Monday, June 22, 2009

Words of theological wisdom from Ivone Gebara

From the Brazilian ecofeminist Catholic theologian Ivone Gebara:

I find myself in the grip of a strange feeling that will probably shock my readers. I should like to "rest" the earth I live on and the earth I am so that other things can be born. We live at a time when our life patterns, our paradigms, our theologies, and our spiritualities are tired. We are asking too much of our creativity in trying to deconstruct, re-create, redeem, and insert other traditions into ours. Would a time of pause not be an advantage, a time of personal and perhaps even collective silence? Would it not be a good idea to "rest" so that new ideas that could guide our steps, the fresh shoots that will feed our hopes, might in fact emerge? We live in a whirlwind of ideas, of difficult situations, of tribulations and violence of all sorts. It seems that no one is being understood in this vast Babel! It seems as though we are in a collective war, trying to survive at all costs by eliminating others.

This situation makes me think of the biblical story of the Flood. The raging waters have swallowed everything, but in the midst of them floats an "ark" preserving all different species of life. There had to be hope, perhaps hope over a long time, before the dove could fly out from the ark and return with a fresh branch, a green shoot, the sign that new things were happening. I take this myth in the form of a parable not in order to insist on the destructive nature of our actions in the century just ended, but to say that perhaps we have to keep quieter, perhaps we have to look for fewer "spiritualities," so that values that are truly vital can emerge in our lives. I fear that our anxiety to appropriate a feminist spirituality may be vitiated by so many events that destroy us physically and our cultures that we shall not be capable of actually touching the human roots that sustain our existence. Without realizing it, we are beginning to seek to appropriate in a feminist form the elements that mattered most in the masculine spiritual tradition: witness, martyrdom, holiness, imitation. All these still come very mixed in with the masculine models of a patriarchal Christianity of domination and conquest which, although it has helped thousands of people, has also been an instrument of oppression and destruction of as many others. I believe life is inviting us, for a time, to a certain "suspension" of new spiritualities, to a patient wait for what will come, to a voluntary silence or greater care with our words and our theories. We should not be in a hurry, or we shall find ourselves simply using the same discourse "feminized."

In this sort of "retreat" from theological babble, we should be preparing ourselves, I believe, for a strategy of accepting the newness that is being begotten in the depths of the earth, in the depths of ourselves, a newness full of surprises and still imperceptible to our reason. It is a sort of collective begetting, a hazardous pregnancy with no definite birth date. We are in a time of waiting, experiencing anxiety and even dread at what might arrive, intervening with care just so that life may be respected. All we can do is to protest, through organizations and outside them, at the massive destructiveness that continues to threaten our hopes of life. All we can do is be grateful for the chance to caress our daughters, sons and grandchildren, hoping that our longing for love and solidarity can be the food they receive from us today. But we still cannot even stammer the name of the new forms of hope waiting. There are just the things that sustain the humanity in us: friendship, affections, solidarity among all, waiting for the new day that will come.

I believe that this is the only possible way forward in a situation of flood and darkness. People need to feel in the first place that there are hands guiding ours, that there are hearts beating with ours and moving beyond the old divisions. We need to know that there are others dreaming with us of a better world. History has shown that this time of waiting in solidarity has in fact existed before and is still in existence. In the near future it will be capable of proclaiming that some fragile "green shoots" can now be glimpsed. And life, all forms of life, will be able to flourish in the farthest corners of the earth.

Ivone Gebara, "Feminist Spirituality: Risk and Resistance," trans. Paul Burns, in María Pilar Aquino and Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza, In the Power of Wisdom (London: SCM Press / Concilium, 2000), 41-42.

Photo: Atlantic forest landscape at the REGUA Reserve, Brazil. Click to enlarge.


Fran said...

Thank you for this Jane. I loved reading it - I read it twice. And now I have linked to it as well.

Lindy said...

Well, yes, this is all very good. I like it. But, I think that many individuals, and certainly our institutions, are addicted to making noise.

I've thought about this a lot. I know people who CAN NOT be quiet. It's a big problem. And many others of us, even us quieter sorts, are often almost panicked to put words to things which may be better left to germinate.

I hope that Ivone Gebara is correct and that in the near future we will indeed see some green shoots.

Good piece, Jane. Thanks for posting.

PS - +Rowan has two new photos on his blog.

Shannon said...

Ivone Gebara was one of the main speakers at the Northwest Catholic Women's Convocation back in May. She was electrifying there and her books quickly disappeared from the bookstore upstairs.

A jubilee time for the earth--what could that look like?