Dios – Trinidad


How we speak about God

mujeres teología

Dorothee Soelle

ALMOST FORTY YEARS AGO, I WAS PART OF THE FIRST DELEGATION TO TRAVEL FROM Germany to Israel after World War II. The highlight of the trip was meeting Jewish philosopher Martin Buber, whose writings had transformed my faith.

I introduced myself to Buber as a theologian. He met this with a long silence, then asked, “How do you do that? There is no logos, no words, to be said about God. Archaeology, ornithology, many disciplines are areas where knowledge comes in words, phrases, talking. But God is different.”

It has taken me forty years to fully respond to Buber’s insight–that the ways we tell one another about God are conveyed not in words, but with our lives. In the intervening decades, I have been learning to speak of God–in the language of women, in the language of the disenfranchised and the handicapped, in the language of my tradition. Yet I still often find myself unable to share my hope in God.

I cannot shake one particular instance of this inability. It was 1989, right after the Berlin Wall came down. I was taking a long taxi ride through Berlin. The driver was surly and stubbornly silent until a news story came on the radio about a high-ranking military visitor from NATO. When I asked him whether the opening of the wall meant he would have to enlist in the military, he exploded.

Never again, he said, would he serve governmental powers that way. His wife had lost her job, there was no room in any kindergarten for his child, and they were threatened with a rent increase and eviction. The new system was as hopeless and exploitative as the old.

“No matter what the system,” he said, “the poor always get ripped off. Those on top have only one interest–to remain there. Ecological devastation, ozone holes, slave wages–none of these matter to them. This whole thing here is going to blow up–it can’t go on much longer. Human beings are such a design failure they make me laugh.”

In the face of his dark cynicism, I knew I needed to witness to hope–but I failed miserably. I first told him of the millions protesting injustice and the destruction of the earth. He wouldn’t listen. I told of some courageous witnesses in the peace movement and of young conscientious objectors I know in the East, the former German Democratic Republic. “Everyone does not want to maintain the status quo,” I continued. “I know many who agree with your analysis, but act with hope. We resist this craving for more death.”

But he was trapped in his disillusionment. Nothing made any impression. He didn’t want to hear of resistance and dissent. What did either accomplish? His disillusionment combined with his apocalyptic view of the destruction of the earth seemed to lead him to hatred of God.

My last, timid attempt went something like this: “You know, I am a Christian, and I simply don’t believe this is the way the world was meant to be. Do you understand? God doesn’t want it this way.” He began to laugh uncontrollably, full of bitterness and scorn.

I had reached my destination. “What about your child?” I asked, sure that a remnant of God must still be hidden somewhere. He shrugged his shoulders and drove off.

Why was I so powerless to share God with this person? Why couldn’t I pass on my hope, my strength, my joy despite everything? The fourteenth-century mystic Meister Eckhart said that if God is really God, then God is that which is most communicable. God desperately desires to be shared–that is part of who God is.
But has it become impossible in our modern age to speak about God? Is there no comprehensible, communicable language for the inner mystery of hope? Are we unable to testify that something comforts and supports us, that we are not alone in our longing for another kind of life where we no longer exploit and abuse one another?

I have come to believe that, whether we acknowledge it or not, we all function with one of two images of God–the God of life who accompanies us or an omnipotent idol who determines everything.

That young taxi driver believes in the idol. He sees a world of people consumed by greed, who arm themselves and turn deaf ears to the cries of the poor, the starving, and the powerless–and a God who does nothing. This idol God is incomprehensible, unintelligible, and uninterested.

His perspective says there is no God and no hope. Justice and love are sentimental illusions that we must forget. We live under fate, a destiny that runs its course. It matters not whether we assent to it.

I had encountered a very similar world- view in a very different setting ten years earlier. I was visiting a Manhattan public housing project in the late seventies along with another young pastor. The elevator was out of order, so we climbed eleven stories, past unpainted walls graffitied with violence, to a small apartment. There, I met Michael.

Michael is drinking a beer. He’s a New Yorker, he laughs, and adds that he was in Vietnam. He has been unemployed for a year and a half. His wife left him three years ago, and he’s raising three children. One at a time, he calls them in, has them stand at attention, and asks, “Who is the boss? Who commands here? Do you love me?” After answering these questions they may again go play.

I ask Michael whether he believes in God. “Not to speak of,” he replies. “But ultimately there must be a boss who commands, right? There has to be someone on top.”

