Feminism and Theology

Article excerpt

Feminism and Theology. Edited by Janet Martin Soskice and Diana Lipton. Oxford Readings in Feminism. London and New York: Oxford University Press, 2003. xv + 379 pp. £20.00/$24.95 (paper).

Feminist theological writings continually question and reexamine traditional theology (p. 7), yet feminist scholars often refer to feminist theology as "an oxymoron" (p. 1) or "a theoretical backwater" (p. 7). Feminism and Theology challenges these presuppositions with essays that bridge these two seemingly contradictory disciplines and highlight the significance of their merger. "Feminism in theology may lack the theoretical fireworks of some of its sister subjects," adds Janet Martin Soskice, "but its prospect for reaching millions of lives, including those of the world's poorest women, is immense" (p. 8).

This project draws together Jewish and Christian writers whose works fall under the rubrics of feminist theology and "theology influenced by feminism," although the "boundary between [the two] . . . is fluid" (p. 7). Diverse writers, as well as seasoned feminist theologians and biblical scholars are represented, but there is no dialogue among them, as the majority of these articles were published elsewhere during the past three decades. More positively, however, each article is contextualized with a succinct profile of its author. The essays are notably varied, and these differences are well negotiated by the editors.

The opening section speaks directly to the need for feminist theology. Taken together, these writings offer a valuable picture of the creative depth of feminist theological commitment through fiction, biographical accounts of "faith in action," midrash, and the contributions of feminist theologians. Most notable is Rosemary Radford Ruether's "Ecofeminism," a topic still at the cutting edge of current trends in feminist theology and gender studies, revealing the scope of the oppression of women: economic exploitation, racism, culture, class structure, wealth disparity, and ecological destruction. In part 2, the reader is invited to examine theological identities given to women by men as well as those envisioned by women for themselves. It is here that we begin to see how feminist theology faces up to its own diversity through articles that address mujerista theology (feminist theology from a Hispanic perspective).

The most compelling section is part 3 where the writers confront the problem of gender disparity in biblical texts, giving voices to those who have been ignored, misrepresented, or silenced. …