Guest post by a Christian feminist about feminism

I invited someone I admire and respect, who considers herself a feminist, to provide a guest blog post about feminism. It follows here. I have to say, as with all guest posts, that it does not necessarily reflect my own views. But I wouldn’t post it to my blog if I didn’t think it worthy of serious consideration. (P.S. I will not post to my blog responses that are not constructive in some way: at the very least civil, respectful and aimed at continuing the conversation in a truly dialogical manner.)

Kyndall Rae Renfro is a seminary educated pastor of a Baptist church in Texas. She also has her own blog. This is her guest post:

We Are Not So Terrifying:

a feminist talks about rage, matriarchy, and faith

 

Feminism is a diverse and living movement, and I am no expert. Thank goodness you do not have to be an expert before you join a movement, or no movements would ever get off the ground.

Certain feminists may squabble about who can rightly be labeled a “real” feminist, so I will expose my predisposition right now and tell you those fights do not interest me. Movements grind to a halt when you intensify border patrol; the movement becomes more territorial than active, more imperial than marginal, and thus less transformative to society. So here I am, an amateur feminist offering up her perspective on a movement she holds dear, in hopes that the better we understand one another, the better this world will be.

The heart of feminism, or, at least, the version of feminism that attracts me, is the notion that women and men are both fully human, worthy of dignity and equal treatment. Feminism is more than simple egalitarianism, however, because it recognizes patriarchy is far more pervasive than most of the population recognizes, and feminism wants to challenge patriarchy wherever it is found. (By patriarchy, I mean the suppression of both female persons and feminine ways of being under the coercion of male dominance, granting a distorted masculinity excessive power and legitimizing the disparaging treatment of women based on gender.)

But even among some egalitarians, feminism is still a naughty word, wrought with negative connotations, despite its basic orientation towards justice and human dignity. I would like to offer one feminist’s perspective regarding those aspects or caricatures of feminism that may be stirring the waters of anxiety for others.

Angry Women

Feminism is comprised of both women and men, but it is the angry women who get a bad rap, so I would like to take a moment to pay them heed. I remember the first time I read truly enraged words from a feminist writer. At first I was appalled, disturbed and terrified, but then, surprisingly, her fury struck a chord. Intimately, in my depths, I understood exactly what she meant, even if I did not wish to camp in such anger myself. I do not know if is possible for white straight men in this country to feel the vibrations of rage like this or not. Maybe it is possible; maybe it isn’t. But those who have suffered silently can often relate, even if it is a rage they themselves will never show or give way to.

Women are culturally conditioned to behave: to mind their P’s and Q’s, to be nice, to speak soft. We are often never told that it is okay to be angry (even when we are being threatened), nor are we taught that it isn’t actually wrong if our words cause emotional discomfort to others. This is a documented reality, but I know it from personal experience. The thing is, our anger towards patriarchy is legitimate and right, but the anger has been suppressed over the span of generations.

Personally, my anger at patriarchy is alive and real and even raging, but I do my best not to direct that agitation at individuals or even institutions. Not all feminists would agree with my stance here, and I respect their divergent opinions. But in my perspective, oppression itself is the problem and even the persons and institutions who perpetuate patriarchy are often caught up in a system bigger than they are and in need of liberation themselves.

I believe if I ostracize people, I am attacking the wrong evil. That being said, such moderation is not always easy. I am not known to have a violent bone in my body; even still, I can think of a few “pastors” I might roundhouse kick in the balls if I had the chance, given their abhorrent perpetuation of severe patriarchy. I do not fault women with less restraint than I; reservation has been both my gift and my cross to bear my entire life.

Feminists sometimes bellow, rant, rage because there is a lot bottled up inside that is absolutely true. If the world were more kind, maybe such outbursts could become unnecessary. Extreme language might settle into civil discourse. But when you have been kept out of civil discourse for centuries, your two choices are often to go home or to shout.

I implore you, try not to be terrified of our intensity. We have been raped, caged, beaten, ignored, belittled, enslaved, and murdered. We are not monsters; we are “volcanoes erupting” (in the words of Ursula K. Le Guin). When you label and dismiss anyone as an “angry feminist,” you are claiming her outrage is not valid, when truthfully, you have no idea how valid or invalid her anger might be. No, not every woman has been personally ravaged, but sometimes is it our collective consciousness that drives us to passion and what is more enraging, than say, the sex-trafficking industry? No, you probably do not deserve to be personally attacked for the worst atrocities of patriarchy, I will give you that, and if that has been your experience, I truly am sorry. But please do not belittle an entire vibrant and necessary movement because of a personal affront.

I remember watching a documentary on race with two white male participants. One man was clearly racist from the outset; the other more polite and seemingly more cultured. But when the people of color started expressing their honest and utter fury, it was the overtly-racist man who was altered and the “polite” man who fought back to contain the anger of others. The polite man became upset and offended and reactive. I was captivated by this surprising turn of events. Could the expressed anger of feminists be eliciting the same startled reaction from otherwise gracious egalitarians? Maybe anger seems a little too messy for the educated and the well-behaved. Rage is not wrong. Jesus himself expressed rage on certain occasions. Rage is highly uncomfortable and difficult to hear, but that doesn’t mean rage deserves to be silenced.

