Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Cross Bearing?

"As they led him away, they seized a man, Simon of Cyrene, who was coming from the country, and they laid the cross on him, and made him carry it behind Jesus." -- Luke 23:26

The verse above was from the Gospel Lectionary for Passion Sunday and my ears perked up for some reason upon hearing it. I had intended to write something about how the story of Simon of Cyrene is a good analogy for the average layperson. But the Easter season being what it is (busy) and me being who I am (procrastinator), it never got written. I had a great little essay in my head and it was practically finished; all I needed to do is type it out and it would be done. I'm sure it would have been brilliant, having to do with bearing the cross of Christ for his sake and the implications that has for liberal Lutherans. But then I started reading the book to the left for a theological discussion group at my church and I realized that the concept of bearing the cross is not a universally held theological concept; or not universally agreed upon. Admittedly, I'm reading feminist/womanist theology which has a particular axe to grind, but I suppose I just took it for granted that this was a theological idea that was not under much dispute. Apparently I was mistaken.

The thrust of the first part of this three part book is that theology, heretofore, is based on a masculine point of reference and that this can (and does) cause at the very least, a diminishing of women in church life, at worst causes a perpetuation and legitimization of violence against women. Now, feminist ideology can be a challenge for any liberal (man or woman), but I always thought of myself as fairly open and accommodating so I didn't think I would have many objections. After reading a number of essays in this book I find that I'm not as accommodating as I thought. And I find that I have more in common with less liberal theologians than I fancied just a couple of months ago.

It would be hard to give a synopsis of the first section of the book; I wouldn't do it justice and, quite frankly, I don't agree with much of it nor can I get my brain wrapped around some of it. However, I did notice that some feminist theology does the same thing as other niche theologies tend to do; e.g. use theology to grind an ideological axe. This might be acceptable, I guess, if done correctly (i.e. if based on sound biblical exegesis). The problem starts when the Gospel takes a backseat to ideology, and in the process we get compartmentalization/marginalization. I dislike this in conservative theology, and I don't much care for it with liberal theology either. I got the sense that I could neither critique nor understand feminist/womanist theology either because I was male or white or both. It's ironic that the very ill that feminist theology tries to change and (rightly) critiques, that of marginalization, is what it precisely seems to do -- at least that's what I felt when I read it. I also felt that some of the theology was created out of whole cloth with tenuous grounding in the Gospel or in the *vast* history of theological thought over the last 2000 years (there were two exceptions; both Lutheran thank-you-very-much).

To be sure, feminist theology was/is essential to help give women equal footing in the church. I have a 15 year old daughter and I would hope that she would have the same opportunity in the church as I do. I just wish it wouldn't push me overboard in the process.

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