The gospel story of the crippled woman healed by Jesus of her ailment in the Gospel of St. Luke epitomizes for me the values of a Feminist Liberation theological perspective. For women, Feminist Theology as a discipline has enabled us to claim our dignity and rights as women and “stand up straight” as this woman in the gospel does. In the context of a larger church tradition which has not always affirmed women, Jesus models in his ministry both compassion and respect for the wellbeing of women. For eighteen years, this nameless woman, carried “a spirit that had crippled her,” so much that “she was bent over and was quite unable to stand up straight,” (13:11). Not only does Jesus heal her of her infirmities, but he also defends her dignity as a “daughter of Abraham.”
On a very intimate level I identify with this nameless woman who approached Jesus humbly seeking healing and liberation from the physical ailments that bound her. In my own life I have also experienced the same sense of bondage that this woman in the gospel is healed of. Like many women, I grew up struggling to affirm the dignity I had as a human being. Even though the church I love and grew up in stated that they value both men and women equally, in practice this was not the case. For me and the un-named woman, the relevance of this gospel in relation to Feminist Theology touches on the core of Jesus’ ministry, which was the liberation of all people from the oppressive structures that burdened them.
In this way, Feminist Theology radically changed my life. It provided me with a space to affirm my personhood as a woman and as a child of God deserving of both dignity and respect. As a discipline, Feminist Theology as well opened up my eyes to new ways of perceiving and understanding theological themes and issues. It provided me with the critical lens necessary to critique oppressive traditions and doctrines within the Roman Catholic church and Christian tradition which “supposedly” affirm women’s equality with men as “Imago Dei” and yet biblically and doctrinally have relegated women to the status of second-class citizens without a voice or agency in Christian tradition.
For me, Feminist Theology is the “good news” which was tainted by a male biased perspective. Growing up in a predominantly Catholic context I learned that the good news of the gospels was the liberating vision and practices of the historical person and divine Jesus. With the help of Feminist Theology I have been able to articulate the oppressive elements of the gospels as well as of the Roman Catholic church as an institution. I have come to learn that there is nothing liberating for women with regards to patriarchy, hierarchical tendencies, sexism, and misogynistic ideologies. The good news proclaimed by Jesus is the good news proclaimed by current Feminist Theologians which affirms the liberating values of the gospel for all people: man and woman, slave and free, Gentile and Jew (Galatians 3:28).
The heart of Feminist Theology is about the liberation of all people, with a special attention to the liberation of women. The story of the crippled woman cured by Jesus in the scriptures epitomizes for me the goals and values of Feminist Theology and theologians. Positively, Feminist Theology liberated me from unacknowledged or unrecognized limitations placed on me because of my gender and biological sex as a woman. In this context, Feminist Theology for me is the good news shared with women both past and present. Everyday I give thanks for a feminist theological perspective which affirms the human dignity and wellbeing of all people despite a person’s gender, race, class, ethnic background, and sexual orientation.
Question: How can we get the church to incorporate feminist theology into all levels of church life in terms of education; including seminarians, lay and religious pastoral leaders, parochial schools as well as individuals within congregations? If you are interested, please respond with your thoughts in the comment section. Thanks!