“Winning back the Nation:” Jesus as Feminist

I’m in Eau Claire, Wisconsin visiting my friend Livi. Livi is a hipster. She won’t tell you that, but she is. She’s wildly passionate about beards and flannel and if you opened up her itunes, you’d probably have a hard time finding English band names. This is appropriate, because the town she lives in is a hipster town. Don’t believe me? Ever heard of Bon Iver? Justin Vernon, King of the Hipsters?

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Justin Vernon is from Eau Claire, Wisconsin. He went to school where Livi goes to school (she seriously brags about it. ALL THE TIME). None of this matters that much, except that I went to church with her today. In Livi’s hipster church, they showed a hipster worship video (Christians can be hipsters too, I guess. Like, Jesus was a Christian before it was cool. Eh, eh??). This is it:

And as very cool as these musicians seem, I had a little bit of a hard time with some of the lyrics. “Win this nation back” in my ears sounds like a ringing endorsement for Mitt Romney, a plea to “put God back in schools” and, I don’t know, add the ten commandments as amendments to the constitution. I know some people are really passionate about all of that, but I think most of the whole America-is-Israel-let’s-make-laws-so-people-have-to-live-biblical-lives movement is pretty ridiculous. So when Livi got really excited about the song, I tried hard to think about it again. “Win this nation back.” What does that really mean? Maybe it’s not a buzzword for the right-wing fundamentalists. What would it really look like for the church to win the nation back?

Well, more than half of this nation is female. So let’s start there. We live in an oppressive patriarchy that tells women day after day that their purpose is for men to look at. This is striking a particular chord with me lately; I can’t get away from society telling me that women are for sex. They are objects… for men. (Chris, Sam, Jordan, Tad, YOU KNOW I’m not trying to blame ACTUAL males for this that are in my life. I love you guys. I’m talking about media objectification of women here. You three love women and I love you and we’ll all be best friends forever.) This heartbreaking reality becomes more real for me every time I drive past a strip club, see any commercial for beer, hear a sitcom make casual jokes about pornography, see magazines in the checkout line, or notice that #VSFASIONSHOW is trending on Twitter. These phenomena do horrible things to women’s self-esteem. It makes us feel like our worth is in how we look, and that we’ll never look good enough. It’s a driving factor in most girls’ lives: what they eat, when they wake up to work out, the kinds of clothes they buy, how they interact with men. It’s in our heads, true or false, that men want women for sex, not for their hearts or ideas.

I am becoming more and more convinced that none of that is true. Most of this is due to the extraordinary men in my life who prove to me again and again that they care about me. (Yeah, you guys. Plus you, Dadski.) They take my ideas seriously; they want to protect me from feeling like this patriarchy makes me feel. I’m imagining how the world might react if the church took this mission seriously. What if leaders in the church actually took on a *gasp!* feminist perspective and told their youth how beautiful women are because of their capabilities as humans instead of objects? What if they started proving that they meant that message by giving women *GASP* lead pastors’ jobs? Or encouraging women to go to seminary the way they encourage men to go to seminary? What if churches began to teach young men not to harass/harm/rape as often as they gave their young women the modesty talk? This nation is women, and it is fathers and brothers and friends and sons and this nation wants to see women respected. That sounds like a start to winning this nation back.

Another chunk of people in this nation are gay. And an even bigger chunk consists of people who love those gay people and want them to be treated like they matter. What would happen to this nation’s perception of God if the church began an overwhelming campaign to love gay people unconditionally? What if churches began LGBT missions (NOT to fix them, to love them exactly how they are) and proved to those people that they do matter to the church and to God? People are pretty good at detecting empty promises. How would this nation react to an outspoken love from the church? Some people would react with rage, I know that. I know those people personally, they live in my building. Churches have this really huge opportunity to love the kinds of people that Jesus would have loved. The outcasts, the abused, the thirsty. Win the nation, Church.

The bible makes a clear differentiation between “the world” and “the Kingdom of God.” I’ve always been annoyed with that distinction because it has been abused. “The world,” I was told, are the drinkers, the fornicators, the cussers, the feminists, the democrats, the gays! And “The Kingdom” is the church. But I don’t think that’s what Jesus meant at all. I think “the world” is the oppressive patriarchy, the society that tells women they have to lose weight to be sexy and that men have to whistle at women on the street or pick them up at bars to be real, masculine men. The “Kingdom of God” shouldn’t be known for not drinking, or not having sex until they’re married, or not cussing, or whatever. They can be those things too, but those aren’t the most important things. The Kingdom of God is a place where society’s lies are overturned, where everyone is loved and valued and living together in familial community, sacrificing for each other and ending their oppression.