Matriarchy

I have less to say on the subject of matriarchy, but I do think it worth mentioning. The feminists I know and read do not wish for a world in which women rule; they wish for a world in which men and women share power equally. That doesn’t mean matriarchy might not serve as a metaphorical dream. (For example, if slaves talk about becoming kings, it doesn’t necessarily mean they want to become the oppressors or even “be on top.”) Oppressed people need a way to visualize a different future. I do not literally agree that the world should turn matriarchal. But I understand and agree matriarchy can be a useful as a symbol.

Again, not all (not many?) feminists would agree with me on this point, but I thought it might bring a bit of perspective to share my own view. Personally, I am not alarmed when women talk about being goddesses, for example, because I understand the power that comes from visualizing a world in which we truly are revered for being women, as if womanhood was something honorable rather degrading, as if womanhood was worthwhile rather than second-rate.

Feminism and Spirituality

Despite the convincing social benefits of feminism, I was personally hesitant to join the movement for a long time. I was quite fearful of wreaking havoc on my faith, concerned that feminism would be incompatible with Christianity. But something (the Spirit, I would say) prodded me, and gradually my fears were alleviated and my faith was enlivened.

Years ago I began praying to God (on occasion and in private) as “Mother.” This was a mental, theological exercise. I believed doctrinally God was male, female, both, and neither, but I was pretty stuck talking about God as He and praying to God as He. I tried to match a bit of my practice with my theology.

Only recently did this begin to affect me spiritually. All those times I tried praying to Mother God, I kept a wall between my head and my head. I knew theologically God was not just male, but it felt like betrayal to view God in my heart as female. All those faithful and sincere years of praying “Our Father” made it feel like stepping out of bounds, and who knew where such a trail might lead?

At long last, the wall broke down and I heard Her voice. Interestingly, my most personal encounter with Mother God brought me straight to the feet of Jesus, but that is a story for another time. I can tell you that knowing God as Father/Mother, Brother/Sister has transformed my faith for the better.

My spirituality is more alive than ever. My relationship with God is deeper. My insight into Scripture is richer. My understanding of Jesus is fuller. My sermons are more creative and more powerful. My self is more healed and whole. My whole entire world feels more alive.

There is more to this than I can ever write in a blog, more to this than I ever would write in a blog as it is intimate and private and personal, and I tell you even this much with fear that someone will tread my sacred ground with unsympathetic backlash. I tell you this personal bit because I want you to know that feminism has spiritual depths, for those willing to plunge them. I even believe what feminism offers faith is vital and critical, but like the rest of life, you will never grow if you stay afraid of what you do not know.

 

 

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  • Kathy

    As a Bible Belt Baptist, I found that fascinating!! I should probably get out more.

  • http://sarahoverthemoon.com Sarah Moon

    This is a great post! Thank you for writing it, and thank you, Roger, for hosting it.

  • Rob F.

    Thank you for this beautiful, and vulnerable post. Like any other movement, feminism is diverse and it can be taken too far, but I agree that in some attempts to counter the extreme (even well-intentioned attempts), the honest and appropriate outrage in the face of injustice and discrimination is lost.

  • jesse

    Thank you for your post Kyndall. The section on feminism and spirituality is particularly meaningful to me. For the past few months or so, there has been a part of me that has wanted to refer to God as female, but I too have experienced a bit of a wall. Your words have encouraged me coninue to explore that direction and see how it affects my spiritual life. Could you recommend any books that have helped/inspired you in understanding more of the feminine side of God?

    • Kyndall

      Jesse, the number one thing that has helped me is when I came to the place in my spiritual journey where I realized fear was not from God. The fear that kept me from exploring was, for me, stifling my growth. I do not mean I threw critical thinking and the wisdom of the community out the window, but any decisions based predominately on fear were coming from the wrong place.

      The book that has spoken to me the most was The Dance of the Dissident Daughter by Sue Monk Kidd, although I will tell you it is by no means orthodox or Christian, so you have to use your own discernment there. However, she writes with a gentleness towards Christianity that for me, it helped me to gain perspective on my own faith, rather than pushing me away from it.

      A good Christian to read might be Hildegard of Bingen from the 1100s! I have just started reading her stuff, which, of course, was written centuries before modern feminism. Fascinating though.

  • http://wwje.wordpress.com Lucas Land

    Thank you! Thank you! Thank you for so boldly sharing yourself, your faith and your experience with us and the world. This is a great gift and I feel sad for anyone that could not at least hear the gift of yourself you offer. May it help us grow deeper into God and Christ just as you have.

  • Tim Reisdorf

    Kyndall,

    Thank you for thoughts and feelings and experiences expressed. I appreciate your story and the path that God has led you on. I confess that I do not understand (or at least cannot relate well to) a fair amount of your perspective, however. Primarily, I see myself as an individual. When I read your statement about how “. . . you have been kept out of civil discourse for centuries . . .”, I had to read it a couple times to just grasp what you were saying. The “you” was self-referencing, but expanded to include many people in many times (in a figure-of-speech kind of way). I (personally) have not been alive for anything near a century; it seems that your connection with the story of women (in recent Western history?) is much closer and more powerful than the way I identify with other groups. For you, was this intentional or the way you were brought up or taught or just the way you are? It is my own preference to see others as individuals primarily rather than as members of groups so I can better see and understand the image of God in them.

    In any case, thank you for your contribution and service in the Lord.
    -Tim

    • Kyndall

      Tim,

      Hmmm, interesting question. I was not brought up that way certainly, and in many ways I have a strong individual self too. But I do have a deep sense of connection with women across space and time, which is something that developed later in life for me, although it felt like discovering something that was inside me all along, I just didn’t know it was there. I have read that oppressed groups can have a “collective consciousness” in which we hold onto memories across the span of generations. That sounds a little mystical, and I suppose it is. All I can tell you is that in my experience, this seems quite remarkably and inexplicably true. I read the stories of women I have never ever met, and it resonates as if I knew them.

      • Tim Reisdorf

        Thank you, Kyndall, for your thoughtful response. I fancy that I have thought about this issue (from a male perspective) ever since Alex P Keaton (from “Family Ties”) famously declared that he was a woman.

        I am concerned about the definition of things here. You use the word “Feminism” and then list a series of items / statements / proposals that supposedly come more from a female perspective on life. My own experience with Muslims (as an adult ESL teacher) tells me that the women in Islam, more than the men, work to reinforce the traditional female/male roles. I’ve found this also to be true among many Christians. (This may because they have been primarily tasked with raising children – according to these models.) But my experiences lead me to believe that the ideals that you are working towards are mislabeled. Rather, the ideals are egalitarian in their expected outcomes – ideals that spring from both male and female. And these ideals are for both females and males – for if roles are out of balance, all are hurt in various ways. Drug dealer and user are both dehumanized; pimp and prostitute and solicitor are all crushed; tortured and torturer both die inside. This happens in different ways to each, but it is all bad bad bad to the core for everyone.
        I get turned off when people use the word “Feminism” because being feminine is a bridge too far for me. I was not made feminine and to pretend to be so would dishonor my Maker. I am, however, one who generally agrees with egalitarianism and can more easily partner along those lines. Why is it necessary to maintain the verbage that tends to put up barriers between the sexes – barriers that have supposedly been removed (Gal 3)?

    • Jafmina

      I cannot speak for Kyndall. But your questions gave words to many things I have felt. When I become aware of some of the abuses that happen to other women, women in different times, women in different places, women in different situations than me, I do feel a connection sometimes. Sometimes it becomes very evident that the abuses did not happen because of anything specific about her as an individual. Sometimes these abuses happen to another woman simply because she is a woman. And I am a woman. And I realize that if I were standing in her shoes, the very same things would be happening to me, simply because I am a woman. And so, it can become personal. And we can identify with that. Much like someone who missed their plane, and it crashed, will be quite struck with thoughts as, “That could just as easily have been me”. While it is good to see everyone as individuals, it is also beneficial to consider the connections we have, be grateful for the blessings we have been given, and empathize with each other across boundaries of race, gender, social, economic, and geographical boundaries.

      • Tim Reisdorf

        Hi Jafmina,
        I think can understand what you are saying, and I have had instances in my life where I have felt a very strong bond with others – usually through literature. “Job” and “Lord of the Flies” have been the most prominent of these – to help me see myself in the wide stream of people who struggle in life.
        You talk about the connection you have with women because of the fear and potential of abuse. But I believe that if I truly and intentionally dwelt on these sorts of things that I would be drinking deeply from the cup of victimhood. I don’t want to live there and I don’t want the bad that I’ve experienced in my life to become a lifestyle. I don’t want to be perpetually outraged or offended or afraid. I want to be healthy, remembering the past but not being defined by it, then pressing on into the better (hopefully) future. I think that only in the place of health would I be able to do what you suggest in your last sentence.
        -Tim

        • Kimberly

          I think women tend to be more prone to “drinking deeply from the cup of victimhood”. If not more prone to it, we still do not have as much reason as men do to shake it off, so to speak, and so we wallow in self-pity without anything really putting us in check. We’re just labeled as “emotional” and then avoided. I think this is a big problem amongst feminists. They encourage each other to dwell on unhappy memories, to build up resentment, to feel outrage toward the innocent men of today for the sins of men in the past. I agree with you that it is entirely unhealthy. It causes division between man and woman.

  • http://www.life-after-church.com Chrystal

    Thank you for sharing this!! Feminist was such a derogatory term in my conservative, Pentecostal upbringing that I still stumble a bit when I describe myself as one. I particularly appreciate how you’ve seen your relationship with God deepened by knowing God as Father/Mother and Brother/Sister. My thoughts are stirring and my heart is moved.

  • Jon

    Kyndall,

    I am intrigued that calling God “Mother” has deepened your insight into Scripture. Yet, Scripture never refers to God as Mother. Never. Not even once. So how could this be bringing you closer to Scripture?

    Why would you say it is that the writers of Scripture never pray to God as “Mother.” Even the women who prayed to Him. Do you have a personal Spiritual revelation that they did not have access to? If so, isn’t this a form of gnosticism?

    These are all sincere questions that flow directly from your post. I’m interested in hearing your responses.

