Saturday, July 17, 2010

Do Feminism and Christianity Have to be Mutually Exclusive?

I am obsessed with thinking. In general, it's a really good thing, but sometimes it makes you realize how complicated the world is and how varied the beliefs people hold.

I've boiled down my basic life philosophy thus--I want the world to be a better place because I was here. I don't want medals or great public accolades or anything other than the knowledge that I have made a positive difference. To me, this seems very simple.

I've learned recently how divided (and paradoxically intertwined) the concepts of feminism and Christianity are. This makes absolutely no sense to me, but I've taken some hits from quite a few Zelda Lily commenters over it. I don't take the criticism personally (I learned pretty quickly that I'd never write ANYTHING--and not just for Zelda Lily--if I did that), but it really makes me think.

To me, feminism is the idea that women are in control of their own choices and the decisions that guide their lives. There are many women--and a lot of men, too--that I don't agree with, but they are able to live a life that makes sense to them. I'm able to live a life that makes sense to me. Live and let live. Leave the world a better place than you found it. If a woman wants to be a CEO or a housewife (and, of course, anything in between and beyond), that is a choice she can and should be able to make. Simply put, that's my definition of feminism. It's not that hard.

Religion is a big part of my life. I've talked about it here before so I don't feel like I need to rehash, but suffice it to say that I have a very close and personal relationship with God. I'm very familiar with the Bible and try to fit my life into the teachings found therein.

The Bible is very open to interpretation if you read it closely. I did a book study on it (that sounds kind of heretic, I know, but it was extremely valuable to me as both a human being and a Christian), and one of the most important lessons I took away from it is the dichotomy (or trichotomy or quadchotomy or whatever) there is in the major sects of Christianity that all claim to follow the tenets of the Bible. For this reason (and through conversations I've had with God through prayer), I feel that my interpretation of the Bible--one that teaches of love and forgiving and sinning and repenting and, not to sound like a broken record, but living a life brimming over with good works for others--is not just appropriate but correct. I also think God's got a great sense of humor and would totally have loved this little story about one of my best friends and a mass-produced prayer rug she received in the mail.

I found a site called Ladies Against Feminism through my work at Zelda Lily, and it just scares the crap out of me. The message it seems to send is that a woman's place is at home and at church, basically serving the men in her life (husband, father, son, whatever). I find this idea completely contradictory to my interpretation of the Bible, but whatever floats your boat, you know? Live and let live.

However, the women writing on this site aren't content to let people develop their own religious philosophies, which I think is truly necessary if your relationship with God is to be any more than just lip service, dogma, and brainwashing. I went to church every Sunday of my childhood, yet I did not have a true relationship with God until I stopped going. They are defensive, and their tunnel vision makes me deeply scared for people that are looking for quick, easy answers.

There are no quick, easy answers to most of what happens to us. My beloved step-father, one of the finest human beings in the world, died of an extremely painful cancer at a fairly young age. Charles Manson is still alive, the swastika he carved into his forehead standing out. Is this fair? Heck, no. And I could ask why forever, but that's just the way it goes. God has a plan for each of us, but presuming to know it and to slap down people that disagree with you is just wrong.

I don't presume to know very much at all, but one thing I do know is that one-sided, rigid, my-way-or-the-highway people drive me crazy. It's very hard to articulate this, and there is not any sort of forum to do so, but I needed to get this out.

Most people that know me don't think I'm a religious person. I'm fine with that--what I believe is my business, and as far as I'm concerned, I can teach far more about God's lessons through living a helpful and productive life than sitting in church every day or writing down words that I've heard so much from my father and/or husband that I believe them to be true (and just to be very clear, neither my father nor my now-ex-husband were like this--both encouraged and challenged and supported to the best of their abilities any endeavor I wanted to take on and to be the person I am inside). In order for a true and genuine relationship with God, you get there on your own.

Decrying the idea of feminism out of hand in the name of God is just flat out wrong, particularly when feminism is such a complex and individual concept and such a loaded word.

I am a feminist. I am also a Christian. I am proud to be both. They are not mutually exclusive for me, and I don't think they have to be for anyone ... provided they're willing to look at a big picture with an open mind and, more importantly, an open heart.

I am a sinner. I have done some horrible things in my life. I have been paid back for it (with interest), but even so, the sins are still there. I will never forget. All I can do is be the best person I can be and give only the best of myself to others. Sometimes I'm successful, sometimes I stumble, but that is my guiding focus ... and that's all that God can ask of me.

I apologize in advance if I've offended anyone here. Please know that the God I believe in has shown me that honesty and thought are two of the most important things a human being can share. He gave me a passion for writing that makes this the vehicle I have to disseminate my thoughts in an honest manner.