“Listen to me, my people;
hear me, my nation:
Instruction will go out from me;
my justice will become a light to the nations.
My righteousness draws near speedily,
my salvation is on the way,
and my arm will bring justice to the nations.”

(Isaiah 51)

Church, let’s rethink what justice is. You know God as a god of love, justice, peace. Prove to this nation that he means that for everyone. Win back this nation.

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“Winning back the Nation:” Jesus as Feminist

38 thoughts on ““Winning back the Nation:” Jesus as Feminist

  1. Tayla Edgar says:

    Yes ma’am. Perhaps something I would add to the women section would be the right to have birth control and health care for single mothers. It still amazes me that the church fights against those. It’s so good to see other Christians thinking and loving, rather than blindly following human doctrine.

  2. You touched on a very interesting topic, and I think one that needs to be voiced more. Some resources if you haven’t checked them out already. Women and Christian Origins, by Ross Kramer; In Memory of Her, Elisabeth Shussler Fiorenza. Both books bring up the idea of feminism and Christianity and tie them together well. I also think you are definitely hitting some great points in the liberation theology area, I don’t know if you are familiar with that area or not, but these are some of the keystones of their make ups. Great post.

  3. Rachel says:

    It’s funny that you assume the lyrics “win this nation back” are about America when Rend Collective is a band from Ireland; they probably couldn’t care less who Mitt Romney is or whether Americans are pretending they live in the Promised Land. It lessens the impact of your point when you break the rule you seem to be arguing against and assume America is the nation everyone must be talking about.

    I love your view on the Kingdom of God as a community which cares about ending oppression for all. I agree that God is a God of justice and I wish that the church would focus their attention more on all members of our community who are oppressed and overlooked.

    1. Earl says:

      Social justice? Justice is brought by the State wielding the sword. That’s why behind every social liberal is a man with a badge and a gun in my belly, in case I’m not “charitable” enough.

  4. I don’t necessarily think by saying “win this nation back” the band is referencing to a specific country/place. Although America (along with the rest of the world) is sadly corrupt, and I agree with treatment of women is utterly disgusting, it seems like the word “nation” could be any group of people. Maybe it’s your family, a small community, the people you work with, your college campus, or your town, The Bible says that sons and daughters of Christ we should show God’s love and preach to all the nations… to everyone! Too often Christians focus on condemning instead of loving, but we’re humans too and no one can be perfect. As a Christian, I have learned the importance of realizing my own faults first. In Matthew it says to “take the plank out of your own eye and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s.” Before pointing fingers at anyone we need to see our own sin and realize that God sees all sin as equal. If we did this, and then focused on being selfless and loving the people around us, God’s love and light will shine through us. Trying to change the nation as a whole is a worthy cause, but the only way a nation is going to change is if the individuals and small groups of people within it change first.

  5. Pardon for the spam, but I have to say you have a very special way of speaking about religion, church, women and gay rights and the word ‘God’ that does not make me cringe as I usually would, unintentional as it may be.
    Really enjoyed my read.
    Sarah

  6. Laura says:

    As a follower of Christ this post worries me. I don’t know if you claim to be a Christian or not, but your definition of “Kingdom of God” is quite different from the Bible’s definition. I have no problem with you saying what you think (in your opinion) the Kingdom of God SHOULD be. But, if we are going to discuss what it is, then let’s get the definition from where the phrase “Kingdom of God” comes from….the Bible.

    1. patrick says:

      Agreed Laura, sadly this is the state of the “christian” youth of America, as a young person (21) who reads Gods word daily and stands for truth, I know (from the Bible) that christians are called to be HOLY UNTO THE LORD, Paul tells us countless times in his gospels that if we are walking in holiness (set apart from the world) we will be persecuted.Yes, we share Gods love, but we also stand for truth and holiness, we do not comprimise doctrine ( not sure if many people know what this is) to be accepted by the world. Jesus said we will be hated by the world..

    2. Margaret says:

      Laura, I didn’t understand your definition. Could you be more specific? Throwing the word “Bible” around doesn’t make it clear.

  7. Ian McConnell says:

    I don’t know much about you. I came to this blog from your open letter to The Church from our generation. I don’t know your denomination, theological education, interests (beyond excellent music and great conversation).

    But I want to talk to you someday, about life, and Agape love, and Jesus, and music, and all things good and wonderful.

    Thank you for this blog. I just clicked “follow”… keep them coming! And next time you’re in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, feel free to shoot me a line. I’m buying the next round of coffee or beer or whatever.

    Peace to you.

