This is the second part of an article that explores ideological links between Feminism and Homosexuality. In Part 1 we looked at a hermeneutic principle that is being used to argue both female ordination and homosexuality. In this part we will investigate the kindred worldview between feminism (WO) and homosexuality, and their fundamental conflict with the biblical worldview.
None dispute that the movement for the alleged rights of women and homosexuals is fueled by currents in the culture rather than by biblical understanding.
Only after-the-fact are advocates of the women/homosexual agenda perusing the Bible in search of scriptural support. Today’s culture makes holding church office and experiencing personal sexual fulfillment as matters of entitlement. To bar from any position is inherently unacceptable. “Social justice” demands changes and a secular worldview becomes the de facto reality. The secular viewpoint is that the church is an agency of patriarchal oppression, supporting and perpetuating patriarchal social structures whose shelf-life is considered as having expired.
As Christians we consciously embrace a different view. God ordered His creation heterosexually. Consider that all gendered species are designed for procreation. When He made men and women, He made them male and female. Their gendered bodies were procreative bodies. Human procreative bodies are heterosexual bodies. If God is Creator and the Bible is His revelation to us, He created humanity fundamentally binary (Genesis 1:26-28; 2:7-25). It is this reality that some find unacceptable: that God is Creator. And so, all must be renamed, revisioned, remade; creation must happen again. God’s image, revealed in two distinct sexes, must be erased and forced to yield to a new interchangeable modern paradigm.
The manner of erasure is to draw a different image, superimpose, deface, and replace. Because God has ordered His creation heterosexually, and because the sexually binary social structure of church so far has proven only semi-malleable, search continues apace in Christianity for useful angles that might be exploited for bringing this non-negotiable change into being.
Tools include the use of Galatians 3:28 to cut creation away from redemption; the claim that all Scripture is culturally conditioned and time bound; the proposal that baptismal identity overrides sexual identity; and more. The effect of these strategies is usually to pit Scripture against Scripture or to pose contemporary life as superior to ancient. Our culture is presented as morally advanced today---in comparison to 2,000 years ago. Culture is ahead of the church morally; the church lags behind in appropriate change. Obviously, such thinking means the deauthorization of Scripture. Straightforward readings of the text, when they yield undesirable results, are dismissed outright!
Advocates of both WO and homosexual “rights” tend to view the ministry as an avenue for the expression of personal charismata rather more than as being an office established by Christ and filled according to His mandates. Here is seen the move from objective, Bible-based, revealed specifications, to subjective, personally-defined ones. Who has been “called” is determined based on one’s feeling of being called, and other means of measure are deemed of limited consequence. Bible passages that unequivocally present gender-particular role differentiation and specify maleness as a prerequisite for office are overruled.
God created humans—from the beginning—male and female. Adam and Eve were designed to compliment each other; they were a matched set. A man together with a man, or a woman together with a woman, would be a mismatch, a non-set, a representation of something entirely other than the Creation picture!
If the image of God is given, not just in a generic humanity that has never existed, but in humanity male and female particularly, what image is given in a male-male “union,” or a female-female “union”? Not even a half-image. Only sinful distortion is reflected by such combination.
In his conclusion of the 2008 book Women Pastors?, John T. Pless writes:
"Reviewing arguments made for the ordination of women in Lutheran churches in the middle years of the twentieth century, it is hard not to conclude that variants of these arguments are currently being used to advocate the ordination of homosexuals and to provide for an ecclesiastical recognition of same-sex unions through an elastic definition of marriage that ignores both ‘nature and institution.’ Creation is left behind in pursuit of purely spiritual categories and relational qualities. . . Creation is seen as secondary, if not irrelevant. But without creation there is no incarnation. Without creation, the new creation is reduced to a spiritualistic construct of one’s own imagination. . . . In the current move to sanction same-sex unions and provide access to the pastoral office, the gnosticism and enthusiasm that were magnetic for a departure from the New Testament mandates regarding man and woman in the church have seductively drawn Lutheran churches further away from their apostolic foundations. Those who celebrate these changes rightly see that they have created something new." (Ibid., pp. 244, 245).
Nothing is standing still; approved ideologies inevitably run their course. Like a weed that successfully reaches maturity, seed is produced, released on the wind, and carried to nearby soil. Let’s investigate more specifically now from the standpoint of a prominent Lesbian Theologian. . .
