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4. The Person in Feminist Theology

Feminists have been sharply critical of the traditional identification of sin with pride and related to death, seeing this as a form of patriarchy. According to Rosemary Radford Ruether the equation of sin and death is not only wrong; it has contributed to the “justification of evil”.She also rejects the ‘reversed scapegoating’ implied by the ecofeminist story of ‘the fall into patriarchy. See Ruether, Gaia & God, 143.Following the pre-apocalyptic Hebrew view, Ruether sees our mortality, though tragic, as natural, not related to sin. Instead, sin lies in the “distortion of relationship...and the insistent perseverance in the resultant cycle of violence” which lead to victimization and systems of control.Ruether, Gaia & God, 142. For further reflection on Ruether’s earlier writings on anthropology in the context of evolution see George Alfred James, "The Status of the Anomaly in the Feminist...

Writing as a feminist process theologian, Marjorie Hewitt Suchocki takes a similar view of sin.Marjorie Hewitt Suchocki, The Fall to Violence: Original Sin in Relational Theology (New York: Continuum, 1995).She rejects the Augustinian/Niebuhrian view of sin as rebellion against God and pride as the core form of sin. Instead she begins with the feminist critique by Valerie Saiving, Judith Plaskow, and Susan Nelson and concludes that the context of sin is the interdependence of creatures. Hence she understands sin as rebellion against creation expressed as unnecessary violence. Since the consequent nature of God is effected by the world, though, God experiences human sin through such violence. But what accounts for the universality of sin in an evolutionary perspective? Suchocki draws on the Irenaean / Schleiermachian view that God-consciousness emerges in all of humankind in tension with an underlying self-centeredness that precedes it and is required for our survival in the world. Recent anthropological studies concerning human origins beginning with the Pliocene era enhance this view. She also uses Christoph Wassermann’s claimSuchocki, Fall to Violence, 90-92. She finds similar results in the work of Irenaeus Eibl-Eibesfeld on animal and human behavior. See p. 91-94.that human survival entailed violence, but such violence ambiguously included life-enhancing as well as life-destroying behavior. In time, the transition from mere ambiguous violence to actual sin occurred as early humankind gained the ability to transcend its innate violent tendencies through empathy, memory, and imagination.

Contributed by: Dr. Robert Russell

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