Tuesday, February 10, 2009
Fundamentalism in any religion fascinates me. I am spellbound by stories of people who are driven by religion in unholy or unhealthy ways. Stories of fundamentalism in all forms fill our airwaves. We hear of jihad and plural marriage and countless tales of abuse and sacrifice in the name of religion.
The title of this memoir intrigued me because I have always felt that the language conservative Christians use when talking about religion is a little creepy. The phrase "Personal relationship with Christ," sort of makes me feel like one wasgoing to date Jesus. I was never interested in a datable God.
The memoir is a mix of Susan Campbell's story of being raised in a fundamentalist church in the Ozarks and her own research and understanding about the role of women in the church. I always enjoy the story parts more than the didactic parts, but the two types of story are deftly intertwined in this memoir.
Two specific parts drew me in. First, Ms Campbell writes beautifully of the effects of Title IX on her formative years. She was an athlete and thanks to Title IX was given more opportunities to play sports that most girls who came before her. The author thanks Title IX for giving her the gift of being comfortable with her body. She loved and excelled in sports and was able to do so for the first time in public school history. I myself was never an athlete, and I came of age at the same time she did and have always been oblivious to the benefits that this historic piece of legislation may have given me. She wrote beautifully about what access to sports and competition did for her. Go girls!
The other part of the memoir that I loved was when she finally got the chance to stand at the pulpit and deliver a sermon as part of a church service. Her whole life she stared at the pulpit and mused over why it was closed to her since she was a female. She wrote powerfully about standing up there as a full grown woman and feeling terror about standing in a place she was not allowed.
The feeling she describes at ascending to the pulput after yeras of being denied is exactly why I love stories about fundamentalism. These ideas pose such restrictions on the way people think and act and live, and when someone finally realizes that those beleifs do not have to be part of who we are, there is magic in that realization. The curtain has lifted.
I know many people who would enjoy this book: so many of us feminists used to be funamentalists. I got it at the public library and have returned it so if you want to check it out, it should be waiting.