William B. Gravely
The eighteenth-century evangelical revival in the American colonies gave Africans settings to claim some free space in their lives. Evangelists were delighted that their converts responded so powerfully to the Christian gospel. Such a reaction confirmed their capacity for spiritual experience and contradicted the racist cynics who denied that Africans had souls. Africans in North America became active participants in the Methodist system as members and leaders of classes. They earned tickets to love feasts, welcomed the itinerants on their rounds, and contributed to support the preachers. When quarterly conferences came around they attended in large numbers, despite the practice of racial separation during services. This article discusses the following: African Methodism in Methodist studies and Black Church research, the African Methodist counterculture (1786–1881), host environments and counter-racism on a world Methodist stage (1881–1931); and African-American Methodists, civil rights, and South African apartheid.
Ellen T. Armour
This chapter considers analyses offered by three important feminist scholars, working in different religious traditions, who attend to specific forms of women's religiosity. In Changing the Subject: Women's Discourses and Feminist Theology, Mary McClintock Fulkerson attempts to carve out a place within feminist theology for Christian women who do not consider themselves feminist. In The Hammer and the Flute: Women, Power and Spirit Possession, Mary Keller's analysis of the phenomenon of spirit possession, which affects many more women than men, becomes a site in which to reflect anew on questions of gender and religious subjectivity. In Politics of Piety: The Islamic Revival and the Feminist Subject, anthropologist Saba Mahmood finds that the issues raised by her study of Egyptian women involved in an Islamic renewal movement challenge certain feminist orthodoxies. Taking each author in turn, the chapter first traces the particular contours of the religious phenomenon each analyzes and shows how they reframe religious subjectivity. The final section brings the three essays together and describes what avenues they open up for constructive feminist theology in a global context.
Beyond Theology of Religions: The Epistemological and Ethical Challenges of Inter-religious Engagement
Sharon D. Welch
For the past one hundred years, the primary form of scholarly inter-religious encounter has been inter-religious dialogue. While fruitful, such an approach is also severely limited, reflecting as it does Western assumptions about the nature of religious knowledge itself, about the bearer of religious knowledge, and about the nature of the self. The problem now being examined in the postcolonial comparative study of religion is quite straightforward: the categories for defining religion were taken from Western traditions and then applied to other traditions, a process in which the other traditions were often found wanting, or, even if seen as complex and worthy of appreciation, were still misunderstood by Western scholars. This chapter considers the following question: In a postcolonial world, how do we see and value differences, those that are forced, those that are self-generated, and those that are an ambiguous combination of both coercion and creativity? The impetus to postcolonial comparative work and postcolonial critique of religious traditions has been initiated by those who have borne the costs of colonization and domination, who criticize its legacy, and who call for new forms of critique and interaction. The impetus for new forms of interaction and fundamental critique is not primarily the West's deconstruction of its own forms of domination, but is a response to the work of those, who albeit colonized, resisted colonization from its beginning, and have continuously asserted their subjectivity and agency.
This article uses the term ‘equivocation’ to describe the sense in which Christian incarnational theology appears to have provided a resource or way of thinking about the embodied human condition. For British literary works produced across a period of over a thousand years, that is not wholly negative. Christian convictions about God's investment in the materiality of human existence bear witness to the perception of infinite human longings and seemingly endless possibilities, as well as our fearful limitations. British artists and commentators during this period have not all accepted the authority of a Christian approach, and in the last two or three centuries many have aspired to challenge the more negative or limiting emphases of its teaching. Arguably, the paradigm remains significant, yet it continues to provide both impetus and challenge to ongoing reflections on the nature of unavoidable human incarnation.
At the centre of the clerical vocation was the conundrum of balancing the clergy’s commitment to chastity with the many aspects of their professional training and responsibilities that either tacitly or overtly concerned sex. On a pedagogical level, there were pagan authors, like the sexually savvy Ovid, who were at the cornerstone of the acquisition of letters. But biblical tradition, theology, and ascetical literature also treated sexuality and sexual temptation very explicitly. Such concerns loom even larger on a practical level. The clergy had always assumed the responsibility of monitoring lay mortality. But the sexually explicit nature of their pastoral obligations would increase exponentially when the Church established a hegemony over marriage and made auricular confession mandatory for the laity in the high Middle Ages. This chapter provides an overview of the many different kinds of sources that lend insight into this, at times, fraught aspect of the clerical vocation.
Colleen M. Conway
This chapter begins with a brief overview of the theorists who have shaped gender analytical work on the New Testament, especially the application of gender theory in classical studies. It then concentrates on gender analyses on New Testament writings that demonstrate the differing approaches of masculinity studies, queer theory, and intersectional analysis. The primary focus is on gender construction in Paul’s letters and the canonical gospels, with additional discussion of symbolic and metaphorical uses of gender in other writings of the New Testament. The chapter concludes with a brief discussion of future directions for gender criticism.
