Why I Missed #FaithFeminisms Week

photo (44)When I was four-years old, I wanted to be a ballerina. I liked the leotard and the tutu and the dancing in a circle with hands-held-loose. I wanted to be a ballerina until Shannon told me she wanted to be a ballerina too. Surely, the world wasn’t big enough for two ballerinas to make it big from the Chicago suburbs, and so I decided I’d find something else to like that was, well, less likable.

I tell you this because I think it has something to do with why I missed #faithfeminisms week.

Last week, the internet was ablaze with a series of blog posts and twitter updates from folks reflecting on “the interplay between feminist praxis and religious faith.” The usual suspects of popular Christian feminism delivered with force. Rachel Held Evans shared a slew of statistics about why we need feminism, punctuated with the conviction that “patriarchy is not God’s dream for the world.” Sarah Bessey was featured in a brief video about how she coined the phrase “Jesus Feminist” to convey that the very reason she’s a feminist is because she loves and follows Jesus. Posts from new friends popped up throughout the week too, from lizzie mcmanus (“No More Equality for Me“) and Jes Kast-Keat (“The Spirit on All Flesh“). All the while I sat in my bouncy chair feeling very proud and a bit surprised that Christian feminism has become more visible than it’s ever been in my lifetime. Surely, the blogosphere didn’t need one more young, white woman adding fuel to the Holy Spirit fire. 

If I had blogged, though, I might have told you about deciding that the first ‘adam (or earthling) was a hermaphrodite after reading Eve and Adam: Jewish, Christian, and Muslim Readings on Genesis and Gender in college. In one rabbinical tradition, it’s argued that the split in gender didn’t come until Genesis 2:23 when Adam’s rib was fashioned to make a companion, a split analogous to the simultaneous creation story of male and female in Genesis 1:27. How might this interpretation affirm the inherent worth of women in their own right? What then of Scripture’s authority in verses that proclaimed man was the glory of God and woman the glory of man (1 Cor. 11:7)?

If I had blogged, I might have told you about how I didn’t think I had a stake in GLBTQ concerns until graduate school when I could no longer stomach arguing for the original intent of verses that appeared to condemn women’s worth without also wrestling with those that condemned same-sex acts (and, notably, said acts in Scripture are never within the context of what we today would consider a committed, healthy relationship.) I devoured Dale Martin’s Sex and the Single Savior, becoming fascinated by the idea that we might even call Jesus a queer in as much as he fit few of the Jewish expectations for masculinity (or the messiah) prevalent during his life. Queering in this context does not signify Jesus’s sexual identity but rather his strategy of being purposefully ambiguous in order to open new pathways of connection and crossing. If Jesus wasn’t all that concerned with playing it “straight,” then why should it be my concern that others fall neatly into a two-sex model of gender? 

If I had blogged, I might have told you that I don’t like praying to God the Father without also mentioning the Son and Spirit (see Janet Soskice’s The Kindness of God). I don’t like feminizing the Holy Spirit because I think it implies the other two members of the Trinity are obviously male (see Sarah Coakley’s God, Sexuality, and the Self). And I don’t believe that Christ and his bride can only be faithfully represented by a man and his wife (see Eugene Rogers’s article on Same-Sex Complementarity.)

I might have also told you that I lost the battle to refer to God as both “he” and “she” in my new book. 

Maybe I didn’t tell you all of this because I thought I didn’t need to. There were others stepping up to the #faithfeminisms plate and hitting it out of the park. Or maybe I didn’t tell you because sometimes I need to practice my beliefs more than I need to defend them. I suspect I also thought I might alienate some of you by coming out so clearly with my wild ideas about a gender-full God. After all, I still consider myself a tradition-loving Catholic – and an evangelical too.

I wouldn’t have made a good ballerina. I never turned out that tall or disciplined and, if you haven’t noticed, I have a tab on this blog called Yes, Cupcakes. But I know now that letting the popularity of a thing stop it from becoming “my thing” is a mentality sized for a four-year old.

