There is no frigate like a book
To take us lands away,
Nor any coursers like a page
Of prancing poetry.
~ Emily Dickinson

Literature is my Utopia. Here I am not disenfranchised. No barrier of the senses shuts me out from the sweet, gracious discourses of my book friends. They talk to me without embarrassment or awkwardness. ~ Helen Keller

Thursday, 28 February 2013

When I cannot say Enough (FemFest Day 3)

Welcome to Day 3 of the Feminisms Fest synchroblog on the topic “What You Learned.” Link up on,, considering these questions: What surprised you this week? What did you take away from the discussion? What blog posts did you find particularly helpful? What questions do you still have?

 I haven't had the time yet to read through all the posts for FemFest, but I'll encourage everyone interested in a Christian conversation to check them out. (And even for those just wanting a definition, here's a great one.) So I'm not focusing in this post on new facts I've learned, but on an ever more important discovery. Often I've felt driven to a far country by Christian naivete and even opposition to the causes of "the least of these" - especially feminism - that I believe make the heart of Jesus bleed. I've sometimes thought I'd eventually leave the church because I couldn't find passionate Christians who understood the issues. But FemFest has gathered not a few, but scores of people whose Christianity suffuses all things, and who credit it with making them feminists. I've found complex understandings of the evils of patriarchy and rape culture - no "Christianized" excuses offered. From the East and the West (from all the binaries of sex, race, culture, theology) they've come and sat down to this conversation. This conversation is titled Feminism, but it's also about equality and justice for men, racial minorities, gender non-conformists, and all those that are bruised. At this table I've found my people.

And yet. Yet there are questions.

If God is so powerful and just, why did He have to work with the oppressive norms in times past?

Where should the line be drawn on (mutually-chosen) control and dominance in consensual sexual relationships? Does the desire in a woman make it a valid form of expression, or is it the biological and cultural response to centuries of rape culture?

I've come to strongly believe that the typical fundamentalist Christian emphasis on modesty feeds a bastardized "Christian" rape culture and also alienates women from their bodies. But after we've brought up our boys to take responsibility for their own lust and to understand the evil of objectification... after we've taught our girls that sexual abuse is NEVER their fault because of what they wore... after we've taught both sexes that their bodies are glorifying to God, not shameful... after we've taught them that modesty begins in the soul, not the body.... after all that, is there a place or time for a few well chosen words on dress as a Christian witness? I know if there is, there will be a constant need to gaurd against the legalism we see so much today.

Am I less of a feminist because I'll never participate in a SlutWalk topless, even though I want to shout in the streets the danger of automatic equasion of breasts with sexuality?

These are a few of my questions, but I'm committed to the sitting at this table, under this tent, having this conversation, each day.

Yes, my complementarian Christian background effects my thoughts about feminism. Yet, ultimately, my feuding feminism and Christianity are actually married; they are one. Theirs is the story of my search for justice, greatness, and unconditional love. Theirs is the story of my questions, and of the contradictory answers that can't fully satisfy me. Theirs is the story told by Christina Rossetti in “The Heart Knoweth Its Own Bittnerness” - a story that that finally has a happily ever after...  but not yet.

I return to this poem frequently when I'm troubled by the unanswered questions, the incomplete journeys, the unhealed wounds of every life in this world. I return to this poem because it doesn't offer glib answers. It picks at the scabs over the infection and makes the blood flow. And the only solution it offers is someday. I can accept that solution because it hurts so much that it must be real.

How can we say "enough" on earth--
"Enough" with such a craving heart?
I have not found it since my birth,
But still have bartered part for part.
I have not held and hugged the whole,
But paid the old to gain the new:
Much have I paid, yet much is due,
Till I am beggared sense and soul. 

* * *           ***

 Not in this world of hope deferred,
This world of perishable stuff:--
Eye hath not seen nor ear hath heard
Nor heart conceived that full "enough":
Here moans the separating sea,
Here harvests fail, here breaks the heart:
There God shall join and no man part,
I full of Christ and Christ of me.

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