feminist

Why Stay? A New Book Looks at Feminists Who Refuse to Give Up on Faith

Christy Collins / RNS

Book cover via  Christy Collins / RNS

Why stay when a woman can’t be ordained as a priest? When Jewish men in their daily prayers thank God they were not born a woman? When a woman with uncovered hair is considered a bad Muslim?

Many in this diverse group of essayists — including Mormons, immigrants, rabbis, ministers, lawyers, and nurses — confess to having seriously considered chucking faith, or at least their own religious tradition. Some of them actually did leave, only to return.

Amy Schumer’s Feminism: And Then What?

Schumer’s strong, emphatic, and well-intended words once again have reduced the feminist cause to the act of sex and a woman’s appearance. She rails against sexual restrictions on women, male sexual dominance, and that weight and beauty define a woman’s worth, all worthwhile topics. But in this extremely powerful and culturally influential speech, I wonder: where is any mention of actual equality?

Mormon Kate Kelly ‘Happier’ and ‘Invigorated’ After Excommunication

Photo via Creative Commons / Maralise Petersen / RNS

Kate Kelly. Photo via Creative Commons / Maralise Petersen / RNS

Nearly a year removed from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Ordain Women founder Kate Kelly says she has found happiness living a more authentic life while continuing to push for equality in the Mormon faith.

Kelly, who was excommunicated in June 2014, now lives in Nairobi, Kenya, where she works on human rights efforts. She was back in the United States briefly on April 23 as part of an offshoot project of the Tribeca Film Festival in New York City to explain how she was punished for speaking out for women’s rights in the LDS faith.

“The men who (excommunicated me) literally think they kicked me out of heaven,” Kelly said.

“Luckily, I do not think that. … Out of this experience, I’ve realized that men don’t get to control my happiness. I’ve come out on the other end, (where) I think I’m much happier, much more authentic, a much more invigorated person.”

Still, on stage at the Gotham Comedy Club, a space usually filled by raucous laughter, Kelly broke down in tears talking about her ouster from the LDS faith and the repercussions for herself and her family.

“It’s like an execution, a spiritual death,” Kelly said of Mormon excommunication.

“It’s very, very extreme.”

For their part, Kelly’s Mormon leaders have said the door always is open to her return.

Justice Ginsburg Writes a Feminist Opinion for Passover

Photo via REUTERS / Mario Anzuoni / RNS

Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Photo via REUTERS / Mario Anzuoni / RNS

Rabbi Ruth Bader Ginsburg?

Not quite, but when a Jewish nonprofit asked the Supreme Court justice to write a biblical commentary for Passover, she agreed, and added a feminist twist: It would raise up the often overlooked women of the Exodus story.

Ginsburg, one of three Jews and three women on the high court, is known as a champion of women’s rights — but not for being particularly religious.

But Rabbi Lauren Holtzblatt, whom Ginsburg asked to help out with the commentary, said Ginsburg had a clear vision for the piece and knew exactly which biblical women she wanted to highlight from the iconic liberation story of the Book of Exodus.

“She has a Jewish soul, there is no question,” Holtzblatt, a rabbi at Adas Israel, a Conservative synagogue in Washington, D.C., said of Ginsburg.

“It’s in her. It’s deeply in her.”

Reclaiming 'Angry' Feminism and Other Lessons from 'She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry'

Still frame from 'She's Beautiful When She's Angry.'

Still frame from 'She's Beautiful When She's Angry.'

Bras weren’t the only things the second-wave feminists burned in the ‘60s. But that’s all I learned about the movement in school and casual conversation (on the rare occasions when feminist movements were brought up). The documentary, She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry, fills in what our education system and historical imaginations leave out.

Second-wave feminists also burned oppressive patriarchy, definitions of feminine beauty, and, most poignant to me, their hard-earned diplomas. They literally set fire to bachelors degrees, masters degrees, and PhD certificates. An activist in the film explained, "We had graduated and learned nothing about women."

This documentary shows us what the textbooks didn’t and still don’t show often enough — the early, angry, undoubtedly beautiful grassroots radicals.

Of course, not all anger is beautiful. Some anger is abusive, relentless, and uncontrollable. I noticed three types of anger in the documentary — one beautiful, and two problematic.

