So I'm working on this paper about redemption in the Bible, and the different ways that feminists challenge traditional theologies of redemption. One method that Catholic theologian Elizabeth Johnson uses is by citing Vatican II's statement that the Bible is inerrant only in matters which are important "for the sake of our salvation." She argues that degrading women isn't salvific, and therefore if the Bible says things which degrade women, it's probably just wrong. Since a lot of feminists argue that a model of redemption which understands Jesus as a sacrifice or scapegoat is harmful to women, the Bible might just be wrong about that.
I was writing that in my paper, and was struck by the thought - but wait, isn't that a bit arrogant? I mean, you could argue that the Bible (or the tradition through which you interpret it, more specifically) is just right, and that reconsidering it in light of feminism or whatever is just failing to accept the truth of it. If Jesus really did die for the sins of the world or whatever, it doesn't matter how problematic that is in the here and now, because the fact that it makes you feel icky won't matter in the next life.
And then I thought, no, I still think it's right to challenge that notion of salvation. Because I really can't believe in a God that would require such a violent act to be able to be loving and merciful towards his people. If that really is how God is, than he doesn't deserve my worship. And if my intuition of the divine is right, and it's not actually like that at all, than it's doing good work to try to understand how something like redemption might work in light of a less violent God, even if it doesn't get to the "right" answer.
Why does she claim that Jesus' sacrifice is harmful to women?
I don't think Johnson makes any claims about that specifically, since she's working within the Catholic tradition. Other authors claim that Jesus's sacrifice is a harmful idea because it kind of encourages this idea that people should be self-sacrificing and tolerate violence against themselves, and that in practice women are more hurt by that since they have less power in society.
I'm not sure I quite understand. Are you arguing that Jesus didn't get crucified? Or at the very least, that his crucifixion, his violent self-sacrifice, isn't what redeemed us?
Yeah, the latter. Feminist theologians tend to say that the crucifixion is just a shitty thing that happened, not what's redemptive about Jesus.
So what redeemed humanity was Christ dying, not dying horribly?
I hope you don't mind me asking. I've never encountered this strand of thought before...
I don't mind at all. :) In feminist theology Christ dying is usually unimportant to redemption. What happened was God introduced through Jesus some vision of justice or right relations or whatever, and then (I think) when he died and the Holy Spirit came to the disciples that was giving them the ability to carry on Christ's vision, and being redeemed is participating in that somehow (I guess by being part of the Christian community, trying to do what Jesus would have done in life, whatever.. no one is very clear how that works, which bothers me a lot!)
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