all oppression shall cease: a feminist theology of power

One time at Jesus camp, a stranger called the office to ask if I would "give my sexual testimony" at a local purity retreat. I declined their request, because WHAT, but it still cracks me up every time I remember. This is not that (you're welcome), but it is, in a way, my feminist testimony. How's that for an intro?

I didn't grow up in a feminist home and never took a women's studies class, but academia still played a key role in my understanding of feminism. I got my BA in religion and history and spent a semester studying poverty and community change in Washington D.C. Those disciplines and experiences rooted me in where we've come and awakened a desire to keep forging ahead toward equality.

Feminism is sometimes criticized (and rightly so) for failing to acknowledge the experiences of people of color, but I learned feminism through a decidedly non-white lens. Studying black feminist history, liberation theology, community organizing, and the devastating human effects of environmental racism, I realized how oppressions are linked and bound up in abuses of power.

In a lot of ways, power is the crux of my understanding of feminism and my theology, too, but I envision power in a radically different way, and I suspect that's a big part of what critics misunderstand.

Our world has a jacked-up relationship with power. If we're Christians, we might admit that our world has a sinful relationship with power, and as a Church, we are chief among sinners.

Racism, rape, poverty, abuse, environmental degradation, sweat shops, hate speech, human trafficking, child labor, and everyday inequalities, indignities, and violence based on skin colorsex, gender, class, disability, sexual orientation, and more--these aren't unfortunate inevitabilities but actual manifestations of oppressive power (that, if I'm honest, I participate in and sometimes benefit from).

I think the reason people bring up the "matriarchy" boogeyman and accuse feminists of wanting to "turn the tables" on men is because it's virtually impossible to envision gender or racial equality when most of our power structures are built on and sustained by gross inequalities.

But for me, feminism isn't about gaining power in a broken system; I want to burn the whole thing down and start anew. 

This is where my faith intersects my feminism: worldly political and religious power crucified Christ, and when he rose from the dead, Jesus made a spectacle of their oppressive power, greed, fear, and blood thirst. The liberation we seek is found not on the altar of empire but the upside-down Kingdom of Christ.

Jesus subversively upended one of Rome's most potent symbols of oppression and death, raising something whole and holy in its place. Christ's Kingdom grows up among us by another kind of power, and we're charged to bear its fruit: repentance, humility, servant leadership, and radical, resurrecting love.

My feminism grew out of the classroom but was nurtured in a faith that all humans are created in the image of God and that the only power that rights the world's wrongs is found at the foot of the cross and an empty tomb.

That's the kind of feminist I am.

{Day 1} Feminism and Me: On Tuesday, February 26, link up at J.R. Goudeau’s blog,, and write about these questions: What is your experience with feminism? What’s a story or a memory or a person that you associate with that word? Why does it have negative or positive connotations for you? How do you define the term, either academically or personally? What writers have you read whose definitions you want to bring out? Or, if you don’t have a definition, what are some big questions you have?

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