Jesus is the reason I’m a feminist.
I have not said this until now, but sitting in church at St. Paul’s ELC in Williamsville today – on Palm Sunday, hearing The Passion (a narrative built from the Gospel of Mark) read aloud, I had an epiphany and realized that I learned how to be a feminist from Jesus Christ. Jesus taught me to be a feminist and how to be a feminist, to be a humanitarian and how to be a humanitarian. I am an imperfect feminist and an imperfect humanitarian because I am an imperfect human, but I know where I turn in dealing with my own imperfections and the imperfections of others: to the only place I have ever found any solace, to the spiritual source behind the teachings that are the foundations of my feminism and my work in life.
In high school, I had the honor of playing the role of Jesus in Stephen Schwartz’s Godspell. I had been through religious education and had been a devout Catholic all my life, but it was not until that show that I truly understood and learned about the Gospel of Matthew and about the most important feminist.
Jesus was not some “Macho Man,” some promoter of a caricature of hyper-masculinity; Jesus was someone with whom I could relate as I had never related. Jesus was not a man to me. He was no more like a man than like a woman, and in that way he, to me, took the gender binary out of the picture of what it meant to be human. He was the opposite of “masculinity” as we know it; he was everything that the construction of manhood is not. He was not egotistical, he did not degrade women. He was the perfect human –not just man– and his perfection is made evident to us through narratives of his radical egalitarianism.
To have been an imperfect young girl playing the perfect feminist human, to be able to step into those sandals, even for a moment, is one of the greatest gifts of my life. It changed who I am. It solidified for me that in this life, before any other identity, I am a follower of a feminist savior.
Is it anti-feminist for a feminist to claim that her feminism derived from a man? Perhaps. But I’m not saying that. I don’t think of Jesus as a man– not a man in the way that other men are men. When I think of Jesus, I think of a woman more than a man. Jesus was a man, but to me he is without gender. And when I think of Jesus, his skin is dark and he is wearing a robe. These conceptions are personal to me, but they don’t matter because whatever is in my mind is no indication of what exists in the universe, anyway. My beliefs do not reflect any universal truth; such a thing exists outside of me. But I look for the truth in one place, in one being first– and I look for manifestations of that truth expressed in my life and in the world around me.
When I study feminist theory and understand it, it is through the foundation of the lens I formed when I learned the teachings of Jesus by saying aloud the teachings of Jesus.
Now, having made such profound declarations, I do have a lot of worries and fears– about my work as a feminist scholar being invalidated, about my life, my work, and my beliefs being invalidated by people who equate such a belief with low intelligence or with delusionality, but I am making the choice to declare it anyway, regardless of the consequence it casts on my life.
My reputation has already suffered enough. It has been torn to shreds.
In high school, I was crucified. But not really. Just in art. But in 2017, I was persecuted and destroyed. Really. In real life. I cannot write about it now, but the trauma of what happened pumps through my veins and occupies my mind at all moments, and I cannot help but express that, at least in fragments.
Today was Palm Sunday, and Easter is coming, which means that this week is a reminder of the death in my own life that I experienced in 2017, when I experienced what I call “the death of my soul.” My body lived through what happened but my soul died. Can a soul be reborn? That is my hope, and I hold fast to it through the resurrection.
In the coming days, I will read about the persecution, the betrayal, the suffering and the death of JC. And I will be reminded of the events of 2017, living through that trauma again in the safety of the trauma of the prophet that I follow.
One of my pastors said to me recently that my work with Madwomen in the Attic is “all about bringing life out of death.” He said that Easter should be natural for me, because of this. And so this year, Easter has the same but also new meaning.
My soul may have died but it may also have been reborn.
Is this just hyperbole? If I say it is not, what then will be said of me?
I don’t know. That is the honest answer. I don’t know anything. Not one thing. Nothing.
But I believe, and I have the right to believe.
I have the right to believe that what happened to me in 2017 is absolutely wrong. That I was betrayed. That I was persecuted by predatory, dishonest individuals. And that my life was destroyed by ill-intentioned individuals and irresponsible institutions.
I have the right to believe that I have the right to believe. Whatever I choose to believe.
I believe in Jesus Christ. I believe in the ethics of feminism. I believe in social justice. I believe in the power of mercy and forgiveness.
I hope that, in my life and work, I can transcend the bad that was done to me by trying to educate others and use my “death” as an educational tool. Above all, I turn to the best feminist educator that I know as a guide.
“For you will certainly carry out God’s purpose, however you act, but it makes a difference to you whether you serve like Judas or like John.” C.S. Lewis