Feminist Theology

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Feminist Theology

(religion, spiritualism, and occult)

It is safe to say that the five major world religions developed in the last four thousand years (Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) have been founded, shaped, organized, defined, and run by men.

The Hebrew Bible makes the claim, "So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created them, male and female he created them" (Genesis 1:27). But while the first two clauses were taken very seriously, no one seems to have paid much attention to the third. The Christian New Testament states very clearly that "There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus" (Galatians 3:28). But the same author (Paul) who penned those words had a rather one-sided conception of equality, for after offering comments on how women should dress, he goes on to say, "A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or have authority over a man; she must be silent" (1 Timothy 2:9-15). This, he explains, is because "it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner." After all, Eve was the first to eat the apple. Adam's only sin was in saying, "Yes, dear."

The Qur'an reminds us that "righteous women are devoutly obedient." And if they are not, there is a clearly defined and escalating process men should follow. "Admonish them (first), (next), refuse to share their beds, (and last) beat them (lightly)" (Surah 4, Aya 34). Both Hinduism and Buddhism have long traditions of warning men to watch out for the temptations women symbolize. Some traditions even urged men to cover their faces when women appeared on the street.

People attempting to defend their tradition from the accusation of male domination sometimes go to laughable extremes, dredging up a single prophetess or saint from hundreds or even thousands of years ago to "prove" women have been treated equally. But if Golda Meir is the only female political leader you can point to in the last two thousand years of your religion's history, you're in trouble. And Joan of Arc does not a tradition make. History has, indeed, been "his-story," not hers.

The past few decades have seen an attempt, at the very least, to alter the language of liturgy and hymnody. Inclusive-language hymnals have come up with various attempts to change the "Faith of Our Fathers" into the "Faith of Our Parents," but many claimed the effort was either too little, too late, or entirely misguided. When, for example, the new hymnal of the United Church of Christ messed with the iconic masculine imagery of everybody's favorite Christmas carol, there was weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth throughout the land. (The lyric was changed from "Hark! The herald angels sing glory to the newborn king" to "Hark! The herald angels sing. Glory to the Christ-child bring.")

If changing song words caused great consternation, however, it was a tempest in a teapot compared to what happened when tried and true words right out of the Bible were altered.

For two thousand years people have been baptized according to the ancient formula, "In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit." The distinct picture of a male God who is our "Father" became the focus of a developing storm of controversy when some priests began to baptize in the name of "the Creator, the Redeemer, and the Sustainer." Some male theologians complained that if the words are changed, the meaning is changed, and such an alteration would distort a two-thousand-year-old theological concept involving the nature of God and the Holy Trinity.

But the gender debate clouds an essential issue. At stake is an important truth that is far more complex than the relatively simple matter of correcting male-centered language. Language reflects and expresses how people think. It's fine to say God is above gender or that God embraces both masculine and feminine. But if people continue to talk about God in language that reduces God to a "Him"—something that's been done for thousands of years—it becomes plain that people have created God in a male image. And to the extent that has been done, many have missed the essential truth of who God is. Male theologians think like men. They use language unique to men. Male priests, male-centered theological language, and a male religious hierarchy means we have created a male God and male theology, to say nothing of male-centered traditions of worship. And that is simply too great an edifice of power to put aside simply by saying to women, "Oh, we mean you, too."

Feminist theologians of all religious traditions, upon finally attaining teaching positions of authority, set themselves to the task of redefining ancient traditions of entrenched power and understanding. It was, and continues to be, no easy task. The very definition of God, the essential center of religion, is being redefined. The idea of the goddess, long since buried by the religious "powers that be," is finally emerging from her long hibernation and is beginning to be recognized as a long-forgotten face of Truth.

One generation, even three or four, is probably not enough time to make much of a dent. Some progress, however, is being made in the church, the synagogue, the mosque, and society. Although it seems a painfully slow process, some comparative religion textbooks, such as Robert Ellwood and Barbara McGraw's Many Peoples, Many Faiths, are beginning to bear subtitles such as, "Women and Men in the World Religions." The pioneers, many of whom were persecuted and held back by academic and cultural prejudice, broke open the doors. Their daughters are pouring through in greater numbers each year. Most certainly, change will continue to come.

The Religion Book: Places, Prophets, Saints, and Seers © 2004 Visible Ink Press®. All rights reserved.
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"The uniqueness of feminist theology," however, "is not the principle, full humanity, but the fact that women claim this principle for themselves" (Ruether 1983:18).
In English, see "Is feminist theology possible in the Greek Orthodox Tradition?" ESWTR Yearbook 4 (Kok Pharos: Kampen/Grunewald: Mainz 1996), 17-27.
Being a Festschrift to mark the 25th anniversary of the FABC's Office of Theological Concerns (OTC, formerly known as Theological Advisory Commission--TAC), this work contains essays written by a diverse and well-qualified group of theologians to showcase FABC theology at its finest: from the very architects of the FABC documents (such as Edmund Chia and Vimal Tirimanna) to seasoned theologians recognized as authorities in Asian theology (e.g., Peter Phan, Aloysius Pieris, and Michael Amaladoss), and other scholars who add more focused perspectives--such as feminist theology and migration--that have particular relevance for Asian theology.
A mother of modern feminist theology, Mary Daly, is dead at the age of 81.
Through careful reading of primary texts and the application of such diverse approaches as feminist theology, process thought and elements of the dialog between religion and science, Case-Winters (theology, McCormick Theological Seminary) finds that the Christian tradition contains within it a viable theology of nature.
Thompson carefully delineates the problems and possibilities of each theology because she proposes that "to become a feminist theology of the cross is to adopt an appreciative yet critical stance toward both" (p.
Nothing is as important or entrenched as the way we talk about God, and in a scholarly and spiritual masterpiece many consider the finest text to date in feminist theology, Johnson scours the archives of biblical and classical thought in search of God-talk that acknowledges and celebrates women's full humanity and holiness.
The paper therefore engages and critiques traditional feminist theology, which has typically attributed women's oppression solely to men.
This book is highly recommended for upper-level or graduate classes in Bible, feminist theology, or feminist hermeneutics as a means toward provoking students to reflect meaningfully on the practical significance of their methodological choices.
When Carr retired from the university in 2003, David Tracy of the Divinity School called her a founding mother of Christian feminist theology. Of Transforming Grace, Tracy wrote, "In that amazing book, she never hesitated to expose me sexism of the Christian tradition, as well as to retrieve overlooked resources of the experience and theology of women."
In this historical overview, Ruether (feminist theology, Graduate Theological Union, California) describes the US as in possession of a double identity: on one hand, a champion of the values of freedom and equality with God on its side, on the other a persecutor of non-whites at home and abroad through policies based on racial exclusivism and imperial aims.
Third, the lack of engagement with theologians and dogmaticians from the early church through the twentieth century (not one reference to Barth, Tillich, or Moltmann, and no significant reference to liberation theology, feminist theology, or postcolonial theology) leaves holes in the argument.