Friday, September 30, 2011

The Rise of Radical Feminism in Mainline Churches: A History # 9

This is the last posting on "The Rise of Radical Feminism in Mainline Churches: A History."
In several days or perhaps a week I will follow up with an up-date and some extra thoughts about radical feminism in the church today.

“Jesus is Lord” is the first confession of the Church seen often in salutations to the church as in Romans 1:17. The church for two thousand years has understood Jesus Christ to be fully human and fully God. He is the unique, incarnate Son of God. All of the ecumenical creeds state the same. The Presbyterian Book of Confessions has no creed which in any way suggests that Jesus Christ is less than human or less than God:
We acknowledge and confess that this wonderful union between the Godhead and the humanity of Christ Jesus did arise from the eternal and immutable decree of God from which all our salvation springs and depends. (The Scots Confession 3.07, The Book of Confessions PCUSA)
The Scriptures name as antichrist and liar “the one who denies that Jesus is the Christ. (1 John 2:22).”

Radical feminists hold differing views about Jesus, most of which do not measure up to biblical Christianity. But here the river is wide. Some Womanist theologians, (African- American women theologians), give greater honor to Jesus Christ than other feminists theologians. As Kelly Brown Douglas puts it, “From a Womanist perspective, Jesus Christ means that God is real. Christ brings God down to earth.” Douglas goes on to explain that for the Womanist theologian Jesus Christ is “a friend and confident,” a “co-sufferer,” a “healer and provider” and a “liberator." (38-39) (All emphasis is by author.)

Here however Jesus Christ is still defined by women’s experience and Jesus is seen as Christ because of his relationship to the African-American community in their oppression rather than Christ and Son because of his relationship to the Father. Other feminist theologians tear apart the biblical understanding of Jesus Christ.

Rosemary Radford Ruether states, “Christ, as redemptive person and Word of God, is not to be encapsulated ‘once-for-all’ in the historical Jesus.”5 Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza holding feminist and liberation theology together emphasizes the feminist view that Jesus was the product of rape and views him and his mother as prophets of the Kingdom of God.6 Elisabeth A. Johnson states that the “biblical symbol Christ” cannot be restricted to the historical person Jesus,”7

Francine Cardman paraphrases the text from Rita Nakashima Brock’s book Journeys by Heart: A Christology of Erotic Power, “Any notion of Jesus as savior or hero (including liberator) is rejected … Neither does she consider Jesus to be the Christ. Rather, christology is centered in community and relationship.”(42)

Most Radical feminist’s views of christology, some in a mild way, many blatant in all ways, are a continuing reemergence of historical heresies. This includes the adoptionism of Paul of Samosata who believed that Jesus was adopted by God because of his obedience and so received the anointing which allowed him to become Christ, and a heresy of the medieval/ Reformation periods which involved a whole community of people being anointed by the Spirit to become Christs. They were sometimes called Ranters, sometimes Brethren of the Free Spirit, and took for themselves the title and office of Christ. As with radical feminists today they did not believe in a unique incarnation.8

Sin and Atonement:
The writers of the biblical text insist that because of the disobedience of the first man and woman humanity is fallen and in need of salvation. (Romans 3:23; 5:12) Humanity is under the wrath of a holy God because of sin, incapable of saving themselves. In Reformed doctrine this is referred to as total depravity. The sins which humans commit, whether individually or as a corporate body, are symptoms of humanity’s sinful nature.

The atonement is the biblical explanation of how God acted to save humanity. That is, Jesus’ death on the cross was for our salvation, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by his blood, we shall be saved from the wrath to come. (Romans 5:8, 9)” Nothing could be simpler, yet more profound, Jesus Christ died for our sins. See (Mark 10: 45; Luke 24:25-27; Eph 5:1, 2; Heb. 9:11-28; 1 Peter 1: 17, 18; Rev. 5:9)

Cynthia Campbell when writing about redemption from a feminist perspective places liberation and feminist theology together and writes, “The emphasis is not on the essential helplessness of humanity but on the way in which human power and dignity are restored. Redemption is understood, then, as empowerment or becoming able to take responsibility for one’s own life.”9

Many radical feminists not understanding the Trinity see the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross as child abuse. Two books which are often recommended by the Presbyterian Women’s ministry area, Sisters in the Wilderness: The Challenge of Womanist God-Talk, by Delores S. Williams and Proverbs of Ashes: Violence, Redemptive Suffering, and the Search for What Saves Us by Rita Nakashima Brock and Rebecca Ann Parker, suggest that redemption or the atonement has nothing to do with Jesus’ death on the cross.

Sallie Mcfague brings the Holy Spirit into the equation and writes:
The holy spirit’s (sic) work is not the forgiveness of sins for those who accept the atoning death of Jesus Christ but identification with the spirits of the oppressed, from the ‘the spirit of Amazon rainforest’s to the spirits of exploited women. (147)
Toinette M. Eugene referring to John15:15; Luke 7:34 and 2 Cor.5:15 writes, “These texts, so interpreted from a broadly feminist perspective, suggests that Jesus did not come to redeem humans by showing them God’s love manifested in the death of God’s innocent child on a cross erected by cruel, imperialistic, patriarchal power. Rather, the texts suggest that the Spirit of God in Jesus came to show humans life. (238)” In almost every way conceivable radical feminists reject both the biblical understanding of human sin and the redeeming and atoning death which Jesus Christ offered in his sacrifice on the cross.

Is the theology of radical feminism Christian?
Radical feminists fail to affirm the foundations of Christianity. They refuse to accept the otherness of God and instead find God in their own personality and actions. They twist the biblical understanding of the Trinity even at times replacing Father, Son and Holy Spirit with goddess language and images modeled after their own gender. They often deny that Jesus is the unique Christ, thus denying the true divinity of Jesus Christ. They change the meaning of human sin and blatantly disparage the cross of Christ turning his sacrifice into child abuse by the Father.

If one were to ask if individual radical feminists in the mainline denominations are Christian, the answer would have to be “Only God knows.” But if one were to ask is radical feminist theology Christian the answer must be a resounding “no!” The church must stand against this insidious teaching slipping into every crack and cranny of its structure. The church must also love, pray for, tend to and proclaim the cross of Christ to every woman caught in this theological web that denies the truths which would allow them to flourish within the saving love of Jesus Christ.

5 Rosemary Radford Ruether, Sexism and God-Talk: Toward a Feminist Theology, 10th Anniversary Edition, (Boston: Beacon Press 1993), 138.

6 Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza, Jesus: Miriam’s Child Sophia’s Prophet: Critical Issues in Feminist Christology, (New York: Continuum 1995) 185-187.
7 Elizabeth A. Johnson, She Who Is: The Mystery of God in Feminist Theological Discourse, (New York: Crossroad 1993), 162.
8 For a history of this movement see, Norman Cohn, The Pursuit of the Millennium: Revolutionary Millenarians and Mystical Anarchists of the Middle Ages, (New York: Oxford University Press 1961); Within the modern Pentecostal Movement a similar movement surfaces every so often called the Manifested Sons of God.
9 Campbell, Theologies, 33.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Rise of Radical Feminism in Mainline Churches: A History # 8

Radical Feminism versus Biblical Faith: A Theology of Self-Interest

In the following postings I will explore the difference between radical feminist theology and biblical faith. Because feminist theology is based on women’s experience it is fragmenting into many experiences, thus many theologies. In order to study and understand what radical feminists believe one ought to own a library of feminist books. I do! But I will in many cases, in this section use Dictionary of Feminist Theologies1 Since the articles are written by mostly radical feminists, and the publisher is Westminster John Knox Press, a Reformed press, it seems to me, to be the best example of what defines radical feminist theology. But I will also make use of other material especially if it is written by those claiming to be in the Reformed tradition. If I am using Dictionary of Feminist Theologies I will simply put the page number in parenthesis within my text.

In the eighties, as a member of a ministry called Apologetics Resource Center, I went, at request, with a Christian woman to visit her friend who was being taught by two Jehovah’s Witnesses. We sat talking about what it means to be a Christian. I explained what Christians mean when they talk about the Trinity; a belief Jehovah’s Witnesses do not hold since they reject the deity of Jesus Christ and see the Holy Spirit as an impersonal force.

At one point the woman I came with simply exploded with a joyful witness of her own past conversion experience. Her face and smile, glowing with God’s love, was used by God to move her friend away from the false teaching of the Jehovah’s Witnesses and into a relationship with Jesus Christ. The woman used her experience to lead another to Christ. So how is that different from radical feminists who interpret Scripture from women’s experience?

Both have an experience that shape their religious faith but they are polar lengths apart. The woman who led her friend to Jesus talked about her conversion experience but that conversion came from Scripture, was based on Scripture, and supported Scripture. It was not theologically or experientially different than the confessions, creeds and Scriptures of the church. Her experience was centered in the word of God.

Radical feminists begin their theology using women’s experience as a starting point. Both Christian theology and Scripture are reinterpreted using women’s experience. Cynthia Campbell in her booklet, Theologies Written from Feminist Perspectives: an Introductory Study explains that “feminist theologians urge that the experience of women must now influence thought about God and human condition.” Campbell gives three reasons for the use of experience when doing theology. She writes:
First, feminists assert the experience of being female is significantly different from the experience of being male. Second, they argue that the experience of women is basic to a full understanding of what it means to be human. Third, feminists suggest that the record of this experience has been lost (some would say censored or removed) from Christian tradition and must be recovered so that a full view of that tradition can be obtained.2
Along side of a theology of experience is the feminist’s emphasis on patriarchal systems of rule in society, home and particularly in the text of the Scripture. Some feminists believe the Bible is simply a book composed by humans and believe that men have erased or lessened the role of women in the text. Others believe the Bible carries within it words that can be used by God to form theology but also texts which are so flawed, because of patriarchy, that they must be ignored or changed in some manner.

For instance in the 2006-7 Horizons Bible Study, “In The Beginning: Perspectives on Genesis,” the author makes this statement, “The study recognizes that there are stories embedded within larger stories, that there are characters whom have been ignored, and there are voices in the text that are muted, if not outright silenced.”3

Seeking a theology which bypasses what is perceived as oppressive in the Scriptures and wishing to find what is believed lost, that is, an alternative theology based on a feminine deity, radical feminists make use of various texts and movements to do theology. After listing a few of the images and concepts acceptable in the
Bible, Elizabeth A. Johnson goes on to list other outside sources:
In ancient paganism, as well as in countercultural movements in Christian history such as Gnosticism or Shakerism, feminist theologians find glimpses of alternatives suppressed by Western patriarchal religion: female deity or women’s messianic equality. (129)
Radical feminist theologians are not timid about placing outside sources on a par with or above Scripture. Therefore, looking at many of the essential doctrines of the Christian faith I will note how radical feminists use experience in interpretation and how their constant battle with what they perceive to be the over-riding sin of humanity, oppression of women by men, influences their theology. And the question will be asked “Is radical feminist theology Christian?”

The Being of God: In orthodox Christianity, God is understood to be both transcendent and immanent. That is, God is both other than creation (transcendent) but involved at a personal level with creation (immanent). For instance, Isaiah 40 not only pictures God as a shepherd who tends his flock and carries the lambs “in his bosom,” but he is also seen as one whose “understanding is inscrutable.”

Biblically, God, in his self, is beyond human understanding unless he reveals himself through revelation. The final revelation is, of course, his Son Jesus Christ. “All things have been handed over to me [Jesus Christ] by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father; nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal him. (Matthew 11:27)”

Radical Feminist theologians choose between pantheism, (Everything is God) or panentheism (Creation is God but God is more than creation). Panentheism, the most prevalent view among feminist theologians, is understood by seeing creation as God’s body and God as the head of the body. In panentheism creation influences God as much as God influences creation. In a sense, this means that God is really only immanent. For instance, Sallie Mcfague writes, “While the Holy Spirit has often been seen as the immanent side of God, feminists see God as basically and radically immanent and the Holy Spirit as a central, if not the primary, ‘name’ for God. (147)”

In the same context the Holy Spirit is also seen as a force, power or energy and is often referred to as ‘it.’ God’s sovereignty and personal-ness is lost. Sometimes an attempt is made to keep God’s transcendence by redefining the term. Transcendence becomes a subset of immanence. Fredrica Harris Thompsett mentions several feminists and their redefinitions. For instance, she paraphrases Carter Heyward and Beverly Harrison who redefine transcendence to mean, “a power shaped through religious intuition and spiritual resourcefulness, a power that overcomes alienation from others, affirming mutual relation as creative and redemptive. (302)”

Notice that the definition, besides being obscure, is still impersonal, human centered and based on experience. The important point to note here is that for radical feminists God is never seen as other. God is not that which one bows to in reverence, fear and awe.

The Trinity: The biblical foundation for Christianity lies in the understanding that God is Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Or to put it another way God is One, subsisting of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The persons in the Godhead are co-eternal and co-equal. They are also in relation to each other. Their distinction lies in the fact that they are Father, Son and Holy Spirit. That is who God is in his very being. One may not talk about the relationships within the Trinity without the distinctions that are the reason for the relationship, that is, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

One may not talk about the distinctions within the Trinity without the revelation the Father gives of those distinctions through his Son Jesus Christ. Jesus spoke of himself, his Father and the Holy Spirit as One, “When the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, that is the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify about me. (John 15:26)”

Radical Feminists either deny the Trinity or redefine the Trinity in an attempt to lift up women in opposition to what they understand to be a male bias with regard to the names of the Trinity. They often bypass all that Jesus says about the Father or all that the Father says about his Son. Marjorie Hewitt Suchocki states that, “A major challenge to feminist theologians is to extricate male terms from the Christian naming of God as Trinity. (304.)” She then goes on to explain how many feminists reject the male names but make use of the understanding of relationality in their reformulations of the Trinity.

Among those who emphasize relationality, many, like Elizabeth Johnson, seeing all names as metaphors, replace Father, Son and Holy Spirit with such names as “spirit, wisdom and mother. (305)” Going even further some radical feminists replace the biblical God altogether with a gendered female deity who is modeled after women.

For instance, one book listed under “Recommended Reading,” on page 25 of July/August 2005 Horizons, the Presbyterian Women’s magazine, is A God Who Looks Like Me. The author of the book, after affirming the importance of a wise old crone goddess who changes as women change, several pages later writes in a liturgical piece, “For Mother-God so loved the world that she sent into its midst The Divine Girl-Child. Whosoever believes in her goodness, listens to her wisdom, and celebrates her power will be awakened to the abundance of gifts within them. (Adapted from John 3:16)”4

Once again, as above, the unchanging God, who deserves the reverence of Christian believers, is mocked by the use of idolatrous images of the divine, and God’s holy word is changed to say what it does not say.

In my next posting I will look at Christology, sin and the atonement from both the orthodox view and the radical feminist view.

1 Dictionary of Feminist Theologies, Letty M. Russell & J. Shannon Clarkson, (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press 1996).

2 Cynthia Campbell, Theologies Written From Feminist Perspectives: An Introduction Study, (Louisville: Office of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (USA) 1987), 17.
3 Celia Brewer Sinclair, 2006-2007 Horizons Bible Study, “In the Beginning: Perspectives on Genesis,” 2.
4 Patricia Lynn Reilly, A God Who Looks Like Me: Discovering a Woman-Affirming Spirituality, (New York: Ballantine 1995), 273, 282.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Rise of Radical Feminism in Mainline Churches: A History # 7

While most radical neo-pagan feminists envision deity as female and are bold to speak of a goddess, the Black Madonna has recently [2005] become a popular way of speaking of deity among those “Christian” feminist who use feminine images for the divine. But generally such images begin in the Pagan community.

