Decentering Judaism and Christianity: Using Feminist Theory to Construct a Postmodern Jewish-Christian Theology
Krell, Marc A., Cross Currents
The theological politics of difference is a key to theology after the Holocaust.
In response to the Holocaust, American Jewish thinkers Richard Rubenstein, Eliezer Berkovits, and Irving Greenberg each redefined Jewish identity in relation to Christianity by appealing to the essential experience of Jews as oppressed victims of Christian domination throughout history. Yet, these modern Jewish thinkers blurred the very boundaries that they wished to reaffirm, by drawing upon Christian theological motifs to construct theologies of Jewish identity.  One could argue that this use of Christian categories to construct Jewish identity arises out of a history of Jewish-Christian symbiosis that has been generated by a dialectic of attraction and repulsion between the two cultures that has been visible in the theological texts of both communities since antiquity. 
This dialectical, theological symbiosis illustrates the ongoing formation of a multiple and often contradictory Jewish subjectivity that reflects the postmodern portrayal of identity as being nonessentialistic, dynamic, and constructed over against an "Other." This notion of identity construction radically decenters the modern, autonomous self by shifting the locus of subjectivity from the self to the Other. 
Consequently, Jews must construct a postmodern Jewish-Christian theology that moves beyond the discourse created by the Holocaust by deconstructing the master narratives expressing traditional Jewish attitudes toward Christianity.  However, this theology should not dissolve the Jewish self into a homogeneous and ahistorical "Judeo-Christian" totality, but rather reconstruct it as a relational self based on the dialectical interrelationship between Jewish and Christian discourses in history. Upon realizing this dialectical interconnection, Jews and Christians can become "reintegrated" through dialogue. 
In this essay, I lay the foundation for this "reintegrative theology" by portraying the Jews as "concrete social subjects" based upon the poststructuralist discourse of the Christian feminist theologian Mary McClintock Fulkerson. To account for the diversity of women's experiences based on race, class, and sexual preference, Fulkerson attempts to "change the subject" rather than lose it, by recognizing the complex construction of multiple identities based on the competing discourses of one's social and historical situation. 
Fulkerson's poststructuralist feminist theology provides a hermeneutic for a post-Holocaust Jewish-Christian theology that takes into account the postmodern definition of cultural identity as being decentered, while still affirming a collective identity. Jews can expand their sacred canon by including textual intersections of Judaism and Christianity that reflect the dialectical construction of their theologies in relation to each other, enabling Jews to realize their interconnection with Christianity, yet still maintain their particularity.
Just as post-Holocaust Jewish theologians identified Judaism with an essential experience of suffering culminating in the Shoah, modern feminist theologians assumed a commonality of oppression in their constructions of identity under the universal category of women.  In response to this somewhat monolithic and dehistoricized model of theology, poststructuralist feminist theologians have challenged essentialist notions of the self by uncovering the cultural and discursive foundations of identity. In contrast to earlier portrayals of female subjectivity based on an essential female nature or an appeal to a common form of women's experience, there is now an emphasis on "particular, concrete identities of women constructed within different material locales and out of varied linguistic and cultural systems." 
However, while these feminist theologians account for the situated nature of identity construction, they also face the challenge of constructing normative claims and dealing with the issue of religious truth.  I would argue that this is the challenge facing Jewish theologians today as they attempt to reaffirm the relationship between God and Israel while at the same time recognizing that those very terms have been reconstructed to some extent within the multifaceted cultural matrix of Judaism and Christianity throughout history. Poststructuralist feminists must also engage in this delicate balancing act, as they want to maintain their "hard fought sense of female agency," while at the same time deconstructing the stable category of "woman." 
Jewish critics reject efforts to deconstruct essential conceptions of Jewish culture as contributing to the erosion of Jewish continuity and stability, while feminist critics question the attempt to deny female subjectivity at a time when women are finally asserting themselves. The poststructuralist feminist theorist Judith Butler responds to this position by claiming that deconstruction does not negate the subject, but rather calls the terra "woman" into question and opens it up "to a reusage or redeployment that previously has not been authorized."  Agreeing with Butler, Laurence Silberstein asserts that deconstructing essentialist notions of Judaism is "a positive process that can have the effect of clearing space for new and more adequate formulations of Jewish identity and culture." 
However, Silberstein fails to account for Butler's rejection of the term "woman" even as a multiply-constructed identity that is constituted out of a variety of relations. In her analysis of Butler's work, …
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Publication information: Article title: Decentering Judaism and Christianity: Using Feminist Theory to Construct a Postmodern Jewish-Christian Theology. Contributors: Krell, Marc A. - Author. Magazine title: Cross Currents. Volume: 50. Issue: 4 Publication date: Winter 2000. Page number: 474. © Not available. COPYRIGHT 2000 Gale Group.
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