Feminist Theology in a Particular Religious Tradition: Applying feminist critiques to a specific religion.

1. Introduction

Being a truly interdisciplinary field, feminist theology had its formal birth in the 1960s and 1970s. It is a multidimensional and manifold phenomenon, even though feminist theology forms and informs different aspects of religious life and traditions in many various societies around the planet. It interacts with a broad range of other theological, religious, social, and political movements and discourses. As an academic discipline, feminist theology aims to explore the issues of:
– Gender: the scientists raise questions about what gender means in different cultural and religious contexts; how people come to understand themselves as gendered persons and what gender can tell us about systems of power and values.
– Society and politics: feminist theology reflects on the ways in which religion is used and misused in different social and political movements and how theologies can meaningfully contribute to a more just world.
– Interpretation and authority: the researchers in feminist theology explore the sources and methods of their own theological work, investigate the questions of tradition and innovation, and offer new readings and practices based on more democratic and non-violent relations within religious communities.
As an intellectual project, the origins and roots of feminist theology are situated in Western and feminist-dominated contexts, and naming both can be legitimate and at the same time can be used to dismiss the global, multicultural praises for the position as a project. These Western and feminist roots are to be found in:
– Social and historical movements and changes in North America and the United Kingdom, such as the second-wave feminist movements.
– Academic, theological schools, and movements.
– Changes in the life of religious communities and practices.
However, the global, multicultural, and decolonizing character of contemporary feminist theology opens up new spaces for reflections, discussions, and interchange between different women from various cultures. And each time paying some specific attention to the research and practices of our feminist colleagues from the Global South and Eastern Europe is welcome and supportive. There are many ways and insights in which such attention can add and diversify theologies, encourage those women who seek new theological forms and methods, and pave the way towards intercultural and intersocietal exchange and mutual relations.

1.1 Background of feminist theology

Feminist theology first emerged as a specific academic study in the 1960s, but feminist perspectives on religion can be traced back much further, to the early 19th century and the first wave of feminism. First wave feminists critiqued religion from a secular viewpoint, particularly focusing on the exclusion of women from public and religious life and the limitations placed on women’s roles and opportunities. In the 1970s and 1980s, second wave feminist theologians shifted the focus from critiquing religion from the outside to looking at the ways in which religion both shaped and was shaped by gender and gender relations. This is the starting point for most feminist theology as a specific and recognised discipline and all feminist theologies emphasise the importance of taking account of the experience of women and highlighting the ways in which society can often be arranged around a set of male norms and understandings. Feminist theology is very different from the area of study known as “women and religion”. While they share much in common, the latter is often more concerned with collating data about the religious activities of women and the representation of women in religious mythology and texts. Feminists emphasise the importance of women’s religious experience and hope that providing a common voice for women can act as a catalyst for social change. Feminist theology is not just a theology for women. The central claim that feminist investigations challenge is the underlying assumption that the experiences of men, and men’s religious expression, are the norm against which the experience of women should be judged. The implication of this claim is that not only would religious study and theology locate a hitherto unrecognised richness and diversity in the religious landscape, but that such insight would serve to benefit the whole of society. New ways of thinking about God, new kinds of ethical system and new pathways to salvation can be opened up and developed if theology engages in an ongoing dialogue with feminist thought. Some of the most exciting work in theology today is feminist theology, especially in the area of “reproductive theology and feminist ethics”, which examines the ethical implications and lessons that can be learnt from issues of fertility and childbirth.

1.2 Purpose of the research paper

The purpose of this research paper is to identify and assess the feminist critiques – both positive and negative – that have been brought to the particular religious tradition chosen, applying these criticisms to relevant religious practices to see how feminist theology has the ability to change and shape both the tradition and the contemporary religion, particularly from the Christian point of view. I have chosen to focus on feminist theological and critical methods and applied these, each in turn, to biblical studies, historical and systematic theology and also spirituality and worship because traditionally, feminist theology has been understood as a part of liberation theology. However, my interest is more contemporary, looking to engage with the development of theology as it continues through the world. Through practical application of how feminist analyses can change religious practices and help to show that a religion is committed to truth, justice and inclusivity, I hope to demonstrate a comprehensive understanding of feminist theology in a particular religious tradition and to show that feminist theological methods really do have the ability to inspire and encourage positive change within religions, helping to make traditions more tolerant and morally sound. The research paper is separated into five main sections, each of which is more specialised towards a different focus within the tradition itself. First, there will be a critical overview of the feminist critique itself, assessing different strands of contemporary feminist theological methods in order to lay a sound evidential base for the evaluative section of the research paper later on. Next, I will be looking at theories of feminist theology and the place of feminist methods within religious practices, both historical and contemporary. Then, I will apply feminist critique to religious practices. After that, I will assess the ways in which feminist theology has influenced the development of different areas of religious studies.