For instance, Kali, the name of a female consort to the Hindu god Shiva, has taken on feminist’s attributes. Hinduism has seen her at times as a “kindly mother,” but she is also, “fierce and unapproachable, adorned with a necklace of skulls, and with four arms to flail her victims to pieces before she devours them.”19

At first extremely radical neo-pagan feminists chose Kali as one of the goddesses they would honor. LeMasters writes that the anger of the separatists or Dianic feminists allowed them to embrace the darkest of the goddesses. She writes, “Rage against sexism was at an all-time high; rituals were filled with hexes against rapists and batterers. Some of the most popular Goddess images were the fiercest ones: Medusa, Kali, Lilith, Hecate.”20

Now Kali is softened by equating her with the Black Madonna as are many other deities. At a conference on the Black Madonna at Graduate Theological Seminary in Berkeley, 2005, the web site advertisement states:
Known cross-culturally under many names, this Dark Mother is re-emerging as a source of wisdom, creativity, and liberation. She is known as Our Lady of Guadalupe or Tonantzin in Mexico, the Mother and Patron of all the Americas, or as the Black Madonna in European Catholicism, Isis in Egyptian Africa, Crow Mother in the Hopi American Indian tradition, Tara in Tibetan Buddhism, Kali in Hinduism, Erzuli Danto in Vodun, Yemaya in Yoruban Africa, and Oya in Brazilian Candomble. This beneficent, towering dark female divinity appears as a powerful symbol of healing, diversity, fierce compassion and of the Earth itself. As the national Patron of Brazil, she is known as Aparecida, the one who appears, and is called the Mother of the Excluded.21
The move to make the black Madonnas divine, and thus meld goddesses with Christianity, is rooted in the myths of early feminism. The myth is the belief that Mary, mother of Jesus, was given great honor in Christianity because she followed in a long line of goddesses. In all cultures, so the myth goes, where a goddess was prominent Mary began to take on the aspects of that particular goddess. Mary is then seen as Cosmic and feminists relate to her as the supposed Great Mother thought to have been worshiped in pre-historical times.

Charlene Spretnak in her book Missing Mary: The Queen of Heaven and Her Re-Emergence in the Modern Church, asks rhetorically, “Christ’s gospel of love is profoundly relational and compassionate, but where did that emphasis come from if he was solely an offspring of the legalistic and sometimes punitive Yahweh.” Her answer, “Where else could Jesus’ emphasis on loving compassion and forgiveness have come from but the other half of his cultural and spiritual ‘DNA’: Mary and the long lineage of mother goddesses she continued.”22

Although Spretnak is Catholic the understanding of Mary or the black Madonnas as divine or as goddesses was wide spread among radical feminists in Protestant churches at the beginning of the twenty-first century. Not only did Presbyterian Women’s Ministry Area, in 2005, promote the idea of the Black Madonna, using the book, The Secret Life of Bees, by Sue Monk Kidd as a starting point, they likewise recommended books which equate her with divinity such as Longing For Darkness: Tara and the Black Madonna and Dancing in the Flames: The Dark Goddess in the Transformation of Consciousness.

The movement continues and evolves with various women’s organizations and individual women, both those ordained and laity, continuing to promote books, organizations and individuals who lift up a goddess rather than the biblical God. One example is the Lutheran church, Her Church, in the bay area.

Another example is Presbyterian Pastor, Jeanette Stokes, who is mentioned above. Stokes has become extremely radical and promotes many goddesses. Her organization, Resource Center for Women & Ministry in the South, also mentioned in an earlier posting, offered seminars and classes on such topics as “Being Visible, Being Sacred, Being Goddess:” and “Calling Forth Kali: A Workshop.”

The organization sponsors a project which includes a video entitled, Meinrad Craighead: Praying with Images. In the video Craighead “explains the dreams and shamanic journeys that have often been the inspiration for her art.” The website text states that the public will see “images of the Divine Mother that have appeared around the globe throughout human history.” Additionally, later “programs focusing on the Black Madonna and on Craighead’s lifelong fascination with animals as the sacred emissaries of divine messages will be introduced in this initial program.”23

As women’s spirituality groups evolve the church has, through many mainline women’s organizations, become infected with deepening heretical imaginings to the point that like the people Paul mentions in Romans, they are exchanging, “the truth of God for a lie” and worship and serve “the creature rather than the Creator who is blessed forever.”(Romans 1:24) While orthodox women, whose theological foundation is the bedrock of scripture, maintain a stability of certainty, radical feminism is fragmenting and the definitions that define the movement are like shattered pieces of glass.

Various definitions of feminist theology have been offered by different scholars and theologians. Most feminist theologians attempt to draw a dividing line between radical feminists and their theology of the divine feminine which includes a goddess and those who stay within the boundaries of Christianity by reinterpreting biblical texts. Anne M. Clifford in her book, Introducing Feminist Theology, names the latter theologians “Reconstructionist Christian Feminist.” She explains that what makes such theologians Christian “is Jesus.”

But then Clifford gives the longer answer which includes seeing the reign of God fulfilled as “Jesus’ powerful social vision was incarnate in the inclusive community of women and men, drawn together and empowered by him to preach the good news of God’s coming reign.” Likewise, her comments on the Trinity are telling since she sees the biblical names Father, Son and Holy Spirit as metaphors and not different then other names.24 In reality as the feminist movement evolves any differences between radical feminist theologians and so called Reconstructionist feminist theologians are fast fading.

Furthermore there seemingly is no place left within leadership positions in the women’s church organizations for those whose views are secured in scripture rather than female experience. The call expressed by women in leadership in women’s church organizations can be seen in a 2005 job offering for an “Associate for Advocacy for Women.” One of the functions listed on the postings is to “Provide the theological framework in which the church may address the crucial issues of women.” But this person is also required to advocate, “on behalf of the work being done by women theologians and of the theology offered from the experiential perspective.”25 (Emphasis mine)

There is no place in the organization for women who see the Christian faith as that which is built on the foundation of the apostles, the confessions and creeds and more importantly the holy word of God. Presbyterian women’s official organizations are demanding the use of experiential theology. For women, it has become an urgent matter, they must choose between doing ministry based on experiential theology within official women’s organizations and doing ministry based on a biblical foundation outside of those official organizations.

Radical feminists, within the church, use the language of Christianity and the Biblical text to speak and write of their beliefs. But their belief system is often different then biblical Christianity. When one desires to communicate with those in new religions such as the Latter Day Saints or Jehovah’s Witnesses there must be an understanding of how they are using biblical and theological language.

For instance God as Father has a different meaning among those who are Mormons than those who uphold the biblical faith. And when Jehovah’s Witnesses speak of the resurrection they mean something very different than orthodox Christians. In the same way the theology of radical feminism within the church must be explained since although they use some of the same terminology as biblical Christianity they often mean something quite different. In the next postings I will deal with the differences that radical feminism brings to Christian faith.

Picture of Kali taken from Wikipedia
19 John A. Hutchison, Paths of Faith, third edition, (New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company 1981), 159.

20 LeMasters, The Goddess Movement, 46.
21 See at
22 Charlene Spretnak, Missing Mary: The Queen of Heaven and Her Re-Emergence in the Modern Church, (New York: Palgrave/Macmillan 2004), 195.
23 See
24 Anne M. Clifford, Introducing Feminist Theology, second printing, (Maryknoll: Orbis Books 2002), 34; 114-155.
25 Found at Justice for Women: A Sub-Committee of Scioto Valley’s Peacemaking Committee, A Job Opportunity Posting, Presbyterian Church USA, for the NMD division, a pdf file May 2005 (This file is no longer available. )

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Rise of Radical Feminism in Mainline Churches: A History # 6

Women’s spirituality groups grew out of and along side of the women’s liberation movement which had fostered consciousness-raising groups. The women’s spirituality groups shaped not only the Wiccan groups coming to the United States from Britain but also affected many women in leadership in mainline churches.

Cynthia Eller documents many aspects, including the history, of the women’s spirituality movement in her book Living in the Lap of the Goddess: the Feminist Spirituality Movement in America. As stated earlier, some of the movement’s beginnings happened in the consciousness-raising groups.11

Much of it was among lesbians seeking recognition and empowerment. Eller writes, “This pattern of entry into spirituality through radical feminism was particularly marked in the lesbian community, where for many women religion came as an unexpected but natural outgrowth of their experiments in radical feminism.”12 The push toward feminist spirituality based on the lesbian point of view can be seen in the history of an Evangelical women’s organization.

What began as The Evangelical Woman’s Caucus in 1975, a group seeking equal rights for Evangelical women, split in 1986 during a council meeting when a resolution asking for acknowledgement of “the lesbian minority within” the EWC and “protection for homosexual persons,” passed. Nancy A Hardesty, a lesbian and one of the founding members of EWC writes that by 1990 the group’s name had changed to “Evangelical and Ecumenical Caucus,” and that in more recent conferences we have chosen to include women of other faiths.”

Hardesty goes on to state, “if we are to be salt and light in the world, we must expand our vision and our experience of the Divine.” In the same speech, Hardesty does expand her vision of God opining, “we need to know that behind the ebb and flow of waves and water there is a Power, an Energy, a web of Wisdom we call God, …”13 The women’s spirituality movement was evolving from many different directions; even the secular would become the spiritual.

