Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

Rosemary Radford Ruether

American Feminist Scholar and Theologian, Carpenter Emerita Professor of Feminist Theology at Pacific School of Religion at Claremont Graduate University

"We have not so much the privilege of intelligence, viewed as something above and against nonhuman nature, but the responsibility and necessity to convert our intelligence to the earth. We need to learn how to use intelligence to mend the distortions we have created and how to convert intelligence into an instrument that can cultivate the harmonies and balances of the ecological community and bring these to a refinement."

"In God’s Kingdom the corrupting principles of domination and subjugation will be overcome. People will no longer model social or religious relationships; or even relationships to God after the sort of power that reduces others to servility. Rather they will discover a new kind of power, a power exercised through service, which empowers the disinherited and brings all to a new relationship of mutual enhancement."

"The root of female images of the divine in Christianity lie in what's known as the Wisdom tradition, which is found in the latter half of the Hebrew Bible, in such books as Proverbs, Job, Ecclesiasticus, and the Wisdom of Solomon. In those texts, Wisdom is described as a emanation of God: "Like a fine mist she rises from the power of God, a pure effluence from the glory of God... the brightness that streams from everlasting light, the flawless mirror of the active power of God and the image of his goodness" (Wisdom of Solomon, 7:25-26). Wisdom is seen as a companion of God through whom God creates the world, an orderer and sustainer of the universe, a mediator of divine revelation, the one who calls Israel's sons to repent of their folly and enter the study of wisdom. She is the means of good fortune, the bride of sages and the redeemer of souls. "Age after age she enters into holy souls and makes them God's friends and prophets" (Wisdom of Solomon, 7:27)."

"At this point, it becomes possible to forge hew links between feminism and peace. Feminism fundamentally rejects the power principle of domination and subjugation. It rejects the concept of power which says that one side?s victory must be the other side?s defeat. Feminism must question social structures based on this principle at every level, from the competition of men and women in personal relationships to the competition of the nations of the globe, including the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. We seek an alternative power principle of empowerment in community rather than power over and disabling of others. Such enabling in community is based on a recognition of the fundamental interconnectedness of life, of men and women, blacks and whites, Americans and Nicaraguans, Americans and Russians, humans and the nonhuman community of animals, plants, air and water. Nobody wins unless all win. War-making has reached such a level of destructiveness that the defeat of one side means the defeat of all, the destruction of the earth itself. Feminism today sees its links with the cause of human survival and the survival of the planet itself."

"Biophilic values, therefore, cannot remain the preserve of women or women?s supposed special "nature" or ethics. As historic victims of violence and repression, as well as those socialized to cultivate supportive roles -- but in a disempowered sphere -- women may have a particular vantage point on the issue. But they are not immune to expressions of hostility, chauvinism, racism or warmongering, even if their role has more often been to be the backup force for the main fighters. Conversion to a new sense of self that wills the good of others in a community of life must transform traditional women as well as traditional men."

"Both feminism and peacemaking need to be grounded in an alternative vision of the authentic self and human community that was once provided by radical Christianity. This alternative vision must be clear that we are children of one mother, the earth, part of one interdependent community of life. On this basis we must oppose all social systems that create wealth and privilege for some by impoverishing, degrading or eliminating other people, whether they be the systems of domination that repress or assault women, or the systems that plan nuclear annihilation in a futile search for security based on competitive world power. Only on the basis of such an alternative vision can men and women join together to rebuild the earth."

"Domination of women has provided a key link, both socially and symbolically, to the domination of earth, hence the tendency in patriarchal cultures to link women with earth, matter, and nature, while identifying males with sky, intellect, and transcendent spirit."

"Finally, and most importantly, feminism must aim at a new community of mutuality for women and men, not a rejectionist community of women that impugns the humanity of men. This latter stance I regard not as a radical but as an immature position. That humiliated people succumb to desires for revenge is understandable; it is "only human." But it is not what I want to call "feminist ethics"!"