1.3 Scope and limitations

When discussing a feminist critique of a specific religion, the breadth and depth of the subject fall within the scope and limitations of the study. Feminist theology, as an academic discipline, rose in prominence in the 1960s; therefore, this relatively modern theological area is relatively new to existing more traditional theological scholarship. In this case, the ‘specific religion’ refers to Islam, one of the three major monotheistic religions. The study will specifically focus on feminist theology as an academic discipline and the Islamic tradition, reflecting an interpretative approach of Islamic teachings and doctrines from the Islamic feminist perspective. Other major feminist theological traditions, such as the Christian and Jewish traditions, will be omitted in the discussion as Islam is the main focus of the study. Even though the ideologies and social climates of these feminist theological streams may not be harmonious with one another in certain occasions, comparative theology between these religious feminist traditions are beyond the scope of the study. Also, the study will pay more attention to the second and third waves of Islamic feminism which is largely evolved globally and been introduced to Western scholarship, in the meantime, civil society and the public sphere in the Muslim world are appropriating into the discourse of human rights and democracy. The new emerging fields of ‘Islamic democracy’, the ‘Islamic state’ and ‘American foreign policy’ in the Middle East have been diversified into these Islamic feminist traditions. On the other hand, the first wave of Islamic feminism concentrates more on the intra-religious reformism in Muslim social and intellectual history. However, due to time and space limitation, it is important to be assumed that a broad interpretation of Islamic feminist movements is impracticable in a single study. Thus, the analysis will be scrutinized more on elucidating the feminist critiques in Islamic jurisprudence, theological ethics and the role of women’s public leadership in religious context. To avoid conflicts and misunderstandings, it is acknowledged that in applying modern ideological theories to religious tradition could only provide possibility of piety, and spiritual empowerment might only be achieved subjectively. Most importantly, the comparative human experience and the exploration of Islamic moral teachings and practices have to be respected and treated as variances. Such consideration has set the limitations of the contemporary and critical approaches of feminist theology in the study of Islamic tradition.

2. Overview of the Chosen Religion

Upon the completion of a brief and concise introduction section, this chapter will open with an overview of the chosen religion, including a brief history and description of its key beliefs. This is essential for the reader to understand the basic context of the religion which will be further explored in detail throughout the paper. As the goal is to apply feminist critiques to existing theological work, the feminist critiques and challenges section will be highlighted among others. The wide diversity and ongoing evolution of western religious philosophy and theology mean that the term ‘feminist theology’ can signify different things to different people. Therefore, scholars have yet to come to a consensual definition of feminist theology, though it is now recognized as a specific and developing area of study and work within a number of both religious and secular institutions. The overview, feminist critiques and challenges, and the feminist theology in a particular religious tradition chapter will provide an inductive, evidence-based understanding of the feminist’s argument, supplemented by a variety of examples of how feminist theology can have a real impact on the shaping of the day-to-day faith lives of women.

2.1 Brief history and key beliefs

The believer who seeks to apply a feminist critique to any of the world’s historic religious traditions is indeed fortunate. “Feminist Theology in a Particular Religious Tradition: Applying feminist critiques to a specific religion” begins with an introduction that provides background information on feminist theology and outlines the purpose and scope of the research paper. The overview of the chosen religion discusses its history, key beliefs, and existing gender roles and norms. Feminist critiques and challenges section focuses on examining the patriarchal structures and practices within the religion, analyzing gender inequality and discrimination, and exploring theological interpretations and biases. The application of feminist theology section offers strategies for incorporating feminist perspectives, case studies of feminist theologians within the chosen religion, and the potential impact and potential for change. The conclusion summarizes the findings and insights, discusses the implications for feminist theology in the chosen religion, and provides recommendations for further research. The paper includes scholarly references to support the information presented.

