This is the final part of a series of posts to more specifically define feminism (1) – (2) – (3). It represents my notes from the book The Feminist Gospel, as I have blogged through it. It will present summaries I compiled from the book of certain basic ideas which I can see readily expressed in modern Churchianity, and then my commentary on those ideas. My commentary will be in red. The book as a whole is much more detailed in both religious and secular interests of modern expression of feminism, and if you can locate it, I suggest it as a good read.
Having described the assertion in feminism that each woman has the right to define her own world, this will describe the next assertion of feminism. This is the assertion that women has the right to define her own god.
Changing The Gender of God
It should be no surprise from the previous parts that modern feminism places an extreme importance upon language. For example, “Mary Daly identified the ‘maleness of God’ as a major problem for the liberation of women in the Church.” (1) This question was brought out into the common religious community by a New York church, which erected a statue of a female Christ on the cross. (1) The statue was complete with its own breasts, hips, and vagina. (1)
This led to a study of sexism in the Bible by many denominations, in an effort to find “ways for making worship and study more inclusive of all participants.” (2) Feminist theologians rejected much of the Bible as male-biased. (2) They believed that “the Bible itself needed liberation from the misogyny that shackled it. (2) This led from the recognition that language is a human symbol that represents reality. (3) The symbols of the Church had presented God as “He” and as “King”, “Lord”, and “Judge”, and they argued that these symbols needed to be updated to reflect the new feminist consciousness. (3) As Letty Russell wrote: (3)
We cannot wait for a new generation of female and male scholars to publish new Bible translations and commentaries that eliminate the hitherto unconscious sexist bias of writers, most of whom are male.
Most didn’t have a very holy attitude towards Scripture and were more than ready to comply with the wishes of Letty Russell. As Burton Throckmorton, Jr., a professor of New Testament and member of the NCC revision committee for the Revised Standard Version of the Bible is quoted (13):
The scripture is the church’s book. I think the church can do with its scripture what it wants to do with its scripture.
We have the explanation for the changing of gender language and other factors within the Bible with respect to new translations. While they all have problems of this fashion, the New International Version is the most notable as the Feminist Bible (1 – 2 – 3 – 4 – 5). The fact that there is very little respect for God’s word as handed down through Spirit-inspired writers is very evident all over Churchianity. People believe it can either be followed or not, and literally be changed at the whim of those reading it.
Russell believed that the linkage of the gender pronoun applied to God with fleshly men reinforced inferiority and superiority stereotypes, alienated women against the Church, and served to limit God to physical male imagery and was as a result idolatry. (4) Russell’s suggested changes to language to alleviate this are illustrated through the feminist reading of the Lord’s prayer, which also illustrates feminist church doctrine as described in previous parts (5, verse numbers added by me to follow along):
(9) Our Mother/Father, who is everywhere, Holy be your names.
(10) May your new age come May your will be done In this and in every time and place.
(11) Meet our needs each day and
(12) Forgive our failure to love As we forgive the same failure in others.
(13) Save us in hard times, and Lead us into the ways of love. For yours is the wholeness, and the power, And the loving, forever. Amen.
Kassian gives adequate commentary of the effects of this in the book, so I defer to her.
As Kassian points out, Russell alters and renames God into something different than how He revealed Himself. (5) This is the true Biblical idolatry that is condemned. In changing the language, they serve to eroticize/sexualize God, depersonalize God, attacked God’s character, deny the Trinity, obscured the person and work of Christ, obscure humanity’s relationship to God, and even confuse personal identity. (6) The end result of renaming God was that the feminists became the authority which named their own destiny. (7)
Changing the God Altogether
“Since its inception, the ultimate goal of women’s liberation had been the attainment of personal meaning, value, and wholeness.” (8) Such a quest is an undeniably spiritual one. (8) Given the secularists tendency to rebel against everything that they perceived as Patriarchal, for they perceived that it did not do these things, it should be no surprise that they would rebel against traditional religious expression. Since the God of Scriptures was connected to the male-defined male, He was discarded. (9) They ultimately turned to what was perceived as the matriarchal, or goddess worship, by looking into Greek, Egyptian, and Eastern mythologies. (10) It was ultimately seen as reflexive worship of one’s self with the goddess as the symbol of that worship. (11) The principles of this kind of worship are: All is One, All Is God, Self Is God (12), and served well to reinforce personal experience over external objective authority.
While feminist spirituality is an interesting topic of study that explains a whole lot in modern society, the focus of these notes is upon how feminism has affected the Church.