Five Gifts for Your Favorite Faithful Feminist

Woman at work. Image courtesy Nadezhda1906/shutterstock.com

Woman at work. Image courtesy Nadezhda1906/shutterstock.com

With Christmas less than a week away, the time for last-minute gift shopping is now. Sojourners’ Just Giving Guide has detailed a variety of ways to shop in a socially-conscious manner. We’ve gone one step further and highlighted some unique purchases from organizations that directly impact the lives of women and girls internationally and domestically. Check out the links below for creative gifts that make a difference for female empowerment.

Considering 12 Sides of Jesus

A collection of images of Jesus. Image courtesy Christian Piatt/Patheos.

A collection of images of Jesus. Image courtesy Christian Piatt/Patheos.

Not surprising, this whole endeavor to understand what it really means to follow Jesus in today’s world is proving to be nothing short of overwhelming. Though I’d like to start my year-long effort to live this out on New Year’s Day, I’m not entirely sure I can get my hands around this Jesus we’re talking about by then. I mean, I grew up reading Scripture, have written several books about Jesus and the Bible, but somehow I’m always left with a sense that there’s more — a lot more — about Jesus and about being a follower than we generally consider.

As part of my effort to approach the year, I’ve decided to break down various dimensions of Jesus, based both on my own reading of the Gospels (and Epistles to a lesser degree), as well as the interpretations of scholars, theologians and activists I respect. So for now, I’ve broken this down into twelve categories, so that I can focus on one per month as intently as possible. This doesn’t mean that there aren’t some other things I’ll decide to do all year long (like pray the Lord’s Prayer), or some things I’ll try once that may or may not fit within that month’s “Jesus dimension.” But when I consider the following twelve ways of looking at Jesus, it feels like a pretty comprehensive approach.

I’m also assembling a group of mentors to help me with each of the respective Jesus Dimensions below. I figure that, rather than having a dozen disciples, I could use mentors way more than followers if I have any hope of making this work.

But I’m interested in what you think. Am I missing something? Do any of these simply not ring true at all? 

Mormons Embrace Social Media to Push Back Against Official Church Teachings

Mitch Mayne, Dr. Caitlin Ryan, Wendy Montgomery, and Diane Oviatt during the screening. Photo via Mitch Mayne/RNS.

It was a gathering that would have been unthinkable just five years ago.

On a cool summer evening, in a borrowed classroom overlooking San Francisco Bay, about 150 men and women gathered to screen a short documentary about a Mormon family whose 13-year-old son came out as gay.

The Montgomerys, who accepted their son and his news, were ostracized by church members, some of whom refused to accept Communion distributed by the young man in church. Like many conservative Christian denominations, the 15 million-member Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints bans homosexual activity and considers it grounds for exclusion from Mormon rites, rituals and even the afterlife.

Book Explores 'God's Radical Notion' of Feminism

Using a strong scriptural and historical foundation,  self-described “happy-clappy Jesus lover” Sarah Bessey  relates in her book, Jesus Feminist,how the church has responded “to the movement of the Spirit throughout the centuries, and [how] gender inequality is only one more example of justice seeking in progress.” Bessey tells of God’s redemptive love through the ages, and how women have served and are serving their homes, churches, communities, and the world at large to bring forth that love. The power of women coming together — or acting alone — for God is clear: Women, she writes, can move mountains, even if one stone at a time. 

If a world devalues half its members, for every woman who moves a mountain, there will be another woman suffering. Bessey notes the disturbing fact that “Many of the seminal social issues of our time — poverty, lack of education, human trafficking, war and torture, domestic abuse — can track their way to our theology of, or beliefs about, women, which has its roots in what we believe about the nature, purposes, and character of God.” And with that sentence, conviction begins. 

Power of a Personal Pronoun: 5 Suggestions for Gender Inclusivity

Male & female figures, StockThings/Shutterstock.com

Male & female figures, StockThings/Shutterstock.com

I remembered after the first lecture I came home and told my husband about the pronoun, but as I read through all 20-something lectures, I noticed it again and again. I was the theologian; was the believer.

Was this difficult for my professors to do? Did it take lots of conceding to women’s different or special needs? Or, rather, was it a possible and reasonable upsetting the “status-quo” that still often tells us that “he” or “man” means everyone and that I’m just too touchy if I refuse to accept that.

This small kindness was, I think, one of the best things about my first semester of seminary. These two white men — one in his early 60s and one in his early 30s — were incredibly intentional about the female pronoun being the “default” for the generic personal pronoun.

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