Women & Theology from the Global South, week 7

LATIN AMERICAN FEMINIST THEOLOGIES III: Marcella Althaus-Reid

Zoom meeting with Rev. Dr. Justin Tanis

Managing Director, Center for LGBTQ and Gender Studies in Religion at Pacific School of Religion.

“Earned his MDiv degree at Harvard Divinity School and his Doctor of Ministry degree from San Francisco Theological Seminary. His dissertation was published in 2003 by Pilgrim Press as Transgendered: Ministry, Theology, and Communities of Faith. He has also contributed chapters to the Queer Bible Commentary and Take Back the Word: A Queer Reading of the Bible. An artist and photographer, Justin has had a lifelong passion for the arts. His scholarly interests include the theology expressed by LGBT visual artists, which is the focus of his Ph.D studies here at the GTU. Justin has served congregations in Boston, Honolulu, and San Francisco and spent nine years as a denominational executive, coordinating leadership and educational programs in twenty-two countries. He has brings with him a long history with grassroots activism, including ACT-UP and Queer Nation in the 1980s and serving as spokesperson and media coordinator for the Hawai’i Equal Rights Marriage Project in the 1990s. Justin’s work also includes advocacy for LGBT rights in national non-profit organizations. He was the Community Education and Outreach Manager at the National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE) in Washington, D.C. and later served as the Director of Communication for Out and Equal Workplace Advocates, based in San Francisco, which advocates for equal employment rights for LGBT people.” –PSR website

Morning Ritual:
Led by Alanna and Jordan. Alanna spoke about metta (loving kindness) and meditation.  Jordan shared that she practices Ashtanga yoga. They eucuminically combined their spiritual practices into a spoken mediation (see pic).

I always find it awkwardly beautiful when a group is trying to read words in another language. It reminds me how much I take language for granted.   
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This week’s assignments, online & in-person discussion focused on the “unveiling of the triple oppression” …gender, class, race (Althaus-Reid, p.11). During this week we were reminded that brave expressions of reality tend to stir up brave conversations. As Rebecca and Lila reminded us last week in their online posts, Through this theological discourse we can dismantle the dehumanizations we are individually and communally trying to overcome which is partly why “ours is truly a communal calling and too much is at stake.” (Lila)

Taylor and Reed were in charge of leading this week’s online posts:
Readings:
Marcella Althaus-Reid, From Feminist Theology to Indecent Theology, pp. 1-4, & chs. 1, 2, 5, 8, 12.

From Reed,
“In Chapter 12 Marcella Althaus-Reid makes the case for a Queer Jesus, a Queer God. She begins by retelling a story told by Nestor Perlongher about the murder of a trans[vestite] woman in Argentina. The language in these paragraphs is super problematic, from the use of the word transvestite to the occasional quotes around the words she / her / and girl. This is the language that has been used to create and perpetuate the dichotomous relationship between ‘real’ women and ‘not real’ women.  This woman, this trans woman that was killed, is used to make the subversive body of Jesus and the subversive bodies of women, even more subversive. I see where Althaus-Reid is going with this, but the language…

Using the narrative of Mark, Althaus-Reid goes on to make parallels between queer folks in Argentina and Jesus by speaking to the issues of poverty / unemployment / economics – Jesus as unemployed, poverty expressed by women everywhere, and birth family / chosen family – Jesus leaving his mother and brothers, queer folks having to find and create new families.

Reading a Queer hermeneutic is new and a bit disconcerting for me, as we queer folks have been told for as long as I can remember that we have nothing in common with God or Jesus and that repentance is the only way home – with home meaning in God’s grace. It is incredibly freeing to see the theology changing to finally include queer folks. Although even coming from us, it is still rife with stereotypes and misunderstanding, especially when we are witness to the eradication / genocide of trans women of color all over the world.”

From Taylor,
This week we are reading selections from a provocative, in every sense of the word, book by Marcella Althaus-Reid.  Althaus-Reid challenges her readers to broaden their horizons of doctrine and compassion. The text reevaluates many of the core assumptions of traditionally heterosexual Christian theology, including the concept of text itself (17). She defines her path as developing “a sexually explicit Liberation Theology which [she has] called ‘Indecent Theology’, as a continuation of Liberation Theology in all its transgressivity and agency.  It is a path from the margins of sexual and economic exclusion towards an understanding of a larger Jesus, a greater God and an infinitely wider Christianity” (4).

I found the metaphor of caminata to provide imagery full of beauty and pathos.  The embedded nature of using the Spanish word “walk” honors the author’s cultural heritage as well as highlighting the cultural milieu that serves as the backdrop for her theological positions (12).  The implications of the oppressive paradigm of femininity depicted as a passive statue of The Virgin who does not and cannot walk is a powerful indictment against the prevailing Mariology of Latin America (30-33).

The many examples of physical, psychological and spiritual violence perpetrated against people identifying themselves in terms beyond the narrow confines of heterosexual female/male dualism in the book are heartbreaking.  Arguably the greatest sin of the Christian church was, and continues to be, the obstinate inability to recognize and honor the image of God in persons demarcated by society as “other.” This is a fundamental human failure, but it is not an aspect of human nature that the Christ embraced in his incarnation.  Althaus-Reid addresses this repeatedly in From Feminist Theology to Indecent Theology.  Interestingly, it is in the recognition of Jesus caring for the marginalized on an individual level that is the jumping off point of this book from works of more traditional theology.

I found the myriad interpretations of sacrifice, crucifixion and resurrection to be particularly poignant throughout the book. The role of memory and dialogue play pivotal roles in making and remaking the meaning of these theological concepts in the context of community. I found her characterization of the sacrificial blood of the women and children massacred in Bethlehem as the foundational event symbolizing the confrontational nature of the Messianic coming intriguing and would like to know your thoughts in this regard (25-26).  The exegetical reading of Mark paralleling Jesus’ life and death to that of the many deaths and violence experienced by the trans community in Argentina raised fascinating questions about the nature of the cross and the possibility of resurrection for the Queer God (167-171 and 174-176). I would love for you to share your thoughts on this dynamic new perspective and its profuse theological implications, especially the reevaluation of the terms ‘impurity’ and ‘isolation.’

I can only hope that resurrection is possible in all its life-giving forms and that the future of Christianity, and the world, will be circumscribed in a consciousness of walking with as “an expression of solidarity, a sharing of experience of the ‘everyday nature of Otherness‘” (19).”
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Thanks for reading,
Emily Nagle

Photography by Seth Nagle

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