Thoughts of a Feminist Theologian

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

I am currently in a course entitled "The Psychology of Sin and Transformation in Feminist Theologies." Honestly, it's a struggle because I am not sure how much I buy into psychotherapy. However, we were talking about God-language today, including the image of God as Father. It may be no surprise that as a feminist theologian, I try to find alternatives to fatherly images of God. Yet, what is surprising to me is why I steer clear of such images. The following is a statement I wrote in my notes during class:

Why I am Reluctant to Call God "Father"

It is not my bad experience with fathers. In fact, I have no bad
memories of my father. Perhaps I am angry at God for taking away my father
when I was only 12 years old. Perhaps I am not ready for this "Father God"
to replace the memory of my father. Perhaps it is the demand of God to be
above all. If this is the case, then Father God naturally replaces my
Father, and I am not ready or willing to let that happen.

I guess this shows there is a true intersection of psychology and religion. How much of an intersection, as well as what psychology is, are some things I am still trying to figure out.

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Saturday, September 10, 2005

This may not seem purely intellectual, as it is also a very practical reflection. It is on fame, fortune, and success. How do we define it? As Christians, what role, if any, should these play in our lives? What do they mean to me?

Honestly, to be very direct, I believe fame has no role in the life of a Christian. Christians ought not to strive for fame--it simply does not fit into the Gospel message. I came to terms with this as I was considering grad schools, and as they were considering me. Long before I got the decision letters, I had already chosen not to apply to certain schools. More specifically, there were several top-quality, very selective schools that I sought not to pursue. Why? Because the only motivating factor in applying to those schools was the notoriety that could come from it. Then, I realized some things. I do not need to teach at Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Emory, or the University of Chicago. I do not need everyone to know my name. While there is something inherently thrilling and edifying about people knowing who I am and being a top scholar in my field, ultimately, it means nothing. My hope, as a scholar, is that my ideas will be taken seriously by those who read them and that somehow the work I do is liberating--helping to free people from oppression and to free people from being oppressive. Nothing more. Nothing less.

There is an old hymn that says, "Little is much when God is in it. Labor not for wealth and fame. There's a crown, and you can win it. When you go in Jesus' name." Although I am not sure about this crown-thing we are trying to win, it does resonate the point that we are not called to work toward wealth and fame. We are called to take up our cross. We are called to give everything we have to the poor. We are called to deny ourselves. We are called to be servants of Christ, the Gospel, and the world. Considering this paradigm into which we are called, there is simply no room for wealth and fame within the lives of Christians. To seek fame is to seek to promote one's self above promoting the Gospel and Christ. If you think about it, Christ was kind of an incognito kind of guy. He tried to hide the fact, in some sense, that he was the Messiah. He lived among the poor and the outcasts. He was ultimately recognized through death on the cross, not a celebratory banquet.

Of course, this makes me think about our lives and our careers. I am not saying that we should have no money whatsoever. Yet, recently Brad and I have been talking about what life will be like when we are a two-income home. We are committed to not raising our level of spending to match our earnings. We are committed to still being faitful stewards of our money, saving where we can, and not being frivilous. We also talk about the ways in which our careers could play into the notion of oppression. My husband's father works for the military divison of a major aircraft manufacturer. By virtue of this, his work supports the acts of the military and the injustice of war. Don't get me wrong--I love my father-in-law. I am not being condemning toward him. Largely, the difference lies in the values we hold dear. I am not calling my father-in-law a war monger or lover of injustice. Rather, he likely would not identify himself as a pacifist or anti-war. Therefore, his job does not negate his values. Yet, we have to ask ourselves what is the bigger picture of which I am a part? (This is NOT about my father-in-law...he just came up in the course of conversation.) How do my jobs, my hobbies, my interests, and my lifestyle fit into the chain of injustice and oppression of those around the world?