  8. Mike says:

    Winning back the Nation? When was the nation ever the way you want it to be? Hate to be the bearer of bad news, but the Puritans were you average evangelical Christian on speed.

  9. Adam Broin says:

    Thank you for writing this blog. 1) you talk of Augie, which I miss dearly. 2) you put my feelings into words. Thank you for giving me your words, I may be borrowing them.

  10. I admire your writings! Its nice to see another Midwest Mind willing to express some noncomformists ideas. I live in Red Wing, Minnesota. I teach a religion class in a public high school that critcally examines religion. Needless to say, what I do is extrememly rare and controversial. I recently started a blog about my experiences, I think you will find it interesting. Keep up the great work! My site is:

    teachnotpreach.com

    James

  11. Steve Fairless says:

    Any nation can prosper under Gods plan, or decline floating on the waves of humanism. God exists, God has revealed Himself, and empowers those that seek Him, to know the truth.
    Gods plan for national prosperity (max freedom to proclaim the Gospel) is: Freedom, Marriage, Family, and Nationalism. This week one of our “Leaders” said “Its time for parents to realize their children are not their responsibility”; Read the definition of Marriage in the Websters 1828 dictionary; The effects of internationalism can be seen in the “Euro…united we fall” ..and …the mentality of “feed me, protect me, work me” people is coming into the majority … they will give up their responsibility, to be coddled in the arms of the state …. and cry for a totalitarian to rule over them.when they drain the coffers of even China. If you find yourself riding the waves of popular thought, google “Dialectic Materialism” … maybe you will discover you have left the firm foundation of Gods revelation to man, for humanism/Marxism.

    1. Wow. I am so impressed by your argument. You abused all the key words, took a woman’s words out of context, and even cited a 19th Century English language dictionary to prove a point that you claim comes from a 2000+ year old document written in Greek and Hebrew.

      On “Freedom, Family, Marriage, and Nationalism” – Jesus says that we should abandon our families to follow him (Luke 14:26). The only freedom Scripture espouses is spiritual freedom in Christ. Jesus says you should pay your taxes instead of whining about them (Matthew 22:21). Paul preaches against all marriage because he considers it a concession to weakness (1 Corinthians 7:8). And the only nationalism you will find in Scripture is Israelite or Hebrew nationalism. In fact, it’s not so much nationalism as tribalism. Nationalism as such didn’t really rise until the late 19th Century.

      As for your attack on Melissa Harris-Perry – it takes a village to raise a child. http://www.salon.com/2013/04/10/melissa_harris_perry_doesnt_want_to_steal_your_children/

      Apologies to everyone else for taking this guy’s bait.

  12. You know what is so weird? Someone showed me your blog and I LITERALLY just addressed feminism and gay marriage in my blog. And we share the exact same heart!
    THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU! I cannot tell you have wonderful it is to find someone who feels the same way I do. God bless you!

  13. Debbi says:

    Hey Dannika. i know your famous and stuff now and whatever, but I hope our sushi date (double or not) still stands.
    Also, this post made me tear up and think serious thoughts about myself. Bravo.

  14. sasha says:

    I’ve read a few posts on your blog, and people like you are the reason that (as a gay person) I don’t assume all Christians are bigots and all organized religion is full of ignorance and hate. What I’m about to say here may still be a bit too radical and unchristian. I’m not really sure if there is biblical law against pornography but I certainly know that the church isn’t a big fan of it. I definitely don’t mean to say that porn isn’t oppressive, sexist, or a life-ruiner for many, but I hope to appeal to the “live and let live/love the outsiders” vibe I get from this blog. I recently discovered Stoya, an empowered, feminist, and aware and articulate porn star. This gave me an entirely different perspective on porn. Though maybe it’s sinful and/or gross, in the end, it’s her career (which she’s proud of), and her body (which she has the right to make decisions about.) Even if you disagree with this all, I think if you read her blog you might find yourself developing respect and understanding of people’s choices to go into the adult film industry. http://stoya.tumblr.com/ (maybe skip the first post if it’s too crude?)

    1. Earl says:

      Religion is bigoted?

      All of nature and the cosmos seeks to oppress you, and utterly snuff you out. All who came before you, all who made you, and all who will not come after you bear witness against you. All of nature is arraigned against you, testifying to your homicidal confused impulses. You may or may not be excused on conditions of insanity, but the natural world will sentence you to death none the less.

      No, you are already dead.

      No wonder you seek validation from those who are living.

  15. Derek says:

    Love what you’re saying but this rabbit hole runs very very deep.

    | They take my ideas seriously; they want to protect me from feeling like this patriarchy makes me feel.

    You are their equal, a grown human being, not a weakling in need of a man to protect you. They’re being paternalistic and you’re accepting it. It’s so institutional we often don’t even notice it.

    | What if they started proving that they meant that message by giving women *GASP* lead pastors’ jobs?

    “I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet.” — 1 Timothy 2:12
    “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.” — Exodus 20:17

      1. Derek says:

        I’m pointing out that it’s so ingrained that even though Danni is a feminist she’s apparently accepting a level of patriarchy without noticing it and that guys who are trying not to be are still being paternalistic.

  16. Not a College Kid says:

    The problem with what you are saying is that it is all a product of what you personally “think” the Kingdom of God should be and what you think love should mean — including approval of what the Bible actually disapproves. None of it is based on what the Bible actually says. You are just taking a feminist (and homosexual) ideology and imposing it on the Bible and Christianity. If you don’t believe what the Bible says, you don’t believe it. But you offer no meaningful argument that it means what you say it “should” mean. The Kingom of God, as represented in the Bible, isn’t about validating 21st century anti-patriarchal feminism or gay rights. If it were, you could demonstrate where and how the Bible makes that case. But the truth is that you aren’t advocating a more genuine Christianity; you’ve simply left the faith.

  17. Just in case you missed it:

    A Father’s Response to ‘An Open Letter to the Church From My Generation’
    10:00AM EDT 4/25/2013 MICHAEL BROWN

    Michael Brown
    Dear College Kid,

    I really appreciate you taking the time to share your heart, and I’m so sorry you felt it necessary to choose between loving your gay friends and staying in church. But I know that you’re speaking for millions of kids your age who have dropped out of church for this very reason.

    Now, I am by no means a young person myself—I’m 58 years old with two grown daughters and four grandkids, and my wonderful wife, Nancy, and I have been married for 37 years—but I spend a lot of time with college-aged kids as a professor and mentor. And the young people I know actually have a very different perspective than yours: They love Jesus, they love their churches, they love their gay friends, and they don’t feel any conflict over it. In fact, they believe that by loving Jesus and by being part of a loving church, they can be the best possible friends to other LGBT young people.

    And these young people don’t believe they need to reinterpret or rewrite the Bible in order to love other gay kids. Do you think that could be a possibility?

    So, your open letter doesn’t actually speak for your entire generation, just a good portion of it. And just as you don’t like it when others make generalizations about “your generation,” my young friends don’t like it either.

    Are they entitled to have a different point of view? Will you be tolerant toward them when they don’t agree with your perspective, or is conformity to the new perspective the only thing that’s acceptable? And if some of them whom I know personally have found something better than being gay, will you reject them or mock them or cast them out?

    Jesus saved me when I was a rebellious, LSD-using, heroin-shooting, 16-year-old hippie rock drummer. I was part of the counterculture revolution of the 1960s. I wanted to change the world. The older generation just didn’t get it. They had all these hang-ups and old-fashioned ways, and I knew better. That’s what I thought back then.

    Today, more than four decades later, I’m more revolutionary than ever—more radical and more committed to changing the world. And I hate stale, status quo Christianity. That’s not who Jesus is, and that’s not what Jesus came to do.

    But when I read your open letter and watched the Macklemore “Same Love” video that you linked, I don’t see anything radical or revolutionary there at all. I see the new status quo. Lady Gaga sings “Born This Way,” and Macklemore raps it, and that’s the new gospel, followed by masses of young people. And this is supposed to send a message to the church?

    You talk about listening to “hateful preaching” over the years, and it hurts me as a church leader to hear that. But it’s not hateful to say that God intended a man to be with a woman (hey, this is not rocket science, and Jesus said it clearly too), and it’s not hateful to say that a kid should have a mom and a dad. Who decided that this was “hate”?

    You can call this “BS” or even “holy BS,” but I call it beautiful truth, part of the rhythm of life that God, our loving Father, intended. In fact, that’s the first thing I noticed on the Mackelmore video: It takes a mom and a dad to produce a child, and that’s something we should never forget.

    An 11-year-old girl named Grace Evans who testified before the Minnesota legislature about redefining marriage said it so well: “Since every child needs a mom and a dad to be born, I don’t think we can change that children need a mom and a dad. I believe God made it that way. I know some disagree, but I want to ask you this question: Which parent do I not need, my mom or my dad?”

    Maybe Grace should write a letter from her generation to your generation? Maybe you’ve just bought into the latest social fad without thinking through the implications for the young people who will come after you?

    I’m glad America is becoming a safer place for kids who identify as gay. No one should be bullied for being different. Period. But that doesn’t mean we make marriage genderless or celebrate homosexuality. That doesn’t mean we suddenly discover new ways to change the meaning of the Bible. And when Macklemore says, “It’s human rights for everybody,” just remember that gays are not the only ones who want to redefine marriage. Do you really stand for marriage equality for all?