The Telos of Feminist Theology
We turn now to the experience of Virginia Ramey Mollenkott (b. 1932), a key author and participant in Second Wave Feminism. A chronological listing of her written works hints at her journey:
Adamant and Stone Chips (1967)
In Search of Balance (1969)
Adam Among the Television Trees (1971)
Women, Men, and the Bible (1977; rev. 1988)
Is the Homosexual My Neighbor? (1978; rev. 1994)
Speech, Silence, Action: The Cycle of Faith (1980)
The Divine Feminine: The Biblical Imagery of God as Female (1983)
Views from the Intersection (1984)
Godding: Human Responsibility and the Bible (1987)
Women of Faith in Dialogue: essays by Jewish, Christian, and Muslim women (1987), ed. V. Mollenkott
Sensuous Spirituality: Out from Fundamentalism (1992, rev. 2008)
Omnigender: A Trans-Religious Approach (2001)
Transgender Journeys (2003)
Gender Diversity and Christian Community (2005)
Mollenkott’s major involvement in Second Wave Feminism came with her 1977 Women, Men, and the Bible, said to be one of the four most prominent books in the movement (Wayne Grudem, Evangelical Feminism: A New Path to Liberalism, p. 237 fn). Mollenkott fights patriarchy almost from the beginning. The centrality of this issue finds voice in several of her books. We read here especially from a 2007 volume:
"Compulsory heterosexuality is the very backbone that holds patriarchy together. And it seems to me important that the backbone be named prominently and repeatedly. If ever society is to turn from patriarchy to partnership, we must learn that transgender, lesbian, bisexual, and gay issues are not just private bedroom matters of ‘doing and being whatever turns you on.’ They are wedges to be driven into the superstructure of the heteropatriarchal system (Virginia R. Mollenkott, Sensuous Spirituality: Out From Fundamentalism, p. xiii).
Bio: Virginia Ramey married Frederick H. Mollenkott on June 17, 1954; had a son, Paul F. Mollenkott, on July 3, 1958. She was divorced in July 1973. A Democrat and trans-religious Christian, Mollenkott lives with her domestic partner Judith Suzannah Tilton (Wikipedia).
Mollenkott follows the Scripture-as-object plan already seen in Liberation and Feminist Theology.
Sometimes feminists must hear old words in new ways, deliberately turning those old words into ‘New Words’ for purposes of self-empowerment. That is what feminists are doing with the Bible, and what I now want to do with several phrases from the story of the annunciation (Ibid., p. 25).
I turn again to the Scriptures to see what we ‘off-norm’ people can make of them for ourselves (Ibid., p. 33).
Unfortunately, [the Bible’s] Wisdom literature contains some exceedingly misogynistic adages. But again, in the spirit of ‘Diving into the Wreck’ to find the treasure within the debris, and in the spirit of turning old words into New Words, I would like to focus our attention on the personification of Wisdom, or Sophia, as a powerful agent who brings salvation to those who obey her voice (Ibid., p. 43).
Deliberately turning those old words into ‘New Words’ for purposes of self-empowerment” is an illustration of the plan already seen. A Bible passage or text is reinterpreted in the service of an agenda externally imposed. It is all about self-empowerment, about “making something of the Scriptures for our own purposes.” The Scriptures are likened to underwater wreckage, a sunken ship into which one may dive in search of useful treasure.
This view of the Bible stands in extreme contrast with that of Seventh-day Adventists, who see the Bible as “the infallible revelation of His will,” “the standard of character, the test of experience, the authoritative revealer of doctrines, and the trustworthy record of God’s acts in history” (Seventh-day Adventist Fundamental Beliefs 1).
As seen in Ruether and Shüssler-Fiorenza, Mollenkott’s ethic not only permits but demands that believers engage in subversion of the Holy Scriptures!
"Subversion means a systematic attempt to overthrow or undermine a political system by persons who work secretly within the system involved. . . . We need to face the fact that there will never be equal rights or full civil rights for women (or those men who are treated like women) as long as the heteropatriarchal system is in place. . . . The best that women and ‘queer’ people can do under heteropatriachal domination is seek some relief, some improvement, all the while we are subverting the system as rapidly as possible. . . I am suggesting that we toughen up mentally, calling subversion by its correct name and holding our heads high as we practice the situation ethics that are forced upon people in occupied or ‘enemy’ territory (Mollenkott, p. 40, emphasis in original, 41, 43).
Among preferred means for “subverting” the system is deception! Lesbian women and gay men who want to be ministers often have to subvert the heterosexist system by implicitly denying their homosexuality and pretending to be heterosexual (Ibid., p. 39).