The first understanding of witch in the women’s liberation movement included a secular definition of the word. Witch was defined as an aggressive, independent and rule breaking woman. Eller writes about those secular groups that used Witch in a secular manner. “In New York on Halloween of 1968, a collective of women named themselves WITCH, an acronym standing for ‘Women’s International Terrorist Conspiracy from Hell.’”

Eller goes on to write that “These first feminist witches did not gather to worship nature, but to crush the patriarchy, and to do so in witty, flamboyant, and theatrical ways.” The word ‘witch’ was to become an acronym for several activist groups, including “Women Infuriated at Taking Care of Hoodlums” and “Women Incensed at Telephone Company Harrassment.”14 Still, the women in the movement soon enough discovered a religious movement which supposedly flourished before written history and worshiped a goddess.

Ronald Hutton, in his history on witchcraft, explains that in Britain most groups involved in witchcraft gave loyalty to both a god and goddess and ritual included the importance of a polar tension between male and female. This was often worked out as sexual ritual within a circle. When this evolving religious movement entered the United States during the sixties and seventies it collided with the women’s liberation movement and the newly developing feminism.

Hutton documents Mary Daly’s and Andrea Dworkin’s embrace of witches although still without their religious aspects. He writes, “The emphasis was far more upon witchcraft as an obstacle to patriarchy, however, then as a system of religion; to Dworkin the witch trials were simply ‘gynocide,’ while to Daly witches were women who had remained true to themselves and to sisterhood."15

Hutton explains that in the United States the early development of a feminist witchcraft, with a religious content and ritual was begun by Zsuzsanna Budapest generally known as Z Budapest. Between her coven, which she named Susan B. Anthony, and her book, The Holy Book of Women’s Mysteries, as well as the books of Mary Daly the myths of an ancient goddess religion which were thought to be the cornerstone of a pervasive matriarchal society existing at the dawn of time became firmly established in many women’s circles. A great emphasis was placed on the “burning times,” the supposed time in medieval Europe when it was thought church men had burned at least a million if not nine-million witches who were simply healers.16

From Budapest’s thought came a new form of Wicca called 'Dianic.' It either eliminated the god or simply exalted the goddess above any god. Men were not welcome in this kind of witchcraft. Diane Stein, activist in the Woman’s Liberation Movement, a lesbian activist as well and deeply involved in women’s spirituality, writes about some of the differences between Dianic groups and the more traditional covens.

Not only does Stein point out that only women may take part in the rituals of Dianic covens, she also points to their differences in decision making. Stein writes that in the traditional coven a priest and high priestess oversee the ritual and the priestess “either writes the full ritual or draws it from her own handed-down tradition.” She goes on to explain that the Dianic covens are more apt to use, “consensus and improvisation,” than the traditional coven. Stein writes:
Consensus is not always reached quickly, but once it is, everyone participating is happy with the decisions. Where no one has had to give in to a majority, everyone is willing and the group operates in peaceful balance.”17
Although covens and circles would once again open to both genders, the goddess remained the more visible and honored deity and most circles stayed centered around the female. As the feminist spirituality movement evolved from the Dianic type and took on activist views that centered on justice and peace movements some feminists within the church connected with the new goddess theology. Carol LeMasters writes that the softening of women’s spirituality led to “a more ecumenical dimension.” She further states:
Coming together to work for the same causes, Christian feminists began talking extensively with Goddess worshipers who a few years earlier might have dismissed them as dupes of a ‘patriarchal’ tradition. Words like ‘embodiment,’ ‘nurturance,’ and ‘connectedness’ became part of the lingua franca of women’s spirituality, Christian and Pagan alike.18
And, indeed, for many women, whether they embraced witchcraft, were simply involved in some form of women’s spirituality or even stayed within the fold of a monotheistic religion such as Christianity or Judaism their view of the divine took on the trappings of some form of female deity. Having discovered a religion with a female deity they incorporated some form of her into whichever faith they held. New sacred female names flourished: Kali, the Sacred Feminine, Sophia and the Creatrix all have evolved from the women’s liberation movement and women’s spirituality groups.

Picture by Stephen Larson

11 Cynthia Eller, Living in the Lap of the Goddess: the Feminist Spirituality Movement in America, (Boston: Beacon Press1993, 1995), 43.

12 Ibid., 42.
13 Nancy A Hardesty, “Blessed the Waters that Rise and Fall to Rise Again,” “Echoes from the 2004 EEWC Conference: Saturday night plenary address, part 1 & 2. At: &
14 Ibid., 53.
15 Ronald Hutton, The Triumph of the Moon: A History of Modern Pagan Witchcraft, (New York: Oxford University Press 1999), 342. Hutton cites, Mary Daly, Beyond God the Father, (Boston, MA: Beacon, 1973), 63-8, 146-59, and Gyn/Ecology: The Metaethics of Radical Feminism (Boston, MA: Beacon, 1978), 172-222; Andrea Dworkin, Woman Hating (New York: Dutton, 1974), 118-50.
16 Ibid., 344-45; To understand the error of radical feminism’s assertion about the burning times go to the posting: The Rise of Radical Feminism in Mainline Churches: A History # 4 17 Diane Stein, The Women’s Spirituality Book, (St Paul: Llewellyn Publications 1986), 60-61.

18 Carol LeMasters, “The Goddess Movement: Past and Present” Gnosis: A Journal of the Western Inner Tradition No. 48, Summer 1998, 46-47.

A giant octopus... Yes, it is horrible! -update

"Have you heard about the giant octopus that has enveloped the U.S.?" These are the words of Noushin Framke, chair of the Israel/Palestine Mission Network of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) communications work group.

This was written above a link that she had placed on the Facebook of IPMN. The link was to an article written by James Wall, "Obama’s performance was pathetic, But How Does President Perry Sound To You? "

Framke has since removed the comment from IPMN's Facebook. But it is still on her Twitter page and she made this comment on Wall's posting:
Yes indeed, “the Zionist Hasbara [propaganda] has enveloped this country like a giant octopus.” Well said! I will always think of that visual now when I hear and read Hasbara on the airwaves and blogosphere! And thanks for the back story on Perry’s NY connections. Lord have mercy.
The picture above and below are from the German Propaganda Archives at Calvin College collected by Professor Randall Bytwerk who gave permission to use them here. I have placed them here to show how very close the leadership of IPMN, a Presbyterian organization, is coming to emulating the words of the Nazi propaganda machine. May the Lord have mercy indeed!

The writer that Framke linked to and commented on is a known anti-Semite. It does not matter that he was once the editor of Christian Century, nor that he is still a contributing editor; Presbyterians should be aware that people in prominent positions, even well known theologians, in Nazi Germany, also gave into the seduction of anti-Semitism.

And it is a seduction; one birthed in hell. It supposedly solves all problems and is easier than pointing out the problems on both sides of issues. It places evil in a corner rather than seeing it evenly distributed among the best of us. It fails to love or make peace and eventually leads to war. And the people who engage in anti-Semitism will eventually find themselves in a war with the Prince of Peace.

No, not the final battle of Armageddon made popular by the Left Behind books but the battle that the the Lord of the Church wages for the safety of our souls. In fact, I suspect his angels are beating furiously on the doors of our denomination now. And the Holy Spirit woos us to the true peace that centers us in Jesus and draws us away from hellish words and into a love that works towards real peace.

UPdate-For additional issues & problems read "Publicizing Bigots" by David Fischler at The Reformed Pastor.

Monday, September 26, 2011

The Rise of Radical Feminism in Mainline Churches: A History # 5

Twentieth Century Women’s Spirituality Movement

In a wonderful essay entitled “My Cab Ride with Gloria Steinem,” Federica Mathewes-Green not only tells about her encounter with feminist Steinem, she reveals a small but significant detail about her own feminist past. Mathewes-Green writes of “attending a consciousness-raising session at the home of lesbian friends during the 1970s.” Important to her story was the discovery that the two friends were raising mushrooms in cow manure in their bathtub.1

This was the early beginning of the women’s liberation movement of the twentieth century which includes the women’s spirituality movement. Mathewes-Green’s experience with the feminist movement was among those feminists who could best be described as cultural feminist, those who value women’s nature as well as nature itself. They are also referred to as radical feminists. Mathewes-Green has since become a devoted follower of Jesus Christ and laid aside her feminism. She has found her home in the Greek Orthodox Church.

In the same manner, Elizabeth Fox-Genovese,  (1941-2006), the Eléonore Raoul Professor of the Humanities and professor of history at Emory University, and the founding director of the Institute for Women’s Studies, writes of a consciousness-raising group she helped to organize in the 1970s. This group consisted mostly of young married women supporting their professional husbands.

Based on Fox-Genovese’s description, it was not radical but rather a means for women to enjoy a time away from families while sharing with each other their joys and frustrations as well as a means of encouraging each other to “become strong independent women.” 2  Fox-Genovese, became a follower of Jesus Christ and a member of the Roman Catholic Church.

Women gathering in consciousness-raising groups are a part of the story of the women’s liberation movement which began with earnest in the late sixties and early seventies. Purportedly an early feminist group, sometime in the mid sixties, named New York, Radical Women, began the activity as a means “to defeat male spremacy (sic) and give women equality.”

Kathie Sarachild, author of “Consciousness-Raising A Radical Weapon,” spoke of this in 1973. She stated that they studied “women’s lives by topics like childhood, jobs, motherhood, etc.” Their authoritative foundation was their own experiences and one of the questions they brought “at all times to” their “studies would be -- who and what has an interest in maintaining the oppression in our lives.”3 While, clearly not all women held to a radical agenda when exploring their own experiences, many were moved by radical activism and experimentation at the very beginning of the women’s liberation movement.

The movement undoubtedly came to birth with the publication in 1963 of Betty Friedan’s book The Feminine Mystique. Basically the book is a critique of many women’s lifestyles in the fifties when to some new drapes and shaggy carpets seemed like a very high goal. For some women it was an eye-opener, for others, who were busy anyway, it was just an affirmation that women, like men, needed higher aspirations.

The comments of Elizabeth Achtemeier, who was visiting Professor of Hermeneutics and Homiletics at Union Theological Seminary in Virginia, are telling:
So when women confined themselves to housework and joined in 1965 in Betty Friedan’s published plaint, ‘Is this all?’ I thought, for goodness sakes, of course it’s not all! Get out there and use your talents. Stop draining your brains down the kitchen sink.”4
Reading The Feminine Mystique sparked much of the consciousness-raising groups among women. One sees the connection in the records of the United Presbyterian Church.

In 1966, an early effort to give woman more rights in the United Presbyterian church included a consultation at Ghost Mountain Conference Center. Maggie Kuhn, who was to be “instrumental in organizing the Gray Panthers,” instigated the Ghost Mountain Conference named “Masculine/Feminine: Mystery, Misery, or…” Betty Friedan was “a resource leader.”5 A Task Force on Women was established in 1969 by the General Assembly of the United Presbyterian Church, although it was not overseen by the General Assembly.

Along with this national Task Force, Elizabeth Howell Verdesi writes that women were forming local task forces, “so that by 1971 there were five functioning judicatory task forces on women.” Verdesi goes on to write that, “as a consequence of such activity, the Task Force on Women recognized that the future effectiveness of the women’s movement within the church depended on the establishment of small consciousness-raising groups in the judicatories”6

Another move was the establishment of women’s religious organizations promoting both religion and women’s liberation agendas. Many of these were independent of the church, yet the church contributed to them.

Jeanette Stokes, Presbyterian Pastor and founder in 1977 of Resource Center for Women & Ministry in the South writes, “When I moved to Greensboro, North Carolina, in the fall, RCWMS took up residence in a spare room of my apartment and consisted of a cardboard box and some three-by-five cards with the names of women interested in feminism, religion, ministry, and social justice.” Stokes, now involved in promoting the divine feminine, further states that in 1978 the United Presbyterian Church’s Council on Women and the Church (COWAC) gave from their Emergency and Experimental funds fifteen hundred dollars to her new organization.7

Earlier, in 1977, the COWAC along with the Council of theological Seminaries held a Symposium in Chicago with the theme, “In Christ … Neither Male nor Female.”8 The journal Theology Today printed the position papers of the symposium along with other relevant articles. The early seeds of radical feminism can be seen in the various papers. For instance, the Editor, Hugh T. Kerr, intentionally offered his readers a group of prayers that leaves out any gendered pronouns, but the prayers also leave out any reference to Father and Son.9

One author, “Catherine Gunsalus Gonzalez, now Professor Emeritus of Church History at Columbia Seminary in Decatur, GA, in her article, “On the Way to Wholeness,” upholds the importance of revelation but admits that one’s experience will affect how the text is interpreted. And she does mention when affirming the importance of revelation those women who, at that time, no longer see revelation as the prime disclosure of who God is, but instead rely on their own experience.

Gonzalez makes a case for seeing women’s basic sin as self-hatred in contrast to pride. She writes:
It is no accident that those in society who are most powerful and who are the norm for the human, that is to say, white men, frequently see pride as their greatest sin. . . . But others, and in this case women, are taught by the society to see themselves as weak, inept, vacillating, destined by their biology to serve others.
Gonzalez goes on to explain that women have no understanding of what to repent of because the church never mentions the sin of self hatred.10

In the coming years numerous women connected to both the women’s liberation movement and the church would not only push for needed reforms, they would push past the boundaries of a biblical Christianity and move into radical feminism. From their experimentation and focus on their own experiences they were to find an alternative spirituality for both secular women and church women.

My next posting will look at the alternative spirituality.

1 Federica Mathewes-Green, “My Cab Ride with Gloria Steinem,” in Books & Culture, May-June 2000, found at See also, Mathews-Green, “Twice Liberated: A Personal Journey through Feminism,” Touchstone, Summer 1994, found at

2 Elizabeth Fox-Genovese, “Feminism is Not the Story of My Life” How Today’s Feminist Elite has Lost Touch With the Real Concerns of Women: (New York: Nan A. Talese Doubleday 1996), 15,16.
3 Kathie Sarachild, “Consciousness-Raising: A Radical Weapon, This is “a compilation and expansion of texts, notes and comments from a talk Kathie Sarachild gave on consciousness-raising to the First National Conferences of Stewardesses for Women’s Rights in New York City, March 12, 1973. Sarachild outlined the original program for “Radical Women’s Consciousness-Raising” which was presented at the First National Women’s Liberation Conference outside Chicago, November 27, 1968.” Found at,
4 Elizabeth Achtemeier, Not Til I Have Done, A Personal Testimony, (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press 1999), 16.
5 Elizabeth Howell Verdesi, “Survival, Change and Promise: Women in the UPCUSA, 1970-1983,” In Our Rightful Place: The Story of Presbyterian Women 1970-1983, Elisabeth Howell Verdesi and Lillian McCulloch Taylor, (New York: Presbyterian Church (USA) 1985), 12.
6 Ibid., 13.
7 Jeanette Stokes, “A Brief History of RCWMS,” at
8 Theology Today, Editor, Hugh T. Kerr, January 1978.
9 Ibid., “Editorial: The Language of Prayer,” 353-356.
10 Ibid., “Catherine Gunsalus Gonzalez, “On the Way to Wholeness,” 378-385.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

The Rise of Radical Feminism in Mainline Churches: A History # 4

In my last posting of "The Rise of Radical Feminism in Mainline Churches: A History #3" I showed how the myth of the killing of millions of witches by the church had been perpetrated without any proof. This posting deals with another myth:

Matilda Joslyn Gage also helped perpetrate the radical feminist belief that at one time a golden age of a matriarchal society existed. This idea was perpetrated by many in the nineteenth century including Margaret Murray who wrote The Witch Cult in Western Europe in 1921.

The idea of an early golden age with women in charge was melded to the idea that there had always existed a religion resembling witchcraft throughout the whole of the medieval ages and that these survivors of ancient paganism were the victims of the “burning times.”

This myth was also melded with the belief that during pre-history most of humanity worshiped a female deity and this lasted until patriarchal warriors set up a male god in her place. Gage included this information in her book and that information has only recently been discredited by historians, including Ronald Hutton with his book The Triumph of the Moon: A History of Modern Pagan Witchcraft and Cynthia Eller author of Living in the Lap of the Goddess: The Feminist Spirituality Movement in America.

