Why should feminists care about Christianity? Why should Christians care about feminism? In Feminism and Christianity, Caryn D. Riswold asks and answers some fundamental questions that Christians and feminists have about each other in a new century and a new generation. The questions reflect suspicions encountered on both sides, and the answers reflect the 21st century realities that now inform both. It is time for a renewed conversation between the two, and Riswold shows that neither can be readily dismissed as no longer relevant. Feminism has transformed the lives of women and men irrevocably, and Christianity remains a powerful and ever-changing tradition with enormous influence around the world.
Feminism and Christianity is an opportunity for Christians to gain a fuller understanding of feminism, moving beyond stereotypes and assumptions and into history and contemporary society, and an opportunity for feminists to understand the ongoing relevance of a religion whose social power and core commitments can contribute to a vision of a just human community. Situated firmly in the third wave of feminist activism and scholarship as well as in contemporary Christian theology, Riswold addresses issues such as race, class, gender, and sexuality with an affirmation of tradition alongside a push for change.
The book is structured so that an individual, group, or class could dip in and out of it as interest and time permit. The first half of the book looks at questions from feminists suspicious of Christianity, and would be of special interest to feminist activists and students of women’s studies. The second half of the book addresses questions from Christians suspicious of feminism, and would be of special interest to individual Christians and congregational reading and study groups.
One: Feminist Questions of Christianity
1.1 Why should feminists care about Christianity?
1.2 How has Christianity been a problem for women?
1.3 Has Christianity been oppressive only on the basis of gender?
1.4 How has Christianity affected women’s lives in a positive way?
1.5 How are feminists changing the fact that Christianity has been anti-feminist, if not anti-woman?
1.6 If Jesus was a feminist, and Paul was a misogynist, what’s the real Christianity?
1.7 How do different Christian sects or denominations deal with women?
1.8 Is Christianity better or worse for women than other religions?
Two: Christian Questions of Feminism
2.1 Why should Christians care about feminism?
2.2 Why don’t feminists accept that the bible teaches that men and women have
different roles in creation, and that wives should submit to their husbands?
2.3 Isn’t feminism just a lot of whining privileged white women?
2.4 Do feminists just want to turn patriarchy into a matriarchy?
2.5 How can a person be both Christian and feminist?
2.6 Are all feminists really lesbians? Doesn’t feminism at least promote the sin of homosexuality?
2.7 Does feminism include goddess worship? If so, isn’t it anti-Christian?
2.8 Why do women think they can be pastors?
Questions and Answers
Endorsements and Reviews
Riswold’s talent as a teacher comes shining through as she confronts the suspicions Christians and feminists hold of one another, calling for appreciation of the complexity and diversity in both traditions. Rather than simply reviewing past interactions between Christianity and feminism, she boldly takes the conversation into the twenty-first century by engaging the pressing issues of race, ecology, sexuality, and interreligious understanding. A must-read for students, book groups, and scholars alike.
Deanna A. Thompson, Professor of Religion, Hamline University
Even though the conversation between feminism and Christianity has developed for decades, no other book so clearly names and answers the leading questions they ask of each other … Riswold’s book is a delightful introductory resource for individuals, classes, and groups as it touches on and aptly answers all the main questions and fears I have heard expressed from students in women’s studies and religion courses concerning feminism and Christianity. All in all, Feminism and Christianity exemplifies Riswold’s gift for thorough, broad scholarship presented in a very clear, engaging, and accessible style.
Marit A.Trelstad, editor of Cross Examinations: Readings on the Meaning of the Cross Today
Caryn Riswold’s book is a masterpiece in the rare art of distilling complex intellectual histories into lucid accessible narratives, and articulating complex ideas with clarity. This work reveals Riswold’s sophisticated intellect and her agility in feminist thought, Christian theology, and the interplay between them. The reader will enter a strikingly honest, daring, fruitful, and spirited conversation between feminism and Christianity. Riswold highlights the rich diversity within each and illumines their shared commitment to a more just, compassionate, and sustainable world.
Cynthia Moe-Lobeda, Associate Professor of Theological Ethics, Seattle University