Saturday, 9 January 2010

Can you be a Christian and a feminist?

According to Mary Daly, the radical feminist who died last Sunday, aged 81, the term "Christian feminist" is an oxymoron. Brought up a Roman Catholic, Daly went on to challenge most monotheistic religions as “phallocentric” and as committing “gynocide.”

Daly was certainly controversial and anti-male, apparently she avoided the company of men as much as possible and refused to allow them in her classes, but her theological feminism is interesting.

The "post Christian" Daly expressed her ideas in some outspoken ways that can easily be dismissed as extreme feminist rhetoric, yet there is a sense of the spiritual in her writing. Consider , for example, Daly’s challenging idea that worship should not be, “kneeling in front of a so and so , but swirling in energy” or her question ,
“Why indeed must God be a noun? Why not a verb- the most active and dynamic of all.”
I don’t know much theology but I do know literature and feminist writers , such as Alice Walker, also challenge the concept of God as a static , hierarchical entity and see the divine as fluid and participatory ,
Tell the truth, have you ever found God in a church? I never did. I just found a bunch of folks hoping for him to show. Any God I ever felt in church I brought in with me. And I think all the other folks did too. They come to church to share God, not find God. ( The Colour Purple)

So can you be a Christian and a feminist? Daly would say not and yet there seems to me to be an irony in that her attempts to define “God” were focused on the active and dynamic, what she might have seen as the feminine attributes of fecundity and creativity, and yet her mindset on the issue so often seems inflexible, sterile and rigid.
Many feminist theologians endeavour to escape from the "irremediable patriarchal bias" of Christianity through articulating fresh understandings and using new language. Daly regarded these attempts to reclaim religion as compromise and capitulation but then Daly was an iconoclast. The work of an iconoclast is to shatter our illusions but the impulse that is, to use Daly’s words, “active and dynamic” in all of us, will stoop and use the fragments to recreate and rebuild.


  1. Of course you can be a Christian and a feminist. You silly little woman.

  2. Thank you Rev Akeroff. Now that I've been set right and got your permission I feel so much better about the whole feminist thing.

    By the way, when Daly says she doesn't like,
    "kneeling in front of a so and so" - what an earth IS a "so and so"?

  3. A "so and so" is a silly evangelical man. Like Jimmy Swaggart or Archbishop Peter Jensen.

  4. haha! Yes, indeed. I'd very much agree with your article, Suem. Revd, nice to see you again.

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