Evangelical Christian Feminists I Have Known
December 6, 2010
In talking about feminists I have known, I tend to divide them into two groups. One group I would describe as “classical feminists,” who thought, “Men have fucked us [women] over; when we get the chance, we will screw them just as badly.”
Historically, until recently, women seldom got the opportunity. Three women from historical records come quickly to mind: Cleopatra, Elizabeth I of England, and Catherine the Great of Russia.
Cleopatra famously fooled around with Anthony, who lost out in the Roman gang war rumbles of the time; she went down with him. Elizabeth was very tough and coy; defeating the Spanish armada, negotiating with a variety of suitors, while cultivating a cult of virginity (the virginity may have been accurate in fact.) Catherine of Russia proved to be a tough babe in a rough land; conquering enemies in war, holding on to her court (after her husband was deposed and then killed); and taking and casting aside lovers as suited her tastes without much qualm or secrecy.
At this point, as my style, I will embark on an incredibly prolix, tedious, and ignorant essay on the history of modern religious belief, which will eventually get you to the subject of feminist evangelical Christian babes I have known. Feel free to skip to the not so bad part will be helpfully labeled, “Not so bad part, slightly safer to read.”
While my co-worker Maria would probably not wanted to be grouped with babes like Cleopatra, Elizabeth, and Liz; as a very educated woman who majored in history and possessed a wry sense of humor, I suspect she would have reluctantly conceded the resemblance.
As an English major, I was familiar with Henry James, an eccentric writer who wrote dense novels that most people feel they ought to read but probably don’t want to. [Actually, with a little effort on the part of the reader, some of James’ early novels, such as What Maisie Knew, are pretty good, but as James was very bright and very talented, once he put his mind to writing completely unreadable novels, by the end of his life he succeeded beyond his wildest dreams. If he had been a competitive runner, James would have been one who ran marathons hundreds of miles from where any other competitor would dream of running in desert landscapes where no human observers would be caught dead watching the race because they would be caught dead period by the Gila monsters and rattlesnakes.
Until later, I was less familiar with Henry’s eccentric and brilliant brother, William James, a philosopher who believed in pragmatism (if i t works, it probably is right); a social scientist who invented experimental psychology (a system for torturing rats and pigeons); and one of the first people to study religious belief from the point of view of social science. In other words, aside from pondering the question of whether religious belief is true (impossible to determine for sure, but probably not) an issue that fretted James quite a bit as he was fairly depressed much of the time and did not want to die any more than most of us, except when he was considering whether to commit suicide, he also contemplated the question: what do religious people actually believe?
Writing in the late 1800s, James noticed that religious belief tended to fall into two schools:
Positive Thinking School: What might be called the “positive thinking school” (Tending toward a belief in a benevolent Loving God who will reward us for existing by granting us life after physical death in a groovy place called Heaven) and:
Humans Are Wicked, Doomed Sinners School:What might be called the “” believing that Christ’s sacrifice will save us from eternal punishment in Hell if we worship God and Christ while constantly bragging about our sinfulness and unworthiness.”
[In keeping with James I am speaking of Christianity here, but similar strains existed in other religions of his time as he was aware.]
A century after William James went to find out for himself if there is any there there (in other words, he croaked), globalism seems to be creeping into the world of religion, in that two main religions are cohering around the world. Speaking in the late 1900s and early 2000s, writers such as Karen Armstrong (Catholic nun drop-out and author of acclaimed books such as The History of God) have described these trends (my summaries of which would probably make poor Karen puke, though very gently and discreetly, because she is a very gentle, refined woman):
Tolerant, Ecumenical, We Are All Children of One Loving God School and
WE BLOW OURSELVES UP AND YOU WITH US IF YOU DO NOT BELIEVE IN THE CORRECT GOD OF YOUR OWN FREEE WILL SCHOOL!!!!
(Karen Armstrong herself, describes the second school as “Fundamentalism”]
One of the typical strains of fundamentalism is “obedience to God.” God wants humans to be blindly and unquestionably obedient to Him. A side benefit of this system is that many fundamentalists assign themselves roles as spokespeople for God and then start telling others around them to be obedient to them as religious leaders, political leaders, and so on. In evangelical Christianity (and most other fundamentalist religions), men interpret this chain of command as applying to women being obedient to men (husbands, fathers, and so on).
Just as in the case of political leaders such as Cleopatra, Elizabeth, and Catherine, some fundamentalist women are not inclined by temperament and philosophy to be blindly and passively obedient to the men in their lives. In the following sections of this thread I will describe a couple of evangelical Christian women I have known who were by nature feminists and the somewhat amusing (at least to me) turns these contradictions played out in their lives.