely show much interest. After all, to them the debate is simply one group of “fundamentalists” arguing that the Bible calls for sprinkling babies and another set of “fundamentalists” arguing that the same Bible calls for immersing believers only. The secular culture is rarely interested in our intramural debates over Arminian/Calvinist differences or dispensationalist/covenantal distinctions. In the gender debate, however, the cultural left seems to see a much different dynamic, a dynamic they see at work in the larger culture itself. A recent letters-to-the-editor exchange in the Atlantic Monthly showcases this trend. In the March 2003 issue, a Midwestern evangelical furiously complains that an article on Third-world Christianity by religion scholar Philip Jenkins is off the mark. Specifically, the correspondent complains that Jenkins “sees the ordination of women as marking ‘liberal’ theology.” This is a distortion, the writer argues, since “conservative theologians in my own church body have come to see the restriction of ordination to men as fundamentally a misinterpretation of Scripture (which, to be honest, we might not have bothered to verify until more-secular forces aroused us!).” This evangelical, stung by the charge of “liberalism”, wishes to make known that his egalitarianism is rooted in Scripture, not the feminist movement.

The response from the Atlantic writer is instructive. Jenkins is not an evangelical partisan arguing against theological liberalism, but a marginally Catholic expert on world religions. As such, Jenkins calls on the evangelical correspondent to honestly question whether or not the Bible teaches g...

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