Several men groaned when the paper turned to this topic. Others were absent. I enjoyed the lecture on this model as it rocks the boat and brings into question long-standing opinions, often gone unquestioned. Gender is a topic which uncovers much implicit theology and makes it explicit, where people debate and defend their gender values. Often those supporting traditional views make appeals to authority and passages of Scripture to explain and validate their view.
This model of contextual theology is primarily concerned with challenging and re-evaluating gender values in religion. Christianity and other religions have a long history of being patriarchal. Theology and Scripture have been used in many instances to silence and oppress women. The Christian church has been criticized as promoting and upholding traditional male power structures.
The feminist model makes a point of paying attention to which voices are being heard. It aims to encourage the speaking up of silent voices; the voices of women, children and others whose voices have often been considered irrelevant to theology. It is closely linked with Liberation Theology, where orthopraxy (right action) is prioritized over othrodoxy (right belief).
There was a point in the course where we discussed an article about oppression of women in India. The writer, a Christian Indian woman, made appeals to elements found in Hinduism to encourage non-Christian women to fight for equality.
Some students in my class were uneasy with this. They maintained that Christianity is the only “right belief” and it compromises the woman’s faith by encouraging others to use their spirituality in fighting for equality.
I really don’t like the orthodoxy view. I don’t think any belief system that is used to support or at least remain ambivalent to oppression and inequality can be considered “right belief.” I think liberation is primary and if identifying with other religions or cultures promotes equality, then it only supports the value in that person’s faith rather than compromising it. Being a faithful supporter of oppression is bad faith. In my understanding, the Gospel is all about liberation and equality.
Traditionally, Scripture has been used to reinforce patriarchal power structures. This model challenges the practice, re-evaluating such passages in a different light. A view can be taken that these passages have not been read as intended, but interpreted or translated by men in power to maintain the status-quo.
The feminist model debates these interpretations, as well as engendered terms regarding God and leadership. For example, God is often referred to as ‘He’ and ‘Father’. This model has explored the “female face of God” in articles such as ‘God Acting Womanish’, where acts or views expressed in the Bible and attributed to God have been interpreted as reinforcement of women’s values and rights.
The feminist model of contextual theology is focussed on achieving equality. It is not about ‘adding women in to theology’, but a total re-assessment of the established structure.