Through a socialization process in a patriarchal society, our lives are shaped and influenced by the various factors including the culture, tradition, religion & norms, particularly that of the women. Similarly Christian women’s lives are very much shaped by our Christian faith, traditions, and customs which are influenced and dominated by androcentric theology. And consciously and unconsciously we have embraced these values as norms and our lives are deeply rooted and shaped by these norms. Our identity as “woman” or “female” is a gendered identity by social, cultural, religious constructs and socialization.
Many Christians regard the Bible as the inerrant word of God who accept the Bible quite literally, even though it was written 1000s of years ago in a particular socio-politico-cultural context that was very different from ours, today. We are made to believe that every single word written in the Bible is the word of God and no one can question the authority of the Bible. Hence, we accept them as the word of God and do not question any discrimination or violence implicit in them because they are already sanctioned by religion. In many instance Scripture legitimizes submission of women to the men, particularly to their husbands, as holy/godly. The Bible has numerous references, both in the Old Testament and New Testament, defining the household codes. Most household codes instruct women to submit themselves either to their husbands, institutional hierarchy and the authorities. Therefore, women who did not follow these household codes were considered sinful or ungodly. Though women’s experience is quite different from men, Bible still plays a vital role in many women’s lives.
Therefore, the scripture is used, misused and abused and quoted liberally to justify the subordination and oppression of women in the home and in the church. Submissive women characters are projected in the Bible as role models for women while those who questioned authority are not seen favorably (e.g. Miriam, Lot’s wife, Martha, Vashti, et. al.). Thus, women at homes and in the churches are convinced and have accepted these household codes as the word of God to implement in their lives, religiously. This kind of Biblical interpretation is used to keep women silent and invisible in the affairs of the church.
Even the way we read the Bible and our mindset have been shaped by patriarchy. Since Christian women’s faith experience is often in the midst of oppressive and discriminative circumstances, women should critically analyse their faith experience to see if it is liberating and transformative or not. Women should feel empowered and liberated when they read the Bible.
To have a liberating experience we may have to question our faith, belief system, tradition, culture, religion, hierarchy, etc. We need to ask ourselves what is that belief and how did we get to hold it? Is it not a stumbling block to women’s emancipation? Why should we hold on to a particular belief system even though it is biased and discriminatory? Many women do not ask or question the oppressive tradition. Instead they simply feel obliged to follow the tradition which may have lost its meaning and relevance in their lives. And women’s experience which is socially constructed and must also be critically analyzed by doing critical feminist theology of liberation – liberation and transformation of self, society and structure. It is important for women to revisit those texts and read the Bible from feminist perspective, exploring and highlighting feminist hermeneutics and interpretations.
The workshop on Women Doing Theology is being organized to further this initiative mentioned above. Women Doing Theology (WDT) is one of the most significant and distinctive programmes of the Regional Women’s Programme (RWP) of WSCF AP since its inception in 1991. Ever since this workshop has become a unique space for many young women from Asia and the Pacific to come together, share life stories, commonalities, and challenges, then reflect and articulate their experiences as a woman in their own context. Their experiences of the androcentric mainstream – theology have challenged them to do theology from the feminist perspectives. Consequently a series of WDT workshops have been conducted across Asia & Pacific, which provided space enabling women to question and critique the androcentric theology and explore alternative ways of doing feminist theologies which are empowering and liberating.
The topic “Women’s Liberation and Transformation” have been WDT’s broad theme/subject of RWP for the quadrennium which was suggested and recommended by the Regional Women’s Committee (RWC). This WDT workshop aimed to focus on the general and broad theme “Women’s Liberation and Transformation” through “A Critical Feminist Reading of the Bible”. This topic was suggested by the (RWC) for WDT 2011 during the RWC meeting in February 2011 in Hong Kong, after having discussed, reflected and analysed on how our lives are deeply connected and rooted with our Christian faith that is often based on adrocentric theology. That motivated us to address the need of the feminist theology for SCM women for liberating and transformative experience for ourselves and who struggle also for emancipation, equality, justice and peace in church and society.