What does it mean to be a feminist of faith?
Specifically, what does it mean to be a Catholic feminist? Is this a living contradiction? Can the two blend together in a search for truth, meaning, or even justice?
How can two radically different ideologies and practice possibly come together?
I always wanted to write about my faith and, funny, it seems the more confident I grow in writing about my faith, the more capable I am of asking questions in my writing. There are no ways to move through faith without poignant questions of practicality, relationship, and the living out of our faith.
It sometimes feels like those of us who do have some sort of active spirituality that is exercised through organized religion are often segregated, left in our own strange world of ritual, tradition, and silence.
I wanted to write about faith because I find so little feminist writers who write out of a plain existence. So many articles and books about Catholicism are written from the religious, or the scholars, the ones who have dedicated their entire lives to understanding. I've come to find I've dedicated my entire life to questioning and, therefore, often took myself out of the running to write about faith. Too scared about what people would think, too scared to find what I might possibly overturn in my own soil, but mostly, I didn't write because I didn't feel I had authority to write about faith, feminist faith, my faith.
How ironic, isn't it? As a person of faith, as a person dedicated to the preferential option for the poor, social justice, and relevant theology, I never really saw myself as someone who had anything to say about faith. It was my backbone, but never my specialty to write. It was my crux, but I was convinced I would only be adding to the noise. There were plenty of people with enough opinion out in the world, and I never felt really justified in adding mine to the increasingly loud voices.
Besides, I thought to myself, the world needs people with answers and maps to help them feel better. All I have is hope and helluva lot of questions. And, I curse too much.
Once I was through categorizing my short-comings as to why I would never write about faith and feminism, I began drafting a book proposal about radical marriage. In my drafts, I began reflecting on my life, the things that most resonated with me that shaped my views on marriage. There was really no way to write authentically without centering the one thing that remained constant - my questioning and growing faith. There would be no book about radical marriage, or any topic, really, if I denied a part of myself that influenced every choice I ever made in my life. My writing, giving myself, would be something authentic. Challenging and provocative. To be a writer of substance, I had to trudge up the things that I most feared and was reluctant to address. To address my experience and understanding of marriage, I had to talk about God.
To write less, would mean to be less.
When I talk about God, some of my dearest friends still think I judge them, their lives, and their belief system, or atheism. Truthfully, I tell them, the presence of a living spirit has little to do with what you talk about, but more on how you live. The way you live is more important than whether or not you say you believe in a God or not. They don't believe me. To this day, many of my friends still fret that I judge them for not having an active and practicing faith.
My last answer is this: If it bothers you this much, then it's not about me or our friendship. You need to come to a place within your own life where you are comfortable and confident with what you do and do not believe. No amount of my coaxing, comforting, or shrugging will satisfy a heart laden with guilt, anger, or dismissal.
And so, the hesitancy to write about faith grew. And then, several years ago, someone gave me a quote that went something like this: You do no one a favor by shrinking yourself. It does nothing to become one with darkness out of solidarity. Be yourself. Be light.
By pretending faith was not important to me, I spent years in the dark trying to blend in the background. The veil has been pulled and these are my colors. I am a womyn, a feminist of faith. And for all the questions, contradictions, and controversy that brings - well, it's better to face those things head on, with no pretense, than to submit to a writing life with no authentic tongue.
Monday, April 13, 2009
What does it mean to be a feminist of faith?