Christian Feminist Farmer by Melody Ward

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My little farm is glorious. Even in the frigid Minnesota winter months when the outside air hurts bare skin, my small farm is heaven on earth. Birch, maple, oak and pine trees decorate the farm, providing entire wardrobe changes with each season’s change that drop my jaw with their beauty.

A tire swing on an oak tree perfectly shaped for climbing and imaginary battles make summer days feel almost magical. Wild horseradish scattered in odd patches make for fun spring and fall digging and delicious, sinus-clearing dinners. A walk in the enveloping silence of the snow-covered pasture is the perfect salve for the body and mind worn out by the frenzy of harvest and preservation season.

We have over 60 chickens, a 2-acre vineyard, asparagus and strawberry patches, 3 dozen fruit and nut trees, a kitchen garden, a couple of bee hives, maple trees (tapping season is happening NOW…and just in time because we are down to our last ¼ cup from last year’s harvest) and we soon will add in goats or hogs…or maybe both.

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With just a tick under 6 acres, many would call our farm a hobby farm. But hobby is too “cute” a word for the hard and dirty work of our farm. The hours after our 9-5 jobs that my husband and I spend in the dirt, in the sun, on our knees, carrying feed, digging, hoeing, weeding, culling, plucking, gathering, processing, canning, mucking, and repairing hardly are representative of a hobby.

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Words are funny like that. They can minimize or aggrandize or equalize. They can damage or repair. They can separate or they can unify.

For too many years the American evangelical church has used words to create a power that isn’t God-given, creating divisions in families and church communities, and elevating a select few while alienating the remaining majority.

Words have power and it is time that we, the Church, take back ownership of the dividing words, using them instead as words of dignity and unity. The words of submission, feminism, pastor, elder, mother, father—let’s take them back!

I consider myself a Christian feminist. I wouldn’t have said that 5 years ago. That story is a long one…I’ll share it with you another time. But “feminist” is a word that I’m taking back.

Merriam-Webster defines feminism simply as, “the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities.” I believe that the actions of Jesus back up this simple definition. Jesus treated women as his social equals.

Christ embraced the Samaritan woman at the well, denying her ethnic, social and gender-based separations from His love and salvation (John 4). He healed an ostracized woman (Luke 7), welcomed the tears and sacrifice of a “sinner” woman in front of Pharisees (Luke 7), honored the request of his mother at Cana (John 2), and Mary Magdalene was a regular among His followers.

Luke 8 even clarifies that thepluralwomen traveling with them were supporting themselves by their own means. And, in a great act of defiance of the patriarchy of the day, Jesus points to the closeness of Mary, with her desire for relationship and learning, over Martha’s background service as the better choice (Luke 10).

Jesus never failed to treat women as equals with the men following Him. He lived the divine belief that women and men should have equal rights and opportunities with Him and in society.

For generations, the American evangelical church has failed to fall in step with this behavior of Jesus. In my almost 40 years of life, I have yet to see the Church lean into the fear surrounding the feminist life of Jesus.

The Jesus-people culture of the 70’s rallied behind the social reconstructions of race and gender but as the program-driven church of the 80’s grew, it compartmentalized women into a specific gender-based ministry box. And the WWJD pop theology of the 90’s never applied to the equality of women. WWJD with women whom He gifted to preach? Yeah, you missed it, 90’s Church.

The failure to accept the feminist behavior of Jesus has damaged generations of women.

To teach that women are not allowed equal rights and opportunity in the church causes an emotional dissonance in those women who have God-given skills of leadership, administration, or teaching or spiritual gifts of evangelism, wisdom, or prophecy.

From my own experience, this dissonance shakes every area of a woman’s life. Each decision or relationship is double-guessed. Life feels shaky. The dissonance erodes a woman’s sense of calm, self-worth, and can trigger anxiety that won’t let up. That struggle is certainly not the plan for women we see from Jesus in the Gospels.

Jesus offered women salvation, healing, acceptance, closeness, relationship, and function within the emerging evangelical nature of His church. He didn’t want women to stay stuck, making a lateral move from stuck in Judaism or 1st century patriarchy to stuck in Christianity.

In Luke 4:18 Jesus boldly states that He came to set free the oppressed. That included and still includes women! Jesus doesn’t lock us into a gender-based box—He calls us to His side where we can sit and learn and feel His closeness. He pulls us out of our culturally stuck place and gives us the feet to fly the story of His resurrection to everyone, man or woman, with the gifts He created us with.

Jesus wasn’t kidding when he says in John 10:10 that He came to give life abundant!

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Later this evening I will head out to my barn for chicken chores and then will join my husband in switching out our collection jugs for this weekend’s maple syrup cook down. Tomorrow I will preach God’s love for refugees in my non-farm career with the Minnesota Council of Churches: Refugee Services. I will lead the Church in sharing God’s love with those who need it most. I’m choosing to step out of dissonance and come into balance with the gifts and skills God has given me. I’m taking BACK the church!

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Melody lives with her husband and kiddos on their farm, The Muddy Hen, in Scandia, MN. A mom to 6, hobby potter, and a refugee advocate, Melody considers herself a feminine warrior for Jesus and the Church. 

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4 Comments

  • Is there a higher love than laying down oneself for her friends? Even at the expense of leaving behind naysayers and those who would heap guilt? Brava, and much grace to you lovely Melody.

  • Like Melody I also rejected the word feminist for a long time and I am still circling it, I suppose. But more and more I notice that dissonance she mentions, the second-guessing ‘…should I be doing this.. am I stepping out of line by using my preaching gifts for everyone, not just the girls..?’ It was for freedom that Christ set me free, not for restraint within another controlling system. Thank you for featuring Melody’s post. Her post is a call to all of us to just get on with being the people God made us to be.

    • Andrea, thanks so much for your comment! I’m working on a follow-up piece on emotional dissonance and how to resolve it. I’ll keep you updated as to where it gets posted. Keep seeking God and stepping where HE desires. He’s got you!

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