Many of the cultural feminists became very religious, but their religious views were alternatives to Christianity. While some Christian women seeking some of the same rights as the cultural feminists, also shared one of their foundational concepts, that is, women’s nature is different from men’s nature, their biblical understanding prevented them from coming to the same kinds of conclusions held by the cultural feminists.
Because their foundation was the authority of Scripture and the Lordship of Jesus Christ their activism was not centered in women’s experience but in what they believed was God given revelation. For instance, Katherine Bushnell, in her book, God’s Word to Women, wrote of her claim that women were called by God for ministry, “Our argument assumes that the Bible is all that it claims for itself. It is (1) Inspired, 2 Tim. 3:16; (2) Infallible, Isa. 40:8, and (3) Inviolable, John 10:35.”3 Unlike cultural feminists they sought to glorify God rather than empower the self. This divide has moved into the post-modern mainline church organizations.
Contemporary feminism began with the same kind of distinctions as early feminism, with, of course, very modern ideas, but still with a growing divide between cultural feminism and Christianity. The cultural feminists can now be called, in many cases, radical feminists. At the same time, today, in many of the mainline churches the women’s organizations are filled, at the governing level, by those who in the past were seen as cultural feminists. Their religious views are now referred to as Christian feminism but it is not the same kind of Christianity that those early women seeking the right to preach held.
Early nineteenth century Christian women seeking the right to minister the word and sacraments to others held views similar to twenty-first century Reform or Evangelical women today. Among other rights they desired to teach and preach. Yet, none of their views about equality changed their views about the essentials of Christianity. For nineteenth century women in ministry, such as Louisa Woosley or Catherine Booth, the deity of Christ, the Trinity, understood as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and the atonement were foundational beliefs. And they based their views on what they considered to be the authority of Scripture.
Today the divide among women in mainline churches is so great those who are in leadership and who are mainly related to early cultural feminists are in the process of destroying the traditions of faith that has existed among Christian women for two-thousand years. Women who hold to the essential tenets of the faith are ignored, unwelcome, unheralded and even maligned by cultural or radical feminists in their own churches. Often progressive writers and editors rather than write or publish articles about the good news of Jesus Christ write and publish only about the women who so hungered to proclaim the good news that they fought for that right.
How did cultural feminism come to be called Christian feminism and why does its theology and ritual so often integrate pagan motifs, words, ideas and ritual? Why are most mainline women leaders and theologians so bent on disregarding the essentials of the faith? To understand this it is necessary to go back to the history of early cultural feminism. It is also necessary to look at the women’s spirituality movement in the
United States during the midpoint and latter half of the twentieth century and how that movement affected not only the Wiccan groups coming to the from Brittan but also women’s organizations in the mainline churches. United States
I will in the next section focus on early cultural feminist’s concepts and phobias and how they relate to those who are in leadership in the Church today.
3 Katherine C. Bushnell, God’s Word to Women: One Hundred Bible Studies on Woman’s Place in the Divine Economy, reprint of 1921 edition, (pub. unknown) Lesson 1.
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