It doesn’t matter that your ideas are original,” writing coach once told me,“only that you believe them.” With a Holy Spirit fire afoot, you may even have the stomach to share them.

9 responses to “Why I Missed #FaithFeminisms Week

  1. I’m curious (as this is my own struggle as I make edits to my own book right now): How did you end up referring to God after losing the fight to refer to God as “he” and “she”?

  2. Good question, Hope. Ultimately, we’re going to do the whole God and God’s self thing since multiple folks who read the manuscript said that I’d risk alienating readers who couldn’t get passed the unfamiliar language. However, I do explicitly lay out my beliefs about gendered language for God in the book and how its one-sided masculinity has been the source of my own alienation in the church. What are you discerning about this question in your own writing?

    • Really says a lot about how most people view the status of women, sadly. I think that’s the bottom line here. We may be good enough most of the time these days, but our pronouns are still not good enough for God. Not being critical of you, in any way, Erin, just pointing out the bottom line because it seems so many people miss it.

    • Erin, I haven’t figured out yet. I wrote it in the way I’m most comfortable talking about God (God as masculine/father), but I know this too can alienate, and so as I edit, I’m trying to make the leap to “the whole God and God’s self thing.”

  3. I love everything about this, and I have some great new books to add to my list!

  4. I think I have the same list of books on my shelf. Well, almost all. 🙂 Wasn’t “Dating Jesus” a fun read? Today I’m reading “A Passion for Friends” by Janice G Raymond. Such an interesting re-calibration of feminism as a relation with other women, not just a relation to claiming equality with men. Have you read it?

    I am finding myself wanting to ask you more questions after reading this, but first I want to compliment your bravery to write it. We do need your voice in feminism.

    Now my two questions:

    If the first Man held both maleness and femaleness in his body/soul, how do you understand him to have felt “alone”?

    What book helped you through Romans 1 ideas on homoeroticism?

    • Love that we have nearly matching bookshelves. I’ll add A Passion for Friends to my wish list. A book I’d recommend for Paul’s argument against same-sex desire in Romans 1 would be A Feminist Companion to Paul, ed. by Amy-Jill Levine. See the chapter by Diana Swancutt called “Sexy Stoics and the Rereading of Romans 1.18 – 2.16.” She argues that the condemnation levied in the opening chapters of Romans is not on individual persons but a philosophy of thought called Stoicism that believed human beings had a natural sense of virtue apart from God. The pericope is thus best read as “a sustained censure” of the hypocritical Stoic who espoused natural living but instead engaged in lawless behavior such as pederasty and sexual passivity. As for my thoughts on your question about the first Man: This is purely speculative, but I wonder if the first male/female Adam felt alone in perhaps the same way that God felt alone before the creation world. Some say that it was the insatiability of God’s longing to share God’s love that spun our world into being. And wasn’t God complete in and of God’s self?

  5. Erin, Thank you for sharing this! I’m adding this to my booklist. The best argument I’ve heard so far (but one that I do not hold) is by James V. Brownson, “Bible, Gender, Sexuality: Reframing the Church’s Debate on Same Sex Relationships”. He argues that Romans 1 is a polemic against the Roman Emperor of the time, Gaius Caligula, who sexual excesses included homosexual acts to degrade his enemies. The passage that still rings as holding for today’s sexual ethic is the part that refers to females, so I look forward to reading Swancutt’s work. Do you recall if she discusses the “women with women” part in particular?

    I don’t think it’s scanning with me to say God felt alone before he created. Wasn’t there the perichoresis dance before the world was? I think that the Trinity is such a mutual giving and receiving of love that infinite love was already spilled and infinitely received. This would make the creation of angels, humans and any other persons we might not know about an overflow rather than a need. I am just having trouble imagining the self-sufficiency attribute I’ve credited to God existing with aloneness.

    What do you think?

    • I don’t really know the answer to this one, other than to say that I think our God can be both self-sufficient and desire company beyond God’s self. It’s not a needy loneliness but a longing loneliness.

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