    • Kyndall

      Jon,

      So it seems pretty clear you and I are coming from very different points of view, which makes it difficult to try and understand one another in this type of format. What we really need is a whole conversation over a cup of coffee. That being said, I appreciate you engaging civilly when perhaps what I have said is quite disconcerting to you.

      I am curious what you think about the gender of God? Do the male references in Scripture mean to you that God is in fact, male? Theologically, my understanding of the creation account, in which God creates humans in God’s image (“male and female God created them,” it says) is a pretty good indication that men and women together and equally represent the image of God. If God were actually and literally male, it wouldn’t make much sense that both men and women are in his image. So, we could just say God is Spirit only, and gender is completely irrelevant (in which case, I don’t see the fuss about which gender pronoun we use), BUT if gender was entirely irrelevant, why the lines “God created human beings in God’s own image: male and female God created them”? It seems both male and female are necessary to give a picture of God’s image (and yet God remains Spirit) which is why I adhere to the theological perspective that God is male, female, both, and neither.

      There probably isn’t space here to get into a whole explanation and defense of Scripture, so I will just give a personal example, in hopes that might bring a little clarity. There is, of course, feminine imagery used to talk about God in Scripture (mother hen, womb of compassion, etc.) We are so used to thinking about God as male only that sometimes the nurturing images are lost. For example, I was re-reading Hosea 11 the other day, which I have read many times before. But I was astounded and moved in a totally new way when I got to verse 4: “I led them with cords of human kindness, with ties of human love. To them I was like one who lifts a little child to the cheek, and I bent down to feed them,” because all the sudden I saw the image of a nursing mother. I had literally never seen that in the verse before because I was so limited by male-only imagery. But when God created women with the ability to breastfeed, how might that have been a picture of the image of God, who feeds us from God’s very self?

      Hope that helps.

      • Jon

        Kyndall,

        Thanks for the response. We could argue over whether God, as a Spirit, is male or female. To be honest, I haven’t really researched the topic in depth. But my initial question remains: If none of the inspired authors ever, ever addressed God as “Mother,” might we not want to exercise caution against doing so ourselves? What makes us more qualified that the prophets, apostles, or Jesus Christ himself to address God in a totally different way?

        Also, might we not want to carefully contemplate whether there were a REASON for the Biblical writers to address God as Father?

        Also, why did Jesus come as a man?

        What about all the references to husband/wife representing Christ/church?

        • rogereolson

          I’m just the owner of this blog, but may I put in my two cents’ worth here? Sometimes when I pray I pray to Father Who is also like a Mother to us. I did that in public, at a Christian college commencement ceremony, and was reproved for it by some (the very conservative) and applauded by others (the vast majority who thought it was a good compromise and biblically sound). Some women expressed concern that it still placed the feminine aspects of God in the background compared with the masculine. However, like Jon here, I have trouble substituting non-biblical forms of address to God for biblical ones. The biblical ones can be supplemented, but I’d rather not have them replaced.

    • JJ

      Jon, I actually think a closer reading of the Bible shows all kinds of female metaphors for God. Consider the juxtaposition of male (“fathered”) and female (“birthed”) metaphors for God in Deut. 32:18, or a similar use of female metaphors for God in Numbers 11:12. One of my favorites is Isaiah 42:14 where God is pictured “like a woman in childbirth.” And yet another image of God in Isaiah 49:15 of a mother nursing her child. Lastly, Hosea 13:8 speaks of God as a mother bear protecting her cubs. And that’s just examples from the Old Testament!

      You might check out “She Who Is” by the theologian Elizabeth Johnson as she makes a strong biblical case for female metaphors for God (alongside other types of metaphors). Here’s a nice quote from the book that illustrates her approach: “Jesus’ language about God is not monolithic but is diverse and colorful, as can be seen in the imaginative parables he spun out. A woman searching for her lost money, a shepherd looking for his lost sheep, a bakerwoman kneading dough, a traveling businessman, the wind that blows where it wills, the birth experiences that delivers persons into new life, an employer offending workers by his generosity – these and many other human and cosmic instances are freely taken as metaphors for divine mystery in addition to the good and loving things that fathers do. God’s way of dealing with human beings is at once like and not like all of these. Later Christian talk about God is poor indeed compared with the riot of images spun out in the Gospels’ depiction of Jesus’ speech.” (She Who Is, 80)”

      • rogereolson

        Some years ago I used She Who Is as a text in an elective seminar on the doctrine of God (we also read other books some of a more traditional theological orientation). My students and I (including some women students) felt that Johnson said only negative things about male images of God in scripture and liturgy and only positive things about female images of God. We thought she could have been more balanced. It seemed she was aiming at a complete reversal of traditional imagery and language of God in theology and liturgy. I communicated with her about my and my students’ concerns but she brushed them off as simply unfounded. But we searched the book in vain for positive statements about male imagery of or language about God (at least on the level of her very strong recommendations of female imagery and language).

      • K Gray

        But Jesus always refers to God as His Father. I think that was Jon’s point, not whether there is diverse imagery of God. A simple point but certainly relevant to most/many of us.