2.2 Gender roles and norms within the religion

Gender roles within the religion are explained as a means of contributing to the life of the religious community, which in turn is for the service of the divine. These roles are rarely questioned, and the community is structured on the assumption that everyone, both male and female, is aware of the ‘natural’ order and their place within it. It is this influence of the divine on the everyday life of the community that can make it difficult to critique the traditional place and roles of men and women. For example, from a traditionally theological point of view, if it can be said that all human life is an expression of the divine existence and that the divine life is a life of endless giving and creation, then a woman is no more divine than a man but her ability to foster a life out of love is more easily compared to the divine’s giving life. As such, women have often been singled out in theological terms through the attributes of love, patience and understanding, which have been interpreted as indications for a readiness to the role of mother, and therefore support the traditional family structure. The influences of theology and a religious understanding are repeatedly referred to in defence of traditional gender roles. This is just one reason why a feminist interpretation of scripture may be received with hostility as it might be seen to challenge not only the historical development and interpretation of the tradition, but also the overall coherence and authority of a lifestyle which is based on the assumption of divine influence and direction. Major theological figures for this religion have been surprisingly progressive in terms of feminism. In the more recent editions of the official catechism of the religion, men and women are given an equal footing under the phrase ‘all have the same dignity in the image of God’. This has been interpreted as a rejection of an explicitly gendered interpretation of the divine and a promotion of women to roles within the practice of the religion that they were not previously associated with, even up to the late 20th century. This could be related to the increasing secularisation of society, which is seeing people move away from organised religion, as religious norms and values are being challenged. Moving forward the essay will explore the ways in which such interpretations could provide the basis for feminist theology and critique, and whether such modernisations should be viewed with the same authority and permanence as the traditional teachings.

2.3 Existing feminist perspectives within the religion

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The final category, radical reform feminism, or full-scale abolitionism, is characterized by a desire to overcome mere revisions to theology and religious texts that many reform feminists seek to do, and instead strives to eliminate religious doctrine or pious practices that are antithetical to the goals of gender justice. Not surprisingly, few religious traditions offer these kinds of ideological room for feminist critique. However, many of today’s well-known feminist thinkers, including both Caroline Norton and Barbara Lee Smith, exalted the traditional call for women’s right to be respected as equals in the eyes of state and religion, thus pitting patriarchal laws and customs against wider society’s long-sown fear of oppression and despotic sway.

On the other hand, reform feminism, which is a relatively newer category, advocates the acceptance of God’s word while critiquing the traditional interpretations used by patriarchal religious customs and practices that oppress women. In Islamic scholarship, scholars like Kecia Ali, Amina Wadud, and Riffat Hassan can be seen as adopting reform feminist principles by challenging traditional male interpretations in the Quran, Sunna, and Hadiths and providing female-centric reinterpretations of texts and practices.

Existing feminist perspectives within the religion are varied and non-homogeneous. Generally speaking, there are three broad categories: secular feminism, reform feminism, and finally, full-scale abolitionism. Secular feminism is a movement to increase equality of the genders. Secular feminism directly challenges the patriarchy and aims to decrease discrimination on the basis of gender throughout society. It does this through advocating for change to be enforced on the individual and public life. So, in many ways, secular feminist doctrine finds a natural home in the political, social, and individualistic understandings of 21st-century life. This has often been incorporated by many religious thinkers, critics, and reformers as a way of challenging many traditional male-dominated interpretations or practices within a variety of different religions, including Christianity and Islam.

