feminism, race

Dark Girls and Miss Representation

Dark Girls. I found out about this documentary right after we covered Traci West’s “Policy: The Bible and Public Reform” on Mary, the magnificat, and poor, single black mothers. I wish I had known about it before. It is on my list for videos next semester. You should really check it out:

Miss Representation. Another documentary, on women again, but more about image and marketing in general — although in my book, a bit less compelling than Dark Girls, but still, what Miss Representation covers is very important. Check it out:

Elizabeth Johnson, feminism, gift, grace, Hans Urs von Balthasar, mission, political theology

The Map of My Missions Paper

I’d like to thank those who raised questions. CTN, you’re answered in the paper, even though it doesn’t show so much here in the conclusion. And Brad, I had to make certain moves, so Israel played a smaller role — very, very small actually — than I wanted. Your concern was one of the many footnotes that I used to give the body of the paper more focus, and I still went over the page limit. Sigh.

My Provisional Conclusion:

I have sought in this essay to provide a politics proceeding from and based on the triune economy of gift. I began with Christian dogma, noting God in action in human history through the incarnation, the Spirit, and the economy of gift. In doing so, I noted that the work of God should be understood as gift, while elaborating on human participation in the response of Mary. I then moved to the inner life of the Trinity by assuming Balthasar’s assertion that the triune God is not hidden, but revealed in the Cross. I elaborated on the dynamism of gift in the inner trinitarian life with the help of Balthasar and Johnson. This step located and defined the economy of grace in the giver of all that is good. Next I moved to the implications of the gifting God working in human history, framing the step in terms of apocalyptic, Christian formation, and liberation. Recent work on the apocalyptic was noted to highlight my own move: the church is not theologically a dispossessed church, but when rightly living, drawn up into the economy of God — in a word, possessed rather than ever a possessor. This gifting church then spreads gift into the surrounding world, hence the recognition of Romero and Church of the Servant King.

In short, I have sought to draw a line from the inner life of God directly to our action in the world. I have done this through political theology, because, as I understand the recent turn in missiology, there is much overlap between the two. I have re-framed everything underneath gift because that is fundamentally how the divine works with the cosmos and within human history. Thus, from gift, we can re-understand the apocalyptic work of God and therefore, the church’s purpose in the world: to live the gift economy of God for the sake of creation.

feminism, liberation, Union Theological Seminary

An Experiential Introduction to Feminism: A Feminist Send-Off

Recent theological feminism, in the last 40 or so years, has made a lot of headway. In academic circles, it is quite reputable — not for all, but certainly by many its critiques are heard, even if there is disagreement at some level. Others seem to misunderstand, perhaps through not reading well, and still others seem to write feminism off without giving it a chance, concluding often that it is guilty by association. However, in the end, this is mostly theological discussion. And ironically, while feminism attempts to address a tangible reality, such discussion can be both connected and disconnected from the very real world. Especially for a guy, one for whom perhaps the reality that women face daily, may seem invisible.

A good experience, one that makes visible the invisible, can immediately help connect what feminist speak of to one’s own reality. Simply, experiencing what seemed non-existent (cognitive dissonance) is tremendously helpful when in dialogue with all sorts of liberation theology, and specifically feminist theology. Importantly, I do not speak of merely the negative experience that feminism critiques. Like many other theologies, to begin to truly grasp said theology, one must also experience its imagination.

This latter type of experience, the vision of feminist theology attempts to construct or add, I experienced at Union’s graduation. It was terrific. And no, there was no “spiked” kool-aid to drink from.

Nurturing is the theological term. Womb-like is my personal description. The place was packed. The fact that the robes were bright red and, over the course of the ceremony, it got hotter, only helped drive the aesthetic. The sense of leaving the nurturing surroundings — a birthing if you will — permeated the air, but it was not with dreariness. Before entering the chapel, it was the faculty literally cheering us on as we entered. During the course of speeches (which were few and generally short) and awards, many a time there were interruptions of hearty, even throaty, cheers. Celebration was welcomed. In fact, I have rarely felt more accepted, and thus rarely more at home, than during the graduation. Passion was not restrained, but channeled. Love was not withheld. Joy was over flowing. Relationships were recalled and cemented. So this is what it is like to feel empowered: to be helped, to be given tools, to be told your incalculable worth as a human being, and encouraged as one moves out into the vast New York City and the world. It was in a word, liberative.

I thought back to Union’s and Yale’s Vagina Monologues. Yale wore all black with something like a red flower — an accent of red amidst a sea of classiness in the bright, white colonial chapel and each woman’s little black dress. At Union, it was full on bright red from head to toe. It was unabashed passion, ranging from softness to throaty roars. However, at the same time Union embodied the ability to not treat males or the sense of what it is to be male, wrongly. Feminism isn’t the attempt to break down maleness, its about the inclusion of both — both that come from a gender-full God.

The graduation ceremony was not specifically feminist, in the sense that one could point to a detail and claim its heritage, but the mark that feminism has left, and continues to leave on theology, clearly was consciously or unconsciously in the back of the minds of the planners and moderators.

I am now firmly a believer that for theological discussion we must pay more attention to the actual vision and tangible fulfillment of its imagination to really engage the theology. This feminist graduation will live with me for years and I fully expect to look back on it and smile. I certainly do now.