I am an evangelical Christian who, like many, works in a secular field. The non-profit organization I work for is focused on developing leadership in girls. A little more specifically, I work in the public relations and marketing department for this organization (which I am not going to name because I am not, in this blog, speaking on its behalf, as I do day to day). It is, more often than not, a privilege to be the voice of an organization that prides itself on being an authority on girls. The work I do is meaningful in that we strive to address real issues for girls and women, in our day to day work: developing life skills, helping them identify their passions and interests, discussing body image and self-esteem, working for gender equality in professional and personal spheres, and much more.
I believe in the work that we do, both professionally and as a Christian. I believe that helping girls identify their skills and aptitudes, gain the confidence to pursue their dreams, and become leaders is essential to building a stronger society– a society where 100% of the population is represented and has a voice. I also believe that Christianity would also benefit from the same– from hearing the strong voices of female leaders as well as male leaders. So my faith is, in general, not in conflict with my daily work.
But recently, I have been challenged in my faith because my organization has been accused of pushing a “liberal” agenda on impressionable young girls. Unfortunately, these accusations come from a conservative portion of America that often identifies itself as evangelical or Christian and claims to be doing the work of God, the same God that I follow.
It’s my job to monitor the accusations– the podcasts, the articles, the video blogs, the hateful words of an angry group of “Christian Americans.” So now my faith is suddenly much more relevant. And don’t get me wrong, I do not hide my faith at work, but I also do not flaunt it. I prefer to let my actions speak for my beliefs and talk about my faith when it comes up naturally in conversation. But now I’m confronted with an angry group of people, who call on the name of my God, to hurl hatred and lies at us because we teach girls a “radical feminist agenda.”
I speak and write for this organization every day I go to work, every day. And I have never used the word feminist to write or speak about the work we do. (Aside: I also am saddened by the use of the word “feminist” by our accusers as something pejorative and offensive. I don’t point out that I’ve never used that word at work because we are ashamed of being feminist, it’s just not important for us to label it like that.) I’ve never talked or written about these radical, liberal issues that they seem to think we are pushing on girls. Now, there may be a number of things that we do that align with the work of the feminist movement, but it’s not for the sake of being radical or feminist that we do them. It’s because we genuinely believe in giving girls the tools and the voice to make educated decisions about their lives and the future of their community.
The other day I watched a video from a man claiming that he wanted to take back America for our girls. That he wanted to stop our organization from corrupting them and go back to the teachings of the 1950s, pre-feminist America. And he said it with hate and outrage and slander. And he claimed it was what our God wanted. Our God? When I hear these statements and accusations, I’m stunned. I’m stunned that in the name of God, people can hurl such hate. And I’m offended, as a person, a woman and, especially, as a Christian. And the only conclusion I can reasonably come to is that we know different Gods.
I know a God who created humans, male and female, in His image and then sent his own son as the ultimate act of love to redeem us. I don’t care if our agenda sounds liberal or radical or feminist, I truly believe I am helping to create a more equal, more loving and compassionate, and representative world by equipping girls with the skills and confidence they need to lead their homes, communities, churches, and professions.
I don’t care if our agenda sounds liberal or radical or feminist. And I don’t think Jesus cared if his agenda sounded that way either. Because it’s not about the labels. It’s about allowing all of humanity, male and female, the dignity to represent the full image of God.
So I defend our work against my own group of believers, and I try to look past my own sadness and anger, and speak with love and truth. I feel conflicted because I identify myself as an evangelical Christian and yet I feel ashamed of the things I’m hearing other evangelical Christians say. It makes me want to clarify to my colleagues that not all Christians feel this way, that some of us do want equality and opportunities for girls and women, and that Jesus was radical and liberal in many ways that seem opposed to these outcries. And I remind myself that we are all human, trying to do our best, and that no matter what words come out of our mouths or thoughts go through our minds, God loves us all, in our best moments and our worst.