I’ve heard many Christian feminists say that they are a feminist because of Jesus—because of their Christianity. I think that’s great. It’s not my story, however. I am not a feminist because of Jesus. I am a Christian because of feminism..
Before I began to view my Christian faith through a feminist lens, I was convinced that there was no redeeming it. I grew up in conservative Christian fundamentalism, going to a church and Christian high school that I consider abusive and cult-like. Even after leaving that church, I couldn’t shake my hatred of God—not just the fundamentalist God, but the God of even more socially liberal evangelical Christianity still focused on atonement and the glorification of violence.
I didn’t truly know or love God until I encountered her through feminism.
Christianity taught me a lot of things I was “supposed” to know about God. God is love. God is just. God is Trinity. God’s Word is made flesh through Jesus and through the body of Christ. God died, buried, and rose again the third day. God created me in God’s image.
But these concepts seemed meaningless at best, and harmful at worst to me.
Then I started reading feminist theory and theology.
It started with Rosemary Radford Ruether, who taught me that patriarchy is idolatry. We cannot understand God except through symbols and metaphorical language. God as Powerful Male is just one symbol, but patriarchy has made this one symbol into an idol.
Then, Elizabeth A. Johnson showed me that, if patriarchy is idolatry, I, as a feminist, wielding overlooked scripture and my own experience, can serve as an iconoclast. By creating new and reaffirming old diverse symbols for God, I can break down the idol of God As Male that has stood for far too long in our churches.
- God as Mother Hen or Angry Mother Bear
- God as Wisdom/Sophia Calling For Justice
- God as a Genderqueer King Who Nurtures And Breastfeeds Hir People
- God as Bitchy Humorless Feminist Who Won’t Shut Up
- God as a Badass Queer Woman Survivor, Like Me
Then, there was bell hooks, who convinced me to revisit the idea that God is love. As hooks says in All About Love, if we do not define love and set boundaries for what love is, any abuse or injustice can be defined as “loving.”
“Without justice [not the pointless, racist, patriarchal justice found in our legal systems and prison industrial complex, but the justice that heals, restores, and demands rightness and fairness for the oppressed] there can be no love.” –hooks
Thanks to bell hooks, I can now look at abuse and injustice happening in the church, and, even if people are trying to call it loving, I can firmly state that This Is Not Of God.
I learned to see the Trinity as diverse community, that sameness is not necessary in the body of Christ, for “It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences.” –Audre Lorde
I learned from Rita Nakashima Brock and Rebecca Ann Parker, in Proverbs of Ashes, to revisit the idea that suffering is redemptive and ask, “What if this is not true?” To renounce the idea that suffering is good, because it can serve the purpose of saving oppressors and bringing them to change. To throw all my cards in with my fellow survivors, and with our healing, and our freedom, rather than our abusers’.
Through feminism, I met God. I discovered that I could continue to see the Divine through the Christian lenses I’d grown up using. They just needed a whole lot of adjusting.
I know God because I know feminism. Without feminism, I’d have never seen her light.
Feminism (though it, like scripture itself, is flawed because it’s is the work of human hands) can be Prophetic. It can be Revelation. It can be God’s Word in history, God working in the world to draw us to her.