Rosemary Radford Ruether lectures on ecofeminist theology

Rosemary Radford Ruether: “Ecofeminist Theology” vs “Elite White Males”

on June 14, 2016

Dissident Catholic theologian Dr. Rosemary Radford Ruether recently lectured on how the theory of “ecofeminism” should reshape traditional Christian concepts of God, the environment, and society. She also denounced the domination of alleged oppressors, especially “elite white males” and Israel.

Speaking to an audience at Garret-Evangelical Theological Seminary on May 20, where she once taught, Ruether relied on “ecofeminist theology” to reach her conclusions. She said ecofeminism “brings together three concerns: concerns for ecology, for feminism, and for global justice.” Ruether primarily blamed the “master group of elite white males” for using their patriarchal theology to enable their oppression of women, the poor, and the “lower” races.

Perhaps most radically, Ruether challenged the traditional Christian understanding of God. She claimed that God was more akin to a cosmic force than the transcendent deity familiar to most believers. She described God as the “material spiritual power for the renewal of life” and the “creative energy that continually liberates us” from oppression.

Echoing strains of pantheisms, Ruether rejected the idea that God is physically separate from nature. Christians needed to reimagine God according to ecofeminist theology, while also realizing that God, humanity, and nature share the attribute of consciousness. She denied that human consciousness was “infused into our body by a God outside the universe.”

“Rather, human consciousness, in my view — human consciousness is an intensification of interactive awareness that exists to some degree on every level of reality, from subatomic physics to organic molecules to photosynthesizing plants to increasingly aware and communicating animals,” Ruether said

She argued the fact that humans enjoy a high level of conscious intelligence should lead them to “harmonize” their needs with the rest of nature. In turn, this process of “reintegration” with nature should “reshape our image of God.”

Ruether specifically asserted “that we need to rethink the concept of [God’s] transcendence.” She said that elite men used the concept of transcendence to hold God “captive” in order to justify their oppressive misogyny and racism:

In other words, the idea of transcendence has to stop being thought of as some sort of dualism between the here and some very far away place outside of the cosmos. This is a dualism that very easily aligns itself with the dualism of mind and body, and male and female, and racial dualisms, and tends to identity God with a split off, elite male rationality while femaleness and lower races are identified with mindless matter. And this is not a transcendent God actually, but it is really the apex of a hierarchical system of domination and control. And this kind of God is in fact a captive to the justification of patriarchal domination.

But this was not only doctrine that came under fire from Ruether. “I think the ecofeminist must also rethink the categories of good and evil, and mortality and immortality,” she said. She denied that evil had to do with the human body, but rather represented the “distortion of relationships.” Mankind’s pursuit of immortality often produced evil through oppression and greed.

Under ecofeminist theology, she even argued against the reality of immortality: “Ecofeminism does not posit some original immortality at the beginning of creative work or creation, nor does it look to immortal life as the redemptive future which has escaped from the conditions of finitude.”

She thus concluded that “we need to kind of dismantle, or at least turn away from, this emphasis on immortality.”

Not content with redefining God, eternity, and the paradigm of good vs evil, Ruether also called for remolding households, society, the global economy, and more to conform to her ecofeminist theology:

So we say we need to develop new households – new households that model just and sustainable relationships between humans, men and women, races, and the natural world. And these household communities need to be attractive models of sustainable technology, harmonized social relationships, and celebrative cultures. And we need to shape these households, not to withdraw into them, but rather as kind of the bases for networking an alternative economy and society, to reshape the larger global systems, for a sustainable earth community.

While Ruether dedicated most of her time to addressing the oppression of “elite white males,” she also denounced the “Jewish state” of Israel. “Zionism,” she said, had created both “social injustice” and “environmental catastrophe.”

“Now appropriation of this land [Palestine] for a Jewish state has had devastating environmental effects,” Ruther said.

She claimed there had been a rise in temperatures, decreased rainfall, increasingly dense populations, and widespread death of indigenous birds in the region because of the formation of Israel. She also blamed Israel for alleged food insecurity and water scarcity facing Palestinians.

“To sum up then, there is an emerging worldwide ecological and economic crisis of survival around the world which is forcing many societies to reexamine how religious cultures have reinforced the domination of elite humans over the rest of humanity and over nature,” Ruether said.

As Institute on Religion and Democracy President Mark Tooley has noted, Ruether has previously pushed the idea of “Gaia,” the concept that the earth itself is a goddess. In the past, the ecofeminist has also agreed with the Islamic denial of the Trinity and the divinity of Christ. She said her views diverged from Muslims when it came to the virgin birth. She noted that Muslims “are pretty sure that Mary is a virgin, too – which is more than I believe.”

  1. Comment by MJ on June 15, 2016 at 12:03 am

    “Dissident Catholic” is an understatement.

  2. Comment by Namyriah on June 15, 2016 at 6:57 pm

    This harpy was spewing left-wing balderdash back in the 1970s. She and that milksop Jim Wallis need to learn the joys of basket-weaving, shuffleboard, Bingo, and early-bird specials at IHOP. Liberalism in the elderly is just wrong, like seeing an elderly fat bald guy driving a red Corvette convertible.

  3. Comment by greenpeaceRdale1844coop on November 24, 2016 at 8:19 pm

    Well, I’m getting into process theology, and know my ecological biology and the need for Greenpeace et al. Global justice is an important issue in various ways, and I’m in agreement with her in a number of senses. However, the strength of some women should not be confused to negate the tendencies and preferences in division of labor reflected in gender differences. Women breast feed babies for a reason. Women, though, should not be denied their participation in decision-making, and the valuation of their homemaking labor. Michael Moore showed how France provides new mothers with help, for example.

    Her views on Israel are as skewed as most “anti-Zionists,” verging on revisionist, Arab-centric, and anti-Semitic. There can be no reasonable discussion unless the outrageous anti-Israel aggression of Arabs Muslims like those of Saudi Arabia, and other contextual issues are made clear. The failure to establish historic and multiple party referents is ridiculously unobjective and partisan.

  4. Comment by Doug R on October 12, 2019 at 9:35 am

    Women are subject to environment as childbearers. That’s why Eve was deceived and added to the word of God “not to touch”.
    This woman is deceived and points out some abuses of power from Eve centered males. She appeals to Adam’s pressure to lead in rebellion against God.

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