Recently Gina Messina-Dysert, on this blog, wrote about rape culture and the church’s role in preserving it instead of challenging the norm of violence against women and victim blaming. And in my last post, after having just watched the last installment of the Harry Potter movies, I wrote about Lily’s love for Harry as being what saves Harry and not the sacrifice of Lily’s life; my point being that we need to give more credit to love as salvific and redemptive and not to sacrifice or suffering. For too long within Christianity, Jesus’ death and ‘sacrifice’ have been held up as the core, the essence, the heart of Christianity – wrongly giving it a necrophilic emphasis that I do not believe is actually faithful to the Christian tradition. All this reminds me of why feminism is critical to my ability to stay within Christianity and that without feminism I would not be able to be a Christian-identified woman.
Every day in both small and enormous ways I see the effects and embedded patterns that result from the long history and dominance of patriarchy/kyriarchy. Everything from sexism and racism, to capitalism and the destruction of our world, these destructive systems are part of our daily environment and affect the quality of all our lives in devastating ways. And perhaps it is because I am a woman and I am directly and existentially affected, but, sexism, misogyny and violence against women are the things that most crush my spirit and break my heart. As I see these insidiously at work in many aspects of our society, and see the effects these have on us, women and men alike, I am saddened and angered to a level for which I have yet to find words to express. I feel it, the insidious trauma of sexism, misogyny, and violence against women, I feel their effects on me and others, but do so usually in silence or in tears. Lump in my throat. No words to speak. All I can do is continue in my commitment to live in a way that is different from these – in a way that is biophilic and affirming of all people as sacred and divinely in-Spirited.
But when my religious tradition not only fails to challenge sexism, misogyny and violence against women, but actually preserves, participates in, and perpetuates these, it makes me desperate for words, desperate to give language and expression to the rage I feel inside at the distortions and the unfaithfulness it allows itself. For I want women to no longer be treated as objects, especially sexual objects. I want women to no longer be used as props for the selling of products that make a tiny number of people unjustly rich. I want women to no longer have to walk with keys between their fingers, vigilant of an impending attack. And I no longer want to watch a movie or a TV show or a commercial where violence against women is the norm, or where a woman is only prized and celebrated when she fits all the heterosexist default conventions of being woman. All these things make my soul hurt and I want my religious tradition not only to challenge and speak against these, but to purge itself of the ways these have become embedded in its practices, language, and forms.
This why I can only do theology if it is feminist.
Being feminist-committed represents my refusal to comply with the violent, dehumanizing, female-disparaging aspects of society and of my religious tradition. I recognize that the Christian tradition has been the cause of much harm and violence, especially in its relationship to women, and is thus in need of transformation – feminist theology is part of that transformation. I also recognize, experience, the compelling, life-giving, beautiful and liberating core of Christianity. I am drawn by it and to it. But for me personally, bringing feminism to Christianity enabled it to give me something that I had never before received from it, the valuation and celebration of my self as woman and the affirmation of the Feminine Divine and the divine within me, within all women. Those are not small and inconsequential things. Valuing and celebrating women, in all of our many embodiments, is not something that can be taken for granted in our world. It is actually something that goes against the grain of the default ways of the world we live in. And there have been incredible improvements to celebrate, indeed, and I am grateful for all the trailblazing feminist sisters, and brothers, who have contributed to making it so, but we also still have a long way to go.
So, speaking of sacrifice and rape culture, I can only do theology if it is feminist and I can only participate in Christianity as a feminist; I do so for the sake of my healing, wholeness, and integration. It never means I care about women exclusively, or that I ignore or bypass other oppressions and discriminations – I recognize that these are all interrelated and these all intersect in a kyriarchal world. I am affected by them all. It does mean that I do theology from that rattled core of my being, from that place of passion and deep emotion that overwhelms me into silence and tears, in the hope that I will continuously and faithfully erupt into new voice and new life, and do so within a community that is a new creation.