Until recently, traditional Christian theology was interpreted only by white males. In a modern world things are changing. In her book Consider Jesus, Elizabeth Johnson states that women “are waking up to their own dignity and finding their own voice” (page 97). Despite the feminist theology movement that Johnson describes, sexism and male dominance is embedded in the culture of the Catholic Church. Women will have equal rights under canon law, the problem is “Time”, the same thought process of 100 years ago is still active in the Church today.
Only when the new generations of clergy is in place can change come. When it comes to the Christological interpretation woman voices can strengthen the debate, but it will take many generations for the old establishment to give way to an equal gender hierarchy. This is a strong argument, because in order for the old establishment to change and accept women, women need to make an effort to actively work to reform the current hierarchy.
Johnson describes feminist theology as “Faith…being reflected upon explicitly from the perspective and experience of women” (page 97). Similar to Liberation Christology, in which poor and oppressed have a unique theological interpretation, in feminist theology the dominated group is women who begin to take part in the debate from their unique perspective. There are two main categories of feminist theology. The first is revolutionary feminist theology.
As the word revolutionary implies these groups of women are quite radical and completely disassociate themselves with tradition rather than trying to change the minds of the male dominated theology. They do not acknowledge a male deity; instead they worship a female God, a goddess. They do not dwell on Jesus Christ because he was male. Usually these women split from the church and form their own groups arguing that the church is hopelessly stuck in its patriarchal ways.
Johnson does not place much importance on these revolutionary feminists because this group has cut themselves off from the Church. The second category of feminist theology is reformist feminist theology. These women share the belief with the revolutionary feminists that there is a “male-dominated character of the Christian tradition” (p98), but instead of separating from the church, they choose to work from the inside to “seek the dismantling of the patriarchy and equal justice” (page 98). This approach could be described as “you catch more flies with honey than you do with vinegar”.
Reformists work passively within the church to create change, not trying to dominate but with a view of the earth as shared, where “the dream of a new heaven and a new earth takes hold… with no one group dominating and no one group subordinated, but each person in his or her own right participating according to their gifts, without preconceived stereotyping, in genuine mutuality” (page 99). The revolutionary theologians approach will ultimately lead to change, because as women are becoming more accepted in positions of power and authority outside of the church, they will become more accepted inside the church.
The number of women in post-secondary education and federal government is higher than ever before. These are positive changes, but this kind of change in the church is still years away. Women are half of the human race yet seem to be overlooked in most of human history. The traditional patriarchal structure has defined women’s status and position in society. Reformists hope is to transform this traditional belief that women are second class citizens when in fact they have been just as influential in social as well as in Christological history.
Mary Magdalene, the “apostle to the apostles” (109) and the other women of the Bible are “given several times in the gospels but have become a forgotten part of the story” (109). How is it that they were so important back then, yet so left out of the debate today? Perhaps our evolution as a male-dominated society has spilled over into the church – woman by no fault of their own were not allow to attend school or a higher level after high school, this alone caused a gap for woman in the church.
The bible was written and interpreted by males while woman were denied economic, legal, and educational rights, “A prejudice is the inability to deal with the otherness of people who are different from what is considered “oneself”. In patterns of androcentric thinking the male is centered. These samplings are what influences canon law and has shaped Catholic tradition”. (p100 – 101) The consequence of sexism for woman is a lack of self-esteem and self-confidence; for men it is a narrow band of human characteristics; strong, rational, in control. (p 102) If the sexism could stop, society as a whole could benefit.