One More for the Files

Well, it’s official: I have now unfriended every pastor on my Facebook friends list.

This is both true and highly overblown, as I only ever had 2 pastor friends on Facebook. I unfriended the first last year after some incredibly unsavory remarks about Mexican immigrants in a discussion he proctored on his wall (remarks I occasionally still think about when I look at my one-quarter Mexican daughter), and I unfriended my second this morning.

We had one of those unproductive and irritating exchanges yesterday—the kind that gets deleted after a few hours, leaving people scratching their heads at all the response posts that remain, responding heatedly to empty space. Wavering between amusement and irritation, I posted my own status update:

I used to be astonished by the number of misinformed and antagonistic people there are in the world. Then I realized I was a feminist Christian.

The pastor immediately commented below: Or maybe we just disagree [smilie].

I love a good difference-of-opinion caveat, and I’m being totally sincere about that. I appreciate it when people can see past their own opinions enough to grant that others might view things differently. I love the step back and deep breath approach to touchy subjects, and mostly I like the idea of getting on with life and allowing other people to do the same.

Unfortunately, the difference of opinion move comes with a few requirements.

Actually…. just one: you have to be discussing opinions. It’s hard to have a difference of opinion about a basic fact.

Yesterday, my pastor ex-friend posted a link to a CNN article and wrote a long couple of paragraphs about feminism including the real humdinger: “To the modern feminist, the pinnacle of womanly achievement is the ability to abort your baby and free birth control.”

Since I couldn’t think of a single feminist who would affirm that statement, I capped this fascinating quote and asked what feminists he had read that led him to this conclusion.

His response: I would reverse that question: what feminists have you read that would NOT lead you to this conclusion?

And then things got ugly, because I told him about the books I’d been reading and he never did give me a title of any books he’d been reading or how he came to his conclusion. Feminism can never offer the freedom of Christ! He said. I agree! I said, but it’s a bit like calling your auto mechanic a failure because you’ll never love him as much as you love your kids. You can’t fault it for failing to deliver something it never offered. Feminism is a tool, not a religion.

The closest I ever got to an explanation for his view of feminism was that all feminists agree that reproductive rights are important (which, by the way, is somewhat different from abortion) and Antonia Senior’s quote that the two concepts “cannot be separated.”

Just because two concepts cannot be separated doesn’t mean they’re interchangeable, I said, trying to find an explanation that might mean something to him. You can’t separate the idea of Christianity from the idea of hell, but that doesn’t mean that the ultimate expression of Christianity IS hell.

(For the record, I do realize there are Christians who do not believe in hell. In the same way, there are also feminists who do not believe that abortion is morally acceptable. We were talking about the mainstreams of both movements).

Anyway. That’s about the time I stopped talking to him, posted my own irritated status update, and went to make dinner (steak with cauliflower and Brussels sprout gratin, because Carl has always claimed that he HATES Brussels sprouts, which of course can only be viewed as a personal challenge. Ladies and gentlemen: he liked the gratin. It had a full cup of cream and a full cup of parmesan, but I wanted to start with something at the outer limit of Brussels territory. We can titrate back from there).

And then I saw the pastor’s comment. Or maybe we just disagree [smilie].

Sigh.

No. I’m sorry. That just isn’t going to work for me anymore. Because this isn’t personal, this isn’t some fine distinction between friends. This is you, living in a fantasy world where it apparently makes sense that some guy who dislikes feminism has the right to decide what it means to be feminist. That’s so mind numbingly stupid, I just can’t waste my brain cells with it any more.

One more quote for the files….

I’m not sure why I tend to catalogue all the ridiculous [hateful] statements I come across. I think I started doing it to convince myself the sexism was real, because I felt my way to feminism pretty blindly, growing up in an environment that vehemently denied male privilege (letters requesting funds from my alma mater now call me Mrs. Carl Johnson on the envelope and misspell my name inside, which I take as a passive aggressive reminder that I have NEVER donated). I’ve long since convinced myself, but I keep storing the comments away, imagining they’ll be useful someday. Maybe for writing. Maybe for understanding.

In the mean time, I unfriend. My own private protest against people who abuse their spiritual authority to slander people and movements they have never bothered to understand. Whether that serves any useful purpose is actually a matter of personal opinion.

You are free to disagree with me on that one.

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7 thoughts on “One More for the Files

  1. I would be interested in what you are reading about feminism. (sincerely) I have long struggled with our church’s teaching.

    • Hi!

      Sounds like we started from a pretty similar place. For a long time, I was simply told that I “didn’t understand” the Bible, and I assumed I couldn’t possibly be a feminist since I didn’t: a) hate men; b) believe women were better than men; or c) feel thrilled about abortion. All definitions of feminism I’d absorbed unthinkingly from my peers and church environments. When I started reading the more mainstream feminists (Betty Friedan, Gloria Steinem, Naomi Wolf), I realized that I already was for most intents and purposes a feminist. My views on abortion aren’t mainstream, but feminism is still the most accurate marker for where I am right now.

      I’ll also be the first to admit I haven’t read a lot of theological feminism (although I’ve found a couple of interesting websites). I’ve recently read Naomi Wolf’s “Misconceptions” (about pregnancy/parenting, so that was especially interesting to me right now), the latest Gloria Steinem book of collected essays, “Half the Sky” by two authors I can’t remember at the moment, Cordelia Fine’s “Delusions of Gender,” and Sue Monk Kidd’s “The Dance of the Dissident Daughter” (which is Christian, and although she goes farther than I could, I really appreciated her story).

      But you’ve probably been thinking about all this a lot longer than I have! What have you been reading lately and what are your church’s views on women?

  2. I remember the first time I had a talk about “feminism” with my husband. I explained that it meant different things to different people (what???), but in the mainstream sense, it supported women having options and equality. I don’t think any woman should feel like she has to give up her faith because she believes in equality. Nor do I think that any good-sensed religious representative should tell a woman that he is an authority on feminism and its evil intent. Good job standing up to this idiot. Hopefully, something you said to him will stick and he will actually do a little research before attacking something that he knows nothing about.

  3. This whole thing exhausts me and makes me sad. I look at this and trace the trouble all the way back to the first comment, a snappy, meant-to-be witty quip, and then I think of this, which is a caution for everyone, no matter what views we hold:

    “Do you see a man who is wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.” – Proverbs 26:12

    “Toward the scorners he [God] is scornful, but to the humble he gives favor.” – Proverbs 3:34

    “And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will.” – 2 Timothy 2:24-26

    On my blog, I like to post snappy and even sarcastic things because I imagine it’s going to make for good reading, but is it really just a form of being wise in my own eyes, a “smart” aleck? “More hope for a fool…” God help us all.

    • Sigh. This is hard for me because if I engage the antagonism I always end up feeling badly about some part of my delivery, and if I don’t I always feel like I’m an accessory to the lies and the bullying.

      It’s a big, fat lose-lose most of the time, because of course I am not perfect and there is arrogance mixed with the totally appropriate indignation. It’s crazy hard to do right, and I’ll be the first to admit I often don’t…

      But it is worth doing.

      And the pressure to constantly feel ashamed of my failure to be perfectly humble, calm, clear, gracious, and loving is also hard.

      It’s just hard.

      • Just to clarify, I wasn’t talking about your response. What got me thinking was the *type* of thing that pastor said, the snarky, kind of bitter analysis. I realized that I talk like that sometimes when I’m trying to be clever. And it’s destructive, and there’s no way to win once you’ve started a conversation that way.

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