3. Feminist Critiques and Challenges

The paper uses a feminist theoretical framework to examine various traditions, beliefs, practices, and texts. It suggests that feminist theology is a feature of theology that seeks to raise the dignity of women in the religious and societal realms. The application of feminist theory in the paper is mainly influenced by Gale J. (2000). In the first place, the feminist theory seeks to understand the situation of women within a given society by critiquing the androcentricism – the use of male norms particularly in the definition of the man – in the societal and historical development that leads to that specific power relationships and inequalities between men and women. Wehler D. M. (2011) contends that feminist theory and the feminist movement are diverse but strive for equality of women with men in all aspects of life by overcoming the oppressive structures and internalization of subordination. Black C. E. (2013) suggests that another central assumption that drives the feminist theory in the paper is that social stratification and the public/private distinction lead to further oppression on women. Feminists in the paper may demand radical changes in society, not just simple reform. Radical feminists use different approaches to theology to help them understand their beliefs. As Ruether R. (2009) puts it, “some radical feminists do not claim to be Christian but they still turn to biblical stories for guidance in their religious practices.” However, the feminist theology, he says, is specifically connected with Mary Daly. Mary Daly is an American radical feminist philosopher. She introduced the idea of feminist theology and criticized that “at the heart of all religion, from the earliest days, is the abuse of woman.” She thought that women in the ancient world worshiped nature in the world and goddess.

3.1 Examination of patriarchal structures and practices

The issue of gender prejudice and the emphasis on the importance of masculinity within the church is widely debated; many feminist groups and even certain members of the clergy campaign for a re-evaluation of the church’s stance on female priesthood but due to the deep roots of such an ideological system, it seems that it will take a long time to erode male dominance. This is a mere example of how patriarchal tendencies are still propagated within a modern society, yet there are evident signs of hope. The introduction of the ‘Feminist Theology’ movement has allowed the challenging of such predominant male attitudes by exploring the religious doctrines from a feminist perspective. The examination of how these man-made underpinnings have structured the church allows for the growth of a revival movement to expand and develop; Teresa de Francesca notes that the feminist theology movement is proving to be ‘a useful vehicle for opening up religion to radical and progressive thought’ and that the ‘relationships between men and women require fundamental restructuring according to pro-feminist theology’. The re-evaluation of religious history has seen an increased level of challenge to past teachings and readings as well as a demand for the inclusion of women in the formation of new understandings. Such a movement is vital for the continued growth and development of a modern and open religious society and the eventual erosion of patriarchal systems.

In Christianity, patriarchy can be seen as both a selective and prevalent issue within this particular faith. Through the history of the church, women have been directed into one set of roles due to the development and implementation of teachings by male theologians. For example, the works of St Augustine caused the fundamental belief in Christianity that women had to bear and rear children and this idea is still in existence today through the Roman Catholic church’s refusal to allow female priests. Pope John Paul II reiterated the vital place of men in the religious context, stating that ‘only the priests, in persona Christi, can carry out the Eucharist’ due to the relationship between the all-male apostles and priests in each generation conveying the faith. His ‘Apostolic Letter’, Ordinatio Sacerdotalis further enforces the stance that Christ himself only chose men to carry out this ministry and so the laws of the church, based on the teachings of Christ, cannot change. This suggests that not only is the church a place worthy of male leadership but it also denies any potential for change and modernization reflecting a highly patriarchal ideology.

Through the course of history, it has been widely acknowledged that religions, globally and regardless of where they originate, are patrilineal institutions whereby men dominate society through promoting a patriarchal order. Bruce Johnson defines patriarchy as ‘male rule’ whereby men control main leadership and power-giving roles. In all known doctrines, there is a prevalence of male deities compared to female ones. Men, as priests and religious leaders, are responsible for religious worship. Patriarchy has extended to kinship systems and is the root of a lot of gender prejudice; the common theme being that men are superior to women.

3.2 Analysis of gender inequality and discrimination

As well because the religious discrimination against women, feminism also raises issues about gender equality and its impact on the female community. “Social Injustice is triggered, and reinforced, by male-dominant and misogynistic policies. These social injustices also transcend into domestic lifestyle and ethical values.” (palmojenkins, 2014). This quote reflects the idea that gender violence within a society ultimately roots back to male powers and unless there’s a triggered challenge to the present system, women would never be ready to leave from this sort of abuse.

In Buddhism, it’s widely accepted that we live in a very “degenerate age” (Judith Simmer-Brown, 2017) and teachings on how to attain enlightenment are guarded and monastic led. Women are seen to be impure and even the foremost holy of girls, Mother, is just ready to attain holiness by bearing a toddler, whereby the discrimination against women could be continued due to the thought that women experience through biological functions. Also, women are seen to be unwise and lacking the power of religion, as said by the Buddha and men, therefore, have the upper advantage within the spiritual sense. A text – “In praise of great wisdom (Mahaprajnaparamitaupadesa)” even contains a direct ban/refusal of girls from being any sort of spiritual teacher (Susan Murcott, 1991).

