The OCR RS Developments in Christian Theology specification requires that you know about radical feminist theology as well as secular radical feminism. Specifically, you are expected to know about post Christian theology as typified by Mary Daly as well as alternative Christian theology in the work of Pagels Elaine Pagels.
Radical theology goes beyond the revisionist/reform work of people like Ruether, Schussler Fiorenza and Pagels. Many radical theologians reject Christianity entirely and are consequently names 'post-Christian' (Mary Daly and Daphne Hampson would be included in this category). Others consider themselves to be part of the tradition of Christian theology but their use of non-canonical material or material from other religious traditions means that they too are considered 'radical' (Elaine Pagels would be an example of this, as would proponents of goddess thealogy).
Mary Daly was born in 1928 into what she described as the 'Catholic ghetto' of an Irish American family. She gained a PhD in Religious Studies in 1953 and then continued her studies in Switzerland. During the 1960s she taught theology at Boston college Massachusetts. She retired in 2001 following a controversy caused by her refusal to admit male students to one of her courses (she argued that male presence would inhibit the free discussion among the women).
Daly's thought moves through distinct phases from the (comparatively) liberal Church and the Second Sex (1968) to her much more radical philosophy found in later books like Gyn/Ecology (1978).
The Church and the Second Sex, Daly's first book, was a critique of the Roman Catholic Church detailing the ways in which it had oppressed women. However, it was not a radical book and compared to her later work seems very tame.
Daly argued that Christianity presents an illusion of equality and idealises theoretical women but not actual women. She said that Christianity 'pretends to put woman on a pedestal but which in reality prevents her from genuine self-fulfillment and from active, adult-sized participation in society'. The values expected of the ideal woman include submission and passivity; the virtues held by the ideal female role model - the Virgin Mary. These values do not help women lead authentic lives as autonomous beings.
Daly detailed the misogynistic teachings in the Bible to show that Christianity was anti-women. She used examples from Genesis 2-3 and 1 Corinthians 14 among others.
Part of the problem for Daly is that 'God's representatives on earth: the pope, the bishop, the priest who says Mass, he who preaches, he before whom one kneels in the secrecy of the confessional-all these are men'. Given the Church's attitude towards women she suggested that 'A woman's asking for equality in the church would be comparable to a black person's demanding equality in the Ku Klux Klan.'
However, Daly optimistically wrote that:
Thus at this stage her thought was not post-Christian but reformist. That said, many of the themes that she developed in her later work were already present here.
Beyond God the Father was subtitled Toward a Philosophy of Women’s Liberation represents a significantly more radical approach than that found in The Church and the Second Sex.
Daly began (after setting out her aims and methodology) by explaining the problem:
Beliefs become reflected in the way people live and when 'God is male the male is God'. Daly acknowledged that 'sophisticated thinkers' have not taken the image literally, but she suggested that even people who intellectually accept that God is not actually male subconsciously view 'him' as such.
Daly wrote of 'castrating God'. This can be done through language (e.g. by referring to God as 'she') but Daly thought that 'the most basic change has to take place in women - in our being and self-imagine'. She goes on to suggest that people should have the courage to reject the idea of God as a being and see God as Be-ing instead. I.e. abandon God the noun and embrace God the verb. God becomes something that people do rather than something they believe in.
In the second chapter of the book Daly examined the story of the Fall. She recounted the way in which the story has entered the human consciousness and shaped views about women. She suggested that women have contributed to their own oppression by accepting feelings of guilt and subordination and she says that the first stage of salvation comes when women recognise this. Once women have realised they have to abolish the feeling that they are 'the other'. They have to reject false humility which prevents them from aiming high or from challenging men. They should engage in non-conformity and reject patriarchal stereotypes and present alternative model of being instead. Daly embraced an Nietzschean view of morality (see page on secular radicals for further explanation) and wrote that:
Daly compared this back to the idea of the Fall. Women should fall from the way men want them to be, away from taught morality and into moral independence and freedom. She said that the Fall stands for 'women reach for knowledge and, finding it, share it with men so that together we can leave the delusory paradise of false consciousness and alienation.' With this interpretation the Fall becomes, she argued, 'positive and healing'.
In chapter three Daly turned her attention to the incarnation. Like many feminist theologians she finds Jesus' maleness problematic: 'The idea of a uniquely male saviour may be seen as one more legitimisation of male superiority.' Like the story of the Fall, the incarnation continues to have a hold over people's minds long after they have failed to believe in the literal truth of the doctrine.
The question of whether Jesus himself was a feminist Daly thinks is ultimately irrelevant ('Fine, wonderful. But even if he wasn't, I am.'). She argues that women today should not have to look to the past to legitimise their views.
Furthermore, the idea of Jesus as a sacrifice for sin glorifies what Daly calls 'scapegoat psychology'. Christianity idealises the qualities of a victim [as Nietzsche argued]. People in general, and - according to Daly - women in particular, are encouraged to be passive, self-sacrificing, meek etc.
In her fourth chapter (which Daly called the 'transvaluation of values') she focused on the question of morality. She suggested that morality is constructed and constructed by men. Women need to say 'no' to the 'morality of victimisation' and resist the role that men have created for them. Daly anticipated a 'female ethic' which was 'yet to be developed because women have yet to be free enough to think out our own experience'.
Daly suggested that what she calls the 'unholy trinity' of rape, genocide and war naturally exist in a world in which 'phallocentric power' is celebrated. The sense of male entitlement leads to men doing whatever they want to get what they like. Christianity has failed because Christianity has generally reinforced rather than opposed male superiority.
Chapter five begins with Daly's argument that women have been 'wiped out of history'. Women have not realised their existence as a 'sexual caste' because they have been divided by things like religion. 'Protestants are persuaded that they do not have the same problems as Catholic women.' Daly advocates women uniting in a sisterhood together. She calls this an antichurch and defines it further as follows:
This antichurch stands in opposition to the traditional church as the 'bride of Christ' (i.e. an obedient woman in relation to a dominant man).
Daly considered, and rejected, the idea that women could restore Christianity through the creation of new forms, for example, feminist liturgies. She concluded that all attempts were futile because they were still done from within the patriarchal tradition and therefore, still contained aspects of it. Daly returned to a point she made earlier, feminism should not have to look to the past to legitimise itself. It has no need for vehicles of patriarchy such as Christianity (and the other patriarchal faiths). She suggests that women should explore instead what she terms the 'Old Religion', the ideas associated with goddesses and witches (an idea she developed further in her next book Gyn/Ecology.
Daly finished the chapter with the observation that 'it cannot be denied that many people, women and men, have achieved with the help of religion a kind of autonomy, charity and peace'. However, she thinks that women have been failed by institutional religion and whilst individuals might have been helped by religion, patriarchal religions are not necessary for self-development.
Her penultimate chapter ('Sisterhood, the Cosmic Covenant') sets out the ways in which the feminist sisterhood fulfils some of the traditional functions of religion.
Daly suggested that men can be liberated too (but warned that many men are interested in dialogue with feminists for the wrong reasons). Men who 'are "graceful" enough to have fallen into a new space and found themselves in agreement are in fact part of the covenant'. These men need to reject the old ways which Daly describes as:
Daly called for an end to this one way parasitic process which must be replaced by a two-way process instead. However, given that historically men have exploited women, she thinks that an 'immediate "give and take"' is inappropriate. Women need restitution - compensation - for what has gone before. She argued:
Male liberation is possible, but it is to happen on female terms!
Daly begins her final chapter with reference to Aristotle and an brief overview of the way different theologians have used or developed the idea of the final cause. For Daly, the final cause - the reason or purpose for existence - cannot be a fixed static idea. It certainly cannot be the Patriarchal God with the patriarchal concept of goodness. Rather, the final cause is Be-ing 'a qualitative leap of courage in the face of patriarchy'. It is a radical challenge to static ways of thinking.
Daly referred to Virginia Woolf who wrote that throughout history 'Women have served all these centuries as looking-glasses possessing the magic and delicious power of reflecting the figure of a man at twice its natural size.' This, Daly thought, had happened with in the church as the priesthood clais for itself superior versions of all the things that women have traditionally done.
Daly completes her case by ridiculing the way priests (the 'Sacred Men's club) imitate female clothing.
