Raising up a Hermeneutics of Celebration Among Mormon Women
I’m taking a class on feminist theologies of North America. It’s fascinating to see how women of other religious traditions have dealt with patriarchy and gender issues, and if any of their insights can/have been adopted into a Mormon feminist context.
Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza, a Christian feminist theologian, constructed a framework for feminist hermeneutics (scripture interpretation) which contains four points.
1) a hermeneutics of suspicion — read every scripture as the androcentric text that it is. Realize they were written in a context of male domination, and that the language in scripture conceals the presence of women in the community. Unpack the androcentric language and how the text is either validating oppression or opening itself to a liberating tradition.
2) a hermeneutics of proclamation — while oppression and androcentricism is in scripture, also uncover the liberating insights that have opened up the community to transformative truth. Teach and preach from the liberating texts.
3) a hermeneutics of remembrance — look at the whole of scripture in terms of reconstructing women’s history. Texts show the oppression of women, but they also show women’s resistance and agency. Uncover it.
4) a hermeneutics of celebration (aka creative actualization) — Creatively spin out the stories of women barely mentioned in the Bible, like Junia’s story, who is mentioned by Paul as an apostle. Write novels, poems, plays, midrashes, songs etc. that develop women’s stories and lead us to a better future.
I love this framework, and my imagination was particularly caught by the last point. We Mormons need to creatively spin out women’s stories. We need to use our poetry, our imagination, our vision to bring out women from the shadows of our sacred texts. We need to write poems and plays and songs that tell women’s stories. Fiorenza’s last point focuses on Biblical women, but I see it as absolutely vital that we spin out our own stories as well.
Thus when I saw LDS WAVE’s latest Call to Action, I was overcome with the feeling that this is exactly the type of creative activity we need to lift up among our community. Jena is asking for us to create lyrics for a new song she wrote that is intended to become an anthem for Mormon feminists. It’s a great melody, and she already has a couple of wonderful verses. But we need more. All you creative types out there, please check this out and submit your verses. (I imagine the deadline is flexible.) Doing so is one step we can take to raise up women’s voices and create an alternative vision for our tradition’s future.
- What do you think of Fiorenza’s framework in general? Any points strike you as particularly important or problematic?
- How do you engage in the hermeneutics of celebration? Do you write poetry, personal essays, paint, etc? Please share links to people/projects that you see engaging in this practice.