David W. Kling
This chapter examines issues and themes in the history of Christian conversion through the lens of a single twentieth-century evangelical conversion narrative—that of the author’s father. It analyzes this narrative by examining historical factors (the immediate, proximate, and distant context), autobiographical reconstruction, the psychological theory of William James, and the sociological categories of type (tradition transition, institutional transition, affiliation, intensification, and deconversion) and motif (intellectual, mystical, experimental, affectional, revivalist, and coercive). It argues that while conversion, as word and concept and as process and event, is central to Christianity, it manifests itself in multiform ways over time and place. The complexity of the phenomenon requires attention to semantics (definitions and explanations of conversion), history (the social, political, cultural, and theological context), and a range of theoretical models and methodological approaches.
The period between the third and fifth centuries CE was crucial for the development of Christianity not least for ideas about desire and the body. Patristic writers hoped for the elimination of sex and sexual desire among Christians, encouraging the renunciation of sexual activity, marriage, and family life. Monasticism and men’s self-castration were among the varied means by which to achieve that renunciation, the former encouraged by the Church Fathers and the latter discouraged. Marriage was permissible if couples engaged only in procreative sex with each other, and married only once. Other types of sexual behaviour, including what we would call homosexuality, were condemned. Gender difference was also reinforced in this period and earlier notions of a genderless ideal in Christianity were mostly abandoned, through the strengthening of traditional public lives for men and private lives for women.
This article focuses on Elizabeth Cady Stanton and her book, The Woman's Bible. Born in 1815, Elizabeth was one of a well-to-do family from Johnstown, New York. She married her husband Henry on 1 May 1840 at the age of 24, seven years after leaving school and without the presence of her family, who disapproved of him largely on the grounds of his prospects. Henry was an abolitionist, and by marrying him she was to cut her own political teeth, learning the important lesson that what appeared to be long-established social institutions could indeed be changed. The Woman's Bible was to be a commentary written by women on those parts of the Bible which explicitly referred to women.
This essay examines possible ascetic tendencies in apocryphal gospels and their relationship to theological ideas and the role of female disciples in those texts. In some gospels, certain theological ideas correlate with the prominent participation of women and with statements that are susceptible to an ascetic interpretation: salvation is regarded as a (perhaps already achieved) return to an original state of creation, a spiritual existence without sexual differentiation and without birth and death; ascetic practice and an equal role for women seem to be derived from such a state. In this context, asceticism is not a separate issue and not the path to salvation, but rather the consequence of the theology. In other writings, calls to control desire and negative sexual imagery are important, although they do not necessarily have to result in abstinence; a married life (including sexuality without desire) is acceptable.
Rosemary Radford Ruether
Christian eschatology is a complex combination of ideas and themes that synthesizes three ancient traditions of eschatological hope: Jewish futurism, Zoroastrian apocalyptic, and the Greco-Oriental soul journey. This article examines these three historical roots of eschatology and their synthesis in Judaism and Christianity. It points out the gender and class biases found in these classical patterns of eschatology, looks at the revision of Christian eschatology in nineteenth-century progressive millennialism, and shows how early feminist theology adapted both millennialist hope and belief in personal immortality. The article then examines the critique and revision of eschatological hope in several major feminist theologians of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries: Marjorie Suchocki, Catherine Keller, Ivone Gebara, Delores Williams, and Rosemary Ruether. It also considers the ancient Near East roots of Christian eschatological thought, the development of Christian eschatology, crises and reinterpretation of Christian eschatology in modern Western thought, and feminist theology and eschatology in the late twentieth century.
The first part of the chapter, ‘Sources’, consists of an overview of various theological accounts of families, drawn from Roman Catholic official teaching, from the Protestant Family, Religion, and Culture project, and from a range of other sources. The second part, ‘Themes’, analyses and compares the sources, allowing standard and contested issues to surface. The issues include the analogy between divine and human persons: the designation of families as domestic churches; whether theology stigmatizes ‘non-traditional’ families; the place of equal-regard love in families and the place of kin within the Kingdom of God; the claim that the family of church is prior to the family unit; the idea of kin altruism; and different approaches to the problem of family form. Finally the Trinitarian framework for thinking about families, and the method and key ideas of the Family, Religion and Culture are endorsed as a basis for future theological thinking about families.
Today, 58% of women executives voluntarily choose flexible work options or a variety of other nontraditional career paths that take them far afield from the traditional, male, linear ascent to corporate power and success, and 37% of these highly qualified women voluntarily leave their careers for some period of time. They leave to have babies, to take care of aging parents, or for other such gender-based roles, and one-fourth do not return to their previous jobs. The collective impact of these individual, gender-based decisions made by women has created a near panic among US corporations. The price tag for refilling a job slot is typically 150% of the former employee's salary, and for high-level executives, is almost three times the job's annual salary. Accordingly, as women executives leave the corporate world, their individual actions create a collective, leaderless social movement that looks, statistically and financially, like a contemporary women's revolt against big-time corporate American enterprise. To stop the disruptions to business interests brought about by this leaderless women's movement, global corporations have turned for advice to Women's Studies scholars and other advocates for women's gender-based interests and rights. As a result, corporate America now hires these advocates to develop gender-based company policies and procedures to keep women executives in the corporate fold. This new effort is referred to as Feminism, Inc., which is the for-profit hiring of women's advocates to facilitate a business process designed to economically exploit the women the advocates help. This chapter is organized as follows. Part I delineates the problem and shows how Women's Studies scholarship and professional advocacy for women's rights transformed into an antifeminist, market-driven, business agenda for corporate America; Part II proffers solutions.
