THEO 1000 Fordham University Theology in Christianity Analysis 3 pages double spaceOn a topic of your choosingsimple Theology analyze1111111111111111 Chapt

THEO 1000 Fordham University Theology in Christianity Analysis 3 pages double spaceOn a topic of your choosingsimple Theology analyze1111111111111111 Chapter Two
The Emergence o f Feminist Theological Consciousness
Her personal encounter with God is denounced as heretical or hysterical:
if the first, she is figuratively burnt at the stake; if the second, people
hasten to find her a husband.
Marianne Katoppo (Indonesia)
In 1979 Marianne Katoppo, an award-winning novelist and theologian from Indonesia, published the first book of Asian feminist theology
in English. Entitled Compassionate and Free, the volume criticized patriarchal religion and society and called for a life-giving theology that
affirms women’s dignity (Katoppo 1979). In 1991 the global Christian
Church was stunned when a young feminist theologian from Korea
gave a moving and powerful keynote address at the seventh assembly of
the World Council of Churches. After invoking the spirits of the people
who had died in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, in the gas chambers of the
Holocaust, in Kwang-ju, Tiananmen Square, and Lithuania, Chung
Hyun Kyung began her address with a shamanistic ritual that involved
burning a scroll (Chung 1991; 37-47).
Chung’s presentation demonstrated the need for a paradigmatic shift
in doing theology, as she analyzed the multiple oppression of women
living under sexism, classism and neocolonialism from an Asian perspective. She freely employed both indigenous rituals and Asian philosophical themes and cultural motifs to articulate the hope and aspirations of
Asian people. Her daring and breath-taking voice challenged many of
the established norms of doing theology and gave an unequivocal signal
that a new women’s theology was emerging in Asia.
T he Birth o f a N e w T h eo lo g ica l C onsciousness
Chung’s provocative presentation must be understood in the wider context of the development o f feminist theological consciousness in Asia.
Although in early periods Asian Christian women had reflected on their
faith, a collective, conscious attempt to do Asian feminist liberation theology did not begin until the late 1970s. Since then, Asian women have
formed theological networks and organized their own theological consultations to share resource materials, to stimulate creative theological
thinking and to publish their own theological writings.
For some of the Asian women theologians, the emergence of a feminist awareness is closely related to their personal history and the suffering
in their own lives. Bom into a wealthy family, Chung Flyun Kyung was
ostracized by her affluent classmates in high school when her father suddenly went bankrupt and lost all the family’s possessions. Chung’s feminist consciousness was heightened when she finally met with her birth
mother, who had been hidden from her for more than 30 years (Chung
1990: 1-5). For Marianne Katoppo, her experience of being the Other
as a Christian woman in a predominantly Muslim society prompted her
to write Compassionate and Free, where she describes her experience as
I found that to be the Other was an alienating experience: the Christian
among the Muslims, the westernized Minahassan who was out of place in
a Javanese society, the girl who was taught to look upon boys as equals,
not as superiors (1979: 5).
As the Other in their own society, these Asian women became more
conscious of the suffering of those who are marginalized when they
engaged in the struggle for liberation of their people. Chung Hyun
Kyung learned the nature of neocolonialism and the systemic exploitation of the poor when she participated in the student movement against
the dictatorial government during her college years. Mary John Mananzan, a Benedictine sister from the Philippines, was drawn away from her
comfortable position as a teacher of contemporary philosophy in a Jesuit
university to join the first workers’ strike in 1975, after the declaration
of martial law. Together with workers and slum dwellers, she had her
first encounter with military brutality and she experienced helplessness
before the reality of sheer force and institutionalized violence (Mananzan 1989: 102).
As these women began to analyze their social and political situations,
they became aware that women in impoverished countries are the poor
among the poor, the voiceless among the voiceless. Mananzan was concerned with prostitution in the Philippines for some time when she cofounded in 1978 the Filipina, the first feminist organization in the Philip-

2. feminist T heological C onsciousness
pines, and established the Center for Women Resources. Subsequently
she became the chairperson of GABRIELA and continued to be deeply
involved in feminist theology in Asia and in the Third World. Aruna
Gnanadason, the former executive secretary of the All India Council
of Christian Women, now works for the World Council of Churches.