Seldom has anyone spoken to me so matter-of-factly and unceremoniously of the false God. Though Michael says he doesn’t believe in God and does not want to be identified with churchgoers, some image of God from his childhood emerges. The most important attributes of his boss-God are power, authority, and command, echoing the belief of his younger but equally desperate brother in Berlin. In this image, there is no room for love, for suffering, or for passion, for remembering a vulnerable child in Bethlehem.

Bruce, the gentle young Baptist preacher with me, prays for Michael and for us. He asks that Michael find work soon. He does not try, as I did in that taxi, to testify about God using words. Instead, he prays with Michael.

On the way out, we meet Joe. He is only forty-four but looks much older. He chain-smokes and whistles through a white tube extending out of his throat. His apartment is bare. Two hand towels hang from a clothesline across the middle of the room. His radio was stolen last week.

Joe tells us of his great-aunt in Georgia and how he’d like to be there for her burial. He speaks of the plants he would like to have–a few that bloom in spring, one that blooms in summer, and some that are always in bloom.
Bruce prays for Joe and for us. Give Joe, he says to God, what he needs and, above all, your kingdom. Bruce taught me that day that often the only way we can speak about God is to speak to God.

And yet, when we speak to God, which God are we truly speaking to? I pose this question because it touches on Buber’s question to me. How we live our lives determines which God we actually believe in.

I once attended a conference where one of the primal questions we ask of God in this era arose: “Where was God at Auschwitz?”

“Auschwitz was willed by God,” said one young woman. The words fell into the room like a stone. Immediately, everyone demanded an explanation. “If God had not willed it, it would not have happened,” she responded. “Nothing happens without God.”

She worshipped the idol whose authority, logic, and omnipotence could not be questioned. Those things we cannot understand, we must humbly accept. God wills everything that happens, completely independent of all creatures. It is not our place to ask why.

Her manner of speaking about God sounds pious, but I now think of it as blasphemous. This theology is founded on a complete acceptance of hierarchy. We make God the ultimate and only authority, and make ourselves, the children of God, into impotent nobodies on whose lives nothing actually depends.

I know that this is a lie. Growing up as a child in Germany, I knew that countless lives depended on the behavior of the German people toward those in our communities who were targeted. If there had been more people to hide the Jews among us, fewer Jews would have been killed. It is that simple. Similarly today, the preservation of the earth depends on the lives and behaviors of people in the rich world. We are involved. We are responsible.

This young woman’s belief is not very different from the apocalyptic, doomsday belief of my taxi driver or Michael’s belief in the boss. All three see us as components of a vast, inscrutable machine to which we must submit. All three are fixated on power and find it impossible to think in terms of shared power.

One of the clearest contributions of feminist theology, a discipline in which “empowerment” is a critical concept, has been new understandings of power. Any power unwilling to share itself with others is not working for good or for wholeness. When we do not seek to distribute power, we do not know or understand God’s power. Shared power is another name for love.

By contrast, the most significant attribute of God for that young woman at the conference is omnipotence. Her Sovereign Lord demonstrates power either by intervention or lack of intervention, but never by sharing power.

One of my deepest criticisms of the contemporary church is that it has not moved believers beyond this childish image of God as a Father who sets things straight, punishes us when we are bad, and fixes–or doesn’t fix–painful situations. The church has kept Christian believers in their childhoods, instead of teaching us to share power with God and assume responsibility for this world in which we live.
Yet only the assumption of that responsibility can lead to authentic prayer, prophetic hope, and true witness. Christians who insist on staying in subordinate and dependent relationships to God will not learn to be friends of God.

Some years ago, I sat with a church congregation near Hamburg on an evening in which we recalled Kristallnacht, the 1938 night when Jewish homes, businesses, and synagogues were vandalized, prefacing the full terror of the Holocaust. We were trying to work through our own memories to understand that terror.

One woman introduced herself as an outsider to this congregation. She described how she struggled for years with Jewish-Christian tensions, trying to understand how we came to the Holocaust. She concluded by saying, “When I understood Auschwitz, I joined the peace movement.”

This woman bore witness to a dramatically different God–not an omnipotent lord completely independent of us. She understood that our own failure to act on behalf of God during the Nazi era rendered God powerless. Where God has no friends, where God’s Spirit has no place to live, God cannot act. Instead of dismissing this awful history as “willed by God,” she looked within herself. As one who speaks of God in the world, she took responsibility–and joined the peace movement.