    • Jafmina

      I am also wrestling with this. In Genesis, it says, “God created man in his own image. In the image of God he created him. Male and female he created them.” I have been taught that God is not bound by gender, but that in order for mankind to be made in God’s image, mankind had to be both male and female. We see much of the masculine identity in the teachings of the Bible. I have often wondered of the feminine. Twice only is the feminine referred to as God wanted to gather Jerusalem’s children together as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings. But that’s it, so far. So, what aspects of God were women created to represent in this world? I don’t know. Recently, I heard one speaker refer to the Holy Spirit as the feminine. That the Holy Spirit is the one who brings newness, new life, or birth. I’m still chewing on that.

      • rogereolson

        That’s not a new idea; it goes back at least to pietist leader Zinzendorf who preached about “the motherly office of the Holy Spirit.”

        • Sue

          Sebastian Brock’s work on the Spirit as mother in the Syriac church, Fire from Heaven, is a must read. It’s a very powerful tradition. Tim Bulkley has also just written a book called Not only a Father. T

  • Jon

    Kyndall,

    Another question I have is in reference to your definition of patriarchy as “By patriarchy, I mean the suppression of both female persons and feminine ways of being under the coercion of male dominance, granting a distorted masculinity excessive power and legitimizing the disparaging treatment of women based on gender.”

    What percentage of Christian men would you say fall under this definition? Do you think it is a prevalent attitude?

    I ask because I am a very conservative Christian who believes in Biblical sex role distinctions, yet I can honestly say that I don’t think I know a single man who fits this description. If it is truly so rare, then I am not sure where all the rage is coming from(?) It certainly can’t be coming from society at large because our society is overwhelmingly the OTHER way – feministic.

    So if society is dominantly feminist and the vast majority of Christian men don’t fall under your definition of patriarchy provided above, whence the problem? I’m just not seeing it. I’m not being offensive in any fashion, I just don’t see what the issue is.

    I would like to hear your thoughts.
    Thanks

    • rogereolson

      I don’t know if Kyndall will choose to respond or not. She’s not obligated to. So I will just say (speaking for myself only) that patriarchy, like all forms of oppression, can be completely unconscious and hidden to the person(s) exercising it over others. Not all patriarchalists are misogynists.

    • Kyndall

      Jon,

      Okay, I’m practically writing you a whole other blog post, so I will try to keep this brief. :)

      Patriarchy is often subtle. My own husband is in no way, shape or form intentionally patriarchal, but it is has taken us 6 years so far to peel back the layers of patriarchy and see how it is has negatively impacted our ways of relating over the years.

      Secondly, it so strange to me that you would say our culture is overwhelmingly feminist because the sex-trafficking industry, the pornography industry, the crude humor used towards women, the unequal pay women receive in the work force, the fact that I am 1 female out of about 700 Baptist male pastors in my area . . . I just don’t see what is overwhelmingly feminist about any of that. I don’t mean that as an attack. I just seriously don’t understand what you are talking about.

  • Kimberly

    I began reading this with one idea in mind and as I finished, I was amazed at how well I will be able to tie it into what you have written!
    I am guessing that as a Protestant you have not read the book of Wisdom in the Bible, and probably not Sirach, either. You would love them. They constantly refer to Wisdom as a woman, a mother, and talk about how she was with God in the very beginning. I have often asked Our Lady, “Why, why don’t they know that you are Wisdom?”. I personally don’t understand why all the feminist outrage has never brought this powerful question to the forefront; Why isn’t Our Lady considered part of the Trinity? She is the Spouse of the Holy Spirit, ONE with him, if what we believe about the sacrament of marriage is true, and I am certain that it is. Your words about your prayers to Mother struck me most when you said that they led you to the feet of Jesus. Who stood at the feet of Christ as He died upon the Cross? She never moved. She is there.
    Personally, I would not call God, Mother. He is my Father, and his Wife is my Mother. I consider myself equal to my husband in every way, deserving of dignity and respect in the full serving that he’s getting it, and yet I consider it disrespectful when my children call me “Daddy” to tease me, or when they call him “Mommy” to tease him. An accident is one thing, but deliberately discrediting my role as who I am is annoying. I would consider this an accident on your part, and not sinful, since you have likely not been turned to Our Lady before. But I hope you will at least consider turning to her now. I believe what you say about your spirituality being deeper than ever. Since I turned to the Mother Mary, my spirituality has grown much, much deeper than I ever imagined it would.

    • Kyndall

      Kimberly,

      Yes, I am Protestant, but I am deeply influenced by the monastic tradition, particularly Benedictine spirituality, so I am not wholly unfamiliar with the tradition of Mother Mary. I am, in fact, fascinated by her, although my experience in that regard is quite minimal compared to yours, I’m sure.

      I actually preached a sermon on Lady Wisdom just a few weeks ago (http://sermon.net/covenantbaptist/sermonid/1199820663) which was extremely meaningful to me personally, although I did not conceive of Wisdom and Mary as the same being. (I am more inclined to think of Lady Wisdom having ties to the Holy Spirit . . . ) I have never, however, thought of Wisdom/Mary/Lady, etc in terms of being God’s wife. That is a pretty foreign concept to me, so I don’t know how to comment on it.

