2013-02-25

Lynchpin to World Peace

Our Unitarian Universalist approach to religion is a feminist theology in this most basic way: it avoids any closed canon. As James Luther Adams said:
“Liberal religion depends first upon the principle that revelation is continuous. Meaning has not been finally captured. Nothing is complete and thus nothing is exempt from criticism.”
We say religion isn’t about what we believe – and therefore it is not about the words that we might feel like asserting. Religion is about experience, and about how we live, and about relationship. In this way, Unitarian Universalist theology is feminist theology. Perhaps, then, my embrace of the label “Unitarian Universalist” has, over the years, slowly made it seem less urgent for me to also proclaim myself “feminist.” I’m as feminist as ever, even if I don’t say so as often – because, for me, saying I’m Unitarian Universalist is saying I’m feminist – in matters of theology, at least.

Besides matters of pure theology, there are matters of social strategy. We want, ultimately, a world of peace, prosperity, and justice. How do we get there? What are the changes which not only are requirements of justice in their own right, but will also be particularly instrumental toward realizing a world of peace overall? Pay equity for women, gender balance in positions of power, reducing domestic battering of girlfriends and wives, and ensuring reproductive choice are, it seems to me, good candidates. If women were liberated from all that holds them back – which would mean men were liberated from the prejudices and assumptions into which men tend to fall when only men hold the positions of public power – would our prospects for peace and justice be better? Yes.

The “Because I Am a Girl” website reports that:
“70% of the one billion people living in extreme poverty are women and girls. Girls are 3x more likely to be malnourished than boys. Globally, 66 million girls do not attend primary or secondary school. Girls and women in the world's poorest countries are the most vulnerable members of society, denied the same rights and opportunities as their brothers."
Former UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan, observed,
"research is also clear that when girls reach their full potential, through improved status, better health care, and education, it is the most effective development tool for society as a whole. As a country's primary enrolment rate for girls increases, so too does its gross domestic product per capita."
Specifically:
“An extra year of school for girls increases their lifetime income by 15%. Children of women who have completed primary school are less likely to die before age 5 than children of mothers with no schooling. Women invest more of their income in their families than men do….When girls are educated, healthy and informed, they pull themselves, their children and their communities out of poverty. The most vulnerable are potentially the most powerful.” (becauseiamagirl.ca)
In developed countries like the US, the more progress we make toward equality, the more unjustified and unnatural the gender inequalities in the rest of the world will seem. Steven Pinker in The Better Angels of our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined notes that empowerment of women correlates powerfully with reductions in violence in a society. This doesn’t tell us whether women’s empowerment caused violence to decline, or the violence decline caused (created the conditions that allowed) women’s empowerment. Plausibly, each contributes to the other, in a virtuous cycle. Whatever the causal details may be, working for either (reduced violence or women's empowerment) would seem to go hand-in-hand with working for the other.

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This is part 4 of 5 of "Feminist Theology"
Next: Part 5: "Feminism and the Roots of All Problems"
Previous: Part 3: "Slaying the 'Master Narrative' Dragon"
Beginning: Part 1: "I Was a Teenage Feminist"