This woman neither submitted to a God of fate nor adopted the values of this world–money, career, and prestige. She believed in a God who lives in our actions, incarnating liberation.

From a pragmatic viewpoint, in the context of Auschwitz, such a God can seem politically suspect, weak, and unsuccessful. But as Martin Buber has said, “Success is not a name of God.”

In fact, this failure to interfere is precisely what makes God irrelevant for many people. Often when people share why they left the church, they say God did nothing when their child fell sick and died. Or when their marriage broke apart. Or when they lost their job. They are angry that God did not intervene.

But God is not an interventionist. God is an intentionalist, working through us and alongside us to make divine will and intention discernable. God needs us in order to fulfill the intent of creation. God is in need of us. Like that woman in Hamburg, when I understood Auschwitz, I joined the peace movement.
The fact is, we know in our bones what the will of God is. We know what it means to love our neighbors. We know what it means, in the words of Micah, to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with God. To say that we do not know the will of God is a lie.

When we view God as an intentionalist, but not interventionist, our childish expectations of a God-in-charge have to go. We understand that our task is to make our will one with the will of God and to enact God’s will in the world.

This can seem like a contradiction–some may argue that speaking about God in this way only makes sense if God embodies some omnipotent power. Does such an intentionalist God have any power? Or is this form of divinity as powerless in the face of the forces that control us as a child in Bethlehem slaughtered by Herod?

From the mystics, I have learned that our love for God is as important as God’s love for us. It is not enough for our church leaders to tell us God loves us, God wants us, God protects us, God will heal us. If we love God, we must be able to say these same things back to God: “I love you; I want you; I will protect and heal you.” Love is always mutual. When one is always the giver and the other always the recipient, there can be no mature love.

The first commandment is to love God above all things–with heart, mind, and all that we are. This is our task. In terms of our faith, it means to become an adult and no longer to be trapped in a childish relationship with God that is not life-giving.

The mystic Jacob Boehme says, “God is nothingness that wills to become everything.” In a world that idolizes the stock market, economic prosperity, and power, the God of power-sharing, of love, of relationship is nothing. To embrace God means to embrace a process–a process of love, a process of going forward, a process of infusing everything. Only with our partnership can that love become incarnate in our world every day.

God dreams for us. Today, at this moment, God has an image and hope for what we are becoming. We should not let God dream alone.

From The Other Side Online, © 2001 The Other Side, January-February 2001, Vol. 37, No. 1.


Apuntes sobre Dios y Género

No Más Feminicidio

Por Elsa Tamez*

El punto de partida

Comienza con dos constataciones históricas: el asesinato de mujeres y la feminización de la pobreza. Todos y todas sabemos que se están matando a las mujeres de forma sistemática.  Los datos son impresionantes. En Guatemala, un país de  millones de habitantes, más de 400 mujeres fueron asesinadas por sus maridos, concubinos, amantes o compañeros. En ciudad Juárez aparecen cadáveres de jóvenes en lugares baldíos. Un tercio de mujeres en A.L. es agredida físicamente, lo mismo ocurre en otros países, ricos y pobres.  También sabemos, por las estadísticas oficiales, que la pobreza tiene rostro de mujer; hay una feminización de la pobreza.

Estos hechos mayores contra las mujeres deberían ser el punto de partida para pensar sobre la temática de Dios y género, en una conferencia motivada por la esperanza de que otro mundo es posible.

Para las mujeres, partir de estos hechos graves no implica preguntarnos qué dice la teología al respecto ni qué está haciendo la iglesia para evitar los femicidios. Implica más bien preguntarnos en qué medida las iglesias son cómplices y hasta qué grado la teología cristiana legitima los asesinatos.  Implica también preguntarnos por qué no hay eficacia en los discursos teológicos liberadores para terminar con este mal. Teológicamente, tampoco se trata de reflexionar sobre los silencios de Dios frente al sufrimiento de las mujeres, sino sobre qué Dios, qué imágenes se tienen de Dios en lo sociedad en la cual vivimos y hasta qué punto estas imágenes colaboran con el femicidio.

En este sentido el aporte metodológico de las teologías de la liberación es clave para replantearse el tema Dios y género como acto segundo de una experiencia de discriminación y asesinatos contra las mujeres.

Las teologías feministas insisten en que la sociedad, las instituciones educativas, la iglesia, la biblia y la teología son patriarcales. Es decir se coloca en el centro lo masculino como “principio de organización social, cultural y religioso”.  El problema no es solo que este principio sea masculino, sino que sea absolutamente jerárquico.

