Feminism Made Me A Better Christian
March 28, 2012 § Leave a comment
I used to feel confused often about what loving behavior was. I knew I wanted to follow the teachings of Jesus, to hear and honor the voice of the Spirit of Love. I listened hard for that still, small voice within me. And I think that has been the best decision I have ever made in my life. But I used to get bowled over by arguments that used the rhetoric of Christianity, applying the words of Jesus and the name love to things that did not feel right, that did not sound like that little voice I knew, but I could not find the words to argue against. For a long time, I obeyed what I felt as a voice of authority I could not win an argument against, assuming that meant it was the Spirit of God.
Discovering radical feminism helped me. It brought with it a new rhetoric, a new ethical lens to apply to things. A consent ethic can be applied to many situations to clarify matters when strong rhetoric and my intuitive sense of what is right are at odds. I became much more aware of how much authority can be wielded by forces far from divine, and I learned to see how oppressive systems persuade people to deaden the voice of their own conscience.
Love and coercion cannot coexist, as bell hooks says in All About Love. If we are coercing, we are not acting in line with the Divine. Yet everywhere, we find this bizarre image of God cast as this punishing, invasive parent set to police our actions and frighten us into doing good and people emulating this God. I believe that God is a garish shadow of oppressive humans cast into the sky to use fear as a mechanism of control.
Once I got straight in my head that the God of Love was not the god of coercion, love made more sense to me. It seemed more consistent and more worth believing in and more applicable to everyday life. I had a language all my own, away from Christian rhetoric, that would not confuse me into believing that God told me something the Spirit in my conscience did not.
A consent ethic runs parallel for me with the nature of the Divine. I consider it obvious that if God meant us to be coerced into doing good, we would be. So our purpose cannot be to coerce one another into being “good.” The reality of free will indicates that it is the right state of human beings to have autonomy, and I think this is because we are meant to love and love cannot exist outside of free will choice.
The real Divine feels very different from any other voice of authority to me. It feels like radical love, an exciting and creative force that makes a life of fear and hate seem an unenticing, sad, and strange choice. It feels like the message of Jesus feels, telling of how an Empire so strong its ruler named himself the Son of God, King of Kings and Lord of All, could not stop the love pouring out of one poor, humble, radical person’s soul. It feels like something that can quietly and gently overcome that internalized voice of fear that presents as an all-powerful authority who will destroy us if we do not bow to it and make us resistant to coercion and oppression.