    To be totally candid with you, I always listen to young people and ask for their insights, and I’m sure that your generation cares a lot about fairness and justice and equality. But could it be that my generation is not totally ignorant about these things? Could there be a reason that one of the Ten Commandments says, “Honor your father and your mother”—or is that outmoded now too? Is there no wisdom we can impart to you about marriage and family and gender?

    Yes, my generation has made a mess of marriage with all our no-fault divorces and all the scandals with our famous preachers and all the pornography in the church, but we messed things up because we didn’t hold on to God’s Word and to the foundations of marriage ourselves. Now you want to change those foundations? You will live to regret it, I’m sure.

    You wrote, “We know conservatism; we know tradition. But we also have Twitter, we watch SNL, we listen to Macklemore, and we read Tina Fey.”

    Of course, I get your point (you live in South Dakota!), but here’s a word of wisdom for you: Twitter is not the place to discover the meaning of life; Saturday Night Live is not the place to learn moral values; and Tina Fey is not on a par with Moses, Jesus and Paul.

    Could it be that part of the problem is that your worldview has been shaped more by the media than it has been shaped by the Lord? Is that part of the reason that polls indicate your generation thinks 31 percent of the population is gay (as opposed to the accurate 3 percent or less)?

    In “Same Love,” Macklemore says, “We paraphrase a book written 3,500 years ago,” and in another of his songs he says, “The present is, right here, through the breath, watch it, Atheist Jesus piece, hangin’ on a cross.” Is he the new spiritual guide?

    I look at him as a very sincere, lost young man and say, “How incredible it would be if he came to know the love of God!” You look at him as a spokesman for your generation and feel he has a message for the church.

    Of course, from your perspective, the church is “scared of change. We always have been.” Maybe so, but most of the people I run with are challenging church traditions all the time. In fact, one of my books is called Revolution in the Church: Challenging the Religious System With a Call for Radical Change. It’s just that I’m 100 percent sure that God does not approve of homosexual practice and homosexual relationships, and I’ve prayed over this and wept over this and studied the Scriptures in the original languages and listened to “gay Christians” until my heart was ready to break for them. Are you 100 percent sure that our understanding of God’s heart and God’s Word is wrong?

    You wrote, “When scientists proposed that the Earth could be moving through space, church bishops condemned the teaching, citing Psalm 104:5 to say that God ‘set the earth on its foundations; it can never be moved.’ But the scientific theory continued, and the Church still exists.”

    The truth is that scientists within the church were responsible for many of the major scientific breakthroughs over the centuries, and there’s nothing in the Bible that tells us we should believe that the sun goes around the earth. But there’s a lot in the Word about sexuality and marriage, and having talked to many who left the “gay lifestyle” (their words, not mine), I’m all the more convinced that God’s ways are best. (Some of these young people are still same-sex attracted, but they love Jesus and are totally content with Him, even if He never changes them).

    You wrote, “We want to stay in your churches, we want to hear about your Jesus, but it’s hard to hear about love from a God who doesn’t love our gay friends (and we all have gay friends). Help us find love in the church before we look for it outside.”

    I’m committed to doing that very thing, but how about we make a deal? Let’s get some key folks from your generation and my generation together and spend a few days before God, worshipping Him, loving on Him, studying His Word, asking for His heart toward all people, and learning from each other. And rather than following “my Jesus” or “your Jesus,” how about we commit to follow the Jesus of the Scriptures, regardless of cost or consequence?

    Will you do it?

    Michael Brown is author of The Real Kosher Jesus and host of the nationally syndicated talk radio show The Line of Fire on the Salem Radio

  18. Earl says:

    I used to think it was oppressive and terrible that heretics were persecuted. Now, thanks to you, I have a new understanding and tolerance for those who persecuted heretics.

  19. Derek says:

    “Maybe you’ve just bought into the latest social fad without thinking through the implications”
    Don’t ya love Michael Brown’s condescension? Or maybe she is a thoughtful young woman who is thinking about the bigotry and homophobia that is rampant in our society and how hurtful it is to GLBT teens.

    “I’m glad America is becoming a safer place for kids who identify as gay. No one should be bullied for being different. Period.”
    Unfortunately as long as you state that homosexuality is wrong, deviant or against god’s will you continue to be the cause of bullying. Period.

    Michael Brown’s open letter simply serves to underline and reinforce how out of touch many christians are. They look to a book that endorses slavery, rape and homophobia as a moral compass and then try to tell us it’s for the best.

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