In the past couple of months, my friends on Facebook have had a lot to say about marriage, gender, and sexuality. I don’t chime in usually, because I believe that my opinions are either fairly predictable or still unformed. I’d like to offer, for now, a commentary of articles and comments I’ve seen on Facebook recently.
As a graduate of a Christian university, I know many more couples that “marry young” than is probably statistically average. One best friend married at age 22. Another best friend is engaged at age 23. So, I guess I can’t be too surprised when I see multiple Facebook friends post this article by Julia Shaw, entitled “I got married at 23. What are the rest of you waiting for?” Three or four different Facebook friends who did get married young posted this article on my newsfeed, with a caption: “Finally! Someone needed to say this.”
Admittedly, my first thought was: “Really? You expect me to feel bad for you, like you’re somehow marginalized?” I’ve seen way too many articles about coping with singleness to feel too bad for couples that marry young.
However, the article did get me to thinking about the reasons some young people choose to push off marriage – selfishness is often the prime motivation. It’s hard to pursue career and lifestyle choices when you have another person to factor in. Shaw writes:
Nowadays, one’s 20s are reserved for finishing college, pursuing graduate degrees, and establishing careers. Relationships are, at best, not as interesting as a prestigious job opening at Cravath or a scholarship at Yale. At worst, relationships distract from these opportunities.
I’ll admit it: a couple times within the last year, I’ve avoided getting to know guys better because I didn’t want there to be even a chance of them interfering with decisions I wanted to make alone. That was selfish, wrong, and frankly, pretty stupid of me.
I like what one of my Facebook friends commented about the article: “The point is, if you have found the one, marry them and stop living for yourself.” I would agree with that. Love, like all of life really, just kind of happens, and we don’t always have control of when we meet people.
Oye. Going to Christian college, admittedly sometimes “feminism” was a dirty word. I had friends who were so decisively against it that I dared not bring it up, and I also had some friends who bravely claimed to be feminists in a campus who didn’t even understand what that meant. As for myself, I quietly believed that I probably was a feminist, but I didn’t want to examine my thoughts closely enough to confirm that. My daydreams were always far more likely to be about my career aspirations than about my fantasy wedding dresses.
However, this past February marked the 50th anniversary of Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique, which most will claim was the founding document for modern feminism. Consequently, my Facebook feed started blowing up with articles discussing different nuances of feminism, evaluating where society has ended up and what’s changed in the dialogue of “feminist” issues. I started researching the topic and found (to my tremendous relief!) that it’s okay to be a feminist and a Christian, because the terms of what society normally calls a “feminist” today are very different than I’d always believed.
Instead, Amy Lepine Peterson argues in a refreshing article entitled “The F-Word: Why Feminism Is Not the Enemy” that since the inception of modern feminism, the movement has splintered off into many different sub movements. Amy shares her experience with feminism in the church:
I had always considered myself a feminist because of books I read growing up. I also considered myself a follower of Jesus, but I found that for some people in the church, feminist was a dirty word. Within conservative evangelical circles, feminism seemed to have a much stricter definition than it did within academia or in popular culture: to the church, feminism meant being pro-abortion and anti-family. Feminists were man-haters and probably lesbians. To the church, feminism was purely an enemy.
The article expands on the history of feminism and its many branches, but Amy’s main point is that in society today, feminism is not a static term, but gets redefined, depending on whom you ask.
At its core, feminism demands equal human rights for men and women, and when Christians denounce feminism, they are weakening an international movement that would free women all over the world from bondage of sexual slavery, domestic abuse, and gender-selective abortions. Not only that, but they polarize brave, pro-life feminists who refuse to allow abortion to remain a women’s health issue instead of a human rights issue.
I would implore my Christian brothers and sisters to rethink feminism, engage with the issue, and admit that there are more nuances. My friend and extremely brilliant writer, Cammy Sray, would distinguish feminism from vulgar feminism. I really appreciated her thoughts on the issue of feminism and female empowerment:
When I think of female empowerment, I think of combating cultural ideologies that assault a woman’s sense of worth and paralyze her from fulfilling her potential— combating these ideologies till the battle is made concrete in saving a woman from domestic abuse, from sex-trafficking, from an eating disorder. Female empowerment means channeling our gifts and abilities into a meaningful vocation in a way that partners with men to usher redemption into this messed-up world.
Okay, this topic is by far the most difficult for me to talk about. Upfront, I want to state that I only approach it with humility and admittance that this issue has felt very, very heavy on my chest lately. Let me start by offering a sample of some posts I saw on my newsfeed this week:
Okay if you’re against marriage equality, just unfriend me now. You and I aren’t going to get along nor will we ever for as long as you have your head up your ass.
If you’re opposed to gay marriage because of your religion/upbringing/moral stance/whatever, just “unfriend” me now.
I don’t need to hear your reasoning behind what you believe, just “unfriend” me now. We’ll both be better off.
I mean, how do I respond to that? For starters… I didn’t unfriend them, even though every single person who posted something like this within the last couple of weeks would say that my stance on marriage equality is
d: anything but loving.
I love these friends dearly, and I physically hurt thinking about it, because it breaks my heart to see them feel cut off from God and the church because they have same sex attraction. Who am I to believe I have any business in interfering with allowing a legal union, because of my own religious beliefs? And furthermore, who am I to tell them that a loving God would ask them to give up not just partners who are the loves of their lives, but also to commit to a life of celibacy where they lose a core piece of who they are?
Well, here goes. If you ask, “what could be worth giving up my lifestyle and partner?” I can only respond, the Gospel. It simply is enough, for me as I struggle through my sins, and for you as you struggle through yours. I would concur with the concluding paragraphs of this article, and they pretty much sum up as far as I’ve gotten in processing how to dialogue about this extremely difficult issue. But please, this is all I ask: Taste and see that the Lord is good.