Because of her earlier Marxist orientation, she has put the liberation of
the working class as a priority. She was critical of the feminists for dividing the working class. But when she was criticized by the women for
failing to take into consideration the suffering of the second sex, she
found her voice as a woman for the first time. She recalled many years
later: ‘It was a real transformation I went through… I discovered this
system of patriarchy and my whole analysis changed. I realized how
inadequate my Marxist analysis had been’ (Fabella 1993: 82).
Other women experienced similar transformations when they discovered sexism in the movements for democracy. Sun Ai Lee Park, a minister and theologian from Korea, observed: ‘There were these Korean
men working for democracy and human rights in Korea. They said they
want democracy in the country, but when it came to women, it was
something else! I started wondering what kind of democracy they were
looking for’ (Fabella 1993: 88). In the early 1970s, I began my involvement in the student movement in Hong Kong, fighting for Chinese as
an official language, in addition to English. During that period, I became
aware of different social theories and began to do comparative analysis of
women’s status in socialist China and capitalist Hong Kong. Gradually a
growing number of Asian Christian women in different countries realized that women’s liberation could not be subordinated to the overall
liberation of the people, as Mananzan emphatically stated:
There is no total human liberation without the liberation of women in
society. And this is not an automatic consequence of either economic
development or political revolution. In other words, the women’s
movement is an essential aspect of the very process of societal liberation
(Mananzan 1989: 105).
This critical awareness caused them to raise fundamental questions
concerning the kind of theological education they had received and the
adequacy of any theological system that does not take women’s issues
seriously. Trained in linguistic philosophy in Rome and in Münster,
Mananzan later recalled that her theological training had been very Germanic, failing to touch on women’s problems. Her experience was
echoed by Chung, who says:
Throughout my eleven years of theological training, I have written
countless term papers and theological essays for highly educated people
who were my teachers… I no longer want to write so-called ‘comprehensive’ theology seeking to answer questions of privileged Europeans. I
want to do theology in solidarity with and in love for my mother so as to
resurrect crucified persons—like her—by giving voice to their hurts and
pains (Chung 1990: 5).
With the creation of theological networks, the individual quest of
Asian women for an Asian feminist liberation theology became a shared
vision and a collective endeavor. The Conference o f Theologically
Trained Women of Asia was organized in January 1981 by the Christian
Conference of Asia. The Women’s Desk was formed with Elizabeth
Tapia, a Methodist minister from the Philippines, as the first staff person.
The W omen’s Commission of the Ecumenical Association of Third
World Theologians (EATWOT) was formed in 1983, and Asian female
members had a forum to discuss their issues and to dialogue with
women from other Third World countries. Sun Ai Lee Park had the
vision to launch the Asian women’s theological journal In God’s Image
in 1982 and was instrumental in the formation of Asian W omen’s
Resource Centre for Culture and Theology in 1988. During 1980s
associations of theologically trained Women were established in various
countries of Asia, such as Korea, Taiwan, Indonesia and India. Since
then Asian women theologians have met regionally and nationally to
analyze patriarchy in the church and in society, to discuss strategies for
women’s struggle, and to discover resources for doing theology. In 1985
Asian women gathered in Manila to discuss the theme ‘Total Liberation
from the Perspective of Asian Women’. Two years later, a conference
on ‘Doing Theology as Asian Women’ was held in Singapore. In the
summer of 1990 in Seoul and around Christmas in 1991 in Madras,
members of EATWOT met to search for Asian feminist hermeneutical
principles in interpreting the Bible.
Asian women theologians have been aware of the need to learn from
other Asian religious traditions. In 1988, the rich tradition of feminine
images of the divine in Asia was discussed in a small meeting in Hong
Kong. In 1989, the first Asian Women’s Consultation on Interfaith Dialogue took place in Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia, a city well known for its
multicultural and multireligious setting. The Consultation succeeded in
bringing together Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu and Christian women in
Asia to reflect on how Asian religions have shaped the cultures of Asian
countries. The Christian women present were especially interested to
learn about gender construction in other religions and the liberative elements for women (Abraham et al. 1989b: 3). The Consultation was
meant to be the beginning of an ongoing process of study. A second
consultation took place in Sri Lanka in 1991. Through these interreligious dialogues, Asian women theologians gained insights into how to
articulate feminist theology from a multireligious context.
