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Exploring the feminine and masculine impulses of Godde


review of Elizabeth Johnson's 'SHE WHO IS'





She Who Is: 6 Feminist Theology and the Vantage Point of the Margins


Turning to look at some of the characteristics of Feminist Theology, Elizabeth Johnson makes a really powerful point in identifying its location as generally proceeding from the margins.

The words of women doing feminist theology sounds from the margins of the dominant androcentric tradition. She quotes Bell Hooks: "To be in the margin is to be part of the whole but outside the main body." It is to be able to view the assumptions of the centre without being subsumed by them.

From the perspective of those in the centre - who largely adhere to a status quo which endorses their own assumptions - it can be a place of systematic devaluing. Being out on the margins signifies to many somehow being less... being less involved, less committed, less correct... being overlooked, having less importance.

And yet feminist theology, from this marginal position and identification with the experience and concerns of the margins, listens and speaks not just about women, but about the whole social and symbolic order and structure.

And observing this centrist structure from feminism's liminal vantage point... from a position of partial detachment... it is able to explore and question from a clearer stance - a less immersed and self-absorbed stance - the rules, terms and practices of the centre.

The speech and language that feminist theology generates and explores intends not only to ignite resistance and transformation of the suffering of those at the margins... but to bring about transformation of the whole design.

Feminist theology may bring voices from the margins, and inhabit the margins, and bear great concern for those who endure marginalisation and suffering... but it is radically concerned with the integrity and liberating of the whole.

And is therefore centrally significant - liberated from centralised and systematic assumptions and assertions - yet seeking to share and spread that liberation.

If feminist theology appears marginal, then that is its vantage point and advantage. And I'd add (beyond what Elizabeth Johnson states at this point in her book 'She Who Is') there is a strong case for claiming a marginal position in the institutional church, and to claim the space and the networks where the opening up to the continuing revelation of Godde's mystery can be explored, without being crowded out, without being dominated by closed assumptions and the systematic rules and pressures of the central institution.

This does not mean lack of love and commitment towards the whole of Godde's living community. It means openness to growth and wholeness and liberation, and a longing for that liberation to transform both the lives of the marginal and the institutions themselves.

Being on the margins, and identifying with the margins, may often be devalued by others "at the centre of it all" - and seem to render people (and theologians) insignificant. And yet, actually, margin-dwellers may sometimes have the best vantage point of all... beyond the need for institutions, yet acutely in touch with need and vulnerability and the urgency of the what Godde just longs to share.

Jesus is speaking to the Samaritan woman... a few moments of seeming irrelevance and insignificance from the perspective of the religious establishment... but, actually, where it's all at... where Godde is... beyond the controlling centre, beyond the world of men, beyond church walls, beyond social respectability... yet at the heart of it all.

Susannah Clark


Links to my summary pages on 'She Who Is':


She Who Is: My introductory comments on Elizabeth Johnson's book

She Who Is: 01 Right Ways to Speak of Godde

She Who Is: 02 Mediating the Mystery of Godde

She Who Is: 03 Purposes of this Book

She Who Is: 04 The Rationale behind Feminist Liberation Theology

She Who Is: 05 The Patriarchal 'God' of Classical Theism

She Who Is: 06 Feminist Theology and the Vantage Point of the Margins

She Who Is: 07 Analysis of Sexism

She Who Is: 08 Feminist Assessment of Sexism as a Paradigm for other Oppressions

She Who Is: 09 The Methodology and Response of Feminist Theology

She Who Is: 10 The Central Criterion of Human Flourishing, and Goal of Transforming Communities

She Who Is: 11 Critique of the Way People Speak about 'God'

She Who Is: 12 Sociological and Psychological Effects of the Male Metaphors for 'God'

She Who Is: 13 Theological Effects of Idolatry, resulting from Patriarchal Language for Godde

She Who Is: 14 Whether to use the word God




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