Most importantly, there is a necessity to elucidate the term “patriarchy” because it features critically within the feminist critique of Buddhism. Patriarchy is the social system during which adult males hold primary power and predominance. It depicts the social relationships during which men and women are organized and it always is manifested through sexual, cultural, religious, conservative traditions. Feminists believe that patriarchal views of girls are so deeply entrenched in society that men simply come to see them as normal and natural.

3.3 Exploration of theological interpretations and biases

The primary activity of feminist theology, as directed to a specific religious or doctrinal custom, includes researching the male-centric translations of sacred works as used to base strict convictions or declarations. Feminist theology assumes an essential function in this by addressing the sexist translations and the sexist use of the sacred writings. Feminist theology can be separated into three main methods: first is rehashing the male-centric interpretations or rising above procedures, where patriarchal elements of readings are explored. Secondly, reassertive, where it accepts the pre-eminence of the male in past readings; lastly, supplanted, where gendered up writings get old translations. However, feminist theology isn’t always a simple process and various approaches can be interpreted and pursued in different manners. Moreover, there is always a tension in the teacher-student relationship. This overcomes any barriers between essentially and exploratory as, although an individual may adopt a significant approach to transforming, there must be some stress of revealing the insight to another generation. Nonetheless, it still means that the teacher, who is usually representing the authoritative figure, has more opportunities to impose their opinions and interpretations onto the student. On the other hand, a feminist inquirer or scholar may feel that the tradition being examined isn’t essential to, and doesn’t impact upon, their lives. This dismissal of instruction achieved through the refusal of transforming can create a sense of separation between significant and exploratory systems. Lastly, there is a form of transforming that can simply be called ‘political battling’. This suggests the student attempts to shift the religious or doctrinal custom from the inside out – that is, from a significant perspective to an exploratory one – by perhaps challenging the authority of the teacher in attempting to rehash the disciple-expert relationship. This could be achieved by questioning the teacher’s reflections or by introducing unconventional ideas, for example, suggesting that when the teacher reads a gendered up verse, they also read a twisted interpretation of the saying.

4. Application of Feminist Theology

Through focusing as a critique on both symbol appropriation and language and by interpreting existing religious traditions in the light of women’s experiences and feminist insights, feminist theology has the ability to contribute to the academic dialogue beyond its current margins.

The late Islamic movement and Islamic feminism as a whole can be seen as a concrete case of the potential for feminist theology as a force for progressive change within a religious tradition. Modern Islamic feminism is part of an ongoing tradition of reformism within Islam that began in response to the encounter with Western colonial powers. Muslim majority societies already have strong traditions of women’s power being expressed within individual cultures. These traditions are, as with Christianity, seen as secondary to the interpretations that holy men use to justify women’s oppression. Muslim feminists have their primary objectives “to negotiate with and transform, not to disengage from, re-religion” in order to form a more egalitarian and fair system. This illustrates the potential for feminist theology to utilize religious resources for the benefit of positive social change.

Although women’s experience can lead to transformative experiences, it is important to recognize that women are not culturally or biologically determined. By looking at women’s experiences through the lens of a feminist, his or her goal is to bring the reality of the diversity and complexity of women’s lives to light. When seeing theology solely as physical symbols and language, it should then be recognized that the object of feminist theologians is to engage in a reinterpretation of religious texts and traditions rather than a simple focus on criticism.

Feminist theologians generally attempt to use two primary tools for theology: emphasizing women’s experience and analyzing symbols and language that result in the interpretation of women in subordinate positions. Many have critiqued theology (and religion in general) as being a primarily male discipline that uses masculine symbols, which are accepted as “theological,” to perpetuate the oppression of women. Theology has often times “claimed to explicate the divine will in a rational and universal manner,” which is associated with male attributes of rationality and logic. These male attributes are then used to justify the constructed subordination of women.