In a capitalistic society, it is so easy to see something merely as a job--something to pay the bills and to make money. Yet, nothing is ever that simple. Brad and I talked about what if the firm he works for in the future asks him to work on a project directly supporting a cause that he is against? As we talked about explaining that you cannot go against your convictions, he said, "What if I get fired?" My response was, "Well, then you find another job, but know that you did the right thing." Often, to move up in certain companies, you have to do things that might not jive with your ethical system. While some people think you have to play the game to get the money, I disagree. We aren't called to be the CEO. We aren't called to be a millionare. In fact, if you are have power or wealth that you aren't using for others, then you are violating the covenant and life into which God has called us.

Recently, in class, we were talking about the concept of Ivory Towers--the positions of power in the world. Someone said, "It's not that you find yourself at the desk. Rather, it's what you do and for whom you do it that matters." This isn't some lame copout to say, "Well, I can push my way to the top and I'll do nice things for people so that makes it okay." Instead, it's recognizing that often we find ourselves in positions of power, by virtue of corporate position, gender, race, nationality, or geographical location. Sometimes we are called to abandon it all completely. Other times, we are called to use that condition to go against certain systems and communal values.

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Thursday, September 08, 2005

So, now that I am immersed in theological education, once again, full time, I have decided to start posting here again. A lot of questions are raised in my mind, so I am going to try to sort through them here. Feel free to join me on the journey. Below is a paper I submitted that addresses some of the questions that my most recent reading has brought to mind. Hopefully it is clear enough so that even if you have not read these particular pieces, you can at least understand the questions that push their way to the forefront and maybe join me in a dialogue of how we are to make sense of it all. So, here are my most-recent thoughts: (EDIT: This is showing up a bit funky on my screen. Why? I don't know. It might just be the resolution of the laptop, but forgive me for any unnecessary line breaks.)

The concept of suffering, according to William Placher, is central to
Christianity. Placher identifies Christianity as a religion rooted in
vulnerability, evidenced in the life of Christ, and as a religion that calls us
to be vulnerable and to suffer. Jon Sobrino also highlights the role of
suffering within Christianity, particularly in Christian theology.
Sobrino, focusing on “the sufferings of people who are being crucified,” asserts
that the role of theology is “to take these people down from the cross.”
Although both of these authors put the concept of suffering at the forefront of
their writing, they seem to be suggesting different things. Therefore,
this raises the question: To what extent do we “take up our cross” to be
“crucified with Christ,” and to what extent do we aim to end suffering?
Perhaps the call on one’s life when becoming a Christian is different depending
upon one’s social position. Am I—a white, middle-class, woman living in
the United States—called to step down from my position of privilege in the world
and suffer among the suffering? It is scripturally evident that the
systems we live in are turned upside down by Christ, as it states “The last
shall be first and the first shall be last.” Therefore, the call to
suffer—to come and be crucified—is to those who, previously, have done the
crucifying. I am called to suffer, and in turn, to live among the
suffering. Yet, how do I enter into a life of suffering? Jürgen
Moltmann speaks of “suffering God,” as God hides God’s face from us and forsakes
us as Christ was forsaken on the cross. However, how does this speak to
those who have already suffered? Does it only speak to those who, directly
or indirectly, have caused others to suffer? Trying to make sense of this, my
tentative conclusion is that any power my social location gives me is not my
own; it is not to promote myself. Instead, any power I possess due to my
race, wealth, or geographical location is used on my neighbor—to touch the
suffering and free them from the elements that cause them to suffer.

Just as the idea of suffering appears to take on different meanings
depending on one’s social location, the response to plurality and difference
also elicits different responses. For example, María Pilar Aquino
recognizes the role of Latina women in feminist theology, but she does not
advocate branching off by identifying oneself as a mujerista. She
advocates the intensified impact feminist theologians of all backgrounds can
have when they stay within the broader, diverse category of feminist theology.
Under this one umbrella of feminist theology, there are many voices and a
variety of experiences. Yet, ultimately, they are all speaking toward one
goal. In contrast to Aquino, Peter C. Phan seems to emphasize the idea of
difference within liberation theology. He goes as far as not suggesting a
single theology of liberation, which brings freedom to all people, but instead,
he refers to liberation theologies. Phan notes black theology, white
feminist theology, mujerista theology, and queer theology. He identifies
them all as theologies of liberation, but he seems to preserve their
distinctiveness rather than their commonalities. Therefore, questions
emerge. To what extent do we work within a larger group for greater
effectiveness? To what extent do we preserve the factors that make us
different from others by setting ourselves apart from a group and to what extent
do we merge them with others’ differences? The dilemma lies in the
importance of acknowledging one’s self—one’s race, gender, sexual orientation—in
theology, versus isolating one’s self from other groups who are working toward
the similar goal of inclusion and liberation.

