November 1st, 2005

I See You!

Random: Orbiting Pluto / Theological Notebook: Reading Johnson, DQEs

Image: Pluto and moons


The maddening thing about reading Elizabeth Johnson's She Who Is: The Mystery of God in Feminist Theological Discourse is not the critique of "patriarchy," of the facts of women's secondary status--in terms of power--through human history, or even that this has had an impact within Christianity as well. What's maddening is her seldom-qualified absolutizing of her critique. It's not terribly difficult to agree with observations of historical inequalities; but to insist on patriarchy as a first-order system of thought, a conscious force moving through history, begs far too many questions. A too-quick equation of sexism with racism, for example, cannot be made in this way: the dramatic turn in the status of women in the 20th century--which I suspect has far more to do with technology than with any particular philosophy--reveals nothing like the organized and violent resistance racism continues to put up in the face of reformation. What's much more dramatic in terms of what has happened with women, is that societies have undergone such huge change with little more than the observation of injustices. That might sound too glib for people who have engaged in "the struggle for equality," but in historical terms, the change in women's status throughout much of the world has happened "overnight." That's a significant difference.

And then there's so many sentences like, "The woman with the coin image, while not frequently portrayed in Christian art due largely to the androcentric nature of the traditioning process, is essentially as legitimate a reference to God as is the shepherd with his sheep." As if there's no problem whatsoever in being able to determine what the motives of artists for millennia were for them to not portray a certain scene! Certainly it's convenient in proving your point when you can just declare that there is one motive for any action or non-action, and it happens to be the one that excellently fits your thesis. And there's chapters like that! I can't even begin to imagine what would be said to me if I wrote anything that was so breezy in its assertions.


Well, I've met with all my professors, and with the questions that I'll be asked now being firmed up, the DQE (doctoral qualifying exam) process seems much more concrete. I'm growing less anxious about it, even though I'm very aware of the holes in my preparation, and more excited about it. Yes, I actually enjoy taking tests. Monday and Tuesday will see six hours of writing each, in two three-hour sessions where I'll be given the option in each one of choosing among two or three questions for each of my topic areas. Monday will be the text in my "major" area, Systematics/Ethics. I'll actually receive questions in three topic areas that day (Contemporary Understandings of God the Father, Magisterium as Understood Both in the Church Universal and the Roman Catholic Church in Particular, and Religious Discourse in the Public Sphere), and choose only two, with one topic being left to my oral exam on Thursday. Tuesday will be my "minor" areas day, with my biblical topic (Jewish Mystical Influences on the Prologue to the Gospel of John) in the morning, and my historical topic (Pre-Nicene Pneumatologies) in the afternoon.

Now to finish with She Who Is and then move on to a collection of essays in that direction entitled Speaking the Christian God: The Holy Trinity and the Challenge of Feminism.