With continued sarcasm she outlined the traditional Christian attitude towards women:
This way of thinking has, Daly argued, become second nature in society. Women continue to be the 'other' who reflect and accentuates men. Daly wanted women to stop reflecting and embrace Be-ing. Once this happens, Daly thinks that men will need to think things for themselves and they will become aware of all the other inequalities in the world. Racism, homophobia, classism and inequality would all be laid bare and would no longer be accepted as just a part of the way the world is. Inequality will no longer be justified by some sense of God--given entitlement.
In her closing paragraphs Daly called for society to 'fall out of Eden' (i.e. commit the sin of gaining knowledge!) reject God the Father ruling all in favour of embracing the self-communicating Be-ing in ourselves.
Gyn/Ecology was Daly's third book and was significantly more radical than Beyond God the Father.
In Gyn/Ecology Daly argued that 'Patriarchy perpetuates its deception through myth.' She thought that the Christian myth was particularly dangerous to women. Every aspect of Christianity - the Trinity ('the closed system of eyeball-to-eyeball self-congratulatory communion among the fathers and sons'), the virgin birth ('Total Rape Victim'), Eucharist/communion ('cannibalistic/necrophagous ritual'), the incarnate Jesus ('a unisex model, whose sex is male') - all harm, repress or attack women.
Daly's thesis was that the Christian myths are subverted versions of older Goddess stories. She claims that 'the ancient world knew no gods. Fatherhood was not honored' and points to various Triple Goddess figures for the precursor of the Christian Trinity. According to Daly, history abounds with examples triple goddesses with examples existing in Hellenistic, Celtic and African religions. She draws further parallels between Christian doctrine and pre-Christian myths. She suggested that the cross reinterprets the idea of the fertile tree of life which traditionally was associated with the Goddess.
The Christian Jesus claims the role of the life-giving mother goddess for himself but twists and perverts it so that life comes from death. Furthermore, by representing HUMANITY yet being male Jesus demonstrates the conquest of women - and the theft of their ancient power! Daly describes the process by which Christianity has reinterpreted supposedly older traditions as the 'rape of the goddess'.
Christian rituals are also reinterpreted as being indebted to goddess religions. The communion chalice is, she thinks, a stolen reinterpretation of the cauldron associated women. In a return to a point made in Beyond God the Father Daly argued that the communion service involves the 'priest is playing priestess. Hiding behind her symbol, he attempts to change wine into “sacred” blood – the christian version of Male Menstruation'.
Daly describes Christianity as having 'ripped off, reduced, reversed, reveiled' female traditions (which is why she has described herself as a pirate, setting out to steal back what had previously been stolen from women).
Given that some traditionalist Christians argue that Mary represents an empowering figure for women it is worth considering what Daly had to say about the annunciation and the virgin birth.
In other words, Mary is weak and exploited. She has no power of her own but is merely the means by which a male achieves his goals.
She is equally scathing of any suggestion that the Holy Spirit could be identified as the female part of God.
In the middle part of Gyn/Ecology Daly outlined the patriarchal oppression of women in various cultures around the world to try to demonstrate that oppression is the universal condition of women and oppression is the natural inclination of men.
She argued that women, dominated by men, have been tricked into participating in their own oppression. The wife committing suttee thinks she is behaving with great honour. The mother circumcising (mutilating) her daughter believes that purity is essential.
Whilst Daly does not argue that Christianity is responsible for all these things, she does say that:
For Daly, Christianity is one of the ways that men use to control women and, as such, it must be utterly rejected.
Like Beyond God the Father, Gyn/Ecology ends with a call to women to form a sisterhood and challenge the stereotypes about what it means to be female. She instructs women to refuse self-sacrifice, to become confident Hags and Crones, seeking self-actualisation instead. Women should seek out relationships with other women as 'honest Amazon bonding'.
Daphne Hampson is not specifically named in the OCR DCT A2 specification so you would not get a question specifically about her (whereas you could potentially get one about Daly). However, it is useful to know why she too rejected Christianity.
Like Daly, Hampson began by trying to reform Christianity from within. She was a vocal advocate of female ordination (as a teenager she had wanted to be ordained) but during the 1980s came to regard Christianity as a 'harmful myth' and abandoned it. Her books include Theology and Feminism (1990) and After Christianity (1996). She is currently Prof Emeritus of Divinity at St Andrews.
