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For Women Who Question Religion

September 10, 1989

Riane Eisler ("Goddesses and Goodness," by Kathleen Hendrix, Aug. 21) has just discovered what feminist theologians began to write about in 1960 with Valerie Saiving's article, "The Human Situation: A Feminine View."

More and more women who feel disconnected, invalidated, and unfulfilled after many years of marriage and children are turning at age 50 to seminaries to find the answers. Last year San Francisco Theological Seminary in San Anselmo had more women than men enrolled.

Women are becoming increasingly dissatisfied with the pap they are spoon-fed in Sunday schools. Elizabeth Bettenhausen's course on feminist theology at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, summer 1988, was overflowing. Marvin Chaney's Old Testament course from a woman's perspective at San Francisco Theological Seminary will shatter all ideas of pyramidal structures which dominate and control our Western Society.

Women like Judith Plaskow, Carol Christ, Carol Gilligin, Beverly Harrison, Isabel Carter-Heyward, Elizabeth Schussler-Fiorenza, and many more have been writing, teaching, and lecturing for the past 20 years on Riane Eisler's ideas, but they have been speaking mostly to women in seminaries. These women have their doctorates from Boston Seminary, Yale, Princeton and Harvard, so they cannot be dismissed by those who do not want to listen as "fuzzy-headed, New Age cultists."

The word sin takes on a whole new meaning when viewed from a woman's perspective. Women who were bombarded from the male-dominated pulpits of the '40s and '50s by a concept of sin as pride and will to power have been overjoyed to hear sin now defined for them as triviality, distractibility, diffuseness, lack of an organizing center of focus, dependence on others for one's self-definition, tolerance at the expense of standards of excellence . . . . In short, underdevelopment or negation of the self. (from Judith Plaskow, "Sex, Sin and Grace, Women's Experience.")

Any woman who at age 40+ thinks there is more to life than diets and fingernails should run, not walk, to her nearest seminary and start asking questions. If she does not like the answers, change seminaries. Women are beginning to listen to that voice of intuition and validation deep with themselves that knows when it hears truth and strength and hope for them.



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