I knew a girl – I almost said young woman, but, no, she’d prefer girl – who was in the processes of discovering her sexual orientation and her faith. I was the one person in her life she could talk to about what was going on for her. My friend was a well-liked person, who made new friends wherever she went. She wasn’t alone. So why was I the one friend she could confide in? All her queer or queer-friendly friends ridiculed faith as a matter of course. All her Christian friends – she’s a Christian – were openly homophobic. I was the one friend she had who was going to be absolutely supportive of both her emerging sexuality and faith. That’s just sad. I hope, now that we’re not friends anymore, that she’s found other people she can talk to, and ways of living that don’t split her down the middle.
Well, I guess the religious homophobia thing is pretty well covered, so this is me thinking about the other angle. It is very disturbing to me when I encounter sentiment from progressives to the effect that religion is destructive and should be destroyed, or thinking that the pursuit of social justice and religious practice can never meet. Religion is embedded in people’s lives, embedded in culture, and a positive and vital part of them. An aim of getting rid of it sure isn’t progressive, because getting rid of what makes people different isn’t progressive, because taking the sacred from people’s lives is a violation of who they are. There’s nothing progressive about asking people to give up their communities and what is often the core of their lives or being in order to fit in with politics.
It’s disingenuous to act as though there aren’t woman-affirming traditions in even the mainstream Abrahamic religions that some progressives love to hate, as though progressive politics is something brand new and always secular. I think about the feminists of faith I know, who build and engage with amazing theology and work within their communities and in the world as a whole. There are loving and feminist writers of faith who I know only by their words on a screen, like Jay and Nahida. I’ve met religious feminists while simply walking down the street. (That’s a good story, and one I might tell you sometime.)
I find it really repellent that anyone could think that feminism and religious faith must necessarily be mutually exclusive, especially as I’ve met so many whose feminism is utterly grounded in their religious beliefs and practice. There are so many for whom pursuit of social justice is a religious requirement, or for whom these aren’t separate parts of their lives at all.
I don’t think the answer to bigotry is to try and take away from people who they are, something which runs too close to the discrimination people have already faced for being of the wrong faith. Feminism should be expansive. The way I see feminism is that it is about loving humanity in all its variety, in all its faith and non-faith and doubt and ritual and tradition and forging paths. There is so much to love, and so many ways to love. I don’t want to discount anyone’s way of making the world whole.