I’m a Woman, You’re a Woman — But We’re Totally Different
There are a lot of things I really appreciate about the experience of studying religion.
One of the aspects I value the most is finding theologies that give people power and confidence. For me, I have found empowerment in feminist and orthodox theology. However, I also feel personally transformed and inspired by hearing experiences brought about by liberation theology, black theology, Dalit theology, and many others. The seminary and religious studies experience allows you the unique space to be moved and explore what the world of faith has to offer not only you, but also the world.
Nevertheless, one of the most important lessons I have learned from my experience is that although a theology may speak to you and your experience of God, or the world, it might fall short for someone else. One of the unfortunate byproducts of culture—especially our western culture—is to either assume our experience is universal or, even worse, that our experience is the only right one.
As one example of this, I want to talk more about feminist and womanist theology.*
Although the fight for the equality of women had been around for some time, serious momentum began to build in the church in the 1970s and 80s. All of a sudden a flood of brilliant scholars were offering in-depth biblical analysis on how the traditional readings of scripture were patriarchal and oppressive. As women began to fight for ordination and equal rights, seminaries found attendance of women jump to staggering numbers. And even though there is still an incredible amount of work to be done, scholarship and leadership in feminist theology is only growing and getting stronger.
However, with all of the work that feminists did to point out how exclusive and non-universal traditional theology had been to women, they failed to realize that they were doing almost the same thing.
The trouble was that many of the theories and spokespeople of feminist theology were being presented by and about white women and their issues. The assumption being that all women have the same basic problems. The fact is that although there are similarities, and feminist theology broaches many vitally important issues for women, the life experiences and issues of white women and women of color are different in many ways.
This is what womanist theology was able to provide, especially to African American women. For the first time biblical interpretation and traditions were re-evaluated with the express goal to empower all women, especially women of color.
It can be a lot of hard work, but a serious fight must be made against making theological or religious assumptions…and religious education can really help in this process. At least it has for me. Despite this incredibly short introduction, I encourage you to explore these topics and the people who have pushed them forward. Your world will only open up, and for the better!
What theologies have you come across that have really opened up the world to you? What theologies do you find difficult or unfair to you personally?
* Womanist theology is not the only branch of feminist theology with the express purpose of giving voice to woman who are not feeling fully heard. This dynamic can also be applied to other theologies for women, like Mujerista theology as well as others.