The Laughter That Binds Us All

Deal W. Hudson
November 23, 2009

Marjorie Campbell’s new book, On the Way to the Kingdom, has its origins in the radical feminism of her youth and her discovery of the late humorist and newspaper columnist Erma Bombeck.

A mother of three children (ages 13 to 20), a wife, and an attorney, Campbell turned away from radical feminism when a friend of hers decided not to have an abortion after getting pregnant from a one-night fling. Campbell and her friend were both single and practicing attorneys in Miami at the time.

“It was my ‘ah ha’ moment,” she told me, “when nine months later she had a daughter, who is now my goddaughter. I watched her reject what was supposed to be an easy decision, especially for a woman pursuing a career in a law firm.”

Campbell began to reconnect with her Faith as well, reading Pope John Paul II’s Mulieris Dignitatem (On the Dignity of Women) and the groundbreaking work in the “new feminism” by Catholic convert Elizabeth Fox-Genovese. Campbell sees Fox-Genovese, author of Feminism Is Not the Story of My Life, as the first leading academic who broke with radical feminism, showing that the abortion issue had been wrapped in an “illusory package.”

But what does Fox-Genovese have to do with Erma Bombeck? Campbell first told me Bombeck was a convert to Catholicism, and while her humor was pretty secular, it is the “humor of women raising children and being wives as something fun and not miserable.” Radical feminism had painted the opposite picture of being a woman, one that makes children, a husband, and the capacity for nurturing “an optional accessory, one really shameful to exercise.”

Reading Bombeck gave Campbell the urge to write in the same genre of domestic humor, a form of women’s writing that had been directly attacked by early feminists like Betty Friedan. “Women connect and bond with each other through storytelling,” Campbell explained. The stories she tells in On the Way to the Kingdom are both humorous and personal. “If it isn’t personal, it doesn’t work, because it doesn’t connect with other women’s lives.” And without humor, Campbell believes, the stories will lack what “binds us all together and creates support and sympathy for each other, particularly for women.”

The humor of the 18 stories in her book is made possible by the “amazing grace that comes from living every single little detail of the day in the perspective of the Kingdom of Christ.” Campbell contrasts the “angry, frustrated housewife,” as portrayed by the radical feminists, with the “woman who tackles those challenges while being loved by Jesus.” This is the essential difference between the two feminisms, according to Campbell: One encourages “bonding through intense anger,” while the new feminism is a “feminism of life that does everything in support of life from the perspective of love.”

She hopes her book, as well as her columns at InsideCatholic and Phases of Womanhood, are making the new feminism and its connection with the Catholic Faith better known to women in the Church. “When you start talking to Catholic women in the pews, the mere word divides people. They don’t see how I can call myself a feminist.”

Campbell thinks it is particularly unfortunate that women have been afraid to move in the direction suggested by John Paul II when he talked about the “genius of women.” She believes the challenge is to overcome the radical feminism that so many young women, in particular, have imbibed with the culture. “They are practicing a sexuality that was the direct intention of radical feminism, which creates a misery for them they don’t understand.” (Campbell strongly recommends reading Miriam Grossman’s book, Unprotected, on this subject.)

Campbell views John Paul II as having set up a paradigm for authentic feminism because he recognized “that nurturing, chief among a woman’s gifts, leads us to nurture each other.” Affirming this capacity is what makes the difference between angry women and those who refuse to be angry at the gift that has been given to them – they “turn the task into love.”

Campbell is not only an eloquent spokeswoman for new feminism but for the “humored perspective” she tries to bring to her writings. “When we live with an eye to the Kingdom, we know suffering is a part of life, and you insist on seeing it and interpreting it as a good thing, a thing to be understood and appreciated – you find a way to bear the burden.”

By Deal Hudson

Deal W. Hudson was born November 20, 1949 in Denver, CO, to Emmie and Jack Hudson, both native Texans. Dr. Hudson had an older sister Ruth, and eventually, a younger sister, Elizabeth. Emmie Hudson, Ruth Hudson and Elizabeth Hudson now live in Houston, TX; Jack Hudson passed away some years ago. The late Jack Hudson was a captain for Braniff Airlines in Denver at the time of Dr. Hudson’s birth. Later the family moved to Kansas City when his father joined the Federal Aviation Agency. From Kansas City, the Hudson family moved to Minneapolis, then to Massapequa, NY, and finally to Alexandria, VA, where they first occupied a home overlooking the Potomac River adjacent to the Mount Vernon estate. After a year, the family moved to a home on Tarpon Lane a few houses up the street from the Yacht Haven boat docks. Dr. Hudson attended Mt. Vernon Elementary School from grades 4 to 6 and has a special gratitude for the teaching of Mr. Hoppe who first told him was a ‘smart lad.’ Having moved with his family to Fort Worth, TX in 1960, Dr. Hudson attended William Monnig Junior High and Arlington Heights HS. In high school, Dr. Hudson was captain of the golf team, editor of the literary magazine (Guerdon), and performed the role of Peter in the ‘The Diary of Anne Frank’ during his senior year. Dr. Hudson graduated cum laude with a major in philosophy from the University of Texas-Austin in 1971 where his undergraduate advisor was Prof. John Silber. His teachers at the University of Texas included Prof. Louis Mackey and Prof. Larry Caroline. Dr. Hudson minored in both classics and English literature. Dr. Hudson lived in Atlanta from 1974-1989, where he attended Emory University, receiving a Phd from the Graduate Institute for the LIberal Arts. He also taught philosophy at Mercer University in Atlanta from 1980-89. In 1989 Dr. Hudson and his family left Atlanta when he was hired to teach philosophy at Fordham University in the Bronx. Dr. Hudson taught at Fordham, and also part-time at New York University, from 1989 to 1994. Dr. Hudson first came to Atlanta in after graduation from Princeton Theological Seminary (PTS) with an M.Div. While at PTS, Dr. Hudson managed the Baptist Student Union at Princeton University and became its first director. Dr. Hudson also was licensed at a minister in the Southern Baptist Convention at Madison Baptist Church in Madison, NJ. Dr. Hudson’s primary area of study at PTS was the history of Christian doctrine which he pursued with Dr. Karlfried Froelich. In 1984 Dr. Hudson was received in the Catholic Church by Msgr. Richard Lopez, with the special permission of Archbishop Thomas A. Donnellan, at the chapel of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Cancer Home in Atlanta. Dr. Hudson has been married twenty-five years to Theresa Carver Hudson and they have two children, Hannah Clare, 23, and Cyprian Joseph (Chip), 15, adopted from Romania when he was three years old. The Hudson family has lived in Fairfax, VA for more than fifteen years, after having lived five years in Bronxville, NY and a year in Atlanta, GA, where Theresa and Deal were married.

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