SEXISM AND GOD-TALK: Toward a Feminist Theology by Rosemary R. Ruether

SEXISM AND GOD-TALK: Toward a Feminist Theology

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Much talk about sexism, rather less about God, in this vigorous, wide-ranging, but problematic proposal for radical surgery on Christian tradition. Ruether argues forcefully that although Christianity has been twisted out of shape by a male bias, Jesus' message implies the ""kenosis of patriarchy"" and hence can be embraced by modern feminists as a liberating vision of humanity. The catch is that, like most liberal theologies, Ruether's has to excise so much age-old doctrine, practice, and imagery (everything from ""male monotheism"" to the equally masculine obsession with personal immortality) that it strains historical continuity to the breaking point. It's hard to recognize the God of the Bible in Ruether's ""God/ess who. . . leads us to the converted center, the harmonization of self and body, self and other, self and world."" Religion here seems to be a Durkheimian celebration and symbolic validation of the community, as when Ruether defines the Eucharist not as the body and blood of Christ but as ""the people, the ecclesia, who are being transformed into the body of the new humanity. . . ."" This may appeal to left-wing Christian intellectuals like Harvey Cox and Robert McAfee Brown (who have already praised the book), but it will strike most believers as secular humanism (of a romantic-socialist sort) in pious trappings. Perhaps Ruether herself senses this, because she spends much of her time on all-purpose exposition of contemporary feminism--an eloquent plea, somewhat marred by rhetorical overkill (high fashion as the ""sadistic tyranny"" of woman-hating dress designers, the pulpit as a phallus ejaculating ""upon the passive body of the laity,"" etc.). Ruether's pervasive intelligence and breadth of sympathy make this essay worthwhile, but her synthesis of feminism and the gospel in prophetic-revolutionary-utopian hope is, for all its nobility, a shaky one.

Pub Date: March 30th, 1983
Publisher: Beacon