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The Bible Student’s Sacrifice: Gender Fluidity and Consecrated Identity in Evangelical America, 1879-1916

Author:

Timothy Robert Noddings

University of Victoria, CA
About Timothy
I am a graduate student pursuing an M.A. in the department of history at the University of Victoria. My research interests include the gendering of evangelical and fundamentalist Protestant Christianity in the early twentieth-century United States. I am also interested in the doctrine of consecration and "vessel of Christ" discourses, particularly the potential they offered for radical de-gendering in religious contexts.
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Abstract

American feminist scholars have often represented gender in nineteenth-century evangelical Protestantism as a binary conflict between oppositional ‘male’ and ‘female’ categories of identity and experience. Drawing on the theoretical work of Jeanne Boydston, this article argues that gender within evangelical religion is better understood as a ‘system of distinctions’ that could be articulated in a variety of ways, some of which violated the gendered division of masculine/feminine. The American Bible Student movement, as a fervent millennialist organization, demanded that its members sacrifice their individuality to become ‘harvest workers’ for Christ. This sacrifice temporarily provided Students with a degree of freedom to construct spiritual identities that combined ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’ signifiers, de-stabilizing the binary meaning of gender. After 1897, a series of internal challenges and schisms re-solidified the gender line, associating stability with the limiting of women’s power within both church and home.

 

DOI: http://doi.org/10.18352/rg.1493
How to Cite: Noddings, T.R., (2012). The Bible Student’s Sacrifice: Gender Fluidity and Consecrated Identity in Evangelical America, 1879-1916. Religion and Gender. 2(2), pp.328–347. DOI: http://doi.org/10.18352/rg.1493
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Published on 06 Nov 2012.
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