Aquí radica el problema fundamental “el varón es asumido como un ente superior y la mujer como inferior”. Esta frase, repetida hasta el cansancio, es trillada, no impacta, los hombres dirán “otra vez, siempre lo mismo, no hay novedad en el discurso de las mujeres”. Y sin embargo esta sencilla creencia considerada como verdad,  asumida consciente o inconscientemente,  respirada en todos los ámbitos, es la causante de los asesinatos, y de la permisividad otorgada por toda la sociedad con sus instituciones, su epistemología, su religión y teología.

De manera que para la creación de un discurso teológico verdaderamente liberador, se tiene que ser honestos con la realidad, que es el punto de partida, es decir, el asesinato de mujeres y la feminización de la pobreza como producto de una sociedad, iglesia y teología patriarcales. ¿Cómo podemos tener autoridad para hablar contra el femicidio si nuestra teología e iglesia son patriarcales? ¿Qué grado de eficacia logramos si Dios es presentado con un lenguaje patriarcal que excluye a las mujeres o las somete a la obediencia?

Dios y género

Para las teologías de la liberación la realidad como punto de partida es fundamental para pensar o hablar sobre Dios. Si comenzamos hablar sobre Dios y género independientemente de la realidad, podemos caer en una discusión que no tiene ninguna incidencia crucial en la búsqueda de una teología para un mundo que no mate ni excluya a las mujeres.

Necesitamos de una teología que no sirva de base o fundamento para el femicidio o la exclusión ¿Es esta teología posible?   No lo es dentro de los marcos heredados por la tradición judeo-cristiana, ni dentro del discurso tradicional de la teología de la liberación. Pues así como no se cree que otro mundo es posible dentro de los parámetros actuales de la globalización económica, así tampoco creemos que una teología que no se transforma desde sus raíces pueda ser posible para un mundo sin asesinato de mujeres.

Podemos preguntarnos: ¿tiene o no sentido discutir el género de Dios?  Tal vez para los teólogos varones sea irrelevante, sin embargo, para las mujeres es fundamental. Encierra toda una complejidad que exige ser abordada debido a la realidad mencionada, es decir el feticidio y la feminización de la pobreza.

Una de las contradicciones de la teología cristiana es que se afirma la trascendencia de Dios como una divinidad sin género, pero en su manifestación concreta asume los rasgos de un Dios masculino.  Se dice que todos, hombres y mujeres somos creados a imagen de Dios, pero en la encarnación se interpreta la manifestación divina como masculina; y de un hecho tangencial –Jesús es judío y varón- se crea el dogma de que las mujeres no pueden ser ordenadas.  Si por siglos la iglesia es dirigida por varones, la mayoría de los teólogos han sido varones, y se vive en una sociedad patriarcal, obviamente las imágenes dominantes de Dios, las estructuras discursivas, la imaginería sobre Dios, es masculina y patriarcal. Una buena noticia es que las mujeres teólogas, que desde hace pocas décadas se han incorporado al quehacer teológico, lo perciben y lo cuestionan.

La teología se manifiesta con lenguaje humano y el lenguaje lleva las marcas culturales de quien lo expresa.  Así, las imágenes de Dios muchas veces reflejan la vivencia de quienes las evocan. Si la imagen preponderante de Dios es la de varón y padre es porque la sociedad se fundamenta y gira alrededor de este eje patriarcal. Dios como padre, juez, jefe, rey de reyes y señor de señores, inconscientemente refuerza el poder y control que los hombres tienen en la sociedad patriarcal.

Si uno lee las teologías feministas de África, Asia, América Latina y el primer mundo,  encuentra que hay una constante en rechazar el concepto o la imagen de un Dios todopoderoso, omnipresente, omnisciente, eterno, perfecto, incambiable. Esta es la forma clásica –occidental- en que se percibe a Dios desde los catecismos.  Las mujeres ven y sienten en esa concepción el fundamento del poder y control de lo divino sobre lo humano, de unos seres sobre otros, de hombres sobre mujeres, de humanidad sobre naturaleza, de ricos sobre pobres, de blancos sobre negros e indígenas.

