Christian Doctrines for Global Gender Justice

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Editor(s): 
Jenny Daggers, Grace Ji-Sun Kim
  • London, England: 
    Palgrave Macmillan
    , June
     2015.
     204 pages.
     $90.00.
     Hardcover.
    ISBN
    9781137475459.
     For other formats: Link to Publisher's Website.

Review

Investigating religious traditions and principles, Christian Doctrines for Global Gender Justice sets out to demonstrate that Christian doctrines can be easily misunderstood unless they are interpreted in conjunction with theories of gender justice. Although this connection between dogma and gender is analyzed from diverse aspects in different chapters, the core argument is consistent and coherent, rendering Christian Doctrines for Global Gender Justice an invaluable contribution to feminist theology. Cultivating global collaboration on shared challenges, the essays succeed in illustrating the impact of gendered injustice in the colonizing and heteropatriarchal Christian tradition of the church, which has failed to acknowledge that God's creation of man does not refer to the formation of male; rather it is the joint understanding of male and female (not man and woman) that constitutes humanness, or manness. By reimagining the female subject position within theological thinking on a global scale, the authors shift the conversation from Western androcentric speculation to an inclusive, unified domain—gender and nationality notwithstanding.

The book contains ten essays, each of which contains several subheadings for easier comprehension. Chapter 1 is written by the editors themselves and introduces the reader to the current multicultural landscape of doctrinal imagining. They argue that detraditionalization in the West and postcolonial critique in and from Asia, Africa, and Latin America is significantly reducing the influence of the white Christian heritage of European Christendom. This change serves as an anchor in a world facing a complete paradigm shift as churches grow in postcolonial areas. Old traditions are renewed and new traditions are created, a movement underlined in the chapters that follow. Loida I. Martell-Otero investigates the doctrine of God informed by the suffering of oppressed Latina women. An interesting contrast between the kairotic question, where is God, and the ontological question, what is God, governs her essay. Sigridur Gudmarsdottir also addresses the theme of suffering by analyzing ecological issues in relation to the theology of the cross. Hilda P. Koster reimagines the concept of redemption for ecofeminist religious practice; Linda E. Thomas focuses on salvation in the theological creativity of enslaved black women who, relying on their African spirituality, remain strong and faithful to God in their struggle. Grace Ji-Sun Kim, who also co-edits the volume, explores the theology of hope from an Asian American viewpoint, drawing attention to "otherness" and the notion of foreignness, while still asserting that there is always hope in despair, underlining the eschatological perspective of the reign of God. Gina Messina-Dysert also concentrates on the subject of liberation, but she approaches the matter from a gendered rather than ethnic angle. She scrutinizes the way Mary—as mother, wife, divine being, and woman—has been portrayed and often marginalized in male discourse. Elizabeth O'Donnell Gandolfo likewise considers the experience of mothering and, by extension, human vulnerability. She argues that while humans are innately defenseless, the imago Dei in every person is ultimately invulnerable. Amy Carr moves even further and reflects on the concept of free will. She challenges theologically framed social visions by questioning whether contemporary shifting gender norms are the signs of a fallen world, or, if in fact they are prompted by divine grace. Referring to creation as a doctrine for promoting gendered justice, Elise M. Edwards ends the series of essays with the examination of creative activity. She utilizes theological anthropology as the main method of analysis, emphasizing human agency in participation with God to bring about social transformation.

Reimagining Christian ideas traditionally understood as androcentric is not an easy task. Feminist critic Mary Daly blamed Western patriarchal societies for making God in their own image. Ironically, however, feminist theologians are also often accused of the same misdeed. They are targeted for representing something that can either be construed as an open-minded analysis of the Bible, or a deliberate misinterpretation of it, to suit one's own interests. This poses the question of whether feminist readings of the Bible are governed by the divine (that is, focusing on unconditional love, acceptance, and equality) or by the human (self-seeking and egocentric). According to the contributors of a recently republished theological volume, Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (edited by John Piper and Wayne Grudem; Crossway Books, 2012), feminist theologians make a point and then they take a passage of the Bible out of context to alter it toward their preferred conclusion.

Christian Doctrines for Global Gender Justice effectively, albeit carefully, proves that feminism is not reverse sexism, nor is it a modern philosophical enemy of Christianity; quite the opposite is the case. Presenting readers with powerful arguments confronting traditional conceptions of gender in a biblical context, the essays in this book underscore the fact that the global feminine experience is an important component of understanding God's wisdom. The authors explain that we cannot use our humanistic, gender-biased lenses while we study God's word. Instead, we must hear each other's voices to become capable of acknowledging the fact that God wants to communicate with all of us. We must act together and for one another in bearing witness to God’s love—which is available to all—excluding nobody. Integrating gender justice into religious practice is the only way for us to advance the credibility of the church. Christian Doctrines for Global Gender Justice offers a balanced space for mutual learning and constructive dialogue on ways of disentangling patriarchal ideology from theology, with a view towards deepening the international conversation on the relationship between gender and religion.

About the Reviewer(s): 

Dr. Teodora Domotor is a freelance lecturer and linguist.

Date of Review: 
December 12, 2016
About the Author(s)/Editor(s)/Translator(s): 

Jenny Daggers is Associate Professor in Christian Theology at Liverpool Hope University.

Grace Ji-Sun Kim is Associate Professor of theology at Earlham School of Religion.

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