Thursday, November 19, 2009

A Tug of War

I have been reading about Jane Fonda and the end of her marriage to Ted Turner. At the time, it was widely alleged that the cause of the break-up was her newly-found faith (she became a born-again Christian in 2001; he has been reported to be anti-religion). Both she and Ted Turner have since said that the main problem was a lack of communication and not religion. He said he was upset that she didn't talk to him about it, while she has claimed that she feared that he would talk her out of it if she had.

I understand what it's like to have faith so young and fragile that you worry that the slightest attack will completely snuff it out. So you try to protect it and stay away from negative influences as much as possible.

However, Ted and Jane would not be the first couple with almost diametrically opposing perspectives (in 1 or more areas) who have successfully lived together (or at least appeared to do so), so what makes the difference? Is it having shared values that transcend a particular faith? Openness and communication? Flexibility? Plenty of humour? Or something else? I suspect that it probably comes down to a mixture of the above.

My musings are not just in reference to faith; it could relate to attitudes to life (e.g. Adventurous & Risk-Taker vs. Fearful & Cautious); political views (e.g. Liberal vs. Conservative); values (e.g. Feminist vs. Patriarchal).

And this brings me to the next point: where do you place the person who has views that would ordinarily be considered conflicting? For instance, being a Christian and a feminist? At a conference last year, I was reminded that as feminists we need to embrace all women into the movement irrespective of individual situations, abilities and sexual orientations. As a Christian, certainly not all things are acceptable. I've always been a big proponent of safe sex for people who are sexually-active and not married. As a Christian, pre-marital sex is a definite no-no. I have always felt strongly that a couple should be equal partners in their relationship. However, while men and women have equal standing in God's kingdom, within the family unit, the man is the designated head. So, this leads to another set of internal wranglings and I suspect these will go on for me for a while.

As a naturally introspective person, I am constantly analysing and questioning. I believe it was Socrates who declared that the "unexamined life is not worth living", and while I agree that digging below the surface is important to do, it is also very tiring.

So what to do? Live a life governed by one set of rules so that there will be no contradictions in any of your views? Be or partner only with people who share all your fundamental values, so there is no push and pull? So many more questions added to my already full head......

By the way, I am always interested in finding out about women who are both Christian and Feminist, so I'm pleased to see that Jane Fonda has a blog. I'm going to check it out, though from a cursory review it looks like she she's more comfortable sharing about her activism and professional life than her faith.


Lani said...

I love, love this post, Ore! You really brought out the issues.

What to do? Oh my, I wish I could say I have answers but I can't even dare say that. If anything, please let me know if you ever find anybody who has the perfect formula!

I have had inner conflict with these issues for years! How to be with a man when I am (to a large extent) a die hard feminist? Oh gosh, it took me years to finally get it together to marry my husband. He's more of a reserved Christian with some patriarchal ideas that infuriate me! Oh, we broke up and went our ways for some years and I had a relationship with someone more like me - Christian and liberal and all that... but would you believe, I went back and married my husband? I really don't know what to do with this love business.

We are going on three years in the marriage and I lie not, submission is not the easiest of concepts for me to deal with but I try...:) I love my husband and he loves me to death and we try to make it work. We laugh over some things and we have stormy arguments over some others. And yes, we sometimes just agree to disagree. For example, just a few weeks ago, after reading Mercy Amba Oduyoye's Chapter (The Childless Woman in the West African Space) in "Liberating Eschatology", we agreed to strongly disagree on whether or not every marriage should have children if the woman can. So far, we're working. We haven't broken each other's heads (lol) and I pray we go on together for many more years!

As for being Christian and Feminist, I have no apologies. When it comes up in discussions with more conservative Christian women, I hold my own without antagonism. And when it comes up in discussions with agnosts or atheists, I still hold my own. When all is said and done, it's my faith, my relationship, and I'm the one who is going to pick up the tab at the end of my life when I face God.

Ore said...

Hi Lani, I knew that you'd respond to this post and I'm glad that you did. It was very interesting reading your comment.

LOL @ 'this love business.' I know exactly what you mean. There's certainly no accounting for it.....

It has also been very difficult for me to deal with the concept of submission. I think it's easier for me to think about both people submitting or yielding to each other, and I think that's easier if I truly love and respect my husband. If that respect is not there, then I cannot trust him to make good decisions for our family. BTW, I'm not married, so all this is in theory.

I have not reconciled all my inner conflicts. I cannot respond to all the points that critics would make (e.g. the notion of submission, worshiping a God referred to as He while advocating for gender equality, etc), but I'm getting there. I can clearly (I hope) articulate why I am a Christian and why I am a feminist.

Ore said...

BTW, do you think you could have chosen to be with man who did not share either your feminist or Christian views?

Lani said...

Be with a man who did not share either my feminist or Christian views?

Ah, most unlikely. Or if I did, we would probably be unhappy or separated. My husband doesn't share all my feminist views but he respects the core beliefs that I have and that matters a lot. The issues we argue about, the trade-offs we agree to... Some men would say they would not deign to do that.

As for the Christian views, that is a no-no. The Christian walk (as I understand it) is such that I feel it would be almost impossible for me to be totally at ease in a conjugal relationship with someone who doesn't share my beliefs. It would be a different thing if I was already married before becoming a Christian. But marrying someone who does not share my Christian beliefs when I already have those beliefs? Personally, it would be too much stress for me. Like walking on egg shells.

StandTall-The Activist said...

Interesting read. What value sytem and beliefs will cause or continue to cause, God help us. But one thing is certain, Jesus is a feminist and I am not sure how that is anti-Christ.

He was always appearing to women first and remeber what he said to Mary Magdelane sister. Jesus told Martha who was buys servin and catering for other that Mary has chosen what is vital which was learning fom Jesus. If Jesus isnt a feminist, he would have ordered Mary to bloody leave the men and go and perform and role as a woman [as pple say!

Perception matters in everyting and the reason why I will always go for fundanmental human rights as a guiding principle is the fact that it helps me less bias about issue of faith and beliefs.

I remember mentioning to my partner that i am not sure if I will divorce him becuase he choose to change his religion, so far he is not into a religion that will violate the right of others and kill people. Then it's is choice.

May be this is easy for me to say cuz i am not fanatic but liberal in my faith.