Monday, August 16, 2010

Am I confused what do I mean when I say Christian and Feminist? (perhaps unconventional at both)

Initially this blog was to be a personal diary for a woman (myself) to journey about the struggles of infertility, life, marriage, work, and ministry. On a personal note I never kept journals and was looking for a way to express myself. I have always struggled with the patriarchal world of the faith I was raised in and never understood the reasoning behind women not being pastors or leaders in the church (on the record I still don't know why this exists). I was asked to attend and speak at a women's conference where I was initially asked to share on marriage and ministry, but that topic did not fit who I was or what I felt God had challenged me to speak and share about at this conference with the other women. I looked deep inside at my past and listened to those around me and felt (as I have shared in previous posts) God say look at this next generation of young women what is your legacy to them? What are you leaving behind for them to use and make better? What is the next chapter for women, especially in the broader Christian world?

So I began to write about my thoughts, feelings, and theories on being a Christian Feminist. Before I go on let me make it very clear neither of these words are bad and we all have to be okay with that :) I realized though I never established who I was when referring to myself as a Christian Feminist. The differing opinions shared on this blog have really challenged me to make it clear where I sit as of right now. I am open to change and open to learning and discovering new ideas. I have always tried to be a sponge soak up as much as I can and squeeze out what I don't agree with, but be willing to learn from everything that I encounter. This is not a forever statement it is just my statement for this moment at 30 years old. I am straight, white, and married, I do not have any children (yet), and desire to be a mother, I am a professional, am highly educated, and yes have benefited greatly from the women who have come before me, my social class, and the color of my skin. I love males and adore my husband, my equal and partner in life. I love the male, gay and straight men in my life. I love the women, straight and lesbian in my life. I love those who believe in my same faith and those that do not. My world is colorful and filled with many people. My Christian Feminist voice is encompassed with every person I have a relationship with today and in the future.

Christian to me is a belief system. It is my personal walk with Jesus Christ and the center of my life and who I am. I do believe the bible is the inherent word of God. I believe the Holy Spirit is with us always. I believe in the trinity God-Jesus-Holy Spirit. I believe Jesus died on the cross and rose again and that by accepting Him into my life I am a child of His. I may not fit exactly into any religion although I was raised Assembly of God and you could say I bend towards Evangelicals, but the most important aspect in my life is my relationship with my Savior, Jesus.

Feminist to me is the fight for equality with the sexes. It is the desire to move women forward to be recognized for their talents, their achievements, their leadership skills, and the choices they should have the freedom to make with regards to their given profession, love life, marriage, partnerships, etc. It is the fight to see qualified women hold positions in all aspects of industry, for profit and not-for-profit. To be leaders in church, community, organizations, government, and corporations. To lead nations, to be a part of the legal systems, to be mothers, and raise children, to actively pursue and be a part of cultural shifts. To be a voice for women in areas that do not have voices to empower women and young girls in developing nations which seek empowerment but to be respectful of culture, tradition, and sovereignty. To show that women are all unique and bring something very special to any table we find ourselves. To encourage education, success, diversity in career choices, love, and stay at home moms. To mentor other women and have women groups which meet and encourage each other. To fight the porn industry which creates such an unfair expectation on women and young girls. To fight against sexual harassment, and in appropriate male hierarchies. To find balance and equality in the work force...

Feminist to me is also understanding the delicate balance between men and women. It is understanding that not only do I have an obligation to empower, mentor, and challenge young women to dream big, fight for their equality, and know they can be who ever they want to be, but to also be a voice to young men to challenge them to do the same, but to see women as their equal. To voice an example that we each both men and women bring very unique skills to any environment that we find ourselves in. To challenge each other in this world to appreciate and accept that each of us are significant in our own rights and each of us can shift culture in moments at a time.

We are not there yet, I see it all around me the inadequacies between men and women, especially in the church, but I can not only be a voice to women when it will take changing men as well. If I have son I will want for him to grow up and be just as successful, confident, and powerful as if I had a daughter. But for young men literature, mentors, and heroes are being taken away. Look at the men these young men today are supposedly seeing as examples especially in religious sectors. We as women wonder why they are so confused when they grow up. Their mentors and leaders have not changed their views on women. We have to be equally as vocal to men as to women.

I do not live in a world where I can only surround myself with women and go only to teachings given by women. I do not want to read only literature written by women. I am an equal to men, I will fight for that to happen hopefully one day, but I will also look for balance and celebrate that God made men as well with a purpose to also be strong leaders in their own right.

So I guess I am unconventional in all aspects of being a Christian Feminist...


Anonymous said...

