Yet, before one can understand Johnsons call for a taking back of the feminine Christ, one must first understand how the feminine Christ was lost.
The starting point is with the ministries of Christ and to the point of his resurrection. This short period of time is the only time that Jesus himself was in charge of defining his philosophy, although even he recognized the fact that history would define him and not himself.
Jesus ministry involved numerous acts of kindness, preaching and forgiveness. Many of these acts are seen as miracles, or “Signs” as the Gospel of John refers to them. These included exorcisms, walking on water, turning water into wine, and raising people from the dead. According to the Gospel of John, Jesus ministry lasted for a period of three years. The major event of the ministry phase was the giving of the Sermon on the Mount, where Jesus preached the New Covenant with God, which many consider his announcement of both a new religion and that he was the Son of God. The Sermon on the Mount contained the very feminine-orientated Beatitudes. The Beatitudes, which the gospels would show as being Jesus greatest contribution, are often viewed as an extension of Mosses announcement of the Ten Commandments as the Old Covenant with God. Surprisingly, this fundamental summary of Jesus philosophy has played a less and less central role in the organized religion that has surrounded Jesus since his death. This, according to Johnson, is because the development of “who Jesus was” was created through a masculine dominated philosophy.
Following his death and resurrection, the cult of Jesus, who lived and dies a Jew, began its first stages of development. This was accomplished by his apostles, who wrote about Jesus in the various gospels. According to Johnson, this period was the first step that moved Jesus away from his feminine philosophies of equality and justice as the apostles had a political agenda of promoting the cult of Jesus among other Jews. In order to do this, Jesus teachings needed to be adapted in order to be reconciled with the more masculine orientated God and stories of the Jewish Torah (Old Testament).
Christianity is, at its foundation, a radical Jewish faction. Christianitys basic and fundamental beliefs are adopted from Jewish scripture and tradition. This is obvious from the fact the two religions share the scripture of the Old Testament. Although many believe Christianity began with the birth of Christ, in actuality Christianity began as a reformed Jewish sect and did not become a separate, well-established religion until some years after Christs death and resurrection.
According to Johnson, Christianity should be viewed separately from Christ as they never were associated with each other at the time of Jesus but instead Christianity grew out of a belief that Jesus was the Christ, or Messiah. Christianity was able to develop from a radical Jewish sect into a full-fledged religion by adapting and transferring numerous foundational Jewish traditions into a Christian tradition. As the church grew, these Jewish influences became Christian staples and thus Christianity took the first step away from its feminine roots as preached by Christ.
The reason Christianity was created was because of a general dissatisfaction of fundamental Judaism. In a revolt from this fundamental tradition, the Apostles openly declared Jesus, after his death, to be the Christ and founded a movement distinct from that of the fundamental Judaism. This movement, because of the prophesizing work of the apostles, namely the Apostle Paul, allowed Christianity to grow from a breakaway Jewish faction to a full-fledged, independent church and religion.
The key to Pauls success at attracting other Jews to Christianity was to frame his churchs beliefs on the fundamental Jewish traditions he was dismissing. In order to do this he had to reinterpret their meanings. The key to this reinterpretation, and the eventual difference between the religions, is Jesus as the Christ.
The reason Jewish tradition could not follow the belief Jesus was Christ was because according to scripture, Christ would come at the end of days. However, Paul was able to use this belief to the Christian advantage, pointing out that before Christ could come to establish the Kingdom, he first needed to come and save the people from original sin. If he came to establish the Kingdom prior to erasing original sin, nobody would be eligible to join the Father in heaven.
It was this ability of Paul to bring Jesus into the Jewish tradition that allowed Christianity to attract a following, placing Jesus as the Son of God, and eventually grow into the Christianity of today.
With Christianity fully established, it quickly grew into a dominate religion. To summarize much of Johnsons history, as time went on Christianity became the religion associated with power: Those who held positions of power were those who were connected to God (such as the Pope and various Kings and emperors). The focus of Christianity became, at least in practice, to live a life of Christ that was essentially nothing like the life that Christ lived or preached about in his ministries. Instead of embracing the feminine Beatitudes, Christianity instead tended to focus on the Jewish, masculine orientated Ten Commandments. In other words, instead of taking a soft, loving approach to helping others, Christianity took the opposite road and, according to Johnson, focused on the more harsh, judgmental aspects that Jesus actually preached against. For example, the Ten Commandments focus on what one cannot do whereas the Beatitudes focus on what one should do. This is the fundamental difference, according to the authors, of what Jesus lived as and what Jesus has become.
Thus, the authors take us to the point of her book: a call to return to the feminine, Beatitude orientated preaching of Christ and to move away from the Christianity that has developed as a result of the Apostles original work to establish a new religion. In this sense, the authors can be best viewed as part of a developing genre of Christian thought that incorporates feminist theologies as a method of advocating for a new answer and definition to the question of “Who Christ Is?.”
According to Johnson, Jesus has become the reason for our patriarchy in society and church and the masculine metaphors used to describe God. However, this is not who Jesus was. It is who he became as a necessity to developing a legitimate Christianity. As at the time of Jesus death, society (much as it is today) was a masculine society. Jesus feminine preaching went against this societal way of thinking. It would be impossible for the Apostles to “sell” Jesus to a following if he was presented in a feminine light. Instead, as a necessity, the Apostles had to frame Jesus to fit into the masculine framework of society. As a result, much of who Jesus was lost.
Now, as society has become increasingly feminine orientated, Johnson argues it is time for religion to return to the feminine roots of Christianity and, more importantly, of Christ. To do this, Johnson in particular advocates for “braiding a footbridge between the ledges of classical and feminist Christian wisdom.” In other words, she does not state that all classic Christian tradition should be dropped but instead, just as classic masculine tradition was originally used as a footbridge to Jesus, it should again be used as a way to go back to Jesus.
To do this, Johnson argues that modern day ministry must incorporate aspects of both Classic Christian traditions and feminine Christ traditions into their preaching. A focus on Jesus ministries must lead the study of Christ and not historys interpretations of him. Instead, according to Johnson, the focus of ministry should shift back to the central component of Christs ministries, the Beatitudes.
Cook, Michael L. Responses to 101 Questions About Jesus. New York: Paulist Press, 1993.
“Gospel of Luke.” King James Bible.
Johnson, Elizabeth. (1992): Consider Jesus: Waves of Renewal in Christology. New York: Herder & Herder.
Johnson, Timothy. (1991): The Gospel of Luke. Michael Glazier Inc.
Powell, Mark Allen. (1990): What Are They.