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The Internal Threat to Feminism


By Juergen W. Liias | October 1990
The Rev. Juergen W. Liias is Rector of St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Malden, Massachusetts.

Feminism is undeniably the ideological revolution of our time, and it is for me a matter for intellectual and spiritual wrestling. I come to this revolution with intense ambivalence. I feel authentic joy in the feminist intimations of a new creation, a genuine reverence for those distinctly feminine virtues which, it is said, will come to the fore and radically transform, even save, human life. But my yearning to embrace this revolution stumbles over abortion. It is for me a haunting thorn in my conscience which will not leave me be.

A decade ago I read a book entitled Reweaving the Web of Life, an extraordinary collection of visionary essays on feminism and nonviolence. One essayist expressed the common conviction of the book:

I believe we are at a great watershed in history, and that we hold in our hands a fragile thread…that can lead us to our survival. I understand the rising up of women in this century to be the human race’s response to the threat of its own self-annihilation and the destruction of the planet.

Whereas masculine values are seen as threats to survival, feminine virtues are the “thread” to survival.

In feminist thought, four virtues seem most frequently heralded as essential to the new order, virtues which are to displace the prevailing masculine values. Nonviolence is to replace war and violence; ecological harmony is to replace exploitation of the earth; community is to replace individualistic autonomy; and egalitarian power-sharing or “nonpower” is to replace hierarchy. Does this not echo Jesus and the Sermon on the Mount? Is not this the splendid best of the Hebrew prophets?

But is not this hope strangely distorted by abortion? Is there not a deep contradiction between this spirit of peaceful personalism and an abortion-rights ideology that justifies violence and the depersonalization of unborn human beings? I believe so. Indeed, the insistence on abortion rights betrays the four feminist virtues cited above.

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