Tuesday, March 14, 2006

girlie talk

I've been reading bits and pieces of feminist theologian Letty Russell's Church in the Round: Feminist Interpretation of the Church. In it she uses the beautiful symbolism of the table, with its emphasis of hospitality and sharing, to give suggestions for church structure and values. A good table is one that is hospitable to all and provides a place for people to connect relationally. “If the table is spread by God and hosted by Christ, it must be a table with many connections.”
She also makes the profound observation that “salvation has been sexualized, privatized, futurized, and restricted to a chosen few.”
wow... put that in 'yer pipe and smoke it.


chuck said...

ya it reminds me of how good it was to do that hospitality ministry in holland back a few years. we literally spread our table and in that we literally unrestricted our lives in christ. i long for that literal interplay again of sharing and openness. i feel my american life is much easier to close, compared to a place where i'm a stranger and therefore invite a unique flow into my life.

elnellis said...

and how strong to hear this desire coming from you, chuck, as you live in a place that describes itself as one of community. i wonder if your experience of feeling open in holland was due to the fact that you were in a new place and actually, literally needed the other. we are a nation of independent, self-sufficient, self-reliant, "mavaricks". and a few weeks ago when both cars were down and i was calling people for rides and borrowing other people's cars i was thinking- "damn, community is such a cool idea until you actually have to do it!"

erk said...

I don't really know what what that lady was talking about in the quote you have up there, Phil. It sounds like a quote that needs some more context. I agree that community is so difficult for us in a more individual culture. It's so much easier for us to love whom we choose and create a "community". Jesus hung with all people, mainly the vagabonds and immorals of society. As one of my friends stated the other day,"Jesus would have been friends with drag-queens." Yet there are no drag-queens, or even ex-drag-queens in my circle of community.

elnellis said...

erk, i don't have a lot of context on that quote either, but coming from russell who is feminist in her theology (and by default also liberationist), i understand her critique in that salvation has been "sexualized" (administered largely by men in hierarchical church settings, places the female voice is not welcomed), "privatized" (in that there is no salvation outside the church, and only the saved know any spiritual truth, and unbelievers are spiritually blind), "futurized" (in that salvation has for the large part only meant that you get to go to heaven, and has little impact for this life), and "restricted" (most likely a critique on protestant calvinism's harsh view of predestination).
that's what i understand it as...
it is so so so so loaded with great stuff to think about.

pedro said...

Thanks for exposing me to theology I don't often encounter. Dou you have any recommendations on some good intro reading into liberation or feminist theology for the ignorant?

This is a knee-jerk response to her observation which you quoted in red (and I think this is why erk was asking for context). One thing I continue to wrestle with in the face of radical postmodernism is that it seems to me that postmodernists often lack perspective as much as conservative traditionalists. Sure the gospel has been abused, twisted, misconstrued, and otherwise molested, but isn't the Bible (and church history, for that matter) a story about a people who cannot and will never get it right - and these screw-ups are the people who have supposedly been called by God as his redeemed. Humanly, the gospel has often been restricted, but ultimately, the gospel transecens (even as it undermines and redeems) our understanding of it. Cynicism about the past (the lack of perspective I was talking about) and dissociation with history is, in my mind, unnecessary. There have always been followers of Christ who pursue him truly and differently than their contemporaries. I have always marveled at the fact that God makes himself known to us through our imperfect understandings yet is never content to leaves us untransformed. Pure deconstruction, I feel, throws out the good with the bad. I feel that a better way is owning the transgressions of the past (yes, my people screwed up; so have I in my own past) and moving forward in love, begging forgiveness and loving proactively. After all, should we not have faith that Christ himself actually lives within the temple of his people, in spite of their corruption? To throw out the historical Church is to lack faith in the power of the Spirit to accomplish the work of Christ.

I have heard some ultra-conservative, ultra-literallist Christians claim that their church has no affiliations withor roots in the church of the past two millinnea but is descended directly and authoritatively from the early apostolic church. This is absurd. It is as absurd as completely breaking ties with the church that flourished as a result of Christ empowering his disciples to "go, make disciples of all nations, etc."

Having unloaded all that, I agree that many current and past ecclesiastical inequities still need to be recognized, addressed, and amended.

Could we throw out the presuppositions and methodologies of the "modern" church but still maintain continuity with the remnant that God has preserved from time out of mind?

elnellis said...

wow, excellent thoughts pedro. i always love the perspectives you bring.
i just wrote a paper on contextual theologies in which i stated that the church is profoundly a relational concept that is based in a relational Being who is in relationship to his people- this empahsizing that the church must be an evolving, kinetic organism.
if we are to think about the future of the church we must have eyes that look back, look around and look forward.
your point about being overly critical of the past theological structures is well taken- i think every generation tends to be highly critical of the past generation- "we are the enlightened ones." we are no exception. but your call to not throw the baby out with the bathwater is so important. thanks for brining that. we must acknowledge our family history and own our generational "sins" and "glories."

liberation theology has been a lot of fun to explore in that it's main focus is to give a voice to those who have been silenced in the past (the poor, marginalized, women, ethnic groups, etc...)

an excellent read for some current contextual ecclesiologies is found in part three of "An Introduction to Ecclesiology: Ecumenical, Historical & Global Perspectives"
by Veli- Matti Karkkainen.

pedro said...


Thanks for the recommendation - I think that an understanding of liberation theology and all its offspring will be an invaluable component of my intellectual training as I embark on my studies in development policy. I'm really interested in the North-South Dyanmic.

pedro said...


The fact that marginalization has often been religious/cultural/political in nature (slavery in America, Western colonialism worldwide, questionable missionary methodologies, etc.) personally validates my desire to engage in the politics empowerment. We have had discussion on this blog in the past about the validity of social justice, but I am convinced that marginalization has been multifacted. It has been cultural, social, economic, religious, political, etc. Each of these categories are facets of life, and I don't think that we should neglect to fight for justice in any. Again, our efforts should encompass multiple levels of interaction, from one-on-one relationships, to our local communities, to our regions, to our world.

Anonymous said...

I love that you said "put that in 'yer pipe and smoke it." Reminds me of this time in practicum...and then about this time in my dyad...


elnellis said...

oh yeah! thanks for "entering in" Josue.

elnellis said...

for more on the re-articulation of church, here's a thoughtful post: