If You Read One Thing This Week …

… make it this Q&A with Dianna Anderson on Rachel Held Evans’ blog as part of Rachel’s “Ask a …” series. Dianna answered questions as a feminist. Allow me to pull an excerpt, from her answer about the compatibility of feminism with opposition to abortion:

I believe it is possible to be a feminist and pro-life, as long as that pro-life ethic does not come with rhetoric that shames, ignores, or vilifies women for the choices that they may make about a legal procedure. Don’t use your pro-life stance to treat women like morons. Don’t use it to shame women for their sexual choices, because, honestly, you don’t know what led to those choices. Instead, use your pro-life stance to attempt to make a difference in the lives of the women surrounding you by supporting them, by letting them know that you will be there for them if they do have an unwanted pregnancy (and then actually being there for them!), and by working to lower the occurrence of unwanted pregnancies in the first place – which means better sexual health education in schools, funding for birth control measures and education about using that birth control, promoting research into methods of safe male birth control, and creating an environment where the women in your life can come to you to discuss safe sexual choices.

Nothing will turn you into a feminist faster than having daughters. The more I think about what I want them to know about the world and about themselves, the less tenable I find anything but true equality in all aspects of life – including the church. We’ve discussed here before the radical femininity of Christ in response to the erroneous notion that Christianity has “a masculine feel” and shape. Go there if you want an example or two of how Jesus subtly subverted the patriarchal gender norms of his day. Anderson adds another one:

For me, everything comes back to the vision of the Resurrection. When Jesus first appeared, he appeared to two women, during a time when female testimony was illegitimate, and he asked them to testify to his return. That’s huge – the biggest news in the universe, and two women, whose word was not considered trustworthy, were instructed to carry the news. That, to me, is the most important vision of equality that Christians can have – that is the affirmation that women are equals, that we are valued in the eyes of Christ, that we are necessary to the Gospel story. And that is the lens through which I interpret everything else, as that is the eschatological tale I believe God is weaving.

I’m trying desperately to finish The Bible Made Impossible, which I started months ago (I’m not a mobile-book reader; I get through the old-fashioned paper-and-ink tomes much quicker). I’m now in the second half of the book, where Christian Smith has detailed all the problems with the literalistic, handbook-model approach to scripture he terms “biblicism” and now begins to work through a new way of reading the Bible, which is through the lens that all scripture points to Jesus. Anderson is using that hermeneutic here; we cannot understand Paul without understanding Jesus – nor can we understand him without understanding the heavily patriarchal gender norms that are a part of his worldview.

In short, if Jesus was a feminist – and I have no doubt when looking at the ways he overturned the “natural” order of his day that he was – then shouldn’t we be, as well?

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