This is held as acceptable behavior, because a church that seeks to uphold biblical values (i.e. what Mollenkott labels “heteropatriarchalism”) is, in essence, “’enemy’ territory.” This is similar to what we discovered in Rosemary Ruether’s plan for women clergy to take over congregations, targeting them for transformation into “liberation communities.”
Where Will This Lead?
It is not wrong to ask, Where might all this lead? Mollenkott has the answer.
She states with satisfaction that Bernard Gert “carries my [Mollenkott’s] argument forward” (Mollenkott, p. 136). How? Gert:
"Unless it can be shown that non-marital sexual relations between consenting adults cause harm to someone, public reason does not prohibit such activity. On the contrary, given that sex can provide some of life’s most enjoyable moments, it would seem that the deprivation of this pleasure is itself immoral unless one can show that such deprivation is necessary for avoiding greater evil. . . . Certainly the burden of proof is on those who seek to deprive all unmarried people of the pleasures of sex" (Ibid., p. 137 op. cit., Gert, 113).
Over the top? Definitely. And a bit too clever, for how do you show empirically that sexual immorality including adultery between consenting adults harms others? How shall we reckon, in terms of sexually transmitted diseases, or emotional wreckage or other collateral damage resulting from serial illicit relationships? Christians have never claimed that all biblical claims can be empirically demonstrated. Rather, “The sins of some people are conspicuous, going before them to judgment, but the sins of others appear later” (1 Timothy 5:24 ESV). This is true of sins and of the consequences & entailments of sinning. All is not known in this life. The Christian lives by faith. He accepts the analyses and declarations made by God through revelation. He does not and need not understand all; He is called to respond, creature to Creator, finite to Infinite, respectfully as the knower of less to the Knower of more.
Again, when did “public reason” become the standard for spiritual decision-making? And what exactly is public reason? What does this term mean? It would seem here to indicate that which can be known apart from revelation. The “public reason” is an entirely secular outlook, a de facto non-revelation-informed perspective.
But there are other issues. For example, the idea of “deprivation.” As soon as the language of “deprivation” is employed it is revealed that alleged entitlements are at center. Mollenkott affirms that individuals have an entitlement to sexual pleasure. To deny them this alleged entitlement, we are told, is for us to act immorally. Is there found in Scripture an entitlement to sexual pleasure? There is not!
We believe that God designed human sexuality and sexual pleasure uniquely for expression in the context of the covenantal commitment between one man and one woman. In contrast, Mollenkott affirms the legitimacy of casual sexual encounters (“I have no objection to the casual sharing of sexual pleasure and tenderness except to note that people who never get beyond recreational sex eventually report boredom with it” Ibid., p. 111).
We do not expect that Mollenkott will have the creation perspective of the Adventist, understanding that the two holy institutions that come to humanity from Eden are Sabbath and marriage. Indeed, her view is that “like my elder Brother, Jesus, I am a sinless self traveling through eternity” (p. 2). “Sin” seems to be a highly compromised category for Mollenkott, existing in those she claims would deny sexual pleasure to others, or who dare to think or express thoughts she would call “heteropatriarchal.” But she is “a sinless self,” pressing for a world offering few moral boundaries.
What of this claim that believers who oppose sexual sin are seeking to deprive all unmarried people of the pleasures of sex? Those who accept the biblical call to sexual purity seek nothing of the kind. They believe that such sexual encounters are immoral and they will seek to persuade others not to subject themselves or others to that behavior. But they do not seek to deprive all unmarried people of sexual expression. People are permitted to think for themselves and to understand for themselves. Consenting adults determine for themselves what activities they engage in and what they deem to be moral or immoral. Valuing certain behaviors and expressing a personal opinion on this topic does not cause one to be guilty depriving others “of the pleasures of sex.” Opinion expressed and behavior coerced are two very different things. But in Mollenkott’s rainbow world of pansexuality, no non-psychadelic colors are permitted, even in thought!
Mollenkott criticizes the church: "There are so many ways that congregational ‘families’ could be more compassionate than we currently are! Do we show compassion for the struggles of those who have been so repelled by heteropatriarchal policies and language that they have been forced to organize their own witches’ covens or other alternative spirituality groups? . . . And for the sake of those previously mentioned people who either cannot or will not get legally married, couldn’t the churches offer ceremonies that would provide community support for such relationships"? (Mollenkott, p. 154).
Stay tuned for part 3 where we will discuss the ontological connection between feminist theologians and gay theology . . .
Jim Beldin attended Enterprise Academy and studied History/English/Education at Union College. He taught elementary school at Carolina Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, and is currently retired and living in Cohutta, Georgia.