Christainity, Patriachy, Philosophy, Politics

dead metaphors make strong idols: re-gendering the divine

Elizabeth Johnson CSJ, a feminist theologian, wrote

“As a remedy some scholars and liturgist today take the option of always addressing God as simply “God.” This has the positive result of relieving the hard androcentrism of ruling male images and pronouns for the divine. Nevertheless, this practice, if it is the only corrective engaged in, is not ultimately satisfactory…It prevents the insight into holy mystery that might occur were female symbols set free to give rise to thought. Most serious of all, it papers over the problem of the implied inadequacy of women’s reality to represent God.” (44/45, She Who Is)

Since 2007, I made the habit of writing/saying “God” without pronouns. Reading Scripture in front a congregation, I usually de-gender pronouns to either “One” or just “God.” I felt proud of myself, that in my circle of Christian friends that I am self conscious of how I express the divine.

Last week, I made a zine for a new friend, which outlined the theology for an anarcha-feminist. With this project, I too felt proud. I explained the importance of queering theology and tradition. That if one were to follow in these footsteps, one must read history/tradition through the lens of the marginalized, especially women.

After giving my friend this gift, I re-read She Who Is. Usually I read books while on public transportation, so that may a conversation may happen and an event of transformation of thought and habit take place. (This happened once for me, perhaps it will happen again.) Anyway, the opening quote struck at my heart the most. I truly thought that I was above the game with not using “He,” but just as the campaigns this year seem to be only about negativity about other candidate, it does not cause change to the system or the heart. “Structural change and linguistic change go hand-in-hand” (40 She Who Is). If we want a society that declares equality, then our language too much be more inclusive.

From now on, I will, when appropriate use God/She. This will, hopefully, help me as well as those who read this blog to re-think our ideas of the divine.

 

Dina Cormick painted this piece titled “Creator God most beautiful”

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Anarchism, Anti-Capitalism, Patriachy, Spiritual

the revolutionary act of ash wednesday and lent

I have been reading Pedagogy of the Oppressed for the past week now. It was not intended to be my Lenten book, but it has become such. The first few chapters relate to this Christian season in several ways. I would call it a Liberation Theology text for the non-theological, since it speaks in non-bibical langauge in the same ways that the South American liberation theologians were using the Exodus story and the narrative of Jesus.

The first chapter speaks of a revolution, where the oppressed and the oppressors both are liberated. Paulo Freire writes “As oppressors dehumanize others and violate their rights, they themselves also become dehumanized” (42). Freire sets out to have both oppressed and oppressor humanized. This means that a revolution must have the oppressed not be over the oppressors, but everyone come out as equals. Slavoj Zizek has spoken some on Haiti, using a post-colonial context, writing, “it was perhaps even more of an event than the French Revolution itself. It was the first time that an enslaved population rebelled not as a way of returning to their pre-colonial “roots”, but on behalf of universal principles of freedom and equality.” While the French revolution promoted equality for all people who were not slaves, it was the Haitian Revolution who made both slaves and free all under the banner of equality and freedom. It’s as if they took the words of Freire to heart 170 years earlier.

This brings me to a theo-political understanding of the imparting of ashes. 40 days before Easter Sunday, catholic Christians attend a service in which to re-member, both in embodying the church, but also a time for self-reflection, remembering our short comings. As an Episcopalian, we like to kneel for Eucharist and for ashes, and this time I knelt recognizing my faults, but also kneeling in solitary with the rest of the persons in church. We were at that moment all on an equal plain. We are all part of familia dei, Family of God. In other words, the politics of Ash Wednesday show us that if any political system should be prescribed that it should be one of anarchism. That we need no human leaders since we are all on this equal plain. Yet, the problem is that as U.S. citizens we live in a psycho-spiritual context where to feel secure that we must have an authority figure, e.g. President, patriarch, etc. in our lives to give us structure. In Zizekian/Lacian lingo, we are searching for the “subject-suppose-to-know.” We are looking for the one who knows all the answers so that we can elect them to office or believe that they know best and follow whatever they may say. Speaking of the 2008 financial crisis, Jacques Lacan’s son-in-law, Jacques-Alain Miller says in an interview

“The financial universe is an architecture made of fictions and its keystone is what Lacan called a “subject supposed to know”, to know why and how. Who plays this part? The concert of authorities, from where sometimes a voice is detached, Alan Greenspan, for example, in his time. The financial players base their behavior on this. The fictional and hyper-reflexive unit holds by the “belief” in the authorities, i.e. through the transference to the subject supposed to know. If this subject falters, there is a crisis, a falling apart of the foundations, which of course involves effects of panic. “

The presidential candidates want to be this kind of subject, knowing what is best for the financial and political realm. Yet if we are Christians who wear our “faith on our foreheads” recognizing our failings, how can we not help to see that there is no one who is “suppose to know” that it takes us a community of self-reflecting people who now more than ever need the dialectic and each other to create a more just world.

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Christainity, Patriachy, Philosophy

hermeneutic of suspicion and climate change

Paul Ricoeur, twentieth century philosopher, developed a way of reading called the “hermeneutics of suspicion.” Simply put, it is the concept that the way we read and understand texts (not only things written, but also spoken) must be challenged through conscience efforts. This means when reading a text, we must understand that we live in a context that influences our reading, as well as the authors (or speakers) also have their own context. The final goal of reading a text then would be to know our context as well as the writers and try our best to come with a good interpretation. For example, referring to the parable of the talents, the ministers in a country that follows capitalistic tenancies will normally emphasize the investment aspect of the parable or spiritualize the text. They will use the word talent as common English defines it, a special ability that one has and then bypass the last section when the servant condemns the master. If I were to use the “hermeneutic of suspicion” on these sermons, it would question if they had indeed used the entire parable for the sermon or just parts. It would question whether there is any historical context in accordance with the economics of the first century Palestine. Finally, I would ask about their influences on whether s/he thinks that God influences the world, and id they believe that God is the master in the parable.

Ricoeur’s hermeneutic is a well rounded approach to reading texts and listening to a speaker. Something that I did not add was that Ricoeur used the likes of Marx, Freud, and Nietzsche, whom he thought were primitives to this approach. We must go further than these authors and  towards an even more radical and inclusive hermeneutic, since they all ignored feminism, were hetero-normative, and even more, thought of universals rather having more contextual and subjective theories. Thankfully, postmodern theory has aided to a more inclusive hermeneutic, i.e. deconstructionism (this certainly is not the be all end all of hermeneutic).

Along with the idea that when we read texts we must be critical of both ourselves and of the text, it has gained momentum in conservative ideology (this does not mean that the neo-liberal ideology which is rampant in the world does not have its suspicions, especially of other political ideologies). In a recent debate, the issue of climate change was set before the Republican candidates. Rick Santorum said that climate change is

“an absolute travesty of scientific research that was motivated by those who, in my opinion, saw this as an opportunity to create a panic and a crisis for government to be able to step in and even more greatly control your life,”

This is not an example of hermeneutic of suspicion, but rather a falsification of another’s ideology. Santorum wants to bankrupt the scientific ideology by saying that when science wants others to conform to its ideas that it produces fear. The problem is that Santorum’s own capitalist, hetero-normative, patriarchal, and conservative ideology is using the same tactic (whether or not this is true of the scientific ideology). Santorum also in this debate says that he wants to get rid of the EPA so that there may be more “freedom” for capitalist businesses. In an upcoming post, I will share my thoughts on freedom and how we have a paradoxical view in the U.S. Therefore, Santorum believes in the negative definition of freedom, in which we are free from things rather than the positive definition where we are free for things. A good position would be that of the idea of the common good. For example, a neighborhood could take the position that “none are safe unless all are” and start a neighborhood watch that consists as neighbors taking turns walking around the neighborhood in he late afternoon in to the night. This freedom would show that freedom is only true when all are safe and able to pursue their own pleasures because they are free.

In conclusion, if one wants to commit to performing a hermeneutic of suspicion, one must also question their own ideologies and contexts. This is something that Santorum fails to do. We must try harder to question ourselves and others, while at the same time being humble.

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Patriachy, Politics

patriarchy and presidency

A reporter from AFP.com noted that:

“This election is about fundamental freedom,” Santorum said, focusing his criticism on President Obama who, in his words, “refuses to lead.”

“Don’t follow! Lead, lead this country,” he said.

This criticism was directed at President Obama for not leading the discussion with Occupy Wall Street. Santorum believes in something fundamentally patriarchal that those in authorities should have the first and last say in discussions. For Santorum, the President (or the Great Patriarch) must make all of the decisions about the direction in which this country is run. It seems that Santorum does not want a dialectic between those “in power” and those “adhering to power.” The Occupy Movement must then show Santorum how to perform non-hierarchical governing. There must be more mic-checks at his rallies, and demonstrations of how one can live alternatively without the patriarchy.

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