I remember when I first chose feminism. Or to put it in a more Calvinist light, I remember when feminism chose me.
It was my first year of seminary and I was soaking up everything that was being taught in my Theology and Worship Class. I was new to the Reformed world so I didn’t know the right things to think or say. I was driven by questions (and still am). In class we were reading Daniel Migliore’s book Faith Seeking Understanding. It was in this book that I was surprised to find the topic of Feminist Theology. I didn’t get how God and feminism went together then. I found energy ignited in me. I went to the back of the book and kept reading the definition of Feminist Theology over and over, as if to realize it was real. Could it really be there was a thing as Feminist Theology?
Later that year I decided to write a paper on the traditional views of atonement in light of Feminist Theology. I discovered a gem of a book, Feminist and Womanist Essays in Reformed Dogmatics that lead me to a meeting with Western Theological Seminary’s Dean of students who happened to have an essay represented in the book.
I believe in conversions. I believe we go through multiple conversions in our life. This was the beginning of my conversion to feminism. (Or perhaps more of an awakening to the feminist I had always been.) After talking with the Dean I wrote my paper (and got an A, in case you were wondering) that helped me realize that I enjoy talking about God through a feminist lens. But not just any feminist lens: a Reformed Feminist lens.
A Reformed and Feminist Theologian
My twitter bio proudly states that I am a Reformed and Feminist theologian. This can sometimes confuse people. Pop-culture Reformed theology is represented by people like Mark Driscoll and John Piper. While these might be names people connect with the word “Reformed” (or “neo-Refomred,” to be more exact), they are most likely not the names they would connect with the word “Feminist.” So when I say I’m Reformed and Feminist some are confused because Driscoll berates feminism.
I have multiple encounters on twitter expressing how beautiful Reformed and Feminist Theology is. Just like Feminist Theology, Reformed Theology chose me. When you are chosen by theologies and you recognize the grace that they offer, you can’t help but respond by choosing it back.
There are different flavors of Feminist Theologies but if I were to create a Venn diagram of them their broad connection points would be that they are both soaked in grace. When I use more female related images for God or highlight the courageous stories of women in our Scripture it is grace for women and men. This equality for all of us is grace, a free gift of God that we already have, just waiting for us to realize it and live into it.
Feminist Theology offers the possibility to heal people’s images of God that have been male dominated which have squeezed out many opportunities for women to see themselves in our Biblical texts. This doesn’t heal just women but liberates men as well! It opens up new possibilities of grace when you begin to see your body, your spirituality, and your agency finally talked about theologically. And that’s the business I’m in: grace.
It’s irresponsible for a feminist to say she speaks for all feminists. Just like it’s irresponsible for someone who is Reformed to say she speaks for all Reformed people. Feminism can sometimes be critiqued as being for white, educated, middle-class women. This is why we see the rise of Womanist and Mujerista Theologies privileging the stories of African American and Latina women. These are needed critiques that are all in conversation with each other.
When we talk about God we need to be mindful about how many times the God we talk about is male. If that’s what are we are implicitly saying, what are we explicitly communicating? I know for me, my well-meaning pastors growing up didn’t realize they were preaching about a God that I connected with less and less because I could not see how my body, my spirituality, my agency was represented in a particularly male dominated theology. Be mindful, cautious even, of the stories we are telling and what they say about men and women.
What about you? Are you Reformed? Feminist? Both?
How do you see these circles of thought intersecting with one another?
We can go deeper together in the comments below but if you’re looking for a bit of extra reading on the topic, I recommend the following:
- Feminist and Womanist Essays in Reformed Dogmatics
- Feminist Theory and Christian Theology Cartographies of Grace by Serene Jones
- (Wo)manifesto an article by Carol Howard Merritt
- Mujerista: Definition by Ada Maria Isasi-Diaz
Or check out this great mini-documentary on Womanist Theology: