Monday, January 21, 2013

EC13 Reflections: Keeping the Faith - Feminism, Sincerity & Domesticity

“The good ol’ days weren’t always good, and tomorrow ain’t as bad as it seems.”

Here's what I know to be true for me:

1. I found the way some of Mrs. Tickle's remarks came across very off-putting. (To quote Gilmore Girls' Sookie St. James: "Oh, that makes me so mad. And so sad. I'm smad!") In fact, I was almost numb as the words were coming out of her mouth, because I've heard them from her before - and I had truly hoped she would've found a new way of communicating correlation without implying causality. You see, I have a deep affection for Phyllis Tickle and her words, and I know how much wisdom she has to offer. I know that she is far from antiquated. I don’t think less of her, I just wished the information had been shared differently.

2. I understand the need for, and champion the cause of, domestic transmission of faith. On top of being "smad" I was also very, very glad. I was sitting with a dear friend who has been balancing working full time, personal ministry, and raising a family with writing a book about how to bring the celebration of the liturgical calendar into the home. Her book was cited as an example of a resource for how to redeem the role of the family in discipleship. Her family, her faith, her courage & her creativity have been such an inspiration to me, I was overwhelmed with joy for her. And I am excited for other busy households & communities to get their hands on her hard work, her stories, her fun ideas.

3. I don't think these things are mutually exclusive. In the backlash against the implication that women-leaving-the-home-killed-christianity, I observed domesticity taking a hit. I think as much as we have to be mindful of how our language can blame women for taking ownership of their bodies and lives, we also have to be mindful of how we can pit feminism and domestic arts against one another.

Hearing anything close to the insinuation that women taking ownership over their bodies (birth control) and their lives (employment outside the home) is a negative thing kicks in my PTSD. As a single woman, it echoes hearing Al Mohler tell a crowd that after a certain age singleness can be a sign of the sin of selfishness. Luckily, in this case, I knew it was coming from a woman of wisdom who encourages the leadership of women. I didn’t like the way it came out, I didn’t like that others had to be affected by it – but I also knew there was no malice or ignorance behind it.

In the church I co-pastored, both Peter Rollins and Pinterest had loyal followings – and both served our community well.

In this generation of “new sincerity” there is a reclaimed interest in domesticity – deep parenting, gardening, canning, creating from scratch, adding beauty to neglected things. And it is a mutual interest, not restricted to traditional gender roles (or marital status). It’s a recognition that we lost something with our rush to our automation, and it is worthy to be redeemed.

Valuing the sort of nurturing & discipleship that has the potential to take place within familial bonds does not require returning to antiquated ideas about the family. We can come up with new practices that support a mutuality in the home (as well as the wider church), where the gifts and perspectives of not only parents (female or male), but also the children, are brought to the table, honored & allowed to edify the whole.

Years ago I wrote about John Howard Yoder's perspective on "equality" in the church. Yoder has much to teach us (through his writing, at least, though he may have mucked it up in practice) about what empowering one another can look like:
"The transformation that Paul's vision calls for would not be to let a few more especially gifted women share with a few men in the rare roles of domination; it would be to reorient the notion of ministry so that there would be no one ungifted, no one not called, no one not empowered, and no one dominated."

It's about being the body of Christ, with all our diverse, messy, beautiful parts.

It's about getting to know one another in our unique giftings and interests, and allowing all of those to be brought to the table in honor. It's about creating space for us to be who we are, and naming each other - not with shame, but with purpose.


Jerusalem Greer said...

OK now I can breathe again. I just want to say for the record that Phyllis was also a working full-time mother for most of her adult life. She often worked more than one job and juggled it all. Probably not always great, as none of us do. The thing I have found the most troubling and heartbreaking about all of the recent uproar is that there has been a huge lack of context and grace. Perhaps Phyllis assumes that her audiance knows that she was a working mother and that that she and Sam worked side by side as much as not. Perhaps she assumes that they remember that she lived through the advent of the Birth Control Pill. Maybe she assumes that they know about her life on the farm, the years putting Sam through medical school etc. Perhaps she assumed all of that because she has written at least 5 books that tell different chapters of her domestic life as well as of her professional and faith life. But no one who has written a scalding attack has seemed to have any working knowledge of Phyllis's life experiance and context and that drives me batty. Secondly, let me just rant briefly about the lack of grace. This past week has been hugely disappointing to me as I have watched person after person, judge 20 minutes worth of remarks, without an ounce of grace. The amount of knee jerking that has happened has been troubling and reminds me of why there is still such a great divide between groups, especially women's groups. Where is the place for me? For the working mother pastor who crafts and likes glitter?

Kimberly said...

Some additional great reflections: