The Centrality of Gender Justice in Prophetic Christianity and the Mission of the Church Reconsidered

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Abstract

In the paper, I examine from a feminist perspective the traditional concept of mission and its practice in the Christian church. I argue that the Christian church and tradition have been experiencing the eclipse of the prophetic voice, which is a core message of Christiania, and the call for justice of the prophetic tradition is thereby overlooked in the understanding and practice of mission today. I contend that among other forms of justice issues gender justice has been most neglected. The authentic mission of the church is to be related to God's justice, and to envision for the just community, a situation in which shalom, peace and prosperity of all living beings prevail Moving from an ecclesiocentric to a theocentric generated mission, the Christian church today has to respond to the call to action for justice as an act of participating in the missio Dei. Women everywhere have been excluded from leadership roles in the church and society, even though women experience patriarchal/kyriarchal oppression differently according to their race, class, social status, sexual orientation, or educational background. Women outnumber men in the Christian church, generally speaking, but the minority dominates the majority in Christian institutions and churches. Furthermore, men dominate the public discourse in theology and ministry, which makes women remain second class citizens in the church. This unfairness creates gender injustice in many forms. In this context, participating in God's mission means transforming the world of domination and exploitation from patriarchy/kyriarchy into the new reality of justice rolling on like a river. Struggling for and fostering radical justice and equality for all living beings is the mission of prophetic Christianity.

I. The eclipse of the prophetic voice in Christianity

I would like to begin my paper with the following question: "How could the liberating, radically inclusive, egalitarian, justice-oriented, life-giving gospel have become such an instrument of colonialism, racism, sexism, classism, heterosexism and exclusivism?" I would call this process the eclipse of the prophetic voice within the Christian church and tradition. A principle theme of the prophetic tradition, exemplified in the Exodus event, is that God acts in history on the side of the oppressed. Those who are thereby liberated are further expected to practice justice. In this respect, Christianity is the foundation for the demand for justice. The themes of the prophetic tradition are implicit in the model of the early Christian church, and explicit in the call for justice as the liberation of the oppressed.

The apocalyptic tradition (1) enters the Hebrew Bible only once, and very late, in the Book of Daniel. Apocalyptic literature attempts to preserve the earlier prophetic insistence on God's power and justice, and does so in a world in which that power and justice are by no means evident. Apocalyptic views salvage the prophetic belief in God's power and justice through its shifting of the focus of religious attention from the community as the primary beneficiary of God's justice in this life (the just community will be rewarded with shalom, peace and prosperity) to the individual who will receive his/her just reward in an afterlife. There are two competing views of how to interpret the apocalyptic themes in prophetic religious texts. One view identifies evil with specie persons and groups, and seeks to identify those in league with the forces of evil. This view easily lends itself to demonisation. A more positive form of interpreting apocalyptic prophecy is not based on demonisation but, rather, is promoted by those who see evil in the will to dominate and oppress. Apocalyptic thinking, in this case, envisions a liberation for the weak, poor or oppressed. The two interpretations represent a deep division within fundamentalist religious communities. (2)

First-generation Christians manifested the prophetic, believing themselves to be under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and this Christianity stressed radically egalitarian social arrangements. …