Hanson's belief is that Christianity is an inherently historical religion. It is based on the idea that God was revealed at a historical point in time. Consequently, it cannot shed it's historic past. However, as it emerged from a patriarchal world it must also be inherently patriarchal. Thus Hampson believes that Christianity is intrinsically and irrevocably patriarchal and cannot be updated or reformed in the way that the reformers would like it to be.
She rejects the idea that a 'liberal' approach to Christianity works - she thinks it is incoherent - and argues against a 'pick and mix' attitude to belief. She is also very wary of reading the Bible through modern eyes. For her, there is 'not a shred of evidence' that Jesus was a feminist or had a particular concern for women. She wrote (in Theology and Feminism) 'He was in no ways concerned with those issues which must concern us'.
A synopsis of After Christianity can be found on Hampson's own website (one paragraph summaries of each chapter). Thus if you want to flesh out this (extremely brief) overview, follow the link to the right.
Summary of After Christianity:
Hampson is not radical in the way that Daly was radical. She does not advocate separation in society. Nor is she as theologically radical. She does not abandon all belief in a higher being and she does not encourage women to engage in a Nietzschean reevaluation of moral values. However, like Daly she believes that Christianity is incompatible with feminism. It is important to stress that it is not just the portrayal of God in masculine terms and the misogynistic sentiments of some Biblical passages that make Christianity unfeminist (although they obviously contribute to it). The problem lies deeper than that in the hierarchical nature of religion. In After Christianity Hampson wrote:
In other words, monotheism itself encourages people to think hierarchically. This way of thinking then gets reflected in social structures. For Hampson, the central principle of feminism is the idea of equality and the creation of society without unjust hierarchies. Hampson said in interview 'Thus a transcendent monotheism, in which God is conceived of as other than humankind and set apart, sufficient to 'himself' and allowing no other 'gods' must represent a feminist nightmare.'
Opponents of Hampson have argued that she has a very narrow view of what constitutes Christianity as she rejects more liberal interpretations of Christian teachings.
Reformers would argue that it is possible to recognise the historical nature of the religion without concluding that it is intrinsically out-dated.
Elaine Pagels accepted that mainstream Christianity contains misogynism and patriarchy. She suggested that Early Christianity also contained alternative traditions which were much more egalitarian. These traditions are found reflected in the Gnostic Gospels.
In 1945 a set of ancient scrolls were found in Egypt. Amongst them were so called 'Gnostic Gospels' including the Gospel of Thomas,The Gospel of Philip and the Gospel of Mary Magdalene (among others).
Traditionalists would argue that these gospels were written later than the canonical Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. However, Pagels (and some others) argue that they contain authentic early Christian teachings that demonstrate the diversity of belief and practice that existed the Early Church. Professor Helmut Koester (Harvard University) has suggested that the Gospel of Thomas might preserve within its current form some traditions that are older than the canonical gospels.
We know from Paul's letters that there were divisions amongst the first Christians (Paul seems to have faced two different groups of opponents, the Judaizers (who wanted Christianity to be more Jewish and keep kosher and circumcision) and the Sophists (speakers skilled in the art of rhetoric and possibly influenced by Greek thought). Whilst we can never know for sure exactly what the different groups of Christians thought, there is certainly some evidence that they did not always agree!
For Pagels, the important thing is that some of these Gnostic Gospels seem to be very positive towards women.
It is important to stress that not all the Gnostic Gospels say the same thing and Pagels does not argue that they are definitely more authentic than the canonical material (though she does suggest that they might preserve the egalitarian message of Jesus which is hinted at in the canonical material) . However, they are an alternative tradition that Christianity can draw upon and use to reform/reconstruct itself along more egalitarian lines.
According to Pagels:
If this is true, then why is she not portrayed as such in the canonical gospels?
The Gospel of Thomas the Gospel of Mary and the Wisdom of Faith Dialogue state that Peter was reluctant to accept Mary's authority because of her gender. According to Pagels, this is evidence for the disputes in the early Church that led to women being left out of the canonical material and Mary becoming the victim of a smear campaign to discredit her by associating her with a prostitute or a sinful woman.
According to Pagels, the gnostics tended to focus on Genesis 1 rather than Genesis 2. What became mainstream Christianity focused on Genesis 2. As Genesis 1 is the text in which God creates male and female at the same time (as opposed to the Adam and Eve story in which Eve is made as a helper) this reinforces the idea that male and female are equal.
