Pink Bibles and conservative politics
Part Bible, part wallet, the pink “Bible Clutch” was “specially created with an interior pocket and zipper closure for carrying and protecting every woman’s ‘must have’ day-to-day accessories.”
This is the creeping consumerist individualism that is turning the pioneering work of Evangelical feminism into a gendered accessory. This kind of “evangelical feminism” as a consumer accessory seems an apt metaphor for the use of the terms “evangelical” and “feminist” in the same phrase in Michele Bachmann’s political life and work.
Bachmann’s statements and voting record bear very little relationship to the creative and brave work done for decades by evangelical women seeking to help their sisters in the faith gain a measure of justice and fairness in home and in the broader society. Bachmann’s record follows the pattern of voting for grants that provide “alternatives” to abortion, and voting against unemployment, welfare, or other benefits that would help support poor women, including abstaining in a vote on the “Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010.”
Bachmann’s “evangelicalism” is very individualistic and achievement oriented, stated as about her, and her “sense” that God wants her to run for president.
Evangelical feminism, from its early days in the 1970’s, was a thoughtful attempt to make a biblically-based case for women’s equality and to directly address, from the standpoint of biblical authority, the discrimination and even violence women often experience in their home and work lives. As Pamela D. H. Cochran argues in Evangelical Feminism: A History, feminism is “a movement that seeks, at its most basic level, to redress the inequalities, injustice, and discrimination that women face because of their sex.” Evangelical feminism means doing this social justice work from the heart of the Bible, understood as God’s revealed truth.
I came to know and deeply appreciate the work of these evangelical feminists such as Nancy Hardesty, Letha Scanzoni, Ginny Hearn, Catherine Clark Kroeger, Alvera Mickelsen, and Virginia Mollenkott through my work on biblically-based approaches to violence against women. My article, “Every Two Minutes: Battered Women and Feminist Interpretation” has circulated widely in evangelical feminist circles and I count many women in this movement as friends and colleagues, especially Virginia Mollenkott. Nancy Hardesty and Letha Scanzoni’s book, (first published in 1974), All We’re Meant to Be: Biblical Feminism for Today, was influential on the thinking of a lot of budding Christian feminists, myself included, not just evangelical women. Virginia Mollenkott’s (with Letha Scanzoni) Is the Homosexual My Neighbor? Another Christian View (first published in 1978), was a brave and prescient book on the biblical case for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality, especially given the support for LGBT quality among younger evangelicals today.
This kind of work was part of a whole movement meant to better the lives of conservative Christian women who were being left out of the secular women’s movement, and help them achieve gender justice without fear of losing their faith. The movement was participatory, democratic and creative.
What has changed in contemporary evangelical feminism, especially in the political work of women like Michele Bachmann, is, in Cochran’s well-phrased analysis, the “increasing encroachment of a more individualized, therapeutic, and consumerist society on conservative Protestantism.” Liberalism is scarcely to blame for this, and there I disagree with Cochran as her critique develops. Rather I blame the political alliance between evangelical Christianity and conservative political movements that have undercut both the biblically-based social justice bent of historical evangelicalism, and its commitment to community instead of hyper-individualism.
The perfect illustration of how individualistic and materialistic conservative evangelicalism has become under the influence of conservative politics is the failure of major evangelical pastoral leaders to call out Paul Ryan and his high regard (to say nothing of his budget) with the individualistic, materialistic philosopher Ayn Rand. It’s up to liberals like me to point out the contradictions between the Gospel and Rand.
Pink Bibles as accessory handbags and anti-women legislation don’t add up to either evangelicalism or feminism in my book.
Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite | Jul 1, 2011 1:38 PM