Sure there are Christain feminists! I was told that the woman who started the crisis pregnancy centers in Chicago considered herself one. Taking on such a ministry requires lots of strength & guts!
When I read the Bible, it says to me that in the church(not in industry)that a woman shouldn't usurp authority over a man. But it certainly doesn't prevent a woman from being innovative, active, etc. But there need to be godly men who nurture her talents & let her go to use them.
Remember that men can't give birth or produce milk. Can you realize how important those things are? We women can do them! We also usually are the ones at home to nurture & raise the children. That old saying that "The hand that rocks the cradle, rules the world" is very true. See how creative God really is. He knew that he entrusted that type of job to us. If a woman has no kids, she can be a leader in many fields. Since I'm not a natural leader, I have no frustration in not being a pastor. However, I do get frustrated at certain things in church(LOL)& sometimes voice my complaints. I also had a good friend who was ordained in a pentecostal setting, but never practiced as a pastor. Most of her friends didn't believe in women clergy, but we were still great friends. Now she is with the Lord & knows all things. Someday we will, too! I am comfortable with women clergy, just as I am with GLBTs. Like Andrew's message says, we don't have to agree with everything to get along!!!!!!
Enjoy being Andrew's greatest feminist!!!
I know you, but will sign Anonymous!

Judith and Lance said...

Brenda -- I just took the time to catch up on your blog after quite some time and have a few things to say:
#1 I'm so very very sorry you are experiencing the pain of unsucessful infertility treatments. I still remember those nights of crying myself to sleep longing for a child and wish I could help take your pain away.

#2 Many of your posts are so fascinating to me, it's wonderful to see how you are trying to make a difference in this world for the right reason -- JESUS Christ! I'm very proud of you for that

#3 I like that you can accept and love people even if you don't necessarily agree w/ their lifestyle and/or beliefs. I think that is what Jesus did, he loved people to Him.

Turtle Woman said...

Before we begin a serious discussion here Brenda, just what christian feminists and lesbians feminists thealogians have you read?

I have to know the context of Gen X and Y here. Then I'll be able to comment. Thanks.

Rachel said...

I don't know whether or not you're unconventional as a Christian feminist - but I do think you're inspiring - your summary was a great mission statement!

Turtle Woman said...

Christian feminism is not unconventional at all Brenda. There is a whole 40 year and then some body of academic work that is solidly Christian and feminism. Since I don't know what women are reading these days, I don't know what they know about this.

It is peculiar to me, because again, some of the first Christian feminist works I read were in the early 1980s, and the publications were written by Christian women who were evangelicals.

So clearly, the challenge of feminism today, is for young women to do the reading and studying, to get back to the source material, and learn about this tradition first hand. I kind of get nuts with this, because the lack of reading and studying is such a hallmark of evangelical commentary--so women don't know who their foresisters are.
What books are being cited here?
I'd say the larger world might think the terms "Christian" and "feminist" are separate things, but go to the women who have been activists around this for decades and you'll know it is not new.

Turtle Woman said...

P.S. Heads up, the website will be posting a wonderful article about a new book called "Holiness and the Feminine Spirit: The Art of Janet McKenzie."
Tomorrow I think - Thursday.
If you haven't heard of Janet McKenzie, this will be an excellent introduction to her work.

I have always thought that feminism is about women's divine enlightenment, and that the inspirational Christian feminist art emerging is a symbol of this.

Nathalie A. said...

HEY BRENDA- you are not alone in your unconventional feminism perspective. i truly appreciate your willingness to define what you mean by christian feminist . in both circles the other word seems to get negative attention. i totally can agree with you for the need for feminist to support equality, equity, critical empowerment of both sexes/genders to fight for equity/equality for all in leadership, power, access to resources, etc. often times feminism can seem to be men hating, which is equally wrong just as sexism and misogyny.


Nathalie A. said...

hey turtle women,

i appreciate your perspective you bring to the table.

in regards to your comment, may you list some books and authors in the christian feminist field?

that will help me and others in the younger generation know the knowledge and work of the previous generation. i didn't know of this long history. it would be very helpful to us all.



Nathalie A. said...


hey brenda,

is there a way you can set up for people to select to be emailed if someone comments on a post we commented on/ responds to our post?
andrew has it on his blog.

sometimes you'll forget to check back on a post you commented on but, an email will help to facilitate the conversation, which is partly the intention/goal of this blog.

just a suggestion, but that would be really helpful and improve communication between readers.

let me know,



Turtle Woman said...

Sure Nathalie,

I'll get a list for you. Give me a day or two and I'll get some info for you all. :-)

Turtle Woman said...

