- Using Feminist Theory and Theology to Reclaim the Theory of Incarnation:An Ethical/Political Proposal
incarnare, nomadic subjectivity, political ethics
This text attempts a feminist ethical-theological interpretation of the incarnation, the principal mystery of the Christian faith. This interpretation has three parts. First, a brief critical analysis of the dogma of incarnation that invites new interpretations of it. Second, a historical reconstruction of God who appears as a man. Third, a theological reflection on God made human as an ethical proposal which affirms diversity and plurality. Such a God is Goddess, Difference, Otherness. This God is unbounded. We might say that this God is a nomadic God.
The theology of incarnation is a fundamental part of Christianity. The Latin neologism of incarnare (to enter into the flesh) is the basis of this teaching. Although its formulation was disputed, "God became flesh" and "lived among us" have become the most emphatic affirmations of faith and theology for Christians. This insistence upon God's disclosure to and in humanity comes from the people of Israel, more specifically their belief in a divine salvation for a people deemed "the chosen ones." God chooses a people and reveals Godself through God's actions and in God's word.1
It is through patriarchal initiatives that traditions are established, sacred institutions created, and promises fulfilled, but above all, in the claims that God is made "man" and that the Holy Spirit proceeds from Father and Son.2 Rosemary [End Page 109] Radford Ruether maintains that the figure of a male God has structured the great theological treaties and that Jesus being male became an ontological necessity. The problem with these teachings is their authorization of the supremacy of the male gender. Theologian Mary Daly, a pioneer in radical feminist theology, asserted that "God" embodied as a "male" legitimizes earth-dwelling males as gods/fathers.3 Accordingly, only men are regarded as conduits of divine revelation: "They speak in the name of the God of Israel: the prophets understood the message of God, the priests were also communication channels for God to speak through, and the wise men equally contributed to the revelation process of God made into man since their teachings were the outcome of a gift from the Lord."4 Insisting that God is male (as well as white, head of household, heterosexual, landowner, and literate) positions elite men as the only ones capable of speaking and prophesying, as those who "understand" God's message, as those who are the communication channels between God and the people, and those who hold tradition, law, and customs. They are both authority and institution. This teaching strengthens patriarchy and kyriarchy.5 It is the foundation of theological and religious systems that have marginalized and invalidated women for centuries inside and outside of biblical religions, all the while strengthening the dichotomies between body and soul, flesh and spirit, culture and nature.
Feminist theologians, supported by gender theories, hermeneutics of suspicion, and feminist hermeneutics have theologized so as to deconstruct the aforementioned dichotomies and understand the incarnation of a God made human in a different way. It is not an incarnation as a male, but rather incarnation as a person who is a prototype of humanity.6 According to Ruether, the fundamental principle of any feminist theology is the promotion not of a male incarnation but of the full human character of incarnation.7
As feminist theologians, we can ask ourselves: Is there a possibility of a theology of a God made human incarnate in the materiality of a sexual, cultural, and temporary human body? The twenty-first-century context gives us new possibilities for rereading God as a human/God incarnate. The historical and cultural temporality of postmodernity suggests a God made human with its diversity of sexes, identities, and contradictions and connected in these differences. Feminist theorists like Luce Irigaray have given notice and posed [End Page 110] a challenge: we must use difference to blow up systems. We have to create another way of saying things—and this happens by theorizing gender in not only the social-institutional sphere but also the materiality and variety of bodies.8