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Feminist Theology

  Women theologians bring very varied perspectives and church traditions to their theology, so that it is better to talk of an approach to theology than of a theology itself. Nevertheless, they are not only restructuring theological language and reconstructing the image of God, but changing the understanding of the nature of theology itself. Women are retrieving their heritage—what Jewish women call ‘the half empty bookshelf’—because women\'s contributions to historic events have been ignored, with (in Judaism and Christianity, for example) Abraham, Isaac and Jacob being commemorated in the liturgy and not the equally courageous Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel and Leah. They are also developing their own distinctive rituals and spirituality.

Although there have always been pioneering women in religious life, whether saints or not, and religious women such as Christabel Pankhurst and Emily Davidson in the suffragist movement, women were at first reluctant to join the feminist movement because of its pro-abortion and anti-motherhood stand, but they were becoming increasingly aware of the weight of prejudice against women seeking to understand their faith for themselves, instead of accepting (male) authority. For, in common with other theologies of liberation, feminist theology starts where women are today, and analyses their social situation, the religious pressures they are under (for example, that women are Eves, tempresses, responsible for leading men into sin, etc.), the taboos they must observe and the degree to which they are excluded from sacrament and priesthood. They use the feminist concept of the patriarchy. Most feminist theologians, if they believe in the work of the faith community, are in favour of the ordination of women to the priesthood (in Christianity) and the rabbinate (in Judaism). Many, having been excluded from career advancement in secular professions, are sensitive to the structural discrimination of religious institutions, and the way motherhood is exalted in the abstract and exploited to keep mothers in inferior positions. Some women have become so alienated that they have left the mainstream religious movements to join groups worshipping the Goddess. Others are working on liturgies and translations of scriptures in non-sexist language. Interest has centred on pneumatology, while the evolution of feminist ethics, especially in matters relating to female biology, has been paralleled by women\'s work in the field of moral theology.

The ultimate aim of feminist theology is to liberate women and men from centuries of oppression, and to enable them to contribute as fully as possible to contemporary developments in research, spirituality and the expression of their faith. A number of flourishing networks exist to assist this, some denominational and some interdenominational or inter-faith (tackling common concerns such as the rise of fundamentalism). EMJ

See also god; goddess; feminism.Further reading Mary Grey, The Wisdom of Fools; , Ann Loades, Feminist Theology.



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