The feminist image of God
Throughout March, Women’s History Month, Vision and Viewpoint will highlight some of Joan Chittister’s most prophetic writings about women’s rights and contemporary feminist spirituality. Some of the best of this writing is found in From the Writings of Joan Chittister: On Women, available on Kindle here.
If Scripture means what Scripture says, then humanity is nature alive with the energy of God. The concept charges our ideas of life and human community with new meaning. If we are all made in the image of God, if we all spring from the expression of the divine, then every human being born brings an intuition of God to us. The ideas fix the heart in a kind of perpetual awe.
We are, if we are to take Scripture seriously, surrounded by the presence of God in one another. The implications of that kind of theological worldview turn the social system upside down. If we are all words of God, then we all have something to say. We are all a message to the rest of the world of the nature and mind of God. We are all meant to be word to one another.
The feminist challenge to contemporary theology is a simple one: Whose word will a woman be? Her own or someone else’s?
It is precisely woman’s experience of God that this world lacks. A world that does not nurture its weakest does not know God the birthing mother. A world that does not preserve the planet does not know God the creator. A world that does not honor the spirit of compassion does not know God the Spirit. God the lawgiver, God the judge, God the omnipotent being have consumed Western spirituality and, in the end, shriveled its heart. The results are plain to see.
The loss to the human race and the spiritual tradition of the enrichment, depth, perspective, and fullness that the full equality of women would bring to every institution leaves the world listing heavily toward destruction over development and the churches more concerned with law than with life. The soul sinks at the thought of the imposition of such limitations in the name of God. The Jesus who was born of a woman without the intervention of a man shakes his head in disbelief at such a perversion of creation.
Feminist spirituality would bring to the church a new sense of presence, of vision, of understanding. Feminist spirituality brings with it a new image of God to liberate all people from the God of the medieval courts and ancient battlefields, the rules and the stopwatch, the transcendently distant and the powerfully masculine.
The feminist image of God is humble and feeling, nonviolent and empowering. Jesus, the feminist image of God, cures and loves, is vulnerable and receptive, laughs and dances at wedding feasts, cries tears and feels pain. This glimpse of God is the glimpse of otherness at its ultimate. It is in this model of otherness that the feminist puts hope for equality, for recognition, for respect, for the end of the sexism that is the end of a healthy spirituality.
The world needs the voice of this otherness in order to hear the cries of the whole human race. The world needs the presence of otherness to redeem it from its headlong plunge for profit, power, comfort, control, individualism, and dominance. The world needs respect for this otherness, not simply patronizing approval.
—from Heart of Flesh: A Feminist Spirituality for Women and Men, by Joan Chittister (Eerdmans