Nevertheless, women’s organizations in the mainline churches still push these ideas of an early matriarchal society which worshiped a goddess by pushing such books as The Dance of the Dissident Daughter by Sue Monk Kidd who writes of this supposedly ancient time,
The ancient Goddess cultures were probably not utopia, but still they appear to have been remarkably egalitarian and nonviolent. The feminine was honored, sexuality was sacred, and the cultures apparently supported no splits between nature and spirit.”13
Until recently, with the change to a new web site, the National Network of Presbyterian College Women recommended the books Woman Word; Woman Wisdom; Woman Witness by Mirian Therese Winter, who in her chapter on Sarah refers to Savina Teubal’s book Sarah the Priestess, and the idea that the story of Abraham is one tradition replacing another, the story of Sarah and matriarchy.

Winter writes, “The ‘Sarah tradition’ was part of a non-patriarchal system in which women were dominant, descent was matrilineal (traced through the mother), residence was matrilocal (in the mother’s homeland), and ultimogeniture (succession through the youngest child) not ultimogeniture (through the firstborn), was the norm.”

She goes on to explain that, “The narratives of Genesis matriarchs reflect the earlier tradition’s struggle to survive, and clues to its strength and to Sarah’s importance can be found in the texts.”14 Winter’s books have been a popular mode of spirituality among women in mainline churches thus keeping alive the myth of an early golden age belonging to women.

Because accounts of a pagan religion, often referred to as witchcraft or Wicca, are the subject of much of the mythical history endorsed by radical feminism and since this history was originally written by nineteenth century occultists, words shaped by occultists often show up in supposedly Christian articles in mainline church magazines.

For instance, Aleister Crowley was an occultist and a magician whose contribution to the formation of nineteenth century British Witchcraft was an understanding of the goddess having a triple aspect related to the aspects of the moon. This view, very prevalent in Wicca today, sees the aspects as three supposed stages of women's life.

Leading occultists, including Crowley, named those three aspects maiden, mother and crone. Sometimes the crone aspect is referred to as a wise woman. The Wiccan, Starhawk, in a meditation on the crone aspect of the goddess writes, “The Crone is the Wise Woman, infinitely old.”15 That leadership in the women’s organization feed on such concepts can be seen by references to these terms in their materials. In the September/October 2004 Horizons the official magazine for Presbyterian women, in an article on possible ways of affirming girls who are becoming women, the author refers to older women as crones.16

In a more recent Horizons', Sept/Oct 2007, Louise Davidson, one time Presbyterian Women’s Vice Moderator for Justice and Peace in her article “Here’s How One PW Celebrates,” writes of looking for a ceremony to mark her passage into an older age; she came upon a ceremony called a “croning” ceremony. She explains that a crone is a woman of age and wisdom.

It is probable that some women using these terms have no idea of their origin, but it is certain that some women have added such words to their vocabulary by way of a book extolling paganism or by participating in some kind of women’s spirituality group.

So, the question is still unanswered, how did women, who in many ways are indoctrinated by cultural or radical feminism, start replacing early 19th century Christian women’s theology? The transformation mainly began with several women’s movements from the sixties through the nineties in the latter part of the twentieth century.

In the next installment I will look at the women’s spirituality movement in the United States in the twentieth century and its impact on both Wicca groups and mainline church women’s groups. I will also explore the various definitions of feminism and how those definitions tend to confuse Christian women attempting to be faithful Christians while yet staying involved in ministry.

13 Sue Monk Kidd, The Dance of the Dissident Daughter: a Women’s Journey from Christian Tradition to the Sacred Feminine, San Francisco: Harper San Francisco 1995), 144, 45.

14 Miriam Therese Winter, Woman’s Wisdom: A Feminist Lectionary and Psalter; Women of the Hebrew Scriptures: Part One, (New York: Crossroad 1997), 16.
15 Starhawk, The Spiral Dance: A Rebirth of the Ancient Religion of the Great Goddess, (10th Anniversary Edition, (New York: Harper & Row Publishers 1989) 93.
16 Robin Miller Curras, “Girls Becoming Women: Rites, Responsibilities and Reality,” Horizons, September/October 2004 10.
17 One book that offers Croning ceremonies is Women’s Rites: Feminist Liturgies for Life’s Journey, by Diann L. Neu.

Friday, September 23, 2011

The Rise of Radical Feminism in Mainline Churches: A History #3

Early Cultural Feminist Concepts

Early cultural feminist’ religious ideas can be seen in the work of such women as Matilda Joslyn Gage. In 1893 she wrote, Woman Church & State: A Historical Account of the Status of Women Through the Christian Ages: With Reminiscences of the Matriarchate.4 Gage’s book not only attempted to show how badly men had treated women but how badly Christianity had treated women. Gage offered her readers a religious alternative based on the nature of women.

Gage believed in a natural goodness in women and that woman’s goodness would be the salvation of humanity. While rejecting the authority of the Church, she wrote:
It is through a recognition of the divine element of motherhood as not alone inhering in the great primal source of life but as extending throughout all creation, that it will become possible for the world, so buried in darkness, folly and superstition, to practice justice toward woman.”5
Another cultural feminist, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, in 1923, wrote His Religion and Hers: A Study of the Faith of Our Fathers and the Work of Our Mothers.6 Gilman was a social darwinist with a twist. She lived during a time when many in the United States were enthralled with the idea of eugenics, that is, the idea that only those people who were fit should be allowed to have children. Many people are unaware that there was a time in the United States when thousands of people were sterilized because they had various disabilities or records of criminals in their families.

Gilman, like her contemporary, Margaret Sanger, did not agree with abortion but advocated sterilization. Gilman believed women possessed the correct characteristics for shaping humanity and that it was the responsibility of women to choose their mates for the sake of the proper development of humanity. Her theology was founded on her understanding of social darwinism. The virtues of her religion included “social development,” which meant that adherents must see woman as “the race type and her natural impulses” as “more in accordance with the laws of growth than those of the male.”7

Elizabeth Cady Stanton tends to fit in both the cultural feminist and Enlightenment categories. She grew to hate Christianity and flirted with some very bizarre ideas including free love and racism.

Some common themes among early cultural feminists were the goodness of human nature as seen in women’s nature, the oppression of women by most world religions especially Christianity, an ancient golden age when a matriarchal society existed and a time in the middle ages when male Christian leaders had burned millions of witches mainly because they were women who possessed some form of power.

Matilda Joslyn Gage, who detested the Christian Church, is the person who was to give to contemporary radical feminism the understanding that nine million witches had been burned during the Middle Ages. She stated that number in her book Woman Church & State without any proper historical reason. Ronald Hutton, professor of History at the University of Bristol, and author of The Triumph of the Moon: A History of Modern Pagan Witchcraft, points out that “the scale of her overestimate was breathtaking, especially as it was apparently undertaken on no rational basis whatsoever.”8

Mary Daly in her book, Beyond God the Father refers to 30, 000 to several million but in her book Gyn/Ecology: the Metaethics of Radical Feminism, she not only refers to her earlier statement but also refers to Gage’s number of nine million.9

Hutton, a Professor who leans toward paganism himself, explains that the real truth about the reasons and numbers of the burning of witches is historically different than what has been until recently understood by both members of Wicca or radical/cultural feminists. Hutton states that, “It has [been] established beyond any reasonable doubt that there was no long-lasting or wide-ranging persecution of witches in early modern Europe, trials which involved the charge being neither routine nor common in any district.”

Writing of the victims of such accusations, Hutton points out that they were mostly “poor, marginalized, and anti-social, and where accusations spread they mostly reflected tensions between neighbors in lower reaches of society.” He states:
Accusations of witchcraft were not merely made against women but very often-in some areas mostly-initially made by women, not in the name of male power but because the alleged spells cast by witches most commonly affected those spheres of activity-small children, domestic work and the physical home, the animals of the in-field-which were normally the responsibility of females.10
That cultural feminists, who are in leadership in the mainline churches, have not easily given up this accusation against the church and men in general can be seen by one of the articles on witchcraft in Dictionary of Feminist Theologies. Moshe Sluhovsky admits that, “where most denunciations took place, accusations had less to do with learned views of witchcraft than with local rivalries.” Yet, she goes on to write that women accusing other women “could be attributed to conformism in a patriarchal society, to competition among women for social standing within the community or to women’s prominent role as healers.”11

Women in leadership positions in the mainline women’s organizations continually refer to and extol the radical feminist writer Elizabeth A. Johnson. Johnson who wrote, She Who is, writes, “The innocent blood of women shed for this word [God], the burning of thousands of wise and independent women called witches, for example and the continuing injustice of subordination done to women in God’s name is only coming to light, and it is grave. Perhaps we should have done with the word God altogether.”

