This post was originally published by State of Formation on Sept 15, 2011.
For many years, my primary way of identifying myself was as a Christian. Before daughter, student, woman, athlete, or American, I was Christian.
As I understood it, my relationship to God was supposed to be the priority in my life, above all other relationships, concerns, and interests, and therefore being a Christian was the center of my identity. Everything I learned and all of my experiences were to be filtered through my Christian lens so that whatever was in contradiction with it could be quickly rejected.
Although I still believe my relationship with “God” should be a first and foremost in my life, my understanding of how that is accomplished has changed dramatically. I no longer correlate Christianity and the Divine the way that I once did. In my young faith, they were one in the same – no distinction necessary. Over the years, good people and life experiences helped me change my perspective. I now understand Christianity to be the framework which nurtures my relationship to the Divine – to transcendent and mysterious things like what connects us to one another or what compels us to love. These things comprise my understanding and experience of “God.” Christianity and my unrelenting commitment to its doctrines which I had never given a second thought became an idol, distracting me from the Divine.
In the past year, I moved Christianity down a notch and moved ecofeminist to the top. I have identified as ecofeminist first, filtering everything through that lens and unashamedly rejecting that which does not make it – even if it came from my Christian tradition. This has been my attempt to reject that which causes harm or is not life-giving for each creature and for the earth.
But just when I’m feeling high and mighty in my righteous views about the world, free of prejudice or oversight of any people or creature in need, I come across ads like this oneby Ethical Oil. This ad uses the oppression of women in Saudi Arabia to convince viewers to support the controversial KeystoneXL Pipeline. It implies that the oil will be inherently ethical because we won’t support oppressive treatment of women by getting oil from Saudia Arabia. Ethical Oil is focusing our attention on the suffering of women but completely dismisses the harm to the earth, creatures, and many people that will come with the Keystone pipeline. They are claiming a feminist lens in this ad, and as much as I am a supporter of women’s freedom and rights, they are doing it at great cost to the environment and those living around the potential piping.
And then I come across the work of PETA which is making great strides in animal justice but does so using the bodies of women. They have long been criticized for their objectification of women but their newest commitment to creating a XXX porn site to promote veganism has again captured the attention of feminists. PETA spokeswoman Lindsay Rajt recently stated in an interview with Huffington Post, “We live in a 24 hour news cycle world and we learn the racy things we do are sometimes the most effective way that we can reach particular individuals.” PETA sees no harm in encouraging the ongoing objectification of women in order to liberate animals.
Ads like these remind me to check myself. They remind me that I will never have the “right” view of the world and that I will always need other voices correcting my ideas and actions. Whether my primary identity is ecofeminist, Democrat, Christian, or any other identifying label, I can never have an entirely harm-free view of the world with which to filter all that I hear or learn. I have biases, like everyone, and no one ideology can free me or others completely. I remain committed to the ecofeminist perspective, concerned with all systems of domination and their interconnection, as a necessary perspective for healing in and of the world. However, just as I came to realize my Christian lens did not provide me with a harm-free view of the world (far from it) I recognize my ecofeminist lens will fail me and others too.
I’m not certain what the solution is for the messiness of seeking justice from a particular context, but I am sure it has something to do with listening along the way.