Come on Guys, Where is She?
Elizabeth A. Johnson has written an excellent work entitled SHE WHO IS:
The Mystery of God in Feminist Theological Discourse.
Publisher is Crossroad/Herder & Herder; ISBN: 0824519256; 10th Annv..
edition (May 2002)
The Library Journal calls the book “ Thoroughly orthodox, grounded in
classical Christian thought, liberatingly contemporary, and rooted in Women's experience.”
When I clicked on the title link to Barnes & Noble, I immediately encountered
the suggestion that I might also like to read the following writings listed among books “closely related“:
THE GNOSTIC GOSPELS, by Elaine Pagels (read it - liked it);
WHY CHRISTIANITY MUST CHANGE OR DIE, by Bishop John Shelby Spong (read it
- partially agreed with it);
SYSTEMATIC THEOLOGY, by Paul Tillich (not yet read but I’m interested
because both Johnson and Spong quote Tillich);
GOD AND THE RHETORIC OF SEXUALITY, by Phyllis. Trible.
These writings all, to a certain degree, crash against the wall when it comes
to widespread acceptance by our most public and accepted authorities of Catholic and Protestant orthodoxy.
Perhaps the reason for less-than-enthusiastic acceptance and support of this
sort of thoughtful writing is because the writing is exactly that - thoughtful. It is also intellectual and academically complete
with cites, quotes, notes and bibliographies galore.
What is there about thoughtful writing on Christian history and practice that
leads to discomfort among the devoutly orthodox, particularly those of influence who seem to be the spokespersons for what
is claimed to be the majority view?
One suggestion easily noticed is that the majority of the spokespersons are
male and serve in callings based on authority founded in a literal interpretation of scripture. Johnson’s writing speaks
directly to this reality as the prime hindrance to a more useful and fulfilling practice of Christianity as a way of life.
Yet despite being her writing being “ thoroughly orthodox and grounded
in classical Christian thought”, the resistance to what Johnson writes is part and parcel of more than two millennia
of a blind and unreasonable acceptance of a patriarchal order within Christianity that is more and more being revealed as
In order to read and write thoughtfully, one is greatly advantaged by an ability
to think critically. Yet critical thinking seems to be one of those rash habits that causes unease and, when allowed to proliferate
without censor, leads to the sort of exploding grenade reflected by Bishop Spong’s writings.
More than 2000 years of Christian doctrine and philosophy has evolved from
that which more and more appears to have been Roman editing of what became the Bible; a manipulation of facts, words and deeds
- all intended to create secular and religious security. The source then of contemporary Christian beliefs and attitudes very
much appears to have been a polluted well from which polluted water has been distilled into a modern polluted form.
One prime candidate for doubt is looming larger and larger - that of a societal
patriarchy based on a patriarchal God who is now being openly doubted. It seems now that only an appeal to scripture, with
a firmly implanted traditional literal acceptance is the last remaining justification for a sexist definition of the Christian
God. The literal acceptance of an inerrant Bible is very much the last bastion of defense.
It can be justifiably claimed that our contemporary society still has many
areas where sexism is manifest. In most societies (though not all) in general and the American society in particular sexism
can be discussed, challenged and steps advocated toward change - except it seems within the kingdom ruled by a patriarchal
Yet, asks Elizabeth Johnson, is the Christian God really patriarchal or even
One might ask if feminist theologians are really campaigning for a Mother
in Heaven or a Female God.
If it is asserted that feminist religious writers are locked into an obsession,
let it also be stated that patriarchal supporters are likewise locked into their equally dangerous obsession.
How often are we exhorted to accept or believe something with the tuneful
answer “How do I know? The Bible tells me so.”
Come on guys! Where is She?
In this regard I enjoyed one small example offered by Ms. Johnson who writes
of New Testament verses from the book of Mark, chapter 14, concerning Jesus being anointed by a woman bearing an alabaster
jar of ointment. Responding to objections and criticisms made by some who were there, Jesus rebuked them and said:
“In truth I tell you, wherever throughout all the world the gospel is proclaimed, what she
has done will be told as well, in remembrance of her.”(New Jerusalem Bible version).
Now to every literal-thinking, inerrant-Bible-accepting, all-or-nothing Christian
evangelist it can be asked, “Who was this woman?
What was her name?
Why does your preaching of the Good News not include a Jesus-commanded remembrance
What is this historical deafening silence around remembrance of the woman
with the alabaster jar?
In all your literal thinking and self-righteous posture, you cannot have it
both ways. Either it is ALL literally true and to be believed and followed, or you must get out of the orthodox wagon.
Guys, it’s the internal story most of us were taught to carry around
that is flawed. What is within us in terms of how we define the world and its realities - spiritual, material, intellectual,
sexual - all the inner thoughts that determine our outward performance come from a source that was never designed to be perfect.
"The secret thoughts of a man run over all things, holy, profane, clean, obscene, grave and light,
without shame or blame."
The above is a quote from Thomas Hobbes.
Our secret thoughts are the authors of our own story, our personal mythology
from which we navigate our lives.
Sam Keen and Anne Valley-Fox have addressed this subject with excellence and
I have paraphrased their writing to discuss myth.
Our secret thoughts are where we have authorized our answers to the following
Where did I come from? Why is there evil in the world?
What happens to me when I die?
With whom do I belong?
How close should I be to others?
What are my obligations?
What is taboo and to be avoided?
Whom should I imitate?
Who are the heroes, villains, enemies and allies?
What are the stages along life's way?
What is disease?
How can I be healed?
What should we do with bounty and surplus?
What is our relationship with nature and the animals?
Why Do We Do The Things We Do?
Why Do We Feel The Way We Feel?
Are We Vitalized Or Bleeding Away Our Emotional Energy?
Our lives are living myths of our own creation. Our companion is our personal
story, all the stuff inside we use tell us who we are and tell the world the same.
"Myth" is a word given too much work in how we share knowledge with one another.
Many will not accept a myth because it is something built from nothing. Others say myth is illusion or a mistaken belief.
When myth equates to the opposite of "fact", how can we trust or use myth?
Myth is assumption. Every definition of life is an assumption. Every reasoning
behind what we choose to do and how we choose to behave is based on assumption.
Defenders of religious creeds use the word "myth" to characterize religious
beliefs that conflict with their own, saying "Your, assumptions are not as valid as my assumptions. In fact, your assumptions
are myth while my assumptions are truth."
What do we deny if we refuse to recognize our own assumptions?
How much are our individual lives shaped by inner scenarios based on assumptions
we have been taught to accept as absolutely true?
Do we live an inner myth that reflects how we've been taught the world "is"
rather than how we've discovered the world to "be"?
Our personal mythical scenario is always on and is always running. Sam
Keen has described myth as referring to
"an intricate set of interlocking stories, rituals, rites and customs that inform and give the pivotal
sense of meaning and direction to a person, family, community or culture.
The myths we carry around inside include unspoken consensus, the habitual
way of seeing things, unquestioned assumptions, and our 'automatic stance'."