She also writes, “A very public though by now suppressed chapter in the history of women’s affliction is the trial and execution of women accused of being witches by the inquisition. For reasons that had much to do with the threatened patriarchal dominance of spiritual and healing power, hundreds of thousands, perhaps more than a million women were annihilated in the name of God.” 12 Here Johnson cites the writer Mary Daly, and her book Gyn/Ecology: the Metaethics of Radical Feminism, who, remember, cited Gage. And so one of the myths of early cultural feminism continues to be held, as well as told over and over through the books that mainline women leaders find acceptable and recommend.

My next posting will continue with cultural feminist’s concepts and phobias and how they relate to those who are in leadership in the Church today.

4 Matilda Joslyn Gage, Woman Church & State: A Historical Account of the Status of Women Through the Christian Ages: With Reminiscences of the Matriarchate, (New York: The Truth Seeker, 1893). In a reprint with a forward by Mary Daly the book name has been changed to, “Woman, Church & State: The Original Expose of Male Collaboration Against the Female Sex, (Watertown, Mass: Persephone Press 1980);
5 Gage, Woman, Church, State, 48.
6 Charlotte Perkins Gilman: A Study of the Faith of Our Fathers and the Work of Our Mothers. (New York: The Century Co. 1923).
7 Gilman, Faith of Our Fathers and the Work of Our Mothers, 275. In Viola Larson, An Exploration: Feminist Ethics and the Principles of Orthodox Christianity, thesis, 1994, California State University, Sacramento, 18.
8 Ronald Hutton, The Triumph of the Moon: A History of Modern Pagan Witchcraft, (Oxford: Oxford University Press 1999)141. Hutton is referring to Gage, Woman, Church, State, 106-07.
9 See Mary Daly, Beyond God the Father: Toward a Philosophy of Women’s Liberation, (Boston: Beacon Press 1973) 63; and Gyn/Ecology: The Metaethics of Radical Feminism, reprint (Boston: Beacon Press 1990), 183.
10 Hutton, Moon, 379.
11 Moshe Sluhovsky “Witchcraft,” in Dictionary of Feminist Theologies, Letty M. Russell & J. Shannon Clarkson (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press 1996), 315, 16. It could be pointed out that Sluhovsky’s last reason for women accusing women, “women’s prominent roll as healers,” is also an idea which was found in Matilda Joslyn Gage’s book Woman Church & State.
12 Elizabeth A. Johnson, She Who is: The Mystery of God in Feminist Theological Discourse, New York: Crossroad 1993), 43.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Rise of Radical Feminism in Mainline Churches: A History #2

In the early movement [of feminism] the cultural feminists were philosophically essentialist, that is, gender was an essential part of who they were as humans. Indeed, the foundation of their feminism was women’s nature. Such a concept was in contrast to enlightenment feminists, such as Susan B. Anthony, whose good foundation was human dignity.

Many of the cultural feminists became very religious, but their religious views were alternatives to Christianity. While some Christian women seeking some of the same rights as the cultural feminists, also shared one of their foundational concepts, that is, women’s nature is different from men’s nature, their biblical understanding prevented them from coming to the same kinds of conclusions held by the cultural feminists.

Because their foundation was the authority of Scripture and the Lordship of Jesus Christ their activism was not centered in women’s experience but in what they believed was God given revelation. For instance, Katherine Bushnell, in her book, God’s Word to Women, wrote of her claim that women were called by God for ministry, “Our argument assumes that the Bible is all that it claims for itself. It is (1) Inspired, 2 Tim. 3:16; (2) Infallible, Isa. 40:8, and (3) Inviolable, John 10:35.”3 Unlike cultural feminists they sought to glorify God rather than empower the self. This divide has moved into the post-modern mainline church organizations.

Contemporary feminism began with the same kind of distinctions as early feminism, with, of course, very modern ideas, but still with a growing divide between cultural feminism and Christianity. The cultural feminists can now be called, in many cases, radical feminists. At the same time, today, in many of the mainline churches the women’s organizations are filled, at the governing level, by those who in the past were seen as cultural feminists. Their religious views are now referred to as Christian feminism but it is not the same kind of Christianity that those early women seeking the right to preach held.

Early nineteenth century Christian women seeking the right to minister the word and sacraments to others held views similar to twenty-first century Reform or Evangelical women today. Among other rights they desired to teach and preach. Yet, none of their views about equality changed their views about the essentials of Christianity. For nineteenth century women in ministry, such as Louisa Woosley or Catherine Booth, the deity of Christ, the Trinity, understood as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and the atonement were foundational beliefs. And they based their views on what they considered to be the authority of Scripture.

Today the divide among women in mainline churches is so great those who are in leadership and who are mainly related to early cultural feminists are in the process of destroying the traditions of faith that has existed among Christian women for two-thousand years. Women who hold to the essential tenets of the faith are ignored, unwelcome, unheralded and even maligned by cultural or radical feminists in their own churches. Often progressive writers and editors rather than write or publish articles about the good news of Jesus Christ write and publish only about the women who so hungered to proclaim the good news that they fought for that right.

How did cultural feminism come to be called Christian feminism and why does its theology and ritual so often integrate pagan motifs, words, ideas and ritual? Why are most mainline women leaders and theologians so bent on disregarding the essentials of the faith? To understand this it is necessary to go back to the history of early cultural feminism. It is also necessary to look at the women’s spirituality movement in the United States during the midpoint and latter half of the twentieth century and how that movement affected not only the Wiccan groups coming to the United States from Brittan but also women’s organizations in the mainline churches.

I will in the next section focus on early cultural feminist’s concepts and phobias and how they relate to those who are in leadership in the Church today.

3 Katherine C. Bushnell, God’s Word to Women: One Hundred Bible Studies on Woman’s Place in the Divine Economy, reprint of 1921 edition, (pub. unknown) Lesson 1.

Foot notes begin numbering from the prior posting.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Rise of Radical Feminism in Mainline Churches: A History #1

Just this week, I have been working on a paper which has brought my thinking back to my original work on women’s issues from a historical position. My Master’s Thesis was “"An Exploration: Feminist Ethics and The Principles of Orthodox Christianity," which included the history of early feminism. I also wrote a rather long article for Voices of Orthodox Women entitled “The Rise of Radical Feminism in Mainline Churches: A History.” That was 2005.

Today I am going to start placing small portions of the paper on radical feminism in the mainline churches on my blog. I will break up some of my long paragraphs and perhaps modify some of my information if it is too outdated.

The Rise of Radical Feminism in Mainline Churches:

A History

Part 1

Recently, in a poignant letter written by an Episcopal vicar renouncing her vows, I read these words, “No one cares if my soul is sick, estranged from God and destined for the fire.” The vicar was not writing because she was renouncing faith in Christ nor because she no longer cared for the church of Jesus Christ, but rather because she feared that the institution she belonged to, the Episcopal Church, would so neglect not only her soul but the souls of others that they would die spiritually. In the same neglectful manner, in every mainline church, many in leadership in women’s organizations, seemingly, do not care if our souls are sick, estranged from God and destined for the fire.

The history behind such leadership is one that few know or understand. Their advocacy, such as empowering the self and reproductive choice is based on concepts and ideas garnered from a century of feminist ideology. Their theology based on a century of feminist alternative spirituality is replacing the theology advocated by nineteenth century Christian women who were intent on aiding the other half of the Christian Church in proclaiming the gospel.

In contrast to such women as Catherine Booth (1829-1890), a forceful preacher and wife of Salvation Army founder William Booth; Katharine Bushnell (1855-1946), author of God’s Word to Women and a medical missionary to China; and Louisa Woosley (1862-1952), the first ordained woman in any Presbyterian Church; who truly preached and upheld the gospel of Jesus Christ, contemporary women’s leadership often proclaims a dry ideological agenda devoid of biblical redemption.

In its early beginnings the feminist movement was, to put it simply, a movement among women seeking equal rights; that included voting rights, equality in education, and positions of leadership in churches. For nineteenth century women the act of gaining rights was a startling new kind of ethic drawing diverse groups of women together. The names applied to the various movements and groups stretched from women abolitionists, leaders of the temperance movement to suffragettes.

Most women in any of these movements were suffragettes, that is, most believed that women should be allowed to vote. Contemporary historians classify the positions of women seeking equal rights under the heading of feminists; however, it is doubtful that that was the name of choice at the time. Scholars list two main categories for those nineteenth century women seeking equality. Those who insisted on women’s rights on the basis of a rational philosophical position are seen as enlightenment feminists, and those who looked at women’s problems from a woman’s social and domestic perspective are considered cultural feminists.