The aforementioned issues are intricately woven together as we engage in
theology. How a woman, a Latina, or a gay or lesbian does theology in one
location might look differently than a woman, Latina, or gay or lesbian in
another location. The role of suffering within my own life, might,
therefore, be different than the role of suffering in the life of a woman living
in Middle Eastern culture. It appears that we approach theological
discourse with a goal in mind—the goal of promoting love, liberation, and
justice. However, the methodologies and strategies in achieving this goal
are dependent upon our social location—where we are and when we are there.

Feel free to give me some insight.

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Friday, December 17, 2004

Should I Stay or Should I Go?

As I am writing my statements of purpose for the graduate school application process, I have been reflecting on why I want to study feminist theology. Out of this process, a couple of things are happening. I am experiencing certain emotions, and I am becoming aware of certain obligations, goals, and responsiblities I have. Let me explain...

One thing that is extremely frustrating is the lack of emphasis by my denomination, the Church of the Nazarene, on academic scholarship. The financial aid departments of various schools list scholarships and fellowships that certain denominations offer. Of course, as I encountered in my Masters work, the Church of the Nazarene does not offer much assistance, and more specifically offers no assistance to students studying outside its denominational institutions. On one level, I understand that the Church of the Nazarene wants to encourage students to study at Nazarene institutions. However, the problem comes when a student is preparing an academic vocation and is pursuing a Ph.D. There is no Nazarene institution that offers this degree, so students must go elsewhere to obtain it. It is interesting that for most teaching positions within a Nazarene University, the professor is required to have a Ph.D. I applaud that standard--one I don't think should be lowered. Yet the problem is that it wants good, Nazarene professors. It wants people who have earned doctoral degrees. But while earning those degrees, people are on their own. The Church of the Nazarene is missing the boat, and people are jumping ship. Why should I remain within the Church of the Nazarene when the United Methodist Church has several different opportunities to finance education? What is it that United Methodists, Presbyterians, Episcopalians, and American Baptists understand that Nazarenes don't? I am considering writing a letter to the General Church expressing my frustration as someone who is trying to remain faithful to God's commandment to love God with my heart, soul, mind and strength, yet who is discouraged to see that the formation of my mind is overlooked by my denomination. Even still, I must ask, would I want a Ph.D. from a Nazarene institution? Look at our denomination's choice for Master's level work--Nazarene Theological Seminary. While it is adequate, let's look at what other denominations offer.

  • United Methodist Church: Boston University, Emory University, Claremont School of Theology, Drew University, Duke University, Southern Methodist University, and seven other theological schools.
  • Presbyterian Church (USA): Princeton, as well as nine other theological schools.
  • Episcopal Church: Yale University, and ten other theological schools.

Not only are there a myriad of educational options in other denominations, but they are connected with universities that are held in high regard. And yet the Church of the Nazarene offers NTS?

Even as I type this, I go back and forth on whether or not I will continue to hold membership within the Church of the Nazarene. On one hand, I am blessed to belong to a denomination that has allowed women to hold pastoral positions and leadership positions. This, alone, provides me with opportunities to be a voice for women who have been silenced. However, the denominations that are doing more, educationally, also allow women equal opportunities. In fact, perhaps women are offered even more opportunities. One thing I have discovered within the Church of the Nazarene is that while women are allowed to become ministers or church leaders, the practice of doing so is limited.

