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Feminists Respond to Pope's Faux Pas

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In 1965, the Second Vatican Council issued a declaration on the relationship of the church to non-Christian religions, condemning anti-Semitism, and recognizing the bond that spiritually ties the people of the New Covenant to Abraham's stock.

Jesus was never a Christian, but he was a social justice, radical revolutionary, Palestinian Jewish Road Warrior who broke many of the taboo's of his day, such as listening to women and even allowing his mind to be changed by a few. The first was Mary at the wedding in Cana, when she brought to his attention the wine was running out. His immediate response to her was, "What's that got to do with me?"
Mary didn't argue, she turned to the servants and instructed them to, "Do what he says" and then she walked away. Jesus responded by telling the servants to fill six stone water jars that were used by Jews for ceremonial purification baths with 20 to 30 gallons of water. The servants complied and what flowed out was the best wine served at that party. In Christian theology, the wine represents the Holy Spirit, AKA: God within. This act was not just Christ's first public miracle, what Jesus did, was keep the party going. [John 2: 1-11]

The early church fathers refused to accept women as fully equal and instead clung to their patriarchal mindset that women were nothing more than chattel, but reformists and revolutionary sister's have always challenged the status quo.

Dr. Rosemary Radford Ruether, a Professor at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary in Evanston, Illinois has been a pioneer Christian feminist theologian for over three decades and is among the most widely read theologians in the world.

Her book, Sexism and God-Talk, a classic in the field of theology, still remains the only systematic feminist treatment of the Christian symbols to date. Dr. Ruether has written and edited over thirty books and hundreds of articles and reviews and has written extensively on liberation theology, anti-semitism, the Israeli-Palestianian conflict, the situation of the Catholic church, and various other topics of contemporary theological and ethical significance.

Within theological feminism, a distinction is made between revolutionary and reformist feminists. Revolutionary feminists find the Christian tradition irredeemably patriarchal and oppressive and looks to other traditions or to new theologies.

Reformists recognize the liabilities and the potentialities of the Christian tradition, and seek to reformulate faith and practice and Dr. Reuther falls into the reformist camp.

Ruether uses the term "God/ess" to designate the Divine. Her understanding of God/ess as Ultimate Reality means that all religions are potential resources for understanding the Divine, and that there is the potential for reformulating traditions in a way that bridges differences and finds what is good and useful.

In response to the Pope, Dr. Rosemary Radford Ruether wrote:

"On September 12 Pope Benedict XVI aroused the fury of the Islamic world with a speech given at the University of Regensburg in which he assailed the Muslim concept of holy war as a violation of God's will and nature. The Pope quoted a 14th century Byzantine emperor, Manuel II Paleologus, who derided Islam and its founder Muhammad for introducing 'things only inhuman and evil,' such as spreading the faith by the sword. The Pope held up (Catholic) Christianity, by contrast, as a model religion that promoted a 'profound encounter of faith and reason.'

"From many parts of the Islamic world there were angry reactions to the Pope's words, reminding the Pope of the evil history of Christian crusades. Although Western Christians may think the crusades are ancient history, these medieval wars in which Christian crusaders slaughtered Muslims and established crusader states in Palestine are vivid memories for Muslims. Current Western threats against Islam and invasions of Islamic countries, such as Iraq , are seen as a continuation of the crusades. The US and other Western nations who promote such wars are regularly referred to as "crusaders" in the Muslim press.

"The Pope's words condemning Islam and its founder for holy war, while holding up Christianity as innocent of any such warlike tendencies, has infuriated Muslims and deeply damaged Catholic-Muslim relations. In using a Byzantine emperor to assail Islam, the Pope also failed to reckon with the fact that the Fourth Crusade (1201-4), called by Pope Innocent III, was diverted into an assault on the capital of the Byzantine empire, Constantinople .

"The Crusaders pillaged and occupied the city, leading to a weakening of the Byzantine world and its eventual fall to the Muslims.

"Although the Vatican has not invited me to be a papal speech writer, I would like to suggest what the Pope should have said about holy war that would have won Muslim good will and opened up new dialogue between these embattled worlds. The Pope might have opened with some generalities deploring the current state of war and violence in the world. Then he would remark that such tendencies to war are deeply aggravated when religion and the name of God are wrongly used to foment violence and hatred between peoples. God desires peace and love, not war, he might have said.

"The Pope would then turn to the history of the crusades and acknowledge with sorrow that Christianity has often been wrongly used to promote hatred and violence against others, perhaps quoting some pithy statements of popes who called for crusades against Islam. He would then declare that Christians must repent of such religiously inspired war-making. He would ask for forgiveness from "our Muslim brothers and sisters" for having wronged them in the past by calling for crusades against them. He would end with a call for all peoples to unite to overcome war and violence, and to reject any use of religion to promote violence.

"This speech, I suggest, would have won the hearts of Muslims around the world and would have made the Pope welcome in Turkey for his planned visit there on November 28 of this year rather than putting this trip into jeopardy. Catholic-Muslim dialogue would have been put on a new and positive footing by having the "leading cleric" of the Western world publicly repent of the errors of the crusades. It would also have put Christians in the US and elsewhere on notice that the language of promoting Western "anti-terrorist" wars against the Muslim world in the name of a "crusade" (the term George W. Bush actually proposed for his wars against Afghanistan and Iraq) are not acceptable.
Some more historically aware advisors of the Bush administration realized the volatile nature of this term and warned him against his use of it.

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Eileen Fleming,is a Citizen of CONSCIENCE for US House of Representatives 2012 Founder of Staff Member of, A Feature Correspondent for Producer "30 Minutes with Vanunu" and "13 Minutes with Vanunu" (more...)
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