January 14, 2009

Week #3 Reading Discussion Questions

The Past: Does It Hold a Future for Women?
Second set of questions for WomanSpirit Rising

(Please read the introduction, Collins, Fiorenza, Pagels, and Stone. We will focus discussion only on these articles. Tribble and McLaughlan are optional, but you might glance a bit at them just to see what their concerns are.)

REMEMBER: these questions are to guide your reading and to prepare for class discussion. I don't expect you to write responses to them, other than notes for your own use to prepare for discussion or the Discussion Café, but to write a couple of generalized responses to the reading as you go along.

1. From the introduction. - How is studying women’s history in religion potentially "radicalizing" (see p. 64)?
- Reading this introduction, what questions about the articles are generated in your mind?

2. Responding to Collins "Reflections on the Meaning of Herstory,"
- What new understanding about the past does studying "herstory" open up to us?
- What difference does it make if we move from a "linear model" of history to one that is spiral, or to one of "radical discontinuity"?

3. Responding to Elizabeth Schussler Fiorenza "Women in the Early Christian Movement." Elizabeth Cady Stanton in the late 1800's made a case for the importance of women doing their own Biblical interpretation. On p. 86, Fiorenza describes how scholars understand how the Bible was written.
- What possibilities for new understanding does reading this open up for you?
- What roles did women play in the early Christian movement (starting p. 87)? What surprised you about this information?
- After reading this account of early Christianity's hidden history of women, what issues arise for contemporary women?

4. Responding to Elaine Pagels "What Became of God the Mother" Conflicting Images of God in Early Christianity. Elaine Pagels is an important scholar for women's history and also the history of the early church, as she has uncovered information that was later supressed about feminine images of the Divine and about women's participation in some early Christian communities.
- How do you respond to the idea of a 'dyad' (male and female) way of seeing God (bottom p. 108 and following)?
- Note and list the ways the Divine is imaged as feminine in Gnostic Christian texts. How do these images impact you?
- p. 114 and following - What does Pagels argue is the reason that these texts and the Gnostic Christian communities that celebrated the texts were later suppressed or destroyed by the dominant church?

5. (For those of you who saw the video, you will remember seeing Merlin Stone on the video - the white-haired woman with the large pink-tinted glasses.) Responding to Merlin Stone's "When God Was a Woman." Merlin Stone was one of the very first women scholars to explore ancient goddess religions. In other writing, she has described how she felt led to the texts that opened up this inquiry for her; it was a genuine religious path for her, in addition to being a scholarly endeavor.
- As Stone began her study, what did she find that surprised her?
- How do you respond to the images she presents of the divine being female?
- What picture of early society does Stone portray?
- What questions come to mind for you in thinking about this early history?

Week #3 Reading Reflection Assignment

After reading the reading assignment (use the discussion questions to help you read with critical attention), write on this reading reflection question. Due date: noon on January 29. Post below as a comment. Note: the rubrics for doing a good job on reading reflections are now Course Information and Requirements.


Reading Reflection: These articles make the general point that women need to actively engage with reinterpreting history, finding resources for future change from reinterpreting the past. In particular, women need to do Biblical study and reinterpret the roles that women played in Biblical times and in early Christian history. What was surprising to you in these articles? What assumptions that you had about the past were challenged by these articles? What positive changes do these perspectives offer for men and women, and for society?