Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Sister Teresa Forcades on the Incarnation and Holy Family: "To Appear in the World, God Didn't Need a Heterosexual Couple"

Benedictine Sister Teresa Forcades, in an interview with Joana Grenzner for Pikara Magazine, by way of Iglesia Descalza:

Grenzner asks Teresa Forcades about feminist theology as a form of liberation theology focusing on the situation of women, how the church conceives of women, and on inequality and discrimination due to class, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and gender. Teresa Forcades replies (the following is an extract from a lengthier passage):

I like the Marian dogma that says that God asked Mary, and her alone. We celebrate that the One who could have exercised absolute power didn't do so, because the respect for others, love and opening spaces of freedom mean something to Him. And to appear in the world, God didn't need a heterosexual couple, only a free human conscience that said yes.

To which Grenzner responds: "A female conscience." Teresa Forcades then states:

It could be male or female, but it's clear that a female one embodies all the power of humanity. Jesus is called the son of man, but it was only a woman, Mary, to whom the Holy Spirit -- the expression of what is most personal and free of God -- made a proposal, and she said, "Okay." This is thinking of the relationship with God as a one-on-one relationship.

To appear in the world, God didn't need a heterosexual couple: these will be heard as fighting words by all those Christians intent on subjugating God and God's free, all-encompassing redemptive love for the world to the strictures of middle-class American (and European) "family values," with that model's idealized understanding of the man as the doer, maker, breadwinner, and of the woman as the receiver, done-to, and one dependent on her man for her bread. Middle-class American (and European) Christians have apotheosized the middle-class family as the center of salvation history, and are now seeking to rewrite scripture and tradition to support the untenable notion that God's salvific plan for the world depends on subjecting everyone in the world to the middle-class American (and European) notion of heterosexual family, as well as on the subordination of women to men that this model of family requires.

It's refreshing to hear Sister Teresa Forcades insisting that the scriptures don't say any of this, when they recount the story of how God came into the world through Mary's consent to the divine invitation issued to her by an angel. This pointing to tradition both undercuts the idolatry of the middle-class family, which corrupts the biblical message and overturns millennia of Christian history, and it points to a significant theological basis for rejecting any and all theologies that seek to subordinate women to men.

The photo of Fra Angelico's "Annunciation," from San Marco monastery in Florence, is by Flicker user carulmare, and is available for sharing at Wikimedia Commons.

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