This is a Book Review of my new book Reimagining with Christian Doctrines co-edited with Jenny Daggers, by John Kenyon who is the Founder/Director of IGCS.
Reimagining With Christian Doctrines; Responding to Global Gender Injustices, Ed. Grace Ji-Sun Kim and Jenny Daggers, (NY: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014).
The new title “Reimaging with Christian Doctrines” is written by feminist theologians from the academy to feminist theologians from the academy. Strategically, it sets forth a vision to save Earth from global warming and to end history through a just human community for all.
Inside feminist circles the content of this new title is guaranteed to rally the troops. The book emphasizes the many serious abuses of women around the world that must be stopped. Outside of feminist circles many other Christians of reason and good equally repulsed by these same abuses will ask whether this reimagining is a utopian fantasy. Logistically, it is anti-patriarchal, anti-hierarchical, anti neo-liberal economics, anti-competition, anti-excessive wealth, anti-prolife, anti-legalizing only heterosexual marriage; but anti-changing mainstream Christian doctrine to achieve these goals. Instead, it seeks to liberate traditional church doctrines from what the authors see as wrong-headed male interpretations, thereby liberating all women and men in all places for all time.
With the majority of nations clamoring for foreign direct investment and more neo-liberal economics in order to create prosperity and end poverty, what is the feminist prescription for creating wealth? Pamela K. Brubaker from California Lutheran University never gets to this critical question when addressing a feminist prescription for a global economy. When writing on creation Brubaker wants to reimagine the doctrine of dominion over the earth in Genesis to living in harmony with creation. But no theologian since the composer of Genesis to my knowledge has used the term “dominion” to prescribe pollution of the earth or water or continued GHG emissions that risk global warming. Is Brubaker just late to the game?
Jenny Daggers from Liverpool Hope University compares the male dominated culture of the Church of England to the inclusive culture of changing attitudes commonly called liberal Catholic. Liturgically infusing the Holy Trinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit with feminine imagery she believes will contribute to the ordination of women as priests and bishops. Ruthlessly pursuing her logic calls for the infusion of LGBT imagery into the Holy Trinity so that the Church of England can ordain lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgenders as priests and bishops.
Cynthia L. Rigby from Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary sees doctrines such as total depravity and atonement responsible for feelings of bodily shame among women. A fresh application of the resurrection, she argues, would heal this shame. I found this chapter interesting because shame over the human body is not just a feminine condition, but an existential, universal human condition depicted in Genesis. The question is why are we universally ashamed of our nakedness? According to Genesis it derives from our mortal, flesh and blood desire to be as the eternal gods, knowing good and evil, not from male theologians writing in the Reformed tradition. White male philosopher/theologian Norman O. Brown writes brilliantly on this topic.
The body is a theological problem, continues Eboni Marshall Turman from Duke University Divinity School, writing the most challenging and most productive chapter in this book. She does so from Incarnational and Chalcedonian theology. As Nicaea affirmed the eternal being of Christ, Chalcedon affirmed the full humanity and divinity of Christ, however the modes of thinking behind these two doctrines have reaped schismatic havoc in the Church; among them the problems of white supremacy and male superiority. In the black church, Turman writes that this “replays an old, old story of a hybrid black Mammy Jezebel every time.” She concludes, “…the Incarnation gives license to a womanist ethic of incarnation to brazenly assert Jesus reimagined as a black woman.” I must add Jesus of the same substance of women and men from every tribe and nation and tongue.
How do Latina feminists define themselves in global Christianity? Theresa Yugar, PhD from Claremont Graduate University offers the views of three Latina theologians discontent with the patriarchy and hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church. The goal is to turn the church “right side up” into an inclusive ecclesiology aimed at “all living and non-living bodies” in creation. She identifies with Jesus the mestizo, of a mixed race living among the marginalized.
Joy Ann McDougall from Emory University recommends reimagining the universal doctrine of sin as “the bondage of the Eye/I”. This she believes will build a cross cultural bridge from North Atlantic feminist theologians to South Korean feminist theologians. With the Ten Commandments clearly patriarchal and “disobedience to God” allegedly a phrase too distorted by men blaming Eve for the evil in the world, not even failing to follow the golden rule is a sufficient universal for a feminist doctrine of sin. The question is whether the bondage of the evil eye/I—a visual malady–in effect substantially changes traditional Christian doctrine or mistakes the part of blindness for the whole of sin and the fall.
Finally, my favorite feminist theologian, Grace Ji-Sun Kim, wraps it up with the conclusion that feminists do not wish to castrate men (my imputation), rather open pathways to equality.
Further questions from a white male theologian for feminist theologians:
(1) What is the feminist corollary to Promise Keepers in the effort to be good wives and mothers?
(2) Why should the LGBT agenda be a higher global priority among feminist theologians than religious freedom?
(3) What is meant by equality? Equal opportunity or equal outcomes?
(4) How will a community made up largely of those that do not reproduce and that abort their unborn at a rate of 40-50 million a year sustain its population?
For the past seven years John Kenyon has been working as the founder and director of The Institute for Global Church Studies (IGCS), whose purpose is to study the impact of globalization on the Church and how the Church is responding. He holds a BS, MA in English Literature and MDiv from Union Theological Seminary in NYC, He is formerly coordinator of The Southern Africa Education Program at Stony Point Center, and Pastor of Union Church of Mayaguez in Mayaguez, Puerto.Rico.