Furthermore, Gnostics thought that literal interpretations of Genesis 2 were missing the point. (Gnosticism generally rejected the superficial meaning of the text and looked for the hidden meaning in the story.) One way to read Genesis was as a story in which human beings come to discover Wisdom.
In her book Adam, Eve and the Serpent Pagels argued that Augustine's treatment of the Genesis story, in particular his belief in original sin, was at odds with the ideas that went before. The idea that humans are born with concupiscence undermines free will and (according to Pagels) owes more to Augustine's own troublesome experiences than to any preceding theology.
BODY AND SOUL:
Gnostic thought tended to be dualistic and value the spiritual soul/mind more highly than the body. If the body is relatively unimportant then it perhaps follows that gender (assuming we take it to be primarily a bodily thing) is irrelevant.
Pagels argued that gnostic theology was reflected in the structure of gnostic church society.
As evidence for this Pagels referred to Tertullian's condemnation of the heretics. Tertullian said 'These heretical women how audacious they are! They have no modesty; they are bold enough to teach, to engage in argument, to enact exorcisms, to undertake cures, and, it may be, even to baptize!'
Pagels believes that in this respect the gnostics were being true to Jesus' message and the practices of the first Christians. Pagel's said 'Jesus himself violated Jewish convention by openly talking with women and including them among his disciples. Furthermore, in the very early Christian communities women acted as prophets, teachers and evangelists. Paul endorses this in Romans 16.7 where he praises the work of women he recognizes as deacons and fellow workers; he even greets one as an outstanding apostle, senior to himself.' Thus, far from being heretical, gnostic Christianity was more accurate than what became mainstream Christianity.
In an article in Theology Today Kathleen McVey (professor of Church History at Princeton Theological Seminary) has made the following criticisms of Pagels' argument.
Others have been harsher still. Paul Mankowski of the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome argued that her reputation as a scholar is 'undeserved' and that she misrepresents the arguments of Irenaeus. He stated:
Carol Christ described the birth of post-traditional Goddess thealogy (from the Greek 'thea' = goddess) in her chapter in the Cambridge Companion to feminist theology. She wrote:
Many proponents of goddess theology believe that they are rediscovering elements of a very old tradition. Often those following goddess thealogy have been influenced by Marija Gimbutus' work on ancient European civilizations is often cited as evidence for widespread goddess worship that predated the patriarchal civilization and male gods that followed it. Mary Daly (who does not actually write much about goddess figures) argued that the Patriarchal Christian doctrine of the Trinity derived from the triple goddess figure.
As Carol Christ noted, Goddess thealogy values personal experience very highly. This naturally leads to a huge diversity of beliefs among goddess followers. However, there are some general themes:
The key question to consider when evaluating the post-Christian theologians is whether they are right to consider Christianity beyond redemption. The most obvious thing to do would be to compare them to the reform/revisionist theologians and consider 'who wins and why?'. Daly and Pagels have similar reasons for rejecting Christianity - but they are not identical. Which reasons are most persuasive? Is there one killer thing that makes Christianity incompatible with feminism? You can also consider how valid/useful/workable are the ideas that the plan to introduce. What do you think of Daly's re-imagining of ethics? Do you accept Nietzsche's analysis of morality or do you think that there are good arguments for absolute moral values? Could God as Be-ing have any value? How does this relate back to postmodernism and Cupitt?
When evaluating the alternative Christian theologies/thealogies you need to question whether the sources they use are adequate (are they reliable? are they 'Christian'? Are the conclusions drawn from them correct?). You could also consider whether Pagels et al are guilty of confirmation bias (seeing what they want to see). In general, do you think that it is good for Christianity to look outside itself for new inspiration? You might want to link to Hick and the idea of a new global theology. However, if you found the arguments of the post-Christian theologians convincing then you might want to argue that rather than seeking out non-canonical traditions with which to 'patch-up' Christianity Pagels should just accept that Christianity is damaging to women and abandon it.
PDF of Mary Daly's Beyond God the Father online here.
PDF of Mary Daly's Gyn/Ecology online here.
A detailed synopsis of Daphne Hampson's After Christianity is found on her homepage here.
Episode of In our time (BBC radio programme) on gnosticism (45 minutes long) here.