Hi Nathalie & other interested women,

Two good places to start in terms of feminist theology are:
Rita Finger-- editor of an early Christian feminist magazine called "Daughters of Sarah." You should google search this, because some of it is still online. It was in publication up until the early 1990s I think. Rita Finger is an amazing woman, very accessible and Biblically literate. You'll enjoy her open scholarship!

An essential beginning text is "Sexism and God Talk" by Rosemary Radford Reuther, 1993, Beacon Press. Its highly readable and gets into Hebrew and Greek, and women's role in the Bible.
I love this quote of her's from the opening chapter:
"The uniqueness of feminist theology lies not in its use of the criterion of experience but rather in its use of women's experience which has been almost entirely shut out of theological reflection of the past. The use of women's experience in feminist theology, therefore, explodes as a critical force, exposing classical theologies based on male experience rather than on universal human experience."

Start with these two women. Again, I don't know where women are on this journey of education here. Daughters of Sarah started publication I think around 1975.

Anne Hutchinson is a sister from the early days of America, and she is considered a feminist Christian foresister. Elizabeth Cady Stanton wrote the "Women's Bible" in the 19th century, and also is considered an early feminist Christian foresister.

Have fun with this. Reuther and Finger are still alive, and if you ever have women's conferences, you might want to look these women up.
They'd be powerful elder stateswomen that would be helpful to you now.

Brenda S. Marin said...

Turtle women - thank you for the heads up. I am familar with Janet McKenzie's work and will definitly appreciate the article I am sure. As for a list of books that I have read, am reading, and need to re-read I will get that and share. Please note that I have never taken a "women's study" course in my entire academic career so most of these books have been recommended to me to read. I have actually begun to think about taking some courses so I have a better base understanding, but we will see, time and money seem to get in the way...

Thank you all for sharing your thoughts and voice. Nathalie shout out to you for being in this place with me too. Its so hard being a Christian women with ideas... it gets frustrating at times...

Anonymous even though I don't know who you are thanks for commenting :)

Judith I can see by your blog you are having a really busy summer so I am glad you checked back. Thanks for the thoughts my heart still hurts...

Rachel yes for right now this is my mission and thesis for life's definition as a Christian Feminist...

Nathalie as for the email alert thing. I will ask Andrew because I have no idea how to even go about setting that up.

Turtle Woman said...

I look forward to book list sharing Brenda, Nathalie and all other Christian intellectual women.

One thing that struck me Brenda was what you meant when you said this:
"Its so hard being a Christian women with ideas... it gets frustrating at times..."

My field of study was not women's studies-- it barely existed and wasn't even a major when I was in college... ah the good old days :-)

I did all my reading and studying on my own and with small book and feminist discussion groups. Lesbians of my generation are really BIG and I mean BIG readers.
We don't find ourselves in the mainstream, so our best ideas can be found in books.

Christian feminism of all kinds really is a book event as well, or if you are lucky to have some first rate feminist theologians locally. University of Chicago probably has some good ones.

Ideas are very important to me, and I surround myself with as many smart women as I can find. Somehow, Christian feminism isn't really highlighted in most local churches, so you have to search it out.

Good luck with the search, sometimes I envy you young ones who will come upon these incredible ideas and scholars for the first time... :-)

Nathalie A. said...

Thank you so much!

Thank you Turtle Women for the book list. The women sound great. I heard of Elizabeth Cady Stanton and the declaration of women's rights at the ___ convention at silver springs? or something like that. lol. feels good to know i came across one women already. i look forward to learning more.

Brenda- i feel you. i love what u said: "Its so hard being a Christian women with ideas... it gets frustrating at times..." i get that. so simple and yet so complicated. the balance to obey/conform and yet question and challenge and discover and be...

the email alert thing would be great. case in point- it took me about a week later to respond to this post. lol.

mucho love to you and all,


Turtle Woman said...

1848 Senecca Falls, N.Y. first women's rights convention in America. Declaration of Sentiments echos the words of the declaration of independence.

Not one of the goals of this convention has been achieved worldwide yet for women. It's useful to see this list.

There is an excellent PBS documentary about a bunch of high school girls who go to visit Senecca Falls to celebrate Susan B. Anthony and perform a musical based on the life of early feminists and future feminists.

Every woman should read the multi-volume "The History of Woman's Suffrage" by Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Matilda Joslyn Gage. Gage is the most radical of the three, and well worth exploring.

Feminism is worthless unless women take a very passionate interest in our own herstory, and we have a very long way to go in that department. Reading the original sources is essential! Get to work!