This section will explore the application of feminist theology to Islam. According to Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza, feminist criticism seeks “to not just critique what is wrong with Christianity, but to find how religion can be used as a resource for social change.” Indeed, feminist theology seeks both to critique and to provide resources for change in existing religious traditions. Feminist theology is primarily a tool for reflection and analysis. It is not an end in itself; rather, it serves as a means to gain greater understanding of the role of religion in constructing and maintaining the oppression of women.

4.1 Strategies for incorporating feminist perspectives

The predominant strategy to incorporate feminist theology with the broad practice of the religion has been to move from a god language that is exclusively patriarchal to a god language that is inclusive of both masculine and feminine aspects of the divine. The first and most recognizable of these strategies calls for the use of inclusive language in theological production so that male-dominant god language is replaced. This kind of strategy follows what Judith Plaskow and other feminist theologians have done by providing new models of interpreting the divine from a feminist perspective. At the same time, feminist theologians have also suggested that another strategy to include feminist perspective in the practice and study of religion is to use the significant experience of women as a guide to understanding the divine presence. This approach would require recognizing the diversity of women and various methods have been suggested to carry out this strategy. Some suggested that new ways of doing theology, that is starting from women’s experience rather than from gods and goddesses, have to be left behind over time, so as to allow profound religious knowledge to emerge from the ground of the lived experience. On the other hand, the most radical and controversial among the strategies for incorporating feminist perspective in theological production is to suggest that womanists and feminists should start to create their own communities of faith, where liturgy and church design and music will be free from the obstruction of patriarchal influence. Some feminist theologians argued that this approach is the only feasible option as the existing religious bureaucracies and hierarchies will not allow significant change to take place so that alternative structures of religion have to be provided to fulfill the purposes of feminist theology.

4.2 Case studies of feminist theologians within the chosen religion

Kung (2006) is a Chinese theologian and a known critic of Confucianism and Christianity. Her commitment to feminism in theology can be traced back to 1990, when she first started to use Confucius and his ethics to bridge the gap between Confucianism and Christianity and found ways of constructing a Sino-Christian theology that requires critical reconstruction between the feudal and patriarchal lines, which in turn led her thinking and practices towards feminist orientation. In her case, in order to use Christian beliefs and values to collapse Confucian feudal-patriarchy for recovering women’s dignity and agency, the focal point of her theological research is about gender justice and gender harmonization or reconciliation in the Chinese religious context. Her first piece of such interdisciplinary methodology and theological goals can be seen in her well-known article, ‘Reconstructive Theology in Transitional China: The Case of Li Yu and Confucius for Women’s Emancipation and Spiritual Fulfillment’ and the article and her effort of constructing a theological framework together with the faith community has provided necessary resources for dealing with various contested issues in respect of women’s situation from the perspective of Christian feminist theology, both in scholarly forum and in religious practices and reflections.

4.3 Impact and potential for change

Christian feminist theology commits to breaking down the patriarchy that they see as inherent in the Church as an institution and in Christians’ understanding of God. Feminist theology comes in different forms within different religions. This might vary according to their mode of criticizing the lack of gender equality that is often secular and biblically rooted. But, for many Christians, feminist theology is essential for a – hopefully eventual – reduction of sexism within the Church and its members. In order for feminist theology to bring about change within Christianity, it has to impact three different areas: the practice of the liturgy, the approach to sacramental theology, and the production of systematic theology and traditional doctrines. Liturgical practice in the Churches refers to the patterns and ways in which public worship is acted out. That Christianity has liturgical practice means that those involved are aware of performing the narrative of salvation within worship. Feminist theologians argue that the presentation of events absolutely central to Christianity, such as the incarnation and the ‘Last Supper’, contribute to the solidification of sexist attitudes and practices. For example, a tradition of having all male participants in the re-enactment of the ‘Last Supper’ might add to the idea that male friendship and communion is something of a theological strength over that of female communion. Such practices cement a gender binary by allowing men to represent and discuss the divine around women. This is a proponent of feminist theology within Christianity. By distributing and performing theology in such ways, feminist theologians argue that this has a significant impact on shaping society and relationships outside of the Church. This could be seen as a direct response from the findings set out by Janet Martin Soskice in ‘Metaphor and Religious Language’ when she suggests that if theology can be spoken about as male, then it raises implications of talk of God in a ‘specialist’s’ domain; that is, the domain of the male. Thus, the expansion of feminist theology within Christianity aims to break down very gendered barriers to the communication of knowledge and in the legitimization of male understandings. This would be another impact on Christianity’s number of wide-ranging implications for the way that the institutional Church is functioning and, indeed, for the ways in which we provide theological teaching within religious education. However, the success of feminist theology within Christianity so far in terms of practice has been to a certain degree limited and fractured. Kate McGinley identifies that it is not sensible to assume that Christian feminisms nor feminist theologies are guaranteed to be successful because this suggests that feminists have already identified and united around common goals. At the moment, there are multiple approaches and effectiveness in terms of change is dependent on men and female theologians. For example, in the production of feminist systematic theology, the first outlined doctrine to be changed in light of feminist theology was that of the divine impassibility; the idea that God cannot suffer. Since then, feminist critics have focused on reshaping the doctrine of God where scholars like Angela Wilson and Katherine Sonderegger have offered new systematic options that take into account feminist theology. In doing so, feminist theology has the potential to really change the way that Christians are to understand doctrine and interpretations of critical parts of what it is to practice and believe within the faith. However, there has been criticism that the female theologian has to rethink and rewrite theology according to male doctrines. As a result, the effects of feminist theology within literature and new theological study in Christianity have the potential for – and possibly show good signs of – encouraging a living faith that brings the experience of God into the modern, shifting world. Such is the breadth of the impact and the potential for change that feminist theology can bring about within Christianity. There is hope.