    • http://krwordgazer.blogspot.com krwordgazer

      I honor Mary, but I do believe she is a human being and not a member of the Trinity. I don’t recall any scripture that refers to her as God’s spouse or God’s wife. It is my understanding that Catholics do not generally deify Mary. Words that seem to deify her do make me uncomfortable. That said, I think women do need to see the feminine in God, in ways that perhaps men don’t understand. But I think that females could not be made in the image of God if the female were not present in the Trinity. I don’t wish to make it into a Quadruplity.

      • Tim Reisdorf

        That said, I think women do need to see the feminine in God, in ways that perhaps men don’t understand. But I think that females could not be made in the image of God if the female were not present in the Trinity.

        If there is feminine in God, then it would be best for both men and women to understand that. I assume that there is and I endeavor to know it. But I frankly don’t know what to do with your speculation that women could know this and the men don’t understand. As Christians, don’t we all know God the same and differently all at the same time? Or is our particular knowing of God divided by our sex? Why are you thinking that women are more insightful / blessed / gifted than the rest of us? On the flip side, what do men know about God that women could not? (I suppose that since you’re a woman that you couldn’t answer – and since I’m not a woman, neither could I.) It is needlessly divisive. Can’t we stop this already? Even if it were true, which it probably is, why this division? (Reminds me of small children who foolishly divide up teams of girls against boys during play time.) Yes, we are different, some times painfully different. Lets put focus on unity in Christ (Gal 3).

        • http://krwordgazer.blogspot.com krwordgazer

          Tim, I am dismayed that you are reading motives into my words that simply were never my intention. I do not believe that women are more gifted or insightful than men! And yes, there are ways of relating to God as Father that men know differently from women, because I believe boys and men relate to their earthly fathers a little differently than girls and women do– and similarly with mothers. I had no intention of being divisive.
          The reason I think women need to see the feminine in God, in ways that men may not understand, is that men have never experienced having their gender be secondary. Men have never experienced reading a Bible that was not primarily addressed to their gender. Men have never experienced having their gender’s perspective be overlooked or marginalized. Men are in the group whose gender is the default when it comes to thinking of God and addressing God (even when people don’t see God as male or female, there is the indisputable fact that Jesus calls God Father, not Mother). I don’t think it is at all unreasonable to believe that my need to see the female in God is different from your feeling that it’s “best” that you do, too.
          I wish that men and women could have these exchanges without it being assumed that one is attacking the other, and the other then becoming defensive. I was not, in my heart or mind, setting my sex above yours in any way. I apologize for inadvertently causing offense.

          • Tim Reisdorf

            krwodgazer, I did not mean to misunderstand you, and I’m sorry if I did. Even so, I am struggling with your ideas and words, not you as a person. It is a difficult and knotty topic, fraught with danger on many sides. I hope that you can understand that I’m not attacking you or defending me, I’m trying to explain/defend what I believe is a valid point of view.
            I am in agreement with you that a better balance would be brought to everyone (including women) to see feminine aspects of God. [Who defines what feminine is?] You might possibly be incorrect to conclude that men have never experienced having their gender being secondary. Maybe you’ve never been told that your maleness was primary and because of that you are marginalized and treated like you’re secondary and told that there are just some things that you can’t understand. Nobody wins these wars, especially when the cures are worse than the diseases. Everyone feels yucky to me at the end. But you are certainly correct in saying that males and females relate to their earthly fathers differently – everyone does, even sisters of the same father. And we’re all the same and all different all at the same time.
            You may underestimate how seriously I take this when you say that your need to see the female in God compares to my feeling that it’s “best” that I do. How can I know God as I ought to know God if I don’t know God as fully as I can? It may well be different than your need, but it is to the same end.
            There must be a place beyond these gender battles – a place where the lion and lamb live in peace and remain fully who they are.

          • http://krwordgazer.blogspot.com krwordgazer

            Tim, I appreciate your kind words. I have, as a white, middle class female, experienced a certain amount of what you’re talking about when you say that your gender being “primary” was assumed and used to discount your perspective. I do believe that as a white, middle class person, there are some things about being of another race, or poor, that I simply do not understand, and may not ever understand to the depths of experience that a person of another race or economic background might. But I don’t like to be discounted or marginalized, either, and I agree that we all should stop doing that, and that it’s a weakness we are all subject to– feminists not excluded.

  • Kimberly

    I think I will also delve into the topic of “angry women”. I would never claim to know whether or not a woman’s anger is “valid”. In fact, 9 times out of 10, it probably is. However, is it useful? From my experience, it’s quite harmful, actually. It has always made my problems much worse.
    You see, the thing is, women are not tough in the way that having an angry outburst would indicate. Are we mentally tough? Some of us are. Are we capable of taking pain and suffering in a most admirable way? Yes, I’m afraid most women really, truly are. And that’s what so many of us resent. We often think we’re stronger than men in this way. It pits us against them. But we are mistaken to discredit them so. Men suffer in ways that women can hardly comprehend, just as we do in ways that they are so often unable to appreciate.
    Women, even the most aggressive and determined of us, are not as physically powerful as men. I can say this because I train Brazilian jiu-jitsu, and without a doubt, I KNOW. It is not wise to pit ourselves against them. I have never, ever seen my bad temper get me anywhere with any man, and especially not with the most masculine of them, which are the ones I most desire to have “on my side”. Aggression is useless. Appealing to their instincts to conquer and provide, however, is a weapon that I thank God I have found! It can be extremely difficult and it can take a very long time to win a man over so well that he respects you and adores you enough to have the desire to truly protect you. But it can be done, and it’s worth all the trouble- every bit of it. With true femininity, and the guidance of that ultimate Woman, the Mother of God, a woman can most certainly become not only equal in dignity and value to men, but she can be held above them by his big, strong, loving arms. And I don’t buy that this is not what feminist women want. If they don’t, they have ceased to be women.

