Preface: A month or two ago, there were a few conversations on the bloggernacle that highlighted a couple of common responses to feminist concerns. Dan Ellsworth over at Mormon Mentality decided to give the ZD bloggers some advice: he argued that we spend too much time thinking about the church (and our feminist concerns), and that we would worry less if we diversified and spent more time doing things we enjoyed. He also argued that we were going about trying to find answers to our concerns the wrong way. GeoffJ at New Cool Thang expressed confusion, writing in one of the long debates, “I must be missing something here.. If you are certain you are not less than men in the universe and in God’s eyes what are your deep wounds over that subject?”
Both of these comments highlight a common reaction to feminist concerns. I would summarize it as the “why do you worry?” reaction, and it exhibits a genuine confusion as to why feminists are worked up over what seem (to others) to be either inconsequential issues or issues that others firmly believe will be worked out in the eternities. Because “why do you worry?” is a common response to feminist conversations, I wanted to do a post on this subject. This post is specific to me and my experience–other feminists have their own stories, which I encourage them to share.
Although I know that numerous people have genuine confusion about my (and other feminists’) worries, most of the time the question of “why do you worry?” is accompanied by advice or counsel rather than an attempt to understand. Implicit in the “why do you worry?” is an answer: “you shouldn’t worry because…” A few of the most common ideas that follow this “…because…” are:
1. The church (gospel, scriptures, prophets, etc.) teaches us that we are all children of God. Variation: God loves everyone.
2. Once you realize ______ (certain doctrinal principle), it will all make sense to you. Variation: what you are worried about is not what’s important in this life.
3. The eternities will look different than mortality. Variation: it will all work out in the end.
While I understand that these answers are sufficient for many, many people (for which I am grateful because I really don’t wish my worries on anyone), here is why they are not sufficient for me:
I am passionate about promoting equality in relationships and institutions, and I will confess that my notions of what equality means have been informed by radical movements of the late 20th century, including feminism. I do realize that my particular brand of equality is part of the problem, but it feels so right to my inner core that at this time, I am unable to abandon it.
Simultaneously, I have an experiential understanding of God’s love for me, but it’s very difficult for me to translate this experiential love into an exact understanding of what God loves means for how relationships, equality, and all of those kinds of things will work in the eternities. I *believe* in an egalitarian God, but I don’t know exactly how certain I am about it or even what that means (I believe there’s quite a lot we don’t know about what the eternities will look like).
When I turn to the words of the scriptures and prophets, there’s a lot there that gives me hope–“God is no respecter of persons” (Acts 10:34)–but there’s a lot there that confuses me–for a few examples see Lynnette’s original post on women as possessions as well as examples in the comments that ensue.
Compounding the confusing messages in the scriptures, I have had experiences with this church that have been difficult, and at times, quite painful. More generally, I have a hard time sorting out the whole equality issue because when I go to church things don’t feel equal to me. The comfort and ease and independence which I’ve found in academic environments has typically been absent from my interactions at church.
Although I know others have not necessarily had the same frustrations at church that I have had, I have to work from my own experiences. Additionally, even though I know God loves me, I don’t have an easy time putting my relationship with God, the peace I receive from Him, my difficult experiences in the church, and my understanding of scriptures into neat little categories that can be examined separately. They all interact in messy ways, and how I experience this church affects my relationship with God and my anxieties about the world to come.
What is hardest for me to sort out and make sense of is that I see practices and decisions and behaviors that feel unegalitarian to me being explained as evidence of egalitarianism. This makes my head spin. Or, to put it more simply, church leaders say things are equal now, but it doesn’t feel that way to me; when those same leaders (or other members) say that things will be equal in the eternities, why should I trust those words? I see scriptures and temple liturgy that make me wonder if the things that feel unegalitarian to me will continue in the eternities (since they are cited as practices of “God’s kingdom on earth”). While I certainly understand that we live in a mortal, imperfect world, who’s to say that my struggles with the church are exemplary of that mortality? So I worry.
Although God has given me a certain amount of peace on the matter (though not by giving me any kind of clear, definitive answers), I think it’s okay that I worry sometimes. While I spend quite a lot of my time doing other things–teaching, trying to write my dissertation, singing in my commuity choir, watching movies, talking to my family, etc–I think that making sure that all of God’s children have the same opportunities, are treated equally, etc, is a noble and worthwhile goal and is something worth worrying about from time to time.