The EAT W OT network enables Asian feminist theologians to meet
with and learn from other feminist theologians of the Third World.
Virginia Fabella, a Maryknoll sister from the Philippines, has been with
EATW OT since the beginning and has documented the struggle of
women within the organization (Fabella 1993). The first intercontinental women’s conference took place in Oaxtepec, Mexico, in 1986, and
the papers were gathered as a best-selling collection, With Passion and
Compassion (Fabella and Oduyoye 1988). A dialogue with First World
women has been discussed in ecumenical circles for many years and the
conference finally convened in Costa Rica in 1994 with the theme
‘Spirituality for Life: Women Struggling against Violence’ (Mananzan et
al. 1996). Some Asian feminist theologians have also been active in ecumenical movements in Asia, with the World Council of Churches and
denominational networks.
C laim in g the A uthority to D o T h eo lo g y
Many churches in Asia were established as a result of missionary activities originating in Europe and North America during the nineteenth
century. Although Asian countries have become independent, there is
still the colonial legacy of looking toward the West for guidance and
tutoring. This is especially evident in the liturgy, organization and life of
Christian churches in Asia. For a long time, theologians read Barth,
Brunner and Tillich, trying to solve theological puzzles for other contexts, with little or no relevance for Asia. This theological dependency
has had devastating effects on the witness and mission of the Asian churches. After centuries of missionary effort, less than 3 per cent of the population in Asia claim to be Christian, while the majority still see Christianity as a foreign religion, even if not condemning it as the religion of
the oppressors.
Political independence has ushered in a new awareness of Asian culture and history, and various attempts of indigenization of theology into
Asian soil have taken place since the 1960s. Asian theologians including
M.M. Thomas of India, Kosuke Koyama of Japan and D.T. Niles of Sri
Lanka have urged their colleagues to construct Waterbuffalo Theology,
and to do theology in the midst of the Asian revolutions. Laudable for
their nationalism and cultural pride, these attempts, nevertheless, have
reinforced a rather homogeneous and patriarchal understanding of Asia’s
past. Challenging the colonial legacy, these theologians sometimes were
too eager to embrace the cultural traditions of Asia, without taking sufficient notice of their elitist and sexist components. In the preoccupation
with lifting up their own theological voices, they have failed to be concerned with the liberation of women, which would have required them
to face their own sexist values.
Because of the hierarchical and patriarchal church structure, many
denominations in Asia still do not ordain women. The number of female
theological students, though on the rise, remains small, and few Asian
women receive advanced degrees in theology. When the feminist consciousness of Asian Christian women was heightened, they began to
look for new models for doing theology, since they were no longer able
to accept the one-sided views of their male professors and colleagues.
Some of them had been exposed to the feminist theologies developed
by Europeans and European Americans beginning in the 1970s. But
they quickly discovered that white, middle-class feminist theologies were
not relevant for Asian women without first being radically challenged.
First, the Western feminist theologies speak from within a cultural context in which Christianity is the dominant tradition, whereas everywhere in Asia, except in the Philippines and South Korea, Christians are
but a tiny minority. Second, earlier feminist theologies had a tendency
to universalize the Western women’s experiences as if they represented
the lives of all women. The failure to respect difference and the constant
incorporation of the Other into one’s own perspective are rooted in the
social and cultural matrix of colonialism. Third, the feminist analyses as
proposed by white, middle-class women are not radical enough. Narrowly defining patriarchy as the domination of men over women, these
analyses fail to provide tools to examine colonialism, cultural imperialism, religious pluralism and the horizontal violence of women against
women. Fourth, some of these feminist theologians display racist and
ethnocentric orientations, even while calling for a global sisterhood.