    • http://krwordgazer.blogspot.com krwordgazer

      I’m not sure what “true femininity” is as you are defining it, but I cannot see “appealing to [men'] instincts to conquer and provide” as a “weapon,” because I don’t see myself as a woman, as being at war with men. I also don’t want to be “held above” by my husband’s big, strong, loving arms– I want to stand by his side as his equal, and for us to wrap our own arms around one another in love and protection and nuture. It seems odd to me that women are not perceived as protecting their husbands. We do it all the time, just as much as our husbands protect us. When my husband is sick or exhausted, I am the one who deals with the telephone, the doorbell, the kids. And vice versa. How can I have “ceased to be a woman” because I desire mutuality? And believe me, mutuality is what I want. I have no secret desires to the contrary. And am I not a woman?

  • Paul Johnston

    Hi Kyndall,
    Within context I can’t quibble with much of your criticisms. My problem and where I see error informing your worldview, is precisely with it’s contextualization. For me the fullness (read truth) of our identities transcends gender, race, sexual orientation…etc. Simply put our true identities are described in the values we uphold and the consistency, or lack there of, with which we live these values. Lesser, “lower” demarcations like gender and race do inform our values but in the end they are only means to an identity but not an identity in of themselves.

    Like Marx, who looked to impose the “class struggle” as the only meaningful identity for humankind, feminism makes the same, only different in type, category mistake. Like Marxism the feminist movement will require a similar suspension of free thinking, if it hopes to impose it’s errancy.

  • http://jesusandvenus.com Ryan Stauffer

    Can we get a link to Kyndall’s blog?

  • Robyn

    I think many of us are trying to figure out our role and importance in a Christian life. A book that has touched my heart on the subject is called, “The Power of a Virtuous Woman” by author Paula Penn-Nabrit. This a non-fiction book written for Christians, which explores Proverbs 31 and the issue of virtue for women with examples used from King David, Bathsheba and King Solomon. http://www.telosinc.org/

  • http://www.logicandimagination.com Melody Hanson

    Brilliant, wise and full of grace. I wish I had written it because I have certainly lived it. Thank you. I’m going to check out your other writing.

    • Kyndall

      Thank you Melody! Glad to know you resonate.

  • Pingback: Weekend Compilations: my favorite blogs from this past week (3) « G. C. Jeffers

  • Jordan Litchfield

    One of the reasons I come to this blog is because of the sane, Arminian Evangelical discussion that goes on here. As someone who grew up in a neo-Fundamentalist background, I have appreciated the critiques on this blog of the intolerant spirit and belief of the inerrancy of their interpretations which often subconsciously plagues neo-Fundamentalists. Though I do not agree with everything on the blog (who does?! :D) and am still quite conservative myself, I have learned a lot from it.

    However, one thing that needles me is often I feel like the same spirit of frustration and intolerance is shown towards neo-Fundamentalists by progressives as vice versa. Though I appreciate reading different perspectives, I still expect a perspective posted on this blog to operate by a Christian spirit which is will to give the benefit of the doubt, and recognize that another person may still be very godly in spite of disagreement.

    Why then was this post on Feminism posted? Some are probably going to attack me for asking this and accuse me of being misogynist and patriarchal. However, I was actually looking forward to reading this blog because I like to understand where others are coming from, what makes them tick, and the opportunity to review my own beliefs/behavior for adjustment. Unfortunately, I was really grieved by this statement:

    “…even still, I can think of a few “pastors” I might roundhouse kick in the balls if I had the chance, given their abhorrent perpetuation of severe patriarchy.”

    How in the world can this be a Christ-like attitude?! I do not question Kyndall’s spirituality, rather I question how it is Christ-like and appropriate to make such a statement. I give Kyndall the benefit of the doubt and do not want to slam her just for this statement, but I would also like to see more cruciform love expressed towards some of her brothers in Christ who may certainly be misguided but still devout and sincere (I realize all are not sincere, but how am I supposed to read their hearts?).

    Isn’t it is this type of attitude amongst neo-Fundamentalists which you so often decry, Dr. Olson?? If one of them made such a statement about a Progressive then there is no doubt you would be upset. Why this post then?

    I realize Feminists have been abused in many ways and we need to be made aware. There IS such a thing as righteous anger, but statements such as that above are totally unhelpful towards others who are sincere in the interpretation and also in their walk with Christ. Jesus DID get angry, but it was with obvious religious hypocrites. You may disagree with Grudem and Piper (and I’m not saying they are who Kyndall meant even though it could sound like it), but they are sincere Christian brothers who deserve better treatment regardless of how misguided you think their interpretations are. Anger is needed, but not an abusive anger or rage against the wrong people – our brothers in Christ.