"In terms of religious feminism, I have been critical of an evangelical feminism whose proponents believe that they can solve the problem with better translation and exegesis but cannot reckon with serious ideological and moral error in Scripture and tradition. On the other hand, I find the "rejectionist" wing of feminist spirituality engaged in serious distortions and pretensions. Although biblical religion is sexist, it is not reducible to sexism alone! It has also been dealing with human issues, such as estrangement and oppression and the hope for reconciliation and liberation. It has been doing this on male terms, failing to apply the same critique to women. Biblical feminists use these same liberating principles of the biblical tradition. But they make the principles say new things by applying them to sexism."

"I believe that countercultural feminists delude themselves when they hope that somewhere there is a "pure" feminist religion or tradition from which one can overthrow. "patriarchy." All inherited culture, including the texts of goddess religion, has been biased in favor of men. Therefore, everywhere we must be engaged in a version of the same critique of culture. We must be able to claim the critical principles of every tradition and also to find how to transform the tradition by applying these principles to sexism. This means that our relation to every inherited tradition must be dialectical."

"One needs to glimpse again the primordial power of the mother-symbol as Ground of Being to restore an ontological foundation to the "wholly other" God of patriarchy. The Christian effort to overcome gnosticism and apocalypticism and to integrate the God of the messianic future with the divine Ground of Being failed because it continued to be based on the patriarchal denigration of the female. Only a regrounding of the power of the future within the power of the primordial matrix can refound the lost covenant with nature and give us a theology for the redemption of the earth."

"These three creation stories were shaped in the patriarchal, slave-holding world of early urban civilization in the eastern Mediterranean of the second and first millennia M.C.E. In the Babylonian story that urban world is still new and precarious. Another world, not under male/human control, stands as the earlier beginning, ruled by a huge theriomorphic Great Mother, who gestated all things, gods and cosmic beings, in the mingled waters of her womb. The story mandates her dethronement, and with it a demotion of the female from primal power to secondary consort. Slavery is a central institution mandated by this story."

"The original goodness of humanity and nature is not available simply for the price of a romp on the beach or a chant around the campfire. Original goodness exists as a lost potential that has to be reimagined and reclaimed, not simply by changed consciousness but through an ethical struggle to recreate the world and our own individual and social existence in it. The original harmony of humanity with nature and God exists not as a present reality but as a lost paradise and future hope, which we taste now and again in the midst of our broken existence. It is that future Shalom of God on earth for which we hope and struggle -- and which was announced by the prophets of Israel and by Jesus of Nazareth. Far from repudiating this biblical pattern of thought, a feminist denunciation of sexism as a primal expression of human fallenness can reinterpret that pattern with new power and meaning. In so doing we can also rediscover the union that the Hebrew tradition itself makes between God?s Shalom as social justice and as ecological harmony."

"There is nothing objectionable in the effort to create a feminist spirituality is such. But actually to do so is both more difficult and more dangerous than one might realize, and demands both greater modesty and greater maturity than those still deeply wounded by patriarchal religion have generally been able to muster. The best way to create such a spirituality is not by means of separatism and rejection, but by means of synthesis and transformation. We need to work through, with great breadth and depth, what our actual experience has been, both in the dominant culture shaped by males and in the suppressed experiences of women. Then we can begin to put together a new synthesis that utilizes many of the elements of earlier traditions, but within a new and liberated context."

"Women must reject male chauvinism at the point of the oppression of their own personhood and autonomy. But they must also reject it at the point of motherhood for the sake of the survival of their children."

"True nonviolence must be based, first of all, on a secure sense of one?s own value as a human being. Violence toward others, far from being an expression of self-worth, is based on a repression of one?s sense of vulnerability which then translates into hostility toward others. The most violent men are those with the deepest fears of their own impotence. Training in nonviolence must be based on spiritual or personal development and empowerment of the self. An empowered self will not accept its own degradation, or that of others."

"We do not have thousands of years to unlearn the wrong patters that were established over thousands of years. The exponential speed-up of these cumulative patterns of destruction means we have to both learn new patterns and put them into practice on a global scale within the next generation."

"Women?s liberation will gain general support from women only when it can be revealed as a necessity that also expresses the mandate of the woman as the foundation of the survival of the race, Male false consciousness has created an antagonistic concept of self and social and ecological relations that is rapidly destroying humankind and the earth. Not only have the personhood and cultural gifts of women been suppressed by this, but males themselves have been allowed to remain in an adolescent form of vainglorious psychology that is no longer compatible with human survival."