Friday, July 5, 2013

Spanish Theologian Juan José Tamayo on What the Rebellion of Women Portends for the Future of Religion

Juan José Tamayo

At Iglesia Descalza, Rebel Girl offers a translation of the inaugural lecture that Spanish theologian Juan José Tamayo gave on 28 June at the School of Feminist Theology, organized by Católicas por el Derecho a Decidir de El Salvador. The Spanish original is at the Adital website.

Tamayo notes,

1. Religions have never gotten along well with women -- not today either -- who are the eternally forgotten ones and the big losers. 
2. Religions have exerted every kind of violence against women -- physical, psychological, religious and symbolic. 
3. However, women are the most faithful followers of religious precepts, the best teachers in the different faiths and those who, as paradoxical as it may seem, best reproduce the patriarchal structure of religions. 
4. But more and more women are rebelling against the religious denominations, without abandoning religion. They are organizing themselves autonomously, departing from the moral guidelines imposed by the religious patriarchy and living out religious experience from their own subjectivity without having to go through the mediation of men. 
5. From that rebellion, a new way of thinking and reformulating religious beliefs and practices has emerged in all religions -- feminist theology.

He points out that many world religions have long objectified women, treating men as religious subjects while demeaning and using women, relegating them to subhuman status, since many religions imagine the divine as male--and, as Mary Daly maintains, men in those religious constructs imagine themselves to be God as a result. From this religious objectification of women as subhuman and outside the realm of the divine flow all kinds of violence against women in societies around the world.

Women are now rebelling, however. As Tomayo sharply observes, "The indignation of women believers is their response to the situation of indignity in which they've been placed within most belief systems, religions and spiritual movements."

And here's his conclusion:

* In the 19th century, the religious denominations lost the working class because they stood on the side of the bosses who were exploiting them and condemned the social revolutions that fought for a more just society and for solidarity. The workers turned their backs on the religions because they felt betrayed by them, having become alienated, most of the time, from the egalitarian message of solidarity of their origins. 
* In the 20th century, the religious denominations lost the young and the intellectuals because of their fundamentalist philosophical and cultural positions, far from the new climate of modernity. 
* If they continue along the patriarchal path on which they're now going, in the 21st century, the religious denominations will lose women, who up to now have been their best and most faithful followers. 
Without the working class, without young people, without intellectuals and without women, the religious denominations will have reached their end. And they won't be able to blame anyone for their failure. They themselves will have committed suicide. 

I think Tomayo is correct, and I'd argue that religious institutions would be well-advised to pay attention to his words. I'd go further and say that no matter how many misogynistic previous popes the current pope, who has proven himself not conspicuously sensitive to the voices of women within the church he leads, canonizes, the downwards trajectory will continue, as long as the voices and lives and contributions of women are ignored, while misogynistic figures like John Paul II are elevated to the honors of the altar. 

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