La teología de la liberación al tener como punto referencial a los pobres ha hecho un avance en ver dimensiones sensibles de Dios, como su compasión y misericordia con los que sufren, sin embargo, hombres y mujeres de esta teología nos hemos quedado con las categorías e imágenes patriarcales. La teóloga brasileña, Ivone Gebara ya desde inicios de los noventa ha manifestado su preocupación por la epistemología teológica patriarcal en la cual las teologías de la liberación se construyen. ¿Vamos a destruir a los otros para rescatar a los pobres en el nombre del Dios de los pobres? se pregunta Gebara aludiendo a ciertos discursos simplistas sobre la liberación de los pueblos.   Y en forma autocrítica Gebara descubre que lo que hacemos las mujeres de la teología de la liberación es teología feminista patriarcal de la liberación.  Para Ivonne las teólogas seguimos siendo consumidoras de la religión patriarcal y servidora de los proyectos eclesiales patriarcales. Creo que tiene razón.

Es por eso que en las teologías feministas proponen deconstruir para reconstruir. Algunas de forma más radical que otras.  Reiteradamente se piensa en los cuerpos, sensibles y sensuales, como categoría hermenéutica de manifestación divina. Se busca el balance de “el totalmente” otro masculino con “lo totalmente cerca”  femenino.  Dios tendrá que embarrarse las manos de barro en la creación y no crear el mundo con guantes lanzando su espíritu desde el infinito. De acuerdo a Sallie  Macfague, pensar a Dios como Madre implica parir la humanidad y el universo, y por ende ver la humanidad y la tierra como el cuerpo sagrado de Dios. Pensar en el mundo como cuerpo de Dios ayuda a reinventar el modo de relacionarnos entre sí, con Dios y con la naturaleza.   Con este tipo de imágenes se intenta combatir el concepto una trascendencia universal que pretendidamente incluye a todos pero que en el imaginario simbólico está el sujeto abstracto masculino. Hablar de Dios y de humanidad sin género, raza o etnia puede ocultar una percepción inconsciente de un Dios y un sujeto varones, blancos y de posición acomodada.

El problema de las imágenes femeninas. 

El aporte de las teologías feministas en crear imágenes femeninas de Dios ha sido bueno, como un beso al corazón que necesita de las manos tiernas de un Dios sensible y amoroso.

Sobre todo porque el Dios judeo-cristiano, a diferencia de otras religiones, no tiene consorte.  Ya es común dirigirse a Dios como Madre y Padre, tratando de quitar el tinte patriarcal de ver a Dios solo como padre.  Sin embargo, le escuché a Rosemary Ruther decir que una pregunta imponte que debe hacerse frente a esta imagen de Dios como Madre, es si esta imagen de madre está en un plano de igualdad con el Dios como Padre. Porque, como dijimos al inicio, el problema fundamental que da vía libre al asesinato, al irrespeto a la alteridad, es el considerar a uno –el padre- como superior a la otra –la madre.  Clemente de Alejandría creó fabulosas imágenes femeninas de Dios y no por eso dejó su visión patriarcal de la iglesia.  El ve a Cristo como leche del Padre para los fieles, lo cual implica que Cristo representa los pechos de Dios y que Dios es la Madre porque tiene pechos.

Crear imágenes femeninas de Dios es un paso importante en el balance de géneros, tal vez ayude a disminuir la violencia contra las mujeres, a hacernos más humanos sensibles, pero no es la garantía de una relación de géneros equitativa. La teología feminista propone ir más allá, a partir de la experiencia cotidiana, reinventar imágenes que interpelen la realidad patriarcal y ayuden a transformarla, y esto solo es posible fuera de las categorías clásicas patriarcales rígidas dicotómicas. Ver a Dios en un plano de relación con el todo, como lo propone la teología ecofeminista es una propuesta interesante para ser discutida.

Para terminar volvamos al punto de partida: el femicidio y la feminización de la pobreza. Creo que una teología para que sea liberadora deberá considerar esa realidad de las mujeres; pero al hacerlo, tendrá que, ineludiblemente, estar dispuesta a ser reconstruida desde sus raíces, en otras palabras, tendrá que despatriarcalizarse y desoccidentalizarse.  El desafío de la realidad es grande, como también es grande el atreverse a dar el paso al replanteamiento radical de una teología liberadora e inclusiva y dejar atrás la complicidad de nuestros discursos teológicos.

* La Dra. Tamez es biblista, teóloga y lingüista mexicana radicada en Costa Rica. Escribió Contra toda condena: La justificación por la fe desde los excluidos. San José, Costa Rica: DEI – SEBILA, 1991.

Enero 2005, Porto Alegre, Brasil


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