Friday, November 05, 2010

(Feminist) Food for Thought

In the comments to that last post, a reader wrote wrote:
Father A.,
I recently asked a friend who teaches at a Lutheran seminary if he could recommend any non-radical feminist female Lutheran theologians for me to read. He said that he couldn't think of any. Perhaps you or one of your readers could?
Interesting, right? We have a couple of thoughts, but we'd be grateful for suggestions from readers with more recent reading in this sort of thing, as well as access to decent libraries.

First, thing, though: let's be clear about terminology. If we take as our model of "radicalism" the work of Mary Daly, whose intellectual development led her out of Christianity altogether, then virtually NO Lutheran theologian is "radical." Kind of by definition.

And if Dan wants a theologian who happens to address the particular concerns of women within a framework otherwise compatible with the works of, say, Robert Jenson, then he may have trouble finding anybody who wants to be called a "feminist." Not that it couldn't be done, just that in practice it doesn't seem to be. (Or does it -- readers?)

So anybody that I or any readers name will seem "radical" to somebody, or insufficiently "feminist" to somebody else. Can we recognize that and move on?

If so, consider Gail Ramshaw. She has written enough, over a long enough time, to have made plenty of mistakes, from an Eggy perspective. To some people, she may indeed seem "radical." But her career of reconsidering worship, and the language of worship, has been marked by consistently Trintiarian and Christocentric concerns which seem to flow from her Lutheranism.

Now, as our interests have changed over the years, we haven't kept up with the newer stuff. But a few minutes of Googling suggest that Deanna Thompson's 2004 Crossing the Divide looks like a good example of a familiar struggle for Lutheran feminists -- the relationship between Lutheran Christology and the revulsion frequently encountered among feminists (and ultra-liberals in general) toward the Cross as a symbol.

You can find the same struggle in things written by other Lutheran feminists, going back many years. ATLA dug up an essay by Elizabeth Bettenhausen from the mid-1980s, which is not to our taste at all. More recently, Dialog has published some articles by Mary Streufert and Marit Trelstad that, based only on the abstracts, seem to engage in it as well. But the Thompson book seems like the most promising place to start, and of course it will have a bibliography to plunder.

Again, some of this may look suspicious to our ultratraddie readers, if indeed we actually have any. But most of us can agree that there is a vast difference between raising questions about details of the Reformation heritage, on one hand, and on another the wholesale assault on traditional Christianity that really counts as "radical."


Diane said...

I read the Thompson book, and thought it was ok. I'm not that radical.

I read a wonderful essay in Word and World a few years back, a feminist theology of vocation. Unfortunately, the author doesn't seem to have published anything else. It was on the ELCA website for awhile; if I find it, I'll link to it.

Mark Christianson said...

It would seem that either Dan's seminary teacher friend has a low threshold for "radical" or isn't paying much attention. Besides the fine examples you cited, one might also add people such as the contributors of the recently published Transformative Lutheran Theologies which includes, amongst others, Lois Malcom (Luther Seminary), Cynthia Moe-Lobeda, Cheryl Peterson (Trinity Lutheran Seminary), and Beverly Wallace (Southeastern Synod and Lutheran Theology Center in Atlanta).