    • rogereolson

      I agree that anger that implies violence is at least questionable. I don’t use it myself. (Unless I’m talking about violence necessary to stop violence.) I take that “Be angry but sin not” implies avoiding vengeance. But I also take some expressions I might not understand or use as rooted profound frustration and anger at being subjected to what I would call “non-physical violence.” By that I mean limiting a person’s very humanity by denigrating their race or gender, etc. While I don’t condone violence In response to that I can understand expressions of extreme anger and frustration in response to situations like the following. My wife and I belonged to a church pastored by a marvelously gifted woman. The year she became pastor (not something prohibited by denominational rules) the denomination’s annual book of facts listed her husband as the church’s pastor. I am sure that was intentional, not an error. Her husband was not even ordained or a church professional; he was a computer programmer. I can understand outrage at such insults.

      • Jordan Litchfield

        Thanks for your response. I certainly agree that any behavior or language which knowingly denigrates either race or gender is worth getting angry about. Therefore, I can understand much feminist anger for there is no doubt that there are many men who have misogynist attitudes and intentionally demean women and their gifts/value.

        However, what I am protesting against is the type of language Kyndall used against pastors who probably do not intentionally denigrate women and their gender. Though their views might seem to lead to denigration from your perspective and Kyndall’s, I think it is likely that such pastors would deny such intentions – and as you frequently assert on this blog, Dr. Olson, we should take people at their word. Just like you and I feel that the Calvinist perspective ultimately and logically makes God a moral monster and the source of evil, we do not accuse them of believing this because they deny it – and we take them at their word. This does not mean disagreement (even when intense) is inappropriate; it simply means treating others and speaking to others they way we would have them to speak to us.

        Would Kyndall – and I am interested in her feedback as well if she desires – like it (or appreciate the value of it) if such pastors spoke in such demeaning language as she used? I would be surprised. Again, I do not question Kyndall’s spirituality – as I’m sure I could learn much from her! I just feel like progressives get away with some of the attitudes and verbal expressions they decry from their neo-Fundamentalist brothers and sisters.

    • Kyndall

      Jordan,

      Everyone, I imagine, who writes feels some nervousness about what kind of critique they are going to get. So naturally, as I began reading your comment, I got anxious. What’s he about to say??

      When I got to the part where you explained what sentence bothered you most, I had to laugh. Not at you, of course, but at humor of the misunderstanding that can happen in an online format. I wrote that line most definitely “tongue in cheek,” as I do not have a violent bone in my body. (I don’t mean that self-righteously, as in I’m “nonviolent” by conviction and by attitude–I just mean I’m nonviolent in personality! I weigh about 100 pounds, I have a very soft voice, and most everyone I know thinks I’m pretty gentle. In highschool, I got in trouble from my basketball coach: “Kyndall!! Quit apologizing to people for fouling them!) So, everyone who knows me in person understood exactly what I meant by that line, I imagine, but I see why in an impersonal interaction that was a little confusing to you.

      Obviously, I was wanting to demonstrate that rage can at times be appropriate (such as Jesus overthrowing tables in the temple.) I meant for it to be clear that I don’t direct my own rage against patriarchy towards individuals or institutions, though I understand why some people choose to do so. Also, the instinct or desire to retaliate is quite different from the actual ways we choose to respond, and let the record reflect that to date I have roundhouse kicked no pastors, persons, or even animals in the balls or elsewhere.

      • Jordan Litchfield

        Kyndall,

        Thanks for your response and the spirit with which it was conveyed. I accept your explanation at face value, though I still question if a similar statement no matter how innocently intended would have been accepted by feminists or progressives if coming from a fundamentalist. However, though I couldn’t have said that myself, I appreciate your explanation. Thank you for dialoging about your perspective.

  • Steve

    Jesus was a male. He refers to ‘the Father’. Maybe God isn’t male or female but the ‘pattern’ that scripture sets out seems pretty clear. Nevertheless use the word ‘feminist’ in a blog and it gets them going.

    • Quartermaster

      The term “feminist” conveys a certain message whether the user wants to convey that message or not. My observation has been that no matter what brand of feminism you espouse, all brands and corrosive in a church. God refers to himself, repeatedly, in masculine terms. He incarnated as a man. The church offices of Bishop/Elder and Deacon have in their qualifications “husband of one wife.” The problem of all brands of feminism is that they all see such things as “patriarchy.”

      Trying to compare the church with the relationship in marriage does not work either. My wife is my partner in life. But, God holds the man responsible for the family as the head of the home. Paul and Peter deal with the treatment of the wife in marriage, referring to the woman in terms the feminist finds revolting.

      God’s word is placed before us to accept or reject. Too often, we find ourselves holding philosophies at variance with that word. Our place is to conform ourselves to God’s expectations, and not wiggle around seeking ways to avoid the force of God’s word. I have found myself having to change position doctrinally as I have come to know God’s word better. As a result I left the egalitarian position and became a complimentarian. That resulted in leaving the religious culture in which I was raised, and it was not an easy trip.


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