As I study the subset of anthropology in Systematic Theology, I am disturbed at the lack of placing woman in the scheme of things. If she is addressed it usually is in addendum to man. How did Eve contribute to Adam’s sin? How did woman solve man’s loneliness? There is a general insistence among theologians that man holds the focal point at the center of God’s interaction with humans. Woman is a bit player used to thicken plot and add beauty to the tale.

I am very aware of the fear of feminism in the church. I recently heard the story of a Catholic college that offered a course on the Women in the Bible. The nun teaching the course began her first day by apologizing for not being born with a penis. She spent the entire course upholding women as paragons of power and defied all forms of orthodox anthropology. This flaming rhetoric is at the core of the church’s fear of feminism, and is not what I propose. I admit to being very sensitive to how women fit in the scheme of God’s plan, but isn’t that logical seeing that I am a woman? So, I’m naturally curious about what God had in mind for me? I am also sensitive from years of being taught bad womanology in Sunday School and churches. My “nonsense meter” is often in overdrive. And although I hear my own frustration with patriarchy mirrored in the nun’s apology, I pray the Holy Spirit will temper my rhetoric with grace and truth.

My ideas may seem horribly unorthodox. But as I study, I am realizing that many of our core doctrines are held together by a few clear statements of Scripture and lots of philosophical glue. And often that glue differs from theologian to theologian. Its time to add some more feminine glue to that pile. She is there holding things together even if the scholarly world neglects to recognize her.

Have you found any female theologians that have explored womanology? Please share.

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7 thoughts on “Womanology

  1. Like so much that happened from the 1st – early 20th centuries, our theology has some unfortunate cultural biases. As an example, the US Constitution arguably prohibits women from being president despite the later civil rights and suffrage amendments. It’s not because those people were trying to be sexist, but they had adopted certain views from their peers/elders (the possibility didn’t even occur to them) and in some cases were just responding to cultural realities. (E.g. the women Paul told to be quiet in church were uneducated and causing distractions, which wasn’t inherently tied to their gender).

    All that to say, I don’t have any specific recommendations of women theologians, although I’ve certain read a number of them, but more importantly – does the gender really matter? Yes, it’s helpful to have various perspectives in any conversation, including different genders, cultures, and backgrounds. But when considering a specific argument, the merits shouldn’t rely on the author’s background. Whether it’s Paul’s apparent sexism, a modern feminist irrationally railing against all men, or something in between, we can appreciate the most compelling arguments and reject the bad ones, no matter the source.

    Your point that certain theological views are cobbled together from disconnected verses is a fair point – I completely agree. I guess I’m a little confused by your specific call for female theologians. There are going to be cultural, economic, and educational factors that limit a groups ability to provide an academic or political argument. Keep in mind that during the civil rights movement, many of the most important players were white liberals who organized, joined in rallies, or provided legal support. They were important because they had the social capital and the credibility to convince their peers to reconsider their views, precisely because they weren’t part of the privileged demographic group and not the one that stood to benefit. Personally, I’d say to accept any allies with good ideas regardless of their gender 🙂

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    1. I must answer this– yes, when a group has been systematically marginalized and silenced, then hearing directly from members of that group is not just necessary, but paramount. There is a tendency to view the white male perspective as the “objective” one, while everything else is potentially biased– and that’s part of the problem! The white male perspective is no more objective and no less biased than any other perspective. So to arrive at a closer approximately of what’s really happening, the voices of those on the margins must be heard.

      You speak of how many of the important players in the civil rights movement were white. True enough– and as a woman I could really use your male voice championing my voice’s right to be heard. But that’s different from saying, “As long as I can speak for her, what need is there to hear her voice?”

      What would have happened if people in the civil rights movement had asked, “Does the race really matter? Isn’t it ok if we hear only from white people on both sides, because what matters is the ideas, not the person giving them?”

      The problem is that the reason black voices had not been heard up to then was because of their race so making sure their voices were heard was necessary. When something is overbalanced, you don’t right it by adding more weight evenly, you right it by throwing more weight to the side where there’s less weight! Things will continue to favor the status quo (male theologians’ voices) unless we specifically and deliberately take action to change it.

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      1. Great points. Also, there is something different about experiencing theology and the study of the Bible from a specific perspective. Men have had 2000 years of unpacking the mysteries of God. They have done a tremendous job,and I love studying their writings. But, I believe there is more to discover from a different perspective. “If the only tool you have is a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail. “Abraham Maslow

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