I never thought that I would need to be a part of history. Don’t get me wrong, I know that each generation does indeed end up in a history book for a handful of headlining events that mark the course of their lifetimes, but I never in my wildest dreams imagined that the women in those old black and white photos, the women marching in the streets, the women burned at the stake might actually need to be me.
There were a few brief months where I truly believed that I would see the election of the first female President of the United States, but as we continue to be horrifyingly reminded each day, that version of history did not come to be. In connection with many of the articles from the last few weeks I continue to be perplexed and deeply concerned by the response of white Christians to the events of the last few months.
I was born and raised in rural Wisconsin. Poverty and domestic violence shaped my reality as well as the reality of many of my close friends, and as a result I can understand, at least theoretically, why so many white Christians would be intrigued by a candidate like Donald Trump.
As a white feminist theologian and a practicing Lutheran I work to anchor my theology in an understanding of intersectionality. When taking an intersectional approach we seek to open a space for individuals to be fully and truly who they understand themselves to be at the core of their Be-ing. This means we must take into account race, religion, class, gender, sexuality, physical and mental abilities and scores of other realities that make each of us distinctly ourselves. Naturally, this is not an easy process.
Throughout the last week I have been struck by the either/or dichotomies that fill my social media feeds. We are consistently presented with the expectation that we must only be concerned with one form of oppression, we must care for immigrants or veterans, for Muslims or Christians, where is the connection with one another as human beings existing within the world? Where is the acknowledgment of the intersectionalities which make up each individual person? Perhaps my Lutheran roots are showing… but it seems to me that we would be far better served by taking a both/and approach to these issues.
So… how do we do that…?
As a white Christian feminist I believe a good first step in moving toward a truly intersectional both/and way of living is centered in the concept of repentance. I have always loved the concept of repentance, it is so broad, so open, almost undefinable. Repentance is not just admitting past wrongs, or asking for forgiveness, or apologizing, or even promising to not commit such wrongs in the future, rather it all of these things and more. Repentance is linked to our very reality as human beings in constant relationship with one another. Repentance is about stopping what we are doing and choosing to move in a new direction while still taking responsibility for our past actions. Repentance does not mean that we will not make future mistakes. The work of intersectionality is difficult and there will always be situations in which we are reminded of the ways in which our own experience pulls us toward doing or saying things that may harm or oppress others, we must acknowledge these moments and work through them.
As a white feminist I am particularly aware of the ways in which white feminism has hurt women of color and it is only through repentance of those wrongs that we can begin to connect in ways that unite us while still acknowledging and celebrating the differences in our experiences.
Currently, political and social rhetoric does not support an intersectional or both/and understanding of the world. It is always in the best interest of those in power to keep the oppressed locked in situations of horizontal violence. We must use intersectionality and a both/and approach in order to combat this violent use of power. We must genuinely care about one another’s experience of oppression and personhood in order to begin moving toward a place where we can work together to eradicate all forms of oppression. We are called to accompany one another on this journey.
I never thought that I would need to be a part of history, but I am ready to be one of the women in those photos.
Katie M. Deaver is completing her Ph.D. in Feminist Theology at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago. Deaver holds a BA in Religion and Music from Luther College in Decorah, IA as well as MATS and Th.M. degrees from the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago. Her recently completed dissertation explores the connections between Christian understandings of atonement theology and the prevalence of domestic violence within the United States context. Her others areas of interest include the connection between power and violence, sexual ethics, and working toward the elimination of the oppression and exploitation of women and girls around the world. Katie is also one of our newest Feminism and Religion Blog Project Interns. Please welcome her to our FAR community!