Christa, the crucified woman

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Christa, the sculpture of the crucified woman, is hanging in the Cathedral of St. John the Divine again.  Please, let her stay. Forever. She speaks to me in her femaleness the way Jesus never has. She embodies my pain, my sorrow, my grief. She is a witness to the historical patriarchy of the church, responding for all of us who were raised in an institution in which women were separate and unequal. In the Catholic tradition in which I grew up, nuns could bake the communion bread but not pray over it or even distscreen-shot-2016-10-05-at-2-23-21-pmribute it in the mass. They could teach children in school, but not preach from the pulpit in church. This paradigm, of course, has been enmeshed in our culture for centuries. Women cook the Thanksgiving turkey, while the men say the blessing and carve the meat.   As our gender roles continue to become more flexible, we are bound to deeply question the role of gender in Christianity, which has  – to me – the unfortunate handicap of a gendered God in Jesus and a Biblical conception of God as father.  Feminist theologians have been trying to lead a way beyond the subservient conception of the feminine in Christian theology, but their work has not become mainstream.   Visible changes in church ritual and structure, e.g. giving women total equality in the church,  is a necessary step to a post-gender conception of salvation.  For me, I am not waiting. I have moved past God as father and joined many feminist theologians in embracing God as verb, as “Be-ing.” In the words of Mary Daly in her groundbreaking work Beyond God the Father: Toward a Philosophy of Women’s Liberation,  it is the “giant step/leap of Realizing ultimate/intimate reality as movement.”

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