Motherhood as Metaphor: Engendering Interreligious Dialogue

Motherhood as Metaphor: Engendering Interreligious Dialogue

Kathryn Kueny
Karen Pechilis
James T. Robinson
Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: Fordham University Press
Pages: 280
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Motherhood as Metaphor: Engendering Interreligious Dialogue
    Book Description:

    Who is my neighbor? As our world has increasingly become a single place, this question posed in the gospel story is heard as an interreligious inquiry. Yet studies of encounter across religious lines have largely been framed as the meeting of male leaders. What difference does it make when women's voices and experiences are the primary data for thinking about interfaith engagement? Motherhood as Metaphor draws on three historical encounters between women of different faiths: first, the archives of the Maryknoll Sisters working in China before the Second World War; second, the experiences of women in the feminist movement around the globe; and third, a contemporary interfaith dialogue group in Philadelphia. These sites provide fresh ways of thinking about our being human in the relational, dynamic messiness of our sacred, human lives. Each part features a chapter detailing the historical, archival, and ethnographic evidence of women's experience in interfaith contact through letters, diaries, speeches, and interviews of women in interfaith settings. A subsequent chapter considers the theological import of these experiences, placing them in conversation with modern theological anthropology, feminist theory, and theology. Women's experience of motherhood provides a guiding thread through the theological reflections recorded here. This investigation thus offers not only a comparative theology based on believers' experience rather than on texts alone, but also new ways of conceptualizing our being human. The result is an interreligious theology, rooted in the Christian story but also learning across religious lines.

    eISBN: 978-0-8232-5119-3
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. xi-xii)
    (pp. xiii-xviii)
    (pp. 1-12)

    She was reflecting on her participation in interreligious dialogue and considering the importance of the work through the lens of her experience as a nursing mother. The point this young Muslim woman was illustrating was that in the same way we nurture the next generation with material sustenance, we also shape them emotionally and relationally, for better and for worse. Perhaps this is the heart of the theology offered in the following pages: that our theological thinking and our religious outlooks shape the way we think about ourselves and our world; they are what we ‘eat’ and what we will...

  6. I In Mission and Motherhood
    • 1 Encounter in the Mission Fields: ENGENDERING DIALOGUE WITH WOMEN OF CHINA
      (pp. 15-39)

      “Pagan Babies—Save Them for Christ Through Maryknoll.”¹ So, the caption reads on a promotional poster (circa 1929) that helped shape American Catholics in their imaginings of people of other faiths. With a pagoda in the background and the silhouette of two Chinese youngsters in the foreground, the idea of the religious other as ‘pagan’ all but erased their distinctive humanity. The specter of paganism cast long shadows over the people of China as the American Catholic public was urged to commit their concern through prayer and financial support. “Every Catholic student should know what the Church is doing in...

      (pp. 40-76)

      What the mission strategy of the Maryknoll Sisters demonstrates is that in order to meet the ‘other’, we must meet in multiplicity. We meet one another not merely as ‘religious others’ but in a complex multiplicity constituted by relationship and responsibilities. This indicates not only that a meeting can be forged in this multiplicity of relationships but also that, as human beings, we are constituted in this way. To meet the other requires both the building of relationship and an awareness of the variety of relationships and responsibilities that constitute that person. In contrast to modernity’s stress on the individual...

  7. II In the Sacred Secular
    • 3 Encounter in Global Feminist Movements: ENACTING TRANS-RELIGIOUS ALLIANCES
      (pp. 79-109)

      You can see them in the brown and white photos.¹ Mothers marching for freedom. With their children in tow, women publicly demonstrated for greater political rights in the suffrage movement of early twentieth-century America. That they did so as women is obvious. That they did so as mothers gets lost in memory, except for the visual traces from long-forgotten photos. That they did so out of complex multiplicity—as black women, as educated women, as poor women, as teachers or doctors, as lesbian or heterosexual—gets lost as well. And that this multiplicity included a religious identity is further obscured....

    • 4 Creativity Under Constraint: FREEDOM IN THEOLOGICAL ANTHROPOLOGY
      (pp. 110-142)

      It may be a peculiarly ‘modern’ understanding of the human person as one in which freedom is pressed to the fore. InSources of the Self: The Making of Modern Identity, Charles Taylor traces this sense of freedom back to René Descartes and the Enlightenment trajectory that linked disengaged reason to “a sense of self-responsible autonomy.”¹ Indeed, in Taylor’s view the culture of modernity distinctively embraced the principle of autonomy as fundamental to its understanding of the nature of the human person. Taylor writes of ‘Enlightenment’ culture: “It is a culture which is individualist in the three senses I invoked...

  8. III In Lives Intertwined
    • 5 Encounter in Philadelphia: ENGENDERED DIALOGUE TODAY
      (pp. 145-163)

      “I actually want to start with the group and go backwards, if that’s okay, because currently this is also my spiritual home in huge, huge ways.”¹ When asked about the community that shapes her sense of self and purpose, her spiritual orientation in the world, Anne thought first about the interfaith group of women who have shaped her story and her life. They gather each month in the living-room area of a small Quaker meetinghouse outside of Philadelphia. Leaving workplaces in the city and surrounding neighborhoods a few hours early, they make time for one another and commit to this...

      (pp. 164-198)

      The Philadelphia Area Multifaith Women’s Group provides a context for considering the phenomenon of interreligious dialogue. It simultaneously presents a point of departure for asking again the question “What does interfaith encounter have to say about what it means to be human?” While this interfaith group demonstrates an essential relationality in multiplicity (connecting with the discussion of ‘love’ at the heart of theological anthropology, as examined in chapters 1 and 2), and provides examples of ‘creativity under constraint’, as reflected in the women of the dialogue making creative choices about their home traditions and religious belonging (connecting with ‘freedom,’ which...

  9. Conclusion: Seeking Salvation
    (pp. 199-214)

    The Christian narrative is a story of seeking salvation, of enacting the means by which to right the wrongs we encounter in our lives and in the world. Like the artist of the Igbo people or the women in the Philadelphia dialogue group, the Christian theologian fashions a people anew, seeking wholeness where brokenness has reigned. For the Christian this emerges through a retelling of the story of Jesus so as to bring forth a patterning of human lives on the life and practice of Jesus of Nazareth toward wholeness and well-being. Rooting our weaving in the story of Jesus,...

  10. NOTES
    (pp. 215-240)
    (pp. 241-254)
  12. INDEX
    (pp. 255-260)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 261-262)