Tuesday 31 October 2023

Tangential Issues #3: Five Essential Questions from "Christianity, Patriarchy & Abuse"

 I have decided to focus on book reviews for the next little while. Yes, I am back writing the blog with more consistency. I have created a "dismantling rape culture" rating system to use as I analyse these books. More about that in the next post. 

Some questions that will be in the back of my mind as I write my reviews come from the book where my first ever published article appeared. That article is still close to the most downloaded and quoted work that I have published over the years. It vies with "Remember the Good, Forget the Bad".

In 1989, five essential questions were put to readers of Christianity, Patriarchy and Abuse: A Feminist Critique (p. xv) that are still relevant. They are as follows with my comments as of the day that I publish this blog post:

1.        1.  Is patriarchy inherent in Christian theology? My Comment: Can we replace patriarchy with "rape culture", which is what I am primarily concerned with? The latter term is even more of a red flag. Whatever you call it, my answer would be yes - even today. [This was published three years before Elisabeth Schüssler-Fiorenza coined the term, "kyriarchy" in 1992.]

2.        2.  Can we call our “corrected” Christianity Christianity? My Comment: Many of the articles in the original book offered alternatives to the prevailing theologies on whichever issue about which they were writing. Today we can read “queer theology”, “feminist theology”, "biblical feminist scholarship", and “liberation theology” to look for examples of  "corrected Christianity". The question is still relevant and as of my readings to date, it is hard to find anyone who really deals with that question. The problem implies questions of definition, essential beliefs, foundational texts, etc. or "who owns Christianity?".

3.       3.  Is there an essential message of liberation in Christianity that runs counter to patriarchal oppression? My Comments: This is the question that was and still is addressed by liberation theology. If this question left out the word, essential, then I would probably answer, yes. Certainly, this is a debatable issue. My question is: "What happens to the dispossessed when they become the possessors of the power that oppressed them?" The problem hasn't been, and I would argue, won't be solved by giving women positions of power in any of its institutions, although that is a start. The patriarchal structure of the texts is so embedded in Christianity that even the liberation theology message is bounded by the will of its god who "giveth and taketh away(KJV)" (adapted from Job 1:20-22 NRSVUE).

4.      4. Why do we struggle so hard to remain within the tradition? My Comments: This is so easy to answer. The existence of the Christian God is embedded in children from the day that they are born. The monotheistic Christian god, no matter what denomination or interpretation has one quality above all else that makes it hard to leave the tradition: that god is personally involved in their lives. Furthermore, if the first twenty years within the system was not blighted by abuse, then  one's community was critically important to shaping your life. Thus, challenging your community is like challenging your whole life. As those who read my blog know, this is a struggle that I have had to work through all my life (still working on that one!). I can only say that being raised is the United Church of Canada was a godsend, whether I knew that at the time or not.

5.   5. Is there anything worth saving in the Christian tradition? My Comments: I am sure there is. Which parts are worth saving is a debate that has been ongoing since Christianity's beginnings. The problem is the Christian Bible itself. If there is no Christian Bible, does Christianity even exist? Well, of course not. The problem is that these texts are foundational - but are they revealed by the deity? And what does "being revealed" even mean? Few of the answers to the latter two questions are as clear as the 1992 statement from the United Church of Canada: "The Word of God, in every case, is larger than the text of the Bible." There is also this from the 2023 UCC website. Their statement of faith with respect to the Bible says: The Bible is the shared standard for our faith, but members are not required to adhere to any particular creed or formulation of doctrine. It's a beginning.

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