Impact of Women’s Experience on Feminist Theology

SUMMARY: This page contains excerpts from Lucile’s comments at TOP on November 3, 1988. She outlines the three stages of her life, talks about the Patriarchal Theology she was indoctrinated with and how she had to deprogram herself, her advocacy activities on behalf of Feminist Theology, and the origins of the Water Ritual.

“Feminist Theology arises as a critique of the patriarchal bias of traditional theology.” Rosemary Reuther (Lucile’s favorite quote)

Lucile comments:

“Reading Mary Daly’s “Beyond God the Father” with the real capstone. It blew my mind but even then I didn’t know that what I was doing would later be called feminist theology.”

Honoring Experience — Reclaiming Our Wisdom: The Impact of Women’s Experience on Feminist Theology

Lucile says:

“Feminist Theology draws, above all, on women’s experience. The woman’s experience referred to is any and every woman’s experience of patriarchy itself in the ways we have been erased, subsumed and denied powerful sense of empowerment.”

(LF) Context: Each program at the Theological Opportunities Program (TOP) was introduced by a participant.  This piece is Lucile Schuck Longview’s introductory remarks at the TOP November 3, 1988. In these remarks she give a brief outline of her own life experiences which she sees falling into three distinct selves, her pre-marriage, marriage, and years as an independent woman after her husband and mother both passed on when she was 62 years old.

Lucile says: 

“Reviewing life for this occasion has been a pleasant and revealing experience. I love meandering among memories, don’t you? Recently I have found that I am thinking about my life in terms of multiple identities. This sense of sequential selves is new for me.

“The body I inhabit has been around for 62 years, occupied, one after the other it now seems, by two former sister–selves.

Her first self was an only child in a rural mid–USA setting …lived close to the land, was a lover of nature and had a sense of oneness with it.  (See also The Root of My Feminist Theology)

“As a student she gulped-down, and later as a teacher passed on, the prevailing patriarchal knowledge of the time.

“The second inhabitant of this body was, it now seems, a self wholly identified by who she saw herself to be through her relationship to others – a caregiver in the broadest sense of that term, super wife to both husband and house, supermom to three progeny, saving the world through community volunteering.” She talks about how her mother and husband whom she cared for seven years both died within six weeks of each other. Her three adult children have left home.

This brought her to developing a third self. “For the first time in my life i could become a person in my own life… Feminist Theology has been my salvation in this, the third season of my life, and I have hopes that it will be the salvation of the environment and of a world too long caught up in man’s struggles for domination. ”

(LF) background: Lucile was sensitive to the issue of race and how it affected women’s experience.

Lucile says: 

“The impact of women’s experience! Which women? We white women need to be particularly sensitive to our own dominating role in the women’s movement, subsuming minority women within our purview as we now see we were subsumed by men within theirs.

“I emphasize that I speak from a limited perspective; a white woman, aging ‘with knowledge and power,’ an emerging post-Christian feminist lay woman on the boundary of the Unitarian Universalist Association but still engaged, endeavoring to help make room within the denomination for women’s evolving spirituality and altered consciousness.”

 The Feminist Movement of 1970s set the tone

Lucile’s response to the Women’s Movement:

“Moreover, the dominant mood of the times made a tremendous difference in what a self could become. Emerging, birthing myself again in the early 70’s when the current wave feminism was gathering force, provided opportunities to move toward a new consciousness not available to the selves of an earlier time.

“My current self did not arrive full-blown as a feminist. There was what seemed then a lengthy gestation period during which I avidly read books by feminists, sometimes going over and over portions. Patriarchy as a designation for our on-going reality paradigm was a concept that really stopped me in my tracks for a long time. I worked and worked to grasp it and to envision another concept of reality.”

Lucile describes Biblical patriarchal conditioning:

“I reread sections of the Bible. It was a revelatory experience. I could now see that I, like many women, had embraced Eve’s guilt, Mary’s selflessness, Ruth’s self-sacrifice as an expression of love. Many of us identified with the male defined woman. We are battered – beaten down by the divinely ordained cultural assumptions about the nature and destiny for women.”

Lucile outlines her activities on behalf of her vision:

“In no way can I measure the impact of this lay woman’s activities since becoming aware of the injustice of Patriarchal Theology. I simply knew that I had to spread the word whenever and wherever I could.

“Conferences — local, national, global — seminars, workshops, panels, position papers and rituals — lots of rituals, alone, with a caring sister — in groups, large groups, church and conference rituals. And amidst it all I was taken by a new name. In giving attention to the name “Longview” I was acknowledging the new self and listening to my inner voice.”

Lucile describes how she and Carolyn McDade conceived the Water Ritual: 

“And finally I’ll speak of one ritual — the Water Ritual which Carolyn McDade and I developed as part of a Worship Service, “Coming Home Like Rivers to the Sea.”  I quote from our shared comment about it.

“We were beginning to reach for new and inclusive symbols and rituals that speak to our connectedness to one another, to the totality of life and to our place on this planet. We moved in an intuitive response to the potential of water as a symbol  of woman’s spirituality. Its universality emerged with our increased awareness of its presence and deep meaning in our lives.

“The vital parts of the ritual are the bringing of the waters by a representative group of those present, the sharing of the meaning of the water that each individual has brought, the mingling of the waters in a common bowl and the taking of the waters for one’s continued connection with the other participants.

“Creating the service had a special value in what it gave to Carolyn and me. It brought us together for many hours of sharing and conversation, planning, creating, critiquing, clarifying — it called us to articulation, to pulling our scarcely formed thoughts into words. We each spoke them back with added meaning. It was a bonding and empowering experience for both of us.”

Lucile  ends this essay :

“May the spirit of Gaia be with you and a sense of wonder be your companion forever.”

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