On Mother's Day I had the joy of preaching to my church, (a church I love and feel a deep sense of family with,) a sermon about the Samaritan woman. I tried to take a perspective that opened the story from the woman's perspective as it happened. This, I have learned in my biblical studies at Asbury Seminary, is a valid and strong approach to the opening of a scriptural story - contextualized, human and attentive to the moment in which it happens.
Aware of the tendency in my tradition to condescendingly dismiss a woman's preaching as "woman's material suitable for women to listen to" I made the statement during the sermon that simply because this sermon was about a woman and spoken by a woman, it was no more a sermon for women than last week's sermon, spoken by a man about a man, was only for men. I simply wanted to name the demon in the room and possibly gain the audience of some who would normally dismiss me.All in all, it was a good sermon, if I say so myself :-). I had meditated on this text for several years and felt confident that I was opening the scriptures in a way that was valid, insightful and maybe a little provocative (in the sense that it might help people think newly about the text.)
The next Friday night, attending a fund raiser for a local ministry, a man from our church approached me and said something about my "feminist sermon." I was a bit shocked, knowing the derogatory sense of the f-word. I said, "You know that wasn't a feminist sermon!" He said, "Well, after the service I heard people saying, we all know she is a feminist."
My husband knows how strongly that short encounter wounded my spirit. I told him he could not speak of it in my defense - it was my experience to work through. I am not new to these kinds of offenses. I am not offended at being called a feminist in the sense that I understand the word. I am, however, deeply wounded by the word in the sense that was meant that day.
This morning I happened upon a short article written by a Christian woman and I thought it brought out some interesting facets of the discussion of this f-word. Should this conversation interest you at all you might want to read it.
Here is a snippet - this article opens up some of the issues from inside the evangelical woman's heart. Like all woman we as Christians experience common issues and struggles, and yet fear the f-word. I am not trying to make a point here, honestly. I am just finally able to talk about a rude moment in my life, not unlike many other rude moments of the same ilk. Just thinking.
My own evangelical students may be most inclined to accept the “nothing at all” label, affirming (as I once did) the belief that feminism is incompatible with their own Christian faith. As I read about Rowe-Finkbeiner’s subjects, I thought often of traditional Christianity’s response to feminism, about the young people in my classes, and also about my initial eagerness to reject feminism ...
Young evangelical women no doubt share many of the same concerns as Rowe-Finkbeiner’s subjects. Like those the author interviewed, my students worry about their careers, and about work and family choices they will make; they struggle with issues of self-identity, and with the inaccurate images of women they see every day in the media. Certainly the impetus for their concern may be different: many Christian women in conservative churches and households, for example, may face unique pressures about the tension between staying home to raise children and pursuing a career. However, like the young women featured in The F-Word, my students struggle to understand their place in contemporary culture, struggle to find a place in contemporary culture, even as they refuse to name that struggle feminism.