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In Theory: 'Theology and Feminism'

August 18, 2010

British theologian Daphne Hampson, author of "Theology and Feminism," argues that "religions have proved the ultimate weapon in keeping woman in her place." How would you answer the question "Is religion bad for women?"

Religious traditions are intimately tied to our social structure, and the place of women in society is much influenced in that way.

I can understand how Daphne Hampson reached her conclusions with respect to women's rights, for example, that Christianity "is neither true nor moral," that there is "need for a paradigm shift in religion," even her decision to "discard Christianity," as she defines it.

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And yet she retains her deep conviction of God's existence. While she has much to say about the role of women in organized religion, she also is looking beyond the impositions of human tradition.

Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of Christian Science, was an important advocate for women in the 19th century. Subsequent leadership roles in the church she founded have been filled with equal success and recognition by both men and women. In the healing and regenerating prayer that she pioneered, she saw the importance of recognizing the completeness represented by the combination of masculine and feminine qualities, and that these do not relate only to the mere male or female in each of us.

In "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," Mrs. Eddy went beyond the usual male representation of God, writing for example that, "Father-Mother is the name for Deity, which indicates His tender relationship to His spiritual creation." That creation is our spiritual being, whether we be man or woman. A recognition of that natural balance in our spiritual relationship to and inheritance from our Father-Mother God is a practical prayer that helps to heal divisions and remove injustices.

Hampson makes important statements in realizing that God and His/Her goodness is present for all of us in all eras and places. Taking that to its ultimate conclusion, we progress most naturally and appropriately when we apprehend God's all-power as ever-present, ever-operative, and ever-available. Christ Jesus demonstrated this through his example, and urged all of us to "Seek ye first the kingdom of God, …and all these things shall be added unto you" (Matthew 6). That includes improving opportunities for women and for any oppressed or segregated group.

Graham Bothwell

First Church of Christ, Scientist

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