For example, in her global study of sado-rituals done against women,
Mary Daly can only imagine Indian women as burned-alive, immolated
objects, Chinese women as eroticized foot-bound objects, and African
2. Fe m in is t T h e o l o g ic a l C o n s c io u s n e s s
women as genitally mutilated objects. She argues: ‘Those who claim to
see racism and/or imperialism in my indictment of those atrocities can
do so only by blinding themselves to the fact that the oppression of
women knows no ethnic, national, or religious bounds’ (Daly 1978:
111). While these atrocities did and continue to exist in some places, her
study nowhere presents Third World women as agents to change their
plight, and to work for a better future.
Christian feminists in Asia realize that they cannot be the gentle, passive and exotic females as portrayed in the global mass media; and neither
can they be targets of Christian mission, nor eroticized objects in other
people’s theological imagination. They must claim back the authority to
be theological subjects, reflecting on God’s liberating activities in Asia and
articulating their own theology. Instead of passively consuming a maleoriented and Eurocentric theological tradition, they must challenge the
past as they envision a new future. In the words of one group of Asian
feminist theologians:
we recognized that the classical, Western, colonial, feudalistic, elite, and
patriarchal theologies passed on to us have themselves inflicted much violence on women’s life. These theologies have misogynistic texts of terror
and tradition at the core. Furthermore, they have separated theology from
spirituality, piety from social action for justice, and intellectual reflection
from its symbolic expression in ritual and art (EATWOT 1994: 21).
These same women have criticized the patriarchal church for failing to
live up to its prophetic witness, while at the same time reproaching male
Asian theologians for refusing to deal with women’s issues honestly.
Clearly any theology from Asia that leaves out half the population is limited in scope; and its potential for radical change compromised. Unless
the multiply oppressed Asian women are free, all are not free. Any liberation theology that claims to liberate the poor and the non-person is
itself in need of liberation, if it fails to address the plight of prostitutes,
battered women, female political prisoners and women who are forced
to have abortions. In the introduction to an anthology of Asian women’s
theological writings, Virginia Fabella and Sun Ai Lee Park make the
point clearly:
Unless our thoughts as women are known and our voices heard, the
work towards rearticulating Christian theology in Asia will remain truncated. God’s face will only be half seen and God’s voice only half heard.
If the emerging Asian theology is to be significant to men and women
alike, our contribution as Asian women cannot be isolated or simply
attached as a token appendage, but must form an integral part of the
whole (Fabella and Park 1989: ix-x).
For many Asian feminist theologians, theology is not simply an intellectual discipline or a rational reflection of Christian faith. Theologians
cannot afford to engage in the academic exercise of mental gymnastics,
when so many people are daily dehumanized or die of malnutrition and
unsafe drinking water. Theology must be embodied; and reflection and
action must be integrally linked together.
Furthermore, in Asia theology is not done within the confines of the
Christian community. Its audience is not limited to members of the
Church. Such a theological focus is too narrow and unwarranted on a
continent where the percentage of Christians is so small. Asian feminist
theologians work closely with other secular feminists and civic and revolutionary leaders, who constantly call them to account for their faith.
Theology emerging from the womb of Asia must simultaneously
address people’s suffering and articulate their hope and aspirations. As I
have written in an earlier essay:
feminist theology in Asia will be a cry, a plea and invocation. It emerges
from the wounds that hurt, the scars that hardly disappear, the stories that
have no ending. Feminist theology in Asia is not written with a pen, it is
inscribed on the hearts of many that feel the pain, and yet dare to hope
(Kwok 1984: 228).
Listening to the cries of women, Asian feminist theologians take into
serious consideration their individual perspectives on reality. They have
learned to look at history from the underside. For this reason, they have
found that neither Aristotelian logic, Aquinas’s dialectics, nor Tillich’s
method of correlation are adequate to help them to articulate the theological aspirations of Asian women. In order to artfully present their
rich, multilayered and polyphonic theological voices, they have to engage in new myth-making, symbol-creating and story-telling. Yet such
an imaginative usage of the cultural resources of Asian people has been
labeled ‘syncretistic’, especially since Chung Hyun Kyun…
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