Wednesday, October 10, 2012

I am a feminist, and I pray.

Somewhere along the way, I forgot about God's power. Because of feminism.

Because feminism fights against the unjust structures that exist within society- including within the church. We don't buy the "husbands are supposed to lead, wives are supposed to submit" thing because it's sexist and it can so easily be used to control or abuse women. We see no reason women should not be pastors- in fact, why is it such a big deal? Why does a woman need to fight to use the abilities and ambitions God has given her?

Also, feminists want to give a voice to the voiceless. To tell the victim's story, when a pastor rapes a teenage girl, and the attitude of the majority of the church is "it's her fault, she seduced him" and "don't talk about it."

But where is God? Where is God, when we have to speak out, when we have to fight? Doesn't the bible say authorities were set up by God? But we can't trust the authorities to keep us safe. We can't let the husband be the automatic leader because he might abuse his power over his wife. We can't trust the church to value women, to keep its most vulnerable members safe, to not blame the victim.

No, instead we have to be alert. We have to speak out against injustice and sexism, wherever we see it. We're on our own.

We're on our own.

Because if the church won't protect us, who will?

We're on our own.

I think this is one of feminism's weaknesses- the tendency to feel like "we're on our own", and that everybody else is blind to the realities of racism and sexism in our culture, and the thousand little things that continually perpetuate that injustice. To get discouraged because we see so much that's not the way it should be.

But I can't accept this. I have experienced the very real power of God, alive and active in the world. I know from experience that God hears and answers prayers. We are not on our own.

But how can I reconcile this with feminism's message that "you can't trust those with power to do the right thing- you need to fight for your own rights"? Where is God? I just want to trust and feel safe. I don't want this.

I don't have an answer for that right now, but here's one thing I want to say: Feminism understands the concept of a "broken world" much better than a lot of Christians do. Feminism notices inequality and speaks out against it, rather than assuming that's just the way it is. Feminism understands that oppression and injustice aren't just caused by faceless, corrupt politicians in third-world countries- no, they exist right here, in the US. Right here, in the racist and sexist attitudes I have subconsciously believed, right here in my own sin.

So I'm not saying it's bad that my eyes have been opened to the fact that abuse is real, rape is real, sexism is real. These are things Christianity predicted when it talked about "living in a broken world."

But still, where is God?

He's here. He's alive. I don't know exactly how- I don't know the answer to why God allows bad things to happen. But I have experienced his power, changing my life over and over, and I know this is what I believe.

I believe in the power of prayer. I believe God hears and God works, and when I ask "where is God?" maybe the first step is to try talking to him. Here are my feminist prayer requests:
  • That God would bring healing for those who are victims of rape and abuse. That God would show them his unconditional love and destroy the lies that say "you're worthless" and "it's your fault".
  • That Christians would be known for their love.
  • That Christian girls would grow up with a strong sense of their identity in Christ. To know that God made them and God loves them unconditionally, and their worth is not at all related to their modesty or purity. To know that they are not any less valuable than men. That their greatest purpose in life is not marriage and motherhood, but to follow Jesus. And that God does not see their femininity and sexuality as something evil that attacks and seduces men. 
  • An end to sexism in the church. An end to the unquestioned assumption that women aren't supposed to be pastors. Or that "yes, we can have a woman pastor, but wouldn't it be BETTER if it was a man?"
  • For Christian organizations that have programs aimed at helping the poor: I pray that their work would be effective and make a real difference in people's lives. I pray that they would see "the poor" not as less-than-human, too dumb to take care of themselves, but as real people, as our brothers and sisters. I pray that those in charge of the programs would first seek to understand the needs of the people they are serving. First listen, without telling them what you think they need.
  • That God would give strength to those caught in abusive relationships. That God would provide a way to get help, without being paralyzed by shame, without blaming themselves, without fear of not being believed.
  • I pray for greater love and understanding within the church, between Christians who interpret parts of the bible differently.
  • That I would be part of God's plan. That God would give me opportunities to listen to people and care about them and love them like Jesus would.
For some of these things, I'm praying for huge change in the way society works. For some, I'm praying for individual people who have been hurt- maybe even people I know. For some, I'm praying for myself.

I am a feminist, and I pray.


Question: What would you add to my list of "feminist prayer requests"?

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