This chapter addresses aspects of feminist Christology, including the perceived misogyny amongst the Fathers and Scholastics; the problematic ascription of maleness to God; and the ‘anti-woman use of Christology’. Some argue that the patriarchal image of Christ leads to the exclusion of women from the Incarnation and question whether sexual difference should equate to theological significance. Others say that Christological symbolism is imperialist and patriarchal and serves to disempower women. Yet others say that Christ could have been a woman: this is why the ‘Christa’ crucifixion image is important to them. Feminists also question the patriarchal ways in which Christ’s work of redemption has been interpreted. Feminist theologians rightly argue that the patristic ‘quod non est assumptum non est sanctum’ should be complemented by the Pauline metaphor of the body of Christ. The humanity of Christ, including his maleness, points to the relational and communitarian dimension of his human nature.
Christian feminist exegesis has other procedures and thematic concerns compared with a Jewish feminist engagement with the Bible; and criticism of society, politics, and the economy is not carried out with the same sharpness by all of these. Lesbian and queer (gender-confusing) exegetical approaches bring in yet other perspectives. The designation ‘queer’ indicates in addition the debate about the deconstruction of ‘gender’ which, from its side, also brings pressure to define afresh the contours of ‘feminist’ theology and exegesis. This article deals first with basic hermeneutical questions, and then turns to methodological perspectives.
This article explores the literary revisioning work as it is displayed in the work of two women writers whose attention has been largely focused on the Jewish and Christian traditions. Alicia Ostriker and Michèle Roberts are women whose work arises out of direct political involvement with the women's movement. Both are authors who are deeply immersed in contemporary critical debates and both acknowledge their conversational relationships with other female creative artists. As such, it is possible to view their work as representative of a revisionary movement within contemporary women's literature concerned with nothing less than the radical revisioning of religious traditions.
This chapter discusses three out of the many theologies in Europe addressing the question of globalization: indigenous theologies, and transcendence through developments in ecotheology and monotheism. It suggests that what is needed to hold back the advance of globalization is a solid sense of personhood rooted in cultural identity, but not so narrowly conceptualized as to be devoid of relational potential and respect for the rootedness of others. This is a significant challenge when the populations of the world are in such motion and we are forced to face the questions of: “How shall we sing the Lord's song in a strange land?” How shall we keep our sense of identity when everything is shifting around us? The global market, with its global “things,” can be a neat and easy answer for so many, but in fact it just adds to the sense of our non-being, our uprootedness, making us citizens of everywhere and nowhere—cheap and disposable like the commodities we so often buy. The importance of the person, the history, the belonging so central to authentic personhood can be so easily dislodged under the force of migration, even voluntary.
Musa W. Dube
In the globalization era, justice-seeking feminist theologies are challenged to sharpen and reposition themselves to speak to the issues of the time by adopting new methods, topics, and frameworks. Consequently, “the boundaries of theology need to be redrawn in the light of the creation of new global cultures” and “crucial to the task of rewriting the story of feminist theology in the light of globalization is reflecting on the nature of a theological perspective it makes.” This chapter explores the interrelations of globalization, a world scripture (the Bible), and the vision of feminist theologies.
Cherith Fee Nordling
Attempts to speak of gender in the context of evangelical theology are often fraught with misunderstanding or intransigence. As gender has become a concept used within theological anthropology (rather than emerging from it), it brings along its own set of issues that mainly derive from the sociological contexts and categories in which it developed. How do we live out a gendered reality in conformity to Jesus Christ, the eschatological New Adam of a new, restored human race? Does evangelical theology continue to marginalize women based on the order of old creation, or does it manifest a theology of mutual participation in God's new creation? Much evangelical culture and theology mirrors aspects of popular culture, as each remains influenced by and perpetuates forms of premodern gender essentialism. This article considers how the concept of gender has developed, how it plays out in evangelical theology, and how the gifting and influence of various women in Christian church history compared to some current evangelical proscriptions. It also examines eschatology, resurrection, ascension, and the Holy Spirit.
This chapter puts the theological use of father and son language in the traditional doctrine of the Trinity into perspective by showing that this language has a limited theological point and no exclusive privilege. These terms cannot stand on their own, moreover, without threatening to bring with them serious misunderstandings. As with every set of terms used to discuss the relationship between the first and second persons of the Trinity, the connotations of this one need to be severely modified in ways the simple use of the terms themselves cannot convey. While Anglicanism itself may be loath to change its liturgy, its favourite theological literature gives the whole church reason to reconsider that reluctance. By discussion of patristics, the role of Mary, the mother of Jesus, it seeks to show how gender can be reconceived.