January 13, 2009

Week #2 Reading Discussion Questions

Reading Discussion Questions for Women and Religion, Spring 2009
WomanSpirit Rising through p. 62 for 1-22-09


Instructions: Use these questions as you read to focus your thoughts on some key points they raise. Hint: Look over the questions as you read, then go back and look over the specific pages noted with the questions in mind. You might jot down a couple of keywords or thoughts (in the margins of the book? on a printout of the questions?) to help you keep track of your thinking, or as a prompt for discussion (in the in-person “book group� discussion, or the on-line Discussion Café). These early questions are mostly on the content of the articles, to get you into the issues and arguments; later discussion questions in the class will ask for more of your interpretation and response.

If you don’t understand any part of an article, don’t worry, as things will come clearer over time, when you participate in the small group or on-line discussions. Just do the reading and give it your best shot. Circle words that mystify you and just move on (though if you have time to look up something that seems essential in a sentence, that’s a good idea too).

Here’s a link to an on-line dictionary that includes sound files that speak the work for you: .

1. In the Preface to the 1992 edition, what were the four points given for the book's continued usefulness? What did the authors consider to be its limitations or flaws?

2. In the 1979 Introduction, the authors argue against the view published by some feminists at that time that religion was so flawed that it should be abandoned. What did the authors believe were the enduring reasons that religion is important? What did they identify as some key areas where they felt traditional religion needed to be reformed? How far has society come since this 1979 writing in these areas?

3. Discuss the two views of "women's experience" that the authors cited as being used in feminist writing of the time (7-9). How useful do these categories seem now?

4. In Saiving's article, what is the "human condition" that theologians of her day believed was universal (26-27)? What are her arguments that this reflects more a characteristic male condition than a universal human condition (27-35)?

5. Why did Saiving feel the modern era was "hypermasculine" (35-36)?

6. What does Saiving feel are the problems for women of unconditional love being taken as the highest virtue (36-37)?

7. Given women's socialization (and remember, Saiving is writing this in 1959), what might be some characteristic "women's sins" (37-39)? Are any of these things still particularly characteristic of women, in your experience? (It might be interesting to note that Saiving had returned to graduate school as a single mother, following a divorce, and was writing this section from very real personal experience).

8. Responding to Reuther: what are the contrasting pairs in the dualism she describes as a legacy of the Greeks and apocalyptic (meaning believing in forthcoming end times) Judaism? How did these dualities play out over history, and especially what has been their effect on women? (43-44)

9. How does Reuther describe earliest recorded history (or prehistory) (46-47)? What changes came about in the 1st millennium BCE (47-48)? How did these changes play out in Christianity (49)?

10. What are the links Reuther shows between how women and nature are viewed or treated (50-51)?

11. How does Reuther see women as uniquely situated to make a difference in society coming to a “reconciliation with the earth�? (p. 51) Do you think women have contributed to change in this way? Why or why not?

12. What are some essential challenges to Christian belief that Daly suggests feminists will present? Is there any way that Christianity could continue as a viable religion after the changes she proposes would need to happen?

13. Bednarowski (in The Religious Imagination of American Women) gives a succinct overview of the kinds of concerns and ideas that were present over the decades of work in feminist study of women and religion. How did this overview help contextualize the articles you read in WomanSpirit Rising?

Week #2 Reading Reflection Assignment

First Reading Reflection Assignment

General instructions for Reading Reflection assignments.
Use this process for doing the weekly Reading Reflection assignment – this one is due at NOON Thursday, January 22. More detail will be found in the Class Overview section on Reading Reflections.
• Do the week’s assigned reading completely, before starting the Reading Reflection assignment.
• Use the reading discussion questions posted each week as a “tour guide" to doing the reading – keep them with you as you read, as they will keep you on track with the main ideas in the reading. The reading discussion questions will also be a springboard for the optional classroom “book club" discussions or for the on-line reading discussions in the on-line Week #2 Discussion Café (which will be opened up after the Reading Reflections are due – check late Thursday evening or early Friday morning).
• When you are ready to write, do your Reading Reflection assignment initially in Word (or an equivalent word processing program). Make sure you do a spell-check and proofread your writing. Make sure you have not inadvertently used material from the reading without using quotations (and giving the page number). Even parts of sentences “borrowed" from your source counts as plagiarism. I do check!
• Skip lines between paragraphs.
• Do a word count – you will need a minimum of 250 words (about one double-spaced typed page), but aim for 400-500 words.
• When you are satisfied with your Reading Response, copy the entire text, open up a comment (below) and paste your response into the comment block. Include your first name and the initial of your last name, if you want to maintain some privacy (as this is a public blog, not a private course-only Web site). You will need to include your e-mail address as well, but this won't be viewed by others, just by me.

Write comfortably for 10 minutes or so on each of these questions. You don’t have to do all the writing at one time. Also, keep in mind that the reading response writing is fairly informal. You aren't being graded on how polished your prose is, so relax and just share your ideas.


The articles in WomanSpirit Rising, other than the most recent Preface, have been written 30 years or more ago. Which of the critiques of society or arguments presented still seem fresh to you? Which ideas still seem timely and important? Which do you feel have not met the test of time? What has changed in society that has made these arguments or concerns no longer viable?