When I sought my local minister's license from my local church, I was pulled aside by the pastor, prior to his meeting with the church board, to discuss some board members' concern with the fact that I wore pants on Sunday mornings. He suggested I "dress the part" and led me to believe that if I were willing to do that, I would be approved by the church board. A week later, I received a letter stating that the church board took no action on my part, and no license was issued. Later, from a supportive board member, I was told that my wearing pants was secondary to the fact that someone had expressed concern over something I allegedly said. Did I say it? Perhaps, I don't recall. However, to the church board, it was a matter of gossip. Not once was I asked about what I said and what I meant when saying it. Never did the church ask me about my calling, my theology, my testimony, or my doctrine. I was simply refused. After the pastor of the church resigned, he expressed that those things mentioned were all excuses people gave; really, it was because I was a woman. To this day, I do not hold any sort of licensing in the Church of the Nazarene, although I have fulfilled all educational requirements for ordination. I am still not sure I want to seek ordination, at least not within that institution.

I know this was kind of a wandering musing. However, I am struggling in where I fit into the Church--not the Church of the Nazarene, specifically, but to the Church, as a whole. Should I stay a Nazarene and try to stand in the tension that is there? Should I save my strength and go to a denomination that is more affirming and supportive, as well as a denomination that prioritizes theological scholarship? I really don't know. One thing I do know is what my eventual goals are. I have a passion for theology and I feel an obligation to use the voice I have been given to respresent the women who have been denied a voice. Where I will speak is still uncertain. However, I know I must speak and I must be heard.

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Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Identity and Idolatry

As I have been writing research proposals for Ph.D. programs, I have been reflecting on why I want to get a Ph.D. in theology, particularly concentrating in feminist theology. It seems that I am unable to separate how I view theology from my identity as a woman. Especially in the political climate in which we live, I have grown increasingly frustrated with people who are first and foremost American, and secondarily a Christian. I have no problem calling the church out in its idolatry and the ways in which it glorifies the red, white, and blue more than it glorifies God. However, in light of my current reflections, I began thinking: is the way in which I do theology idolatrous? Is my inability to separate my feminine perspective from the ways in which I perceive God making me equally as guilty as those who cannot separate their citizenship from their faith? From this struggle of conscience, I have come to conclude that my affinity for feminist theology is not idolatrous and differs from religious imperialism on several grounds.

The first, and most obvious, difference between my gender and my citizenship is that my gender cannot be changed. It is something inherent to who I am, rather than something that happened due to mere circumstance. Although I hold American citizenship, I could fairly easily change it, by moving and going through the necessary processes. Furthermore, in today's society, people tend to cling to their nation for promotion and protection--as a status symbol. However, in a society where women only earn 75% of what men make (and that's in America) and where globally women are traded, sold, abused, and mutilated, there is no status I am clinging to.

Another difference between theology done as a woman versus theology done as an American is the way in which each factor is applied. American evangelicals wave flags and sing, "God Bless America." It is about promoting an already advanced nation; making the empowered even more powerful. It is exclusive, in that anytime the church embraces nationalism, it automatically creates a restricting space that allows for little, if any, room for diversity. However, feminist theology isn't about the powerful becoming more powerful. It's about empowering the powerless (meaning those whom have been stripped of power and not meaning that women are somehow weak). It's about giving a voice to people who have been silenced. It is about representing those who have been ignored. In many cases, feminist theology is not even limited to the represenation of women--it extends beyond one's self. Rather, feminist theologians often recognize others who have been disenfranchised through traditional theology and seek to create a space for those people.

Considering all of this, I can put aside the fact that I am American. Yes, I live in America and have been afforded certain benefits because of that. However, the borders in which I live do not define who I am as a person. On the other hand, I cannot divorce the fact that I am a woman from how I view the world, and ultimately God. No matter what factors in my life change, I will forever be a woman. As a woman, I have certain experiences that I carry with me--experiences that are particular to me because I am a woman. Granted, even within the sisterhood of women, there are differences that separate us. This is the reason there are womanist and mujerista theologies. Yes, as a white woman I have a certain position of privilege that other women have been denied. Yet, as a theologian, I am not trying to promote myself or other white women. I am trying to represent women of all backgrounds--women who have been silenced or ignored. I am not attempting to exclude others, specifically men, but rather I am trying to create a space where women and men can come together and recognize each other as equals. I am trying to create a space where issues are recognized, opinions are respected, and progress is made.