There are sub-titles under these headings such as liberal feminism under Enlightenment and romantic under cultural feminism. Another group of women found their identity in Christianity, and, among other rights, sought the right to preach and proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is doubtful that feminism as we think of that term today would be considered acceptable to early Christian women who sought for the right to preach1.

Most of those women seeking rights worked together in various causes related to the suffrage movement, such as abolition and temperance, and some of their ideas overlapped. But as the movement grew the ideas among the different types of rights advocates changed and because of this some of the groups grew farther and farther apart.

In fact, at one point, the movement split into two rival groups who barely spoke to each other. One group, the American Woman Suffrage Association, led by Lucy Stone, Mary Livermore, and Julia Ward Howe, agreed to wait for the Afro-American male to receive the vote before pushing forward for women’s suffrage; the other group, the National American Woman Suffrage, led by Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, was more radical in membership and insisted, in very racist terms, that the more intelligent white woman should be granted the vote before ignorant black men. 2

1 Here, after much thought and research, I am changing my own perspective. I have called all of these women feminists in both my Master’s Thesis and other articles, but given the changing meaning of that term and the fact that it rarely shows up in early suffragette writings I have changed my mind, I believe we need a new way of defining early Christian women who fought for various human rights.

2 Gary Dorrien, The Making of American Liberal Theology: Imagining Progressive Religion 1805-1900, Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press 2001), 228-34.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Christ is our garment

While studying for a paper I am writing I found this by Martin Luther. Very beautiful:

The righteousness of the law is not given to us in our baptism, and our works count nothing; but Christ Himself is our garment. Now Christ is no law, no lawgiver, no work, but a divine and inestimable gift, whom God hath given to us, that he might be our justifier, our savior and our redeemer. Wherefore to be apparelled with Christ according to the gospel, is not to be apparelled with the law, nor with works, but with an incomparable gift; that is to say, with remission of sins, righteousness, peace, consolation, joy of spirit, salvation, life, and Christ Himself. (A Commentary on St. Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians-London The Harrison Trust )

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Why does Noushin Framke use Press TV?

The news site, Spero News has an article entitled, “Iranian Doctoral Student Lashed In Connection With Postelection Arrest.” The story is about a woman in Iran who was flogged because of her opposition to the totalitarian government of Iran. Azarmehr, on his blog, also writes of Somayeh Tohidlou. His blog is, “For a Democratic Secular Iran. For Peace and Prosperity in the Middle East.” He writes that although she was let out of prison she nonetheless received 50 lashes. The article is here: Fifty Lashes for Somayeh Tohidlou."

The Spero news article states:
The incident has led to outrage among intellectuals and opposition activists who have sent Tohidlou messages of support on Facebook and blogs, and issued statements condemning the sentence. Some have changed their Facebook profile pictures to images of Tohidlou, while others have joined a Facebook page that has been created to demonstrate support for her.
I partially linked to these postings because it draws the reader’s attention to the kind of government that exists in Iran. I also linked because as a woman I view Somayeh Tohidlou as a very courageous woman.

But there is another reason. Noushin Framke and those who work with her on the Israel/Palestine Mission Network of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A) communications committee have once again placed a video from Press TV, the official Iranian government TV, on their web site with the words, “Bet you didn't see this event in your local or national news,” and “What are you doing in your community?" Not beating young women with 50 lashes is one good answer.

The link Framke posted is "NY residents protest US support of Israel." It is a video put up on Press TV’s YouTube site about a demonstration against Israel. The problem is the whole story is never told on Press TV. For instance an article in a different paper, about the same demonstration, entitled,  IN PICTURES / Hundreds turn out in New York for pro-Palestinian rally, tells a more complete story. The news site, Haaretz, an Israeli newspaper that IPMN sometimes uses, states that one of the main speakers was “Riham Barghouti,whose relative Marwan Barghouti is serving multiple life sentences in an Israeli jail for his role in a series of deadly terror attacks.”

And while on the Press TV video the viewer is shown several Jewish men protesting vehemently against Israel, it is Haaretz who reports that:
The anti-Zionist Orthoidox [sic] Jewish group Neturei Karta participated in the march, along with their spokesman Rabbi Yisroel Weiss, who has gained notoriety for his anti-Israel activism, including a meeting with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Tehran in 2006.
This is a small Jewish sect that exists in Iran as well as a few other places, and has no influence with most other Jewish groups. And it should be pointed out that their very existence depends on the leader of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad who denies the Holocaust and has vowed to annihilate Israel.

I think it is important to point out that Framke was born in Iran and lived there during at least some of her childhood. This is not the first time she has linked to Press TV. I wrote about another time when IPMN was linked to Press TV at A huge protest in London against Israel? Really? Up-date.

But my whole point of this posting is that since Press TV is very much a part of Iran’s totalitarian government, I have to ask, again, why is Framke linking to it, why is she promoting such news? Why is she holding Press TV up as a model? Why not use Haaretz instead? (Maybe because they tell the whole story?) And last of all why not link to an article about Somayeh Tohidlou who is one of the brave women of Iran.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

The gathering darkness

On Wednesday, going to my Committee on Preparation for Ministry, I was involved in a hit and run. It wasn’t bad; I just have a very deep dent on the back corner of my car. But as I have told this story and thought about it I think it was a set up.

I was driving down my cross street preparing to stop at the stop light when I noticed a car pulling away from the curb at the right hand side of my car. I honked as I stopped but he hit me anyway. When I got out of my car he was already holding a broken front car light. I pointed to my dent and said “we need to exchange licenses.” He said “No!” Ignoring him, I went back to my car and leaned over to reach for my purse, as I raised up he was getting in his car. As I came around the end of my car he pulled away.

That was a surprise but it wasn’t the biggest surprise I got that day. When I returned home from my meeting I called the police although I didn’t have any real information to give them. The lady I talked to was very nice but in the midst of our conversation she informed me that since July 2011 the Sacramento police will not investigate hit and runs unless there is grave bodily injury.

I have been thinking about how appalling our morality has become. How deadly the darkness is that is gathering around our lives. How much we need the redeeming, transforming love of Jesus to be constantly renewing and strengthening us in our Christian walk.

Just in the last few days, a friend on Facebook, Jennifer Lahl, she is the founder and President of Center for Bioethics and Culture Network, a bio-ethics group, has linked to two articles about the rise of nudity in San Francisco. This is a far greater problem then the one we are experiencing in Sacramento where petty crime, many misdemeanors and now most hit and runs will be ignored by the Police. Persistent nudity is a sign of the utter flaunting of humanity’s independence from God and God’s laws.

Columnist Debra J. Saunders in the first article, San Francisco, The Naked City, writes:
There is a line between being tolerant and having no standards whatsoever, and that's a line that San Francisco passed a long time ago. Public nudity has become the costume de rigueur in certain corners of the Special City. Twice in the last year, I've see groups of nude adults walking or biking around the Embarcadero - to the delight of some tourists and the disgust of others.
Saunders goes on to write that in the Castro, there are a “number of nudists who like to congregate and digest.” And it is because San Francisco has no law against nudity. In the other smaller column Saunders adds several good comments:
San Franciscans pride themselves in not particularly caring what happens between consenting adults. The problem: The City's nudists bare all without the consent of other adults -- many of whom are parents who want to enjoy the city with their children.
I do not understand why restaurant owners do not refuse to serve naked patrons. It goes to show how afraid people are to stand up for standards in this town.
As I have stated there is a deadly darkness gathering around our lives. But there is also a steady unbreakable movement of God’s work of love and care in our lives. The bigger concern is how we reach out to those trapped in such awful confusion.

The Gospel of Mark tells the story of the demonic screaming among the tombs in the country of the Gerasenes. From the text it is possible to understand that he was naked since after Jesus cast out the demons that had inhabited him, he was sitting clothed. Jesus coming into the man’s life changed everything because with Jesus there is power to change. After the man was saved and changed Jesus told him, “Go home to your people and report to them what great things the Lord has done for you, and how he had mercy on you.”

We must first turn our eyes on Jesus and thereby be able to turn our eyes to those in need of his love. Lord give us words to speak. We pray for God’s mercy on the people who are lost in such darkness.