Thursday, July 22, 2004

Previous posts on feminism now lead me here: to say just where feminism has been a credit, and where possibly the body of Christ has allowed its witness to be marred by cultural concerns. I do not do this lightly. I am well aware how fashionable it is to criticize the church. Any time a Christian speaks of the church, he or she should speak with respect and love, as these are the people Jesus loved (and loves) so much that he died for them, and will return for them again. So much hostility toward the church masquerades as a kind of prophetic correction that is nothing more than self-guilt somebody wants to share with the whole body of Christ. That's a post for another day. When I wonder about feminism and how to assess it, I ask one question: "Is there anything true about what is being said?" That question is the essence of seeing Christ in culture, which is not only a point of view or a disposition, but the first part of making all things captive to the Lordship of Christ. My understanding of this is beautifully summed up by St. Patrick when he wrote, "Christ in hearts of all that love me, Christ in mouth of friend and stranger." There is considerable value in shedding light on sexual harrassment in the workplace, violence against women, pornography, (though many feminist groups ally themselves politically with those unwilling to agree that it is degrading to women) and glass ceilings in corporate settings. Our political culture purposely pits feminists against men by excusing the vulgarity of men, lack of respect, inability to communicate, (especially emotionally) and anger as part of being a man. Utter hogwash. Sadder still, men who demonstrate the ability to listen, compassion, etc. are said to have found their "feminine" side. No, what they have found is a Christ-like side. Feminists can no more claim good qualities as part of a woman's nature than men claim bad ones as an excuse. Men unwilling to confront their own weaknesses often complain that women "want it both ways." They are absolutely right. Toughness and sensitivity. Courage and vulnerability. Willingness to fight, and yet die. "Wow. Sounds like the greatest man ever!" Right again. I've just described Jesus. For the church, then, certain feminists who have blamed the Christian church and all of our parents (led by our dads) for 'patriarchy' (all-purpose word that used to benignly denote male leadership that now means "All things men do that feminists hate") have been wasting your time. One can tear down every structure of Western society, domesticate men in every way possible, strip them of all power, dignity and respect, and they'll still be brutish, insensitive pigs. If I am in any way representative, then that is a guarantee. Beware, dear friends, of those who like to pretend that things were perfect here in America before the feminists showed up and started complaining. Those men are just as willing to ignore themselves as anyone. They are no friends of ours, either. As some have asserted, the church is its own body politic. And that is a good thing, because in terms of pursuing equality, peace, and reconciliation, the American body politic is a rotting corpse.