Monday, May 16

Book Review: The Feminist Mistake

by Mary A. Kassian, reviewed as part of a program at The Diet of Bookworms.

Can I start this review by telling you that this book is not one that I would normally choose to read? I'm just not very "issues" oriented, and the issue of feminism is right down at the bottom of the list next to tiddlywinks in its ability to grab my attention.

Given my lack of interest in the subject matter of this book, probably one of the best things I can say about it is that while I expected to find it boring and tedious to read, instead I found it quite engaging. Kassian has written The Feminist Mistake so that someone who knows almost nothing on the subject--like me--can understand it easily, and yet it is not a "fluff" book, but a book of real substance.

This book follows the trail of the development of feminism throughout modern history in both the secular world and the church, and shows us that in both arenas, the pathway and the present destination are similar. Both lines of feminism progressed more or less concurrently through three steps: naming self; naming the world; and naming God. Naming self involved redefining the role women from what was percieved to be an oppressive role--a role defined by men in order to control women's lives. Redefining the role of women led inevitably to naming the world: recreating a society that gave women power. And in the end, this redefining of role and recreating of society led to the naming of God: the redefining of God in order rid him of his maleness.

The journey both strains of feminism take is the same, and the end result is exactly the same--the redefining of everything in order to advance feminist goals. Even for feminists who come from within the church, in the end there is no objective standard of truth. What determines whether or not something is right, even in scripture, is whether it advances the feminist cause or not.

One of the points Kassian makes that I find most interesting is that the ideas of feminism have become so pervasive in the mainstream of the Christian church that the default position within the church is no longer complementarianism, but rather egalitarianism. Egalitarianism is now assumed and someone becomes a complementarian by rejecting the egalitarian position, while not many years ago, it was complementarianism that was assumed and people who became egalitarians did it by rejecting the complementarian tradition. I suppose the reason I find this point to be of particular interest is that I'm one of those eccentric holdouts standing firmly within complementarianism.

The one criticism that I am going to make of this book is that it ends too soon. There is a chapter at the end titled Against the Tide, which examines biblically whether human beings have the right to rename themselves, the world, or God; and also touches briefly on the proper biblical understanding of ourselves as men and women. I wish there had been more of this. I found what was outlined in this chapter to be very useful, but it seemed to be less developed than the rest of the book, and the book would have been better if this portion had been expanded.

If feminism in the church is one of your areas of interest, then The Feminist Mistake is a book you'll want to have in your library, particularly for it's thoroughness in tracing the development of feminist Christianity. If you're more like me, and you know very little on this subject, but think you ought to learn more, then this book will be valuable to you for giving a good overview of the history of feminism, yet being quite accessible for the novice.

You can find other reviews of this book at the Diet of Bookworms.
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