As I do theology as a woman, I do not ask for any special blessing from God, through an anthem or through a prayer. Grace has already been given to me in Christ Jesus, and I am owed nothing more. Perhaps if my attitude were different and my objectives were different while pursuing feminst theology then I would be guilty of idolatry. However, I recognize that I am a woman only insofar as that is who my Creator determined me to be. Through realizing this, I am able to remember that in God is my identity and in God lies my ultimate allegiance.

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Thursday, December 02, 2004

Inclusion and the Non-necessity of Categorizing Sin

Within the last day or two, the United Church of Christ (UCC) has launched an advertising campaign entitled "God is Still Speaking." One key component to this new identity campaign is a 30-second television commercial showing a stereotypical church. Outside of the church are bouncers who decide who gets to enter the church and who must leave. A gay couple approach the turnstyles and are turned away by the bouncers who tell them to step aside. A man and woman are, then, allowed through. Next, a minority is turned away, while two caucasian women are allowed to pass. The message of the commercial is that the UCC is an inclusive church that welcomes all people, regardless of race, economic status, or sexual orientation. The kicker is that NBC and CBS have refused to air the commercial on the grounds that it is too controversial. Political ads are controversial, but networks don't refuse to air those. The networks seem to be exercising selective discretion in their advertising. They have no problem airing beer commercials with women in bikinis catfighting, yet they refuse to air the commercials of a church wanting to spread its message of inclusion. This all doesn't quite jive.

The UCC is a progressive Protestant denomination. Not only do they welcome gay people into church membership, but they also ordain gay clergy. Furthermore, they have a ceremony for civil unions between gay couples. However, it extends more than this one issue. The UCC also helps the impoverished people within local communities. While many denominations work at a general level, where the money goes to a central location and is then disbursed, the local UCC congregations take offerings to help local charities within its own community. They ordain women, which may not seem necessarily progressive. However, the denomination is also taking active measures to create a space for women in its theology and its liturgy. A few years ago, it introduced a new hymnal that not only uses gender-neutral terms for God, but also plays upon some of the feminine images of the divine that have been supressed by other mainline denominations. I say all this to show that the issue here is not just about welcoming gays into the church, but creating a space for all people within the church—people who are often overlooked or outright shunned.

Being raised in the Church of the Nazarene, the only response I saw from my church, in terms of homosexuality, was my pastor proclaiming, "Homosexuality is an abomination of the Lord." When not being proclaimed so overtly, the more muted message I heard was, "Hate the sin; love the sinner." The whole notion of homosexuality being a sin is not one of which I am convinced. However, setting that debate aside for the moment, what if homosexuality were a sin? Would a minister loudly proclaiming people to be an abomination really be the "good news" that changes a person? Would linking homosexuals with pornography, child molestation, and sexual perversion really lead to a moment in which they encounter God? As there is a good chance I will soon be studying in a United Methodist institution, I am also aware of their stance. The United Methodist Church claims that it has open doors, open hearts, and open minds. Perhaps this is the case. However, within their denomination's social statements, they do feel the need to state that homosexuality is a sin, but that homosexuals are to be welcomed into the church. Yet once they are in the church, then what? What if they come to church Sunday after Sunday and worship and hear the gospel message and still are not "changed"? In the meantime, when a church such as a Nazarene or Methodist church welcomes gay people into their church is the church really willing to let them attend, as any other member? I find it interesting that a lot of people I know would become not only uncomfortable, but downright outraged, if a gay couple came to church and held hands during the service. On the other hand, they have no real qualms with the unmarried, cohabitating, heterosexual couple holding hands.

What this boils down to is how churches are prepared to respond. Let's say a church believes that homosexuality is a sin, but says, "We need to welcome them in because we can win them over in love." Or let's think about the church that says, "We want gay people to come to our church, as long as they don't act too gay in church." Well, friends, this is not inclusion. Inclusion is saying come as you are--come and we have no ulterior motives behind the hospitality we are showing you. Come and worship with us and experience life together with us, in our community of faith. You, just as you are, are welcomed here. And that is exactly the message the UCC is trying to send out.

