God As Mother, Not Mother As God: A Biblical Feminist Response To The “New Feminism” -- By: Aída Besançon Spencer

Journal: Priscilla Papers
Volume: PP 12:1 (Winter 1998)
Article: God As Mother, Not Mother As God: A Biblical Feminist Response To The “New Feminism”
Author: Aída Besançon Spencer

God As Mother, Not Mother As God:
A Biblical Feminist Response To The “New Feminism”

Aida Besançon Spencer, Ph.D.

Dr. Spencer is Associate Professor of New Testament at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, and author of Beyond the Curse: Women Called to Ministry and also The Prayer Life of Jesus and Paul’s Literary Style. She is an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church (USA), holding an M.Div. from Princeton Theological Seminary and a Ph.D. from Southern Baptist Seminary. Priscilla Papers 5:4, fall 1991.

In Boston Globe Magazine (February 25,1990), Kathleen Hirsch wrote an extended article called “Feminism’s New Face,” subtitled, “Some Feminists are discovering what they see as the unclaimed sources of women’s real power: spiritual vitality and psychological gifts.”1 She wrote about New Feminists, some who (1) establish their own “free-standing” groups associated with, but not governed by, an institution, e.g. Harvard Divinity School’s Theological Opportunities Program, or “free-standing” groups associated with a religion but outside of the traditional institutional organizations, e.g. the Jewish havurah movement; and some who (2) “hybridize,” that is, remain in churches while venturing in new spiritual directions. She categorized three “spiritual” or religious movements: the Womanspirit movement which promotes women’s spiritual practices, the Goddess-centered movement, and witchcraft. She concluded that most New Feminists critique the “New Age’s smorgasbord approach to matters of psyche and spirit” because “a good deal of New Age thinking, they say, perpetuates the illusion that, as human beings, we are in control.”2

What are some of the positive concepts in New Feminism? The positive words in Hirsch’s article include community, healing, spiritual vitality, individuality, democracy, equality, God as in all, interconnected, diverse, dynamic, each part unique, consensus, new symbols, creative, everyday, physical, here and now, not hierarchical, in everyday life is sacredness, nature, nurture, women’s life-cycle experiences, dream analysis, meditation, personal rituals, earth-centered, unity, decentralized authority, immanence, relationships, caring, listen without judgement, mothering, empathy, receptivity, mystery, and love. In contrast, the negative concepts include God as external, male force, out or up there, disembodied, transcendent, man having dominion, patriarchal, withdrawal from life to find sacredness, separations from others, autonomy, assertiveness, war, hierarchy, silencing, competitive, and power as dominion.

Therefore, “Feminism...

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