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January 29, 2009

Week #4 Reading Discussion Questions

Questions for Week #4 - "Reconstructing Tradition" in WomanSpirit Rising - 131-192

1. In looking over the introduction, recall that the authors later recognized that the dichotomy of "reformist" versus "revolutionary" was problematic. Do you find anything useful in the definition here of "reformist"? What do the editors suggest are the reasons many feminist women have for reforming tradition rather than abandoning it?

2. Fiorenza -- What does Fiorenza find within Catholic faith and practice that supports full spirituality and dignity for women?
* Where in Christian tradition does she find woman-friendly resources? In particular, what resources does she find in the devotional traditions around Mary?
* Why does she think it is important to find gender neutral language for religious services?
* Why does Fiorenza find some features of the tradition of sainthood liberating for women? How would the tradition of sainthood need to be modified to allow women full lives?
* She shows that "dualistic anthropology" isn't essential to Christian faith and practice. What are the dangers associated with seeing men and women has having essentially different natures, whether their natural characteristics are seen as negative or positive?
* What will it take for the church to be cleansed of sexism?

3. Collins -- As you read this, pay attention to how different Collins' experience of religion is from that of Fiorenza. They come from very different faith communities and theological backgrounds. How would you characterize the differences?
* How does Collins see that churches have reinforced women's disempowerment?
* Why will a theology that begins with women's stories allow for true change?
* What is the goal for making change happen?

4. Morton -- What is the "dilemma" that this article is about?
* Morton describes a point of time when language lost its metaphoric power. What about women's experience does she argue can lead them back to the level of organic unity of body and mind? What do you think of her characterization of women (the feminine)? Does this start shading over into a claim that women have a feminine "nature," which was something that Fiorenza was concerned about?
* What did you think about the two excerpts from an account of a birth and a memorial service? Is there anything about them that supports Morton's view that there is a feminine and organic way of doing religious celebration?

5. Gross -- Why does Gross use "God-She" language? Why use human imagery or words for God at all? Mary Daly doesn't think we need it.
* What are the risks of using exclusively male images for God? What are the advantages of substituting female images for God, at least some of the time?
* Skim over the last articles just to get a feeling for doing religious ritual with female imagery. How do these rituals make you feel? Have you been a part of services where female imagery has been used?

Week #4 Reading Reflection Assignment

Write your Week #4 Reading Reflection responding to these prompts. Due for full points: Feb 5; grace period deadline for reduced points: Feb 12.

These articles focus on finding ways to reform or transform existing formal religious traditions in ways that better meet women’s spiritual needs.
- Citing specific points from these articles, which ideas do these writers present that you think are still important and worth pursuing to improve women's religious options and experience?
- Do you know of any contemporary formal religious practices that have changed in ways that these articles proposed? If so, please describe.
- Do you think there are reasons why any of these reforms are unlikely to be successful (be specific in your response)? If so, why do you think they are unlikely to happen?