5. Conclusion

The paper concludes with a summary of findings and key insights, implications for feminist theology in the chosen religion, and recommendations for further research. The summary of findings provided reveals that feminist theology has a profound effect in the interpretation of the religion and in the spiritual lives of the adherents of the religion. By providing an overview of how different people have interpreted the theology and sacred texts of the religion from a feminist point of view, the paper has been able to pinpoint key areas of gender discrimination and male hegemony in the religion. This is a groundbreaking moment for feminist theology and women empowerment programs within the religion. By clearly showing that male hegemony and discourses against the capacity and leadership potential of women are based on mere patriarchal systems rather than logical theological arguments, the research paper has laid the platform for a new awakening among scholars and adherents of the religion. Most importantly, the insights seem to encourage the adoption of feminist theology and feminist interpreters of the theology to continue advancing the ultimate course of women empowerment and the quest of establishing a society where both genders have an equal chance to spiritual fulfillment within the religion. The implications of this research are quite weighty. From the findings, it is clear that feminist theology provides not only a critical look into the sacred texts and theology of the specific religion but also a means to liberate women from the yokes of gender discrimination and enhance the capacity of women to actively participate in the spiritual development of the society. When the patriarchal teachings and enactment of laws that are discriminatory to women are debunked by the application of feminist theology, the religion will transform to be more pluralistic and accommodative to the views and aspirations of both genders. Research on the application of feminist theology has the great potential to offer long-lasting solutions to the problem of gender discrimination and male hegemony within the religion. One of the recommendations for further research was the establishment of a study module. The module would encompass feminist theology and provide deeper insights into the critical analysis of the theology from a feminist point of view. It can help to advance the reforms within the religion by nurturing a new class of feminist theologians.

5.1 Summary of findings and key insights

In exploring the application of feminist critiques to a specific religion, with a focus on feminist theology, I have seen that challenges to feminist theology within the religion are from theological and philosophical perspectives. Also, the feminist theology seems to be overshadowing women’s experiences with Christianity. As seen in the past, feminist theologians have offered many important insights against conventional, male-centered understandings of Christianity and much of that work has been controversial. Some of these insights have been incorporated into Western culture and have become part of the multicultural revolutions. One of the key insights discovered by this test was how feminist theology can re-imagine, reshape, and reinterpret religion and the religious sources. The religious scholars used to think that the religious tradition is fixed and the religious sources like those scriptures and the sayings can only be interpreted harmoniously. This is known as the “ethic of authenticity.” But, feminist theology shows how religious sources, and even those central sources like the Bible, are used by first reconstructing certain interests as ‘objective truths’, certain partiality as universality, and certain values as ‘moral’ values. Also, feminist theology challenges the hierarchical structures and values. It reveals the injustice and bias that were previously not discovered. For example, in the paper, I discussed and criticized the notion of the divine which was traditionally thought of and defined that God is powerful, transcendent, and eternal, and usually these attributes are shown as ‘superlative’ on all aspects. However, this ‘superlative’ divine is conclusively showing and enforcing the greatness in men and the suppression of women. In my paper, I argued that this male-centered and superior divine has contributed to not only the strengthening of patriarchy but also gender inequality and discrimination.

