Feminist Theology from an Asian Perspective

While volunteering at a women’s empowerment organization in Papua for the past year, one way I found I could contribute to the work being done there was to share ideas that I had access to as an English speaker. Here is a brief article I wrote after reading We Dare to Dream: Doing Theology as Asian Women:

Throughout history, men have been the primary creators of theology, the ones responsible for interpreting scripture. Through patriarchy, women have been oppressed, both in and outside of the church. Women have been treated as subordinates. But since they have become more educated, they have begun to question the way men have structured the church and interpreted the Bible, which has led to the emergence of feminist theology – interpreting the Bible and Christian faith through a women’s perspective.

Because of such role distinction, both men and women who should have been whole persons equipped with body and mind, intelligence and feeling, material and spiritual needs, and personal and social lives, have been formed into partial persons with a false definition of norms.

– Sun Ai Lee Park, Korea

Women theologians have begun to ask the questions, what does the Bible say about church leadership? About the use of violence? About our relationship with nature? Feminist theology is drawn primarily from women’s lived experiences. They understand scripture and who Jesus is as a savior through their own struggles in oppression, in war, in family, in poverty.

The women theologians who contributed writings to the book We Dare to Dream: Doing Theology as Asian Women, seek to establish equality among all peoples, regardless of class, race or gender through sharing in one another’s experiences together in order to see Jesus through one another’s eyes. While the dominant, male perspective has created long-standing hierarchical, patriarchal systems, the feminist perspective embodies a community-centered approach.

As a leader, Jesus washed the feet of his friends. This power is the blessing for one to live in love, in peace with justice, in community. This power is never violent or destructive, ego-centered or domineering. This power is understood, motivated, and exercised by one’s set of values as patterned after the vision of God’s new creation. It serves to foster, enhance, and nurture all of life. This power is dynamic and constructive because it has to do with caring, inclusiveness, peace with justice against racism, sexism, classism and militarism.

– Yong Ting Jin, Malaysia

We are all free and able to read the Bible for ourselves, to experience the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives, and to draw on our own life experiences in order to understand what Christian faith means for each of us.

We cannot expect the same reaction from everyone. What is understood by or what impresses one may be perceived differently by another. Even reading the same Bible verses, I get a different impression this year than when I read them last year. Also I get a different understanding or meaning depending on whether I am happy or sad when I read them. How, then, can one expect a man, whose experience is totally different, to represent women’s understanding of the Bible.

– Ahn Sang Nim, Korea

Let us all grow together in love and grace, asking ourselves and one another, what does faith in Jesus mean for you? What good news does the gospel speak into your life? How can we all, men and women, black, brown and white, build a community based on the servanthood and inclusiveness that Jesus expressed in his teaching and actions?

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