The answer ‘theology’ to the question ‘what are you studying?’ is often a conversation killer with my friends at the gym. They’re shocked because it’s an unusual answer (“I expected you to say something like nursing!”) or sometimes aren’t entirely sure what it is. Then there’s the question of what studying theology leads to: “Will you become a priest?” they ask. The whole idea of studying theology is kind of weird and I don’t want to push too hard on anything too ‘religious’.
But last week, I had a conversation that went beyond all that, chatting with one lady, with whom I’ve been in classes for 2 years and friends with for half that time. She asked me if I was coming up to exams. I said I was but of greater concern to me was my thesis. (OK, so the project is not a thesis, but it’s the easiest way to explain it!) I’ve mentioned it a few times before but this time she asked me what it was on.
My answer: how feminism can contribute to reading the Bible. I said that Christians have traditionally been frightened of feminism – “Not just Christians,” she interrupted. “Everyone!” – but that we may have more to learn than we realise. Turns out, she’s a catholic (“not a good Catholic” in her words) and thinks the Church is totally patriarchal, so she was really positive about my topic. It turns out that while ‘theology’ sounds weird or too religious, feminist perspectives on the Bible is intriguing and inviting. She even said she wants to read my paper!
I explained how I’m writing from a conservative position. I believe that the Bible is the word of God. But I also believe that the assumption that the Bible is purely patriarchal is mistaken and so if everyone just takes a deep breath, we might be able to learn something from each other.
None of that scared her off. She kept asking questions and talking about the people she knows who would benefit from such an approach. I’m excited because I feel like today opens up conversation rather than closing it down as so often happens.
Tamie Davis is an Aussie living in Tanzania, writing at meetjesusatuni.com.