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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.