Thursday, May 10, 2012
Patriarchy and Kenosis.
At times it feels as though I don't identify with a lot of the language that surfaces in feminist circles. The language of "rights" and "empowerment" are difficult for me to fully grasp, let alone accept. In my mind, the Gospel has no room for language of "rights" since the very notion of what it means to be a disciple is to deny oneself, pick up your cross, and follow Jesus Christ as Lord in life and possibly into death. You can only find your life when you lose it. The Gospel promises liberation, but only once death occurs. Sunday comes after Friday. And so the language of rights creates this space of autonomy and control that the Gospel specifically calls me to forfeit and lay down for the sake of the Kingdom of God. But what does this mean, precisely, in light of the fact that male bodies have controlled, dominated, abused, marginalized, silenced, killed, raped, and humiliated women in various ways for centuries? Is kenosis and the example of Jesus Christ's self-emptying really a word for me as a woman? How am I supposed to empty myself for the sake of the Gospel when that same emptying has been used to convince women to submit to abusive relationships like Jesus Christ Himself submitted to abuse even onto death?
I don't have a lot of answers for these questions. In fact, I often don't feel as though there are any safe places to ask these questions because so often it feels as though you are either a Christian or you are a feminist. If you are a Christian, it seems that these feminist concerns are seen as selfish and utterly in antithesis to the Gospel. But if you are a feminist, it seems that the questions about self-emptying and denying oneself onto death is only a word for men and Jesus Christ could never possibly be a true example for women to model. It seems that somehow, patriarchy has robbed women of the space to truly grapple with what it means to be a servant of Jesus Christ because we live in fear that such service will mean our very oppression. So many feminists allow patriarchy, even when it comes to the very questions that should essentially define who women are as disciples of Jesus Christ, the standard for defining our faith. But I wonder if true freedom might mean saying that despite patriarchy, despite the abuse and despite the danger of oppression, women created their own spaces where they could truly believe that the example of Jesus Christ's radical self-emptying even to the point of death on a cross was truly a word for them. I want to create such a space. I want to be a Christian and a feminist. And truth be told, I don't think it is possible for any person to be the former without being the latter precisely because of the liberation that comes for all humanity in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.