It should not be surprising that the feminists who wish to self-identify with the Church wanted to worship in this way as well. What kept them from doing so was the issue of Biblical authority. (13) As talked about in previous parts, the feminist believer was allowed to accept or reject whatever Scripture that didn’t align with their vision of equality. (13) This meant that a new authority had to be made to replace Scripture. This new authority was laid up in the community of believers, which allowed interpretations of the Bible to differ from accepted Christian theology. (13) “If a woman perceived that some of the Bible’s words did not liberate and give wholeness to the pressed, then she could legitimately judge those words as inauthentic with the ‘Word of God.’” (14) In other words, the Word of God conformed to her and she did not have to conform to it. Experience equals authority. (15)
This “experience” led feminists to add to the canon. (16) They searched for sources outside of the Bible which confirmed their personal experience and then by their personal authority added them to the Bible. (17) They found examples in Montanism, gnosticism (this explains the popularity of the Gnostic Gospels, they believed self-knowledge was knowledge of God), ascetics, witchcraft, and sectarianist Christian groups to add to their Biblical canon. (17, 18)
The Refining of Language
The feminists have proven themselves right on the point that language has meaning. As has been illustrated in previous parts, religious feminists have learned to use language loosely to blur the distinction between Christian and pagan. (19) This has resulted in a complete merging of the ideals of religious and secular feminist spirituality, though both are shrouded in different language. (19) Both would say totally different things with the same meaning. (20)
The twisting of words into different meanings is evident. The feminists are correct in that words have meaning and words have power. As Haley sought to replace submission with deference, feminists have been changing the meanings of all kinds of words. As well, the feminists have eroded and destroyed the historical understanding of gender, especially as it relates to Scripture.
Putting authority into the community has resulted in frustration as it relates to spiritual conversations. It requires, first, an awareness that different people may be carrying different meanings of common words. Then it requires a desire (and patience) on the part of the parties to discuss what they mean by each of the words they use. These words represent typical historical building blocks of the Christian faith, so this discussion is a necessary one for a spiritual conversation to have fruit. For example, by “Jesus” do you mean Jesus of Nazareth or the Personal Jesus? What is meant by “faith”, “holy”, “works”, and a number of other commonly used words? I can guarantee you in this day and age where moral relativism reigns that any sample of people are carrying a multitude of definitions for something that should be standardized among Christians. It’s sad that the average expression of Christianity today is in such a bad state.
Religious feminists believe in the “All Is One, All Is God, Self Is God” mantra as well. (21, 22, 23) They speak in terms of “connectedness” or “union” with the Creator, and believe that everything and everyone is connected through the Creator and to the Creator. (21) They recognize that God is present in all things and all people, and favor use of material names to describe Him (rock, door, water, plant). (22) They recognize God as an impersonal force or energy that permeates all things through His indwelling Spirit. (23) Then, while religious feminists are careful to not identify themselves as God, they use language which indicates this belief by the recognition that Christian conversion only recognizes the fact and belief that self is one of the many manifestations of God. (23)
The goal of religious feminists (i.e. The Feminist Gospel) is to get people to recognize their “connectedness” to God (thereby abolishing dualistic thought) and then bring home to the Church all who have been defined as “other”. (24) Those who fully actualize themselves in these things are considered to be “children of God”. (24) Then once all have been actualized in this manner, the Kingdom of God will be at hand, along with the return of Christ. (24)
Note, the abolishing of dualistic thought. This means the idea of right/wrong, sinful/not sinful, holy/profane, light/dark. Ultimately, all you have to do is bring yourself, you don’t have to change or adhere yourself to God at all, and He loves you just the same anyway. Sounds like the Personal Jesus.
While I didn’t intend on going into “women-church”, the term was used above, so I thought it would be worth going through Kassian’s material and coming up with a definition.
“Women-Church is a feminist counterculture movement that interacts with, but is not controlled by traditional religion. (25) These take the form of small women’s Bible-study groups, women’s groups in a traditional church, women’s churches, women’s courses, and women’s retreats. (25) “The purpose is to form a critical culture or exodus community that rejects patriarchy– both in the Church and in the world.” (25) Feminists view Women-Church as the true Church of God, and leading the Church greater into its new home. (26) Women-church seeks to gain a stronghold within the existing Church while it dialogues with traditions outside of the Church. (26) It seeks to replace older traditions of the patriarchal Church with new traditions that celebrate the women’s journey of liberation and reflect the Woman-Church as a community of liberation from patriarchy and oppression. (27) Ultimately, the ritual and practice of a Woman-Church is indistinguishable from those of secular feminism. (28)
As note taking can get tedious, it has taken 10 months to complete this series. As I thought the material was important as a formative reference, I thought it important to take notes and present it. I hope having the reference has been useful and will be useful in the future. And finally I would like to thank Mary Kassian for doing the research and writing this book, as it’s in my list of books that have been formative for me in explaining the waywardness of the modern church.
(1) The Feminist Gospel by Mary Kassian p 135. (2) ibid page 136. (3) ibid page 137. (4) ibid page 138, 139, 140 (5) ibid page 143. (6) ibid page 144, 145, 146 (7) ibid page 147. (8) ibid page 152. (9) ibid page 153. (10) ibid page 154. (11) ibid page 159. (12) ibid page 161. (13) ibid page 169. (14) ibid page 170. (15) ibid page 171. (16) ibid page 172. (17) ibid page 173. (18) ibid page 175. (19) Page 185. (20) ibid Page 186. (21) ibid page 187. (22) ibid page 188. (23) ibid page 189. (24) ibid page 190. (25) ibid Page 196. (26) ibid page 197. (27) ibid page 199. (28) ibid page 201.