5.2 Implications for feminist theology in the chosen religion

During the research of modern feminist descent theology in the Dianic Wiccan religion, a private woman-only tradition of witchcraft, I have experienced many challenging steps on the way. Struggling between the long-lasting patriarchal structure of ancient tradition and the radical feminist critique, I have made several important choices in doing the theology. Though I focused mainly on discussing feminist theology, I first critically examined the woman’s roles and images in the myths and rituals linked with civil religion in the US, and I discovered how the patriarchal dominance is embedded in the public religious practices even in the sovereignty of Goddess. As a public tradition in the neo-pagan movements, the Dianic Wiccan’s theology has to face the challenges from contemporary political movements. In the religion elaborate, feminist initiate commonly teach that “Dianic” means “Daughters of the Goddess” in Greek. The patriarchal society used to call the worshippers as “Dianics” to belittle their spiritual practices, and “Dianic” was popularly understood as a religion involved with Goddess’s power and “woman’s mysteries”. To challenge such normal interpretation, the feminist theologians introduced a different understanding of the term, which illustrates “Dianic” as a term of connection between women and the Goddess. However, in the public political debate, a radical feminist critique by Janice Raymond actually assimilated the symbols in the women’s spirituality movement to exclude transgender. As a result, some developed a suspicion about the notion of Goddess’s spirituality in a religion that predominantly respects female powers. Now individuals and the key feminist theologians, who carry out the academic task on feminism without engaging the practices of public feminist and Goddess’s spirituality movements, inflict criticism on feminist ethics, mainly on the trend of Utopian essentialism and woman’s exclusion. The main critique is that the Utopian essentialism always draws sharp distinctions between man and women, male and female physical attributes, sexual capability and desires, as well as psychological asexuality. Scholars argue that the critiques for modern feminist theology in the Dianic Wiccan are just one example of how the patriarchal structures and practices are resisting the long-term impact brought by the feminist theological change. Through discussing the challenge and practice of modern feminist theology in one particular religion, “there was nothing and she became everything”.

5.3 Recommendations for further research

The first recommendation is to apply feminist theology not only as a tool for critique, as the current research does, but also as a tool for positive creation and constructive theology. Writers such as Lisa Isherwood, one of the most prominent researchers in the field, have done this with great success; Isherwood’s most recent publications carry the subtitle “A Holistic Goddess Spirituality.” Following this example would broaden the applicable research area and allow for the creation of new religious practice and worship that is aligned with both a passionate and contemporary worldview and feminist ideas concerning equality and the role of women both in religion and wider society. Also, comparative research – for example, comparing feminist theology in Islam with feminist theologies in other world religions. Such a study could have an important impact when submitted to departments where single honours courses in feminine spirituality and feminist theology are often nearly exclusively Christian focused. It would be the first of its kind to benefit from a systematic study across a broad range of traditions, thus better reflecting the state of feminist theology. Thirdly, it is recommended that social feminist theory must be utilized in research. Such theories consider society to be based not on family and blood ties but on a network of social and economic relationships. By understanding that it is the values surrounding and within these relationships that condition and perpetuate gender inequality, feminist theory can be better investigated and utilized in approaching areas such as feminist theology. This extends a theme that is currently underexplored in feminist theology – its close relation to social feminist theories. Lastly, the current research provided insight into the potential judgment for religious beliefs in the context of international human rights due to the gender discrimination reflected by the selected religion. It is recommended that in-depth and more focused research must be conducted to look into how exactly international human rights law can interfere with the private realm of individuals’ lives justified on the mere fact of having religious protection. Also, the impact of the moral judgment from leading feminist theology writers toward such a notion would be interesting to investigate and compare. It would also offer greater benefit to scholarship provided that the focus on the current research was very much angled upon the legal and academic opinion on the matter.

6. References

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