Feminist theology arises out of women’s experience of oppression and discrimination in society. It is a form of liberation theology and concerns the liberation of women and of all people from all kinds of dominations and oppressions.
Feminist theology seeks to provide a new human community based on the value of mutuality and reciprocity in the light of God’s promise of a new creation. They consider that traditional theology has been constructed to the exclusion of women’s experience and hence; has become male bias.
They believed that Christology is one of the doctrines most used to oppressed women. They seek to reinterpret it to uncover a more inclusive and significant understanding of Christ in relation to women’s experience.
Christology in Feminist theology
Feminist theologians hold that traditional Christology has taken the maleness of Jesus to be a presupposition for the maleness of God; and used it as a theological basis to hold that God should be imagined exclusively as male; or that only a male image provides a proper model for God.
They believed that when God, the highest power in the universe is the name or interpreted exclusively in male terms; an eventual implication follows that women are lesser images of God; or that they are naturally inferior to men. Similarly, in relation to Jesus’ maleness, the incarnation of the Logos of God as a male is traditionally interpret as an ontological necessity.
As a result, it has come to hold that just as God has to be incarnated in males, so only the male can represent Christ. In responding to this view Feminist theologians argued that God created both males and females in the divine image.
So, that neither male nor female is greater than the other in the divine image, nor can God be imagined exclusively either male or female. In their view, the maleness of Jesus is essentially a historical option, something analogous to his Jewish identity rather than ontological necessity.
Therefore, the maleness of Jesus cannot used as a theological basis for the subordination of women.
Jesus Christ in relation to Feminist theology
In their further discussion, Feminist theologians pointed out several liberation traditions from the Gospel that provide the basis for interpreting the significance of Jesus Christ in relation to women’s experience. The following are some of these traditions.
The prophetic vision of Jesus’ ministry
Feminist theologians pointed out the prophetic vision of Jesus’ ministry. They emphasize that in Jesus’ vision of the reign of God the established order of social, and religious hierarchy turned upside down. The last become the first and the first become the last.
It is the outcast and those of the periphery of the established structure who are counte first. As Elizabeth Schussler Fiorenza puts it; “His announcement of eschatological reversal – many who are first will be last and those last will be first (Mk 10:31; Matt 19:30; 20:16; Lk 13:30) – applies also to women and to their impairment by patriarchal structure”. (Elizabeth Schussler Fiorenza, In Memory of Her, 121).
This reversal, feminist say did not intend to substitute the old system of domination by a new one; rather the advent of God’s reign breaks the old pattern of domination; and create a new community in which power and leadership transformed to become the vehicle of liberation; and empowerment for the oppressed male and female alike.
The Kingdom of God in Feminist theology
Feminist theologians claim that in Jesus’ ministry of establishing God’s kingdom women had great responsibilities including leadership. They argued that the ministry of Jesus began as a movement of the poor; in which women too exercise leadership roles alongside men.
So, women became disciples of Jesus; they followed him by leaving their families and home. Some wealthy women among them even supported the ministry providing financial support out of their own resources (Luke 8:1-3).
Feminist theology’s prominent figures
Prominent figures among them including Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Susanna, Salom, and Mary the wife of Clopus. Besides these, there also important unnamed figures like the Samaritan woman who announced the good news of Messiah arrival; the Syrophoenician woman who pleaded with Jesus to allow salvation to granted to gentiles.
Moreover, feminist theologians also pointed out that some women disciples were with Jesus right up to his hour of suffering; they stood by the cross and knew where he was laid; and were the first to receive and proclaim the good news of his resurrection.
On the basis of this tradition, feminist theologians claim that both in his earthly; and risen life Jesus included women in his community not as subordinate to male; not as sisters equal to their brothers.
They quote Paul’s statement which seems to reflect this feature of the early Christian community to substantiate their view; “there is no longer Jews or Greek; there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus” (Gal 3:28).
Feminist theology is also deeply affecte by context. Third World women from Asia, Africa, and Latin America also looked at Christology from the context of their area; as women in their own historical situation and struggles for liberation.
In general, Third World feminist theologians accepted the mainline western feminist theology. But do not simply take it for granted that western Christology is applicable to their non-western context. Although there were differences among them; most Third World feminist theologians focused on the historical Jesus and emphasize what Jesus did rather than who he is.
In their view, Jesus was liberating in his ministry classless among women and men; and suffering in solidarity with the people and marginalized. Jesus is a fully liberat human being; who empowers people to have the courage to struggle in the face of injustice and oppression.