Christian symbols read as systems of domination and of liberation

man-and-womanI was delving deeper into the anxious masculinity of white evangelicalism when I came across this comment by Rosemary Radford Reuther:

“The oppressive patterns in Christianity towards women and other subjugated people do not come from specific doctrines, but from a patriarchal and hierarchical reading of the system of Christian symbols as a whole. These same symbols can be read from a prophetic and liberating perspective … The framework for reading Christian symbols as a system of domination derives from patriarchal slaveocracies, the social system in which Christianity was born. Yet Christianity also began as a critique of this system that proposed prophetic-liberating alternatives to it that were then partially repressed. The New Testament is shaped in the context of this struggle. It contains testimonies to a subversive vision which has been partially repressed by reimposed patriarchal patterns. Thus the New Testament is itself the main source both for canonizing a sexist and slave social system and also for reconstructing an alternative egalitarian vision.”

In particular, Reuther considers how humanity, sin and grace, God, Christ, and the church, have been interpreted, symbolically, from a patriarchal perspective. This corresponds to some of my own reflections. If heaven vs earth, soul vs body, eternal vs transient, male vs female, white vs black are taken as symbolic correspondences, especially in a morally dualistic way, how does this impact our view of women and people of colour? What if, instead, we saw soul and body, male and female, white and black, as equal inheritors of a renewed heaven and renewed earth, as we actually find in the book of Revelation?

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