I'd like to return to the question, "Is homosexuality a sin?" Really, this could be rewritten, "Is ____ a sin," and you can fill in the blank with whatever action or lifestyle you choose. I think there is very little value in developing general categories of sin and not sin. I am not suggesting that we don't continue to pray, "Search my heart, oh God." We should pray to be refined and to be made holy. However, just as God is the source of salvation, God is also the source of judgment. Regardless of who we encounter, our lives should reflect the love and grace of God. We are to love God and love our neighbors, meaning we are to welcome any and every person in our churches' doors. Here, I am not talking about a generic "Hate the sin; love the sinner." That mantra is an impossiblity, for you cannot separate a person from what he or she does. It is my lies that charactize me as a liar. It is my gossip that charactizes me as a gossiper. No, we need to love people--every single little thing within them. When we do this, I am convinced that God will speak to those who need spoken to, and those who need to respond will respond. Yet we have to be prepared to trust God--to trust that God's grace is bigger than our categories of sin; that God's understanding of the human heart exceeds our finite understanding of humanity. We might be surprised when God chooses to first speak to the person whose gossip and words have torn apart another person's life. It might be alarming to some that God might possibly choose to address those living extravagant lifestyles, using their money for luxury rather than charity. And we have to be ready for the possiblity that God may not speak to every homosexual, or any other person we have already coined a sinner, to change his or her ways. Are we really ready to surrender, admitting that God is God and we are not?

Inclusion is never a bad thing. For when a community of faith gathers together and invokes the name of the Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer, God will come. God will encounter each person regardless of who we have already determined that person is. To deny anyone the right to worship is not only detrimental to that individual, but it is detrimental to God in that God is hearing less voices of God's children. Let us never be guilty of denying God the worship and praise that is deserved.

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Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Revisiting the Christmas Story

*Upon further reflection, I have edited this post slightly.

As I was listening to Christmas music today, I heard the song "Mary Did You Know?" I have heard that song hundreds of times, and I have always enjoyed it. However, today I suppose I was listening a bit differently or perhaps I just heard it differently. There is a line that says, "This child that you delivered will soon deliver you." Initially, I thought how interesting it was that when Jesus was born, he was a vulnerable baby who needed his mother's care, but that eventually, it was Mary who stood in need of care, or ultimately redemption. Perhaps that thought was momentarily heartwarming. However, it was only seconds until that thought became alarming.

The Christmas story is always made out to be a warm and triumphant event. An angel comes to Mary and tells her that she will be with child, even though she is a virgin. Initially, Mary is afraid, but then comes to terms that she is about to become a mother. Although there is no room in the inn, Mary and Joseph find shelter within a stable, where the Christ-child is delivered. People come from miles arounds--responding to angels' messages--to see the babe in Bethlehem. However, perhaps this is the over-romanticized version of the story.

Mary, a girl likely only to be in her early teens, receives word from an angel that she will be pregnant. Apparently, the Holy Spirit is to come upon her and impregnate her supernaturally. Glorious? Perhaps. Yet does it strike anyone that this was all against Mary's will? Sure, Mary then called herself a willing servant to fulfill the will of God. However, this was after it was announced--what will be will be. The angel did not come to Mary asking if she would be the willing servant to bear the Christ-child. No, the angel came to Mary and told her it was a done deal--it was going to happen. Some scholars equate what happened to Mary as rape. There are those who suggest that she actually did experience sexual intercourse, forcefully against her will. While I haven't done extensive study, I am not sure there is evidence to support that claim. She was going to be pregnant, and there was nothing that she could do about it. Yet, it does make me wonder if speaking up and saying no was even an option? Since Mary complied, but did not particularly will this event that was to take place, even by means of the Holy Spirit, is it really too far out there to call this rape? Semantics aside, Mary was going to be pregnant. So, she had to face the man she was about to marry; she had to face her parents. She had to face society—a society whose customs frowned upon unwed mothers so much, she could have faced death. More than glorious, this seems to be violent and ugly.

