Reconcilable Values

In her new book, At the Root of This Longing: Reconciling a Spiritual Hunger and a Feminist Thirst, Carol Lee Flinders identifies four seemingly insurmountable conflicts between feminist thought and spiritual practice. Consider these tenets of meditative spirituality: find a quiet place and turn inward; still the mind, especially the ego; put others first, don’t squander energy protecting self-interest; and resist distracting physical compulsions. Now contrast them with four analogous feminist imperatives: claim your world ("Take back the streets!"); know who you are and make yourself heard; identify your needs and get them met; enjoy your body, refuse objectification.

The "feelings of personal sovereignty" that feminism can awaken are essential to any lasting religious commitment. Likewise, women need the reserves of strength discoverable in spiritual practice to challenge attitudes and institutions that devalue them. Yet the means to achieving "self" on the one hand and connection to God on the other seem to be in direct conflict.

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Sojourners Magazine May-June 1999
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