My grandmother was a feminist and a gambler.
I remember the Christmas I won my first game of BINGO at the local community hall in the small country town where my Grandparents lived. My prize: A Christmas turkey. My Grandmother was so proud; she cooked my “prize” (in addition to the one she had already purchased) just so she could brag to the guest about what a great BINGO player I had become.
I knew from an early age that my Grandmother was different than other Grandmothers of her time. While other Grammys were home-makers and care takers, my Grandmother held a position at the local bank and worked beside my Grandfather on the weeknight and weekends on the farm. Somehow in all of her daily tasks, my Grandmother still had time to teach me the art of pie making.
My Grandmother believed in partnership, not role designation. My Grandmother was not opposed to home-making and care-giving, she just believed that a person should be who God created them to be, and not someone another person decided they should be. My Grandmother was not the best housekeeper, or a world class chef but she upheld diversity and unity in one hand, always hosting a house full of people on any given night that the opportunity arose. My Grandmother was opinionated but honoring and accepting of others ideas and life choices. She would have called herself a modern-day woman and a feminist for her time.
Like many other words in our vocabulary, the word “feminist” has taken on many definitions; Defined by emotion and experience instead of fact. Think of the word, “Christianity”. How do you define it? How would your neighbor define it? It is probable you came up with two different definitions. The word, “feminist” is one of those words that carry both a definition and meaning. But in the story of my Grandmother the word means exactly what the definition defines it as: The doctrine advocating social, political, and all other rights of women equal to those of men.1
Consider Jesus. Was He a feminist and a gambler (by definition only)? Gambler is defined as: Someone who stakes or risks something of value. When I study the life of Jesus, it seems evident that he consistently risked something of value to elevating women to a place of equality, partnership, and unity with others in the Scriptures. Here are three examples.
The woman at the well: In the account of the woman at the well in John 4, we know that Jesus goes out of his way to meet the woman at the well. Jesus risked his reputation and well-being to be alone with a woman in a land that Jesus and the disciples normally avoided due to the hostility between the Jews and the Samaritans. In this story we see the woman’s eyes opened to the truth of who she is and to the truth of who Jesus is. She leaves Jesus – accepted, redeemed, saved and elevated to become the messenger of Jesus to the people of Samaria.
The story of Mary and Martha: Luke 10:38-42 tells the familiar story of Mary at the feet of Jesus. The interesting part about this story is that Jesus invited Mary to sit and learn in a room that was normally designated as the “men only” room. Historically, women took care of the household chores and children and the boys and men were taught by the rabbi. In the story of Mary and Martha, it is clear that Jesus desired that women are included in the right to learn and participate in discussion.
The woman caught in adultery. In the story of the woman caught in adultery (John 8:1-11) Jesus brings forth social justice and equality for the woman who will be stoned to death for her actions while the man will be set free. Jesus becomes the woman’s defender and after the accusers leave, the woman understands the meaning of acceptance, forgiveness and new life.
In all of these scenarios, Jesus is a feminist and a gambler. Not only does Jesus risk his reputation as a Rabbi to include women as equals in discipleship and in service, he redeems them with new life. We see his sacrifice for our freedom when he gave up the most valued gift of his life and took the gamble that you and I would one day follow him in love and unity with each other.
1 Dictionary.com. (2012). Feminist. Retrieved from http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/feminism