I'd like to revert back to that statement, "The child that you delivered, would soon deliver you." Isn't it interesting that this Savior was a man? While I have heard Jesus' gender be used as a basis for the gender of God, I must vehemently disagree. I can somewhat understand why a male Savior was necessary, in this case, as he was coming to a society deeply rooted in patriarchy. In a time when women were viewed not much higher than animals, there would have been little room for a female Messiah. However, really, would a female Savior been that far-fetched? If God can bring the Holy Spirit upon a woman, making her with child, then make her husband, parents, and society understand...if God can raise Jesus from the dead, surely God could have impressed upon the minds of the world that this woman--this Christ-child little girl--was to be their Savior and Messiah. And while Jesus is considered to be savior of the world, the line that Mary needed her son--a man--to deliver her leaves a bitter taste in my mouth. I suppose it's the overall outlook on women, during that time, that troubles me. Historically, in some traditions, it is believed that Jesus was conceived of the Holy Spirit so that he would not inherit the sinful nature of Joseph, as original sin and other traits were passed through men. This notion seems to make the woman merely a vessel, with the man as the one who determines who or what the child is.

All of this is troubling. For advocates of free human will, Mary seemingly had no free will in this case. She was, in essence, forced to bear the Christ-child, and any cry of opposition would likely not have changed her pregnant state. She was not asked to bear Jesus, she was told to do it. Furthermore, while on one hand, I can understand why Jesus came in male form, I am also troubled that even our theology tends to perpetuate the ideology that women are in need of men--in this case, in need of a man for salvation. Yet, perhaps what is even most challenging is that mainline theologians and church-goers refuse to call into question these details. The story, itself, has become so sacred that they see the narrative at face-value, with no room for explanation. And so, we receive opposition when we suggest that a male Jesus does not necessarily mean a male image of God.

I am more than willing to suggest and comply that Jesus' maleness was a secondary detail--that Jesus maleness does not mean God's maleness. I am willing to rationalize that when Jesus gave of and emptied himself upon the cross, that he, too, surrendered his manhood. However, until the church is willing to also concede to these details, we are stuck with a male savior. We retain a history of male dominance and violently forced submission upon the part of women. With these details in mind, the Christmas story just doesn't sound the same anymore.

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The Ribbon Cutting Ceremony

Welcome to my new niche on the world wide web. And now, a few introductory remarks:

Who am I? I am a 25-year-old woman with academic degrees in youth ministry and religion. My academic pursuits, along with certain life experiences, have led me to identify myself as a feminist theologian. The title of theologian might seem a bit pretentious, but as one who does/thinks about/discusses theology, there is no other word. My religious background is that of the Church of the Nazarene--a Wesleyan holiness denomination. Over the past two years, I have not been attending a Nazarene church. I have worked at a United Church of Christ, and then, I attended a Presbyterian Church (PCUSA). Since moving to Oklahoma, I have faced the ever-frustrating task of finding a church--a search in which I have grown weary.

Why this site? I have a few different blogs, but spouting off my latest theological notion isn't really appealing for many readers-at-large. I want a place to write and a place to invite others to discuss the ideas presented here. In time, if I develop a solid readership base, I might invite others to become authors on this site.

Why feminist theology? For centuries, women have been denied a voice in theology and in the church. Some do not believe that a woman-centered theology is necessary. However, as a woman who educated and who holds membership in a denomination that allows women to have a voice, I feel an overwhelming sense of obligation to speak for those who have been silenced. Many of the ideas in traditional Christian theology leave little, if any space, for women. I don't attribute this to the way God intended it to be, but rather the writers and thinkers who fashioned theological dogmas were men, and the societies to which they wrote were very patriarchal. Through feminist theology, we can call into question the traditions that have developed and examine who God is, who we are created to be, and how we are to live in relation with our Creator and one another.

What should I expect from this site? You should expect both anything and nothing. Nothing is too far-fetched for me to write about or consider here. Let me warn you that there may things that seem downright heretical to you. The things I write here are not my final thoughts on certain issues, but rather ideas I am grappling with. At the same time, by expecting nothing, we are able to not limit the outcome of this site by forming it to our own expectations.

Finally, let me ask that all discussion take place in a spirit of love and respect. You may or may not agree with me. However, the foundation of all discussion is done in this context: to love God with our hearts, minds, souls, and strength; and to love our neighbors as ourself.

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