Where Logic Meets Love

What Faith and Feminism Taught Me About Gifts and Vocation

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

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Today I'm linking up with the Feminist Odyssey Blog Carnival, which this month is hosted at one of my new favorite blogs, From Two to One, on the topic of Faith and Feminism.

People tend to think that faith and feminism are at odds with one another, but I think that comes mostly from misunderstanding what feminism is and/or defining "faith" as "a religion with strict gender roles." Rather than talking about these supposed conflicts or going in-depth into exact definitions of abstract topics, I want to talk about where I see faith and feminism in sync in my own life.

When it comes to the big questions about seeking my purpose in life, I get valuable guidance both from feminism and from my faith.

The first key message, for me, is that everyone is different, but equally important.

Chapter 12 of St. Paul's letter to the Corinthians talks about spiritual gifts. Here are some of the main points:
Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord. There are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all persons. ... For the body is not one member, but many. If the foot says, "Because I am not a hand, I am not a part of the body," it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. And if the ear says, "Because I am not an eye, I am not a part of the body," it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole were hearing, where would the sense of smell be?
Feminism recognizes that not all women are the same and not all men are the same, and not everyone identifies as male or female. Even if we can make some generalizations based on biological sex, there is no reason to make those into prescriptions for how any individual person should behave or feel. Each person's individuality should be honored. And women are not inferior in any way simply by virtue of not being men.

There's a reason Mike and I chose 1 Corinthians 12:4-13 for one of the readings at our wedding. We knew that we each had different strengths and weaknesses that we were bringing into our marriage, and we needed to acknowledge and celebrate our individual gifts. We figured out a division of labor not based on rigid gender prescriptions but on our specific interests and skills. We try to honor our individual God-given gifts by creating opportunities to put them to use for the good of our marriage as a whole.

Difference doesn't mean inferiority, and it's important to recognize and celebrate diversity as a blessing.

The second key message I've learned from both feminism and my faith is your personal calling is worth fighting for.

The words "calling" and "vocation" get thrown around a lot in Christianity (or at least they did in my Catholic scholars program). But the message is clear: if God is leading you to do something, that's what you should strive to do, no matter how difficult it is. You don't turn around and say to God, "You know, this path looks a little easier, so I'm gonna just do this instead." You take up your cross and follow, even if that means being completely countercultural.

Feminism has a similar message, though it looks a bit different. Feminism says that if a woman feels called to be an engineer or a soldier, or a man feels called to be a nurse or a caretaker, then there should be no laws or cultural taboos or other structural obstacles that make these paths impossible. And the opposite is true as well: No one should be forced to do something they weren't made to do for the sake of progress -- a woman should be able to stay home with her children or dress in a culturally feminine way without being chastised. Breaking down these barriers is a worthwhile and meaningful cause because it means more people can flourish in the roles best suited to them.

For example, my faith tells me that if God has put it on my heart to adopt children, then that is the right path, even if it requires a lot of work and money and patience. And feminism tells me that families are built in diverse ways and that even if some people believe adoption is wrong or women's value comes from childbirth, there should not be laws preventing someone from placing their child for adoption with us.

Both faith and feminism tell me that I am a unique and loved individual who should do exactly what I was made to do.

I'm grateful for all that my faith has taught me about my value and my worth as a child of God.

I'm grateful for all that feminism has taught me about my value and my worth as a human being.

How do you see lessons from faith and feminism playing out in your life? Which are in sync, and which are contradictory?

Consider writing your own post and linking up at From Two to One!


  1. Excellent post! And I really like the idea of reading 1 Corinthians 12 at your wedding. Different gifts, different roles, but not roles that are rigidly based on gender.

    1. Exactly. It was just what we wanted to set the tone for honoring each other's individuality in our marriage.

  2. Reading your post from the Faith & Feminism Blog Carnival!

    I love your perspective and it's articulated so well. Great post!


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