The Abandoned Fiancée, or Against Subjection
New Topics in Feminist Philosophy of Religion
In this chapter, I argue -in the wake of Michèle Le Doeuff -against the valorisation of subjection that has taken hold of modern theology. Analysing Graham Ward's Christ and Culture, I contend that the recent penchant for an ethics of kenosis in religious thought leads ultimately -despite explicit protestations to the contrary -to a conception of subjectivity as constituted in servitude before Christ. However, this criticism is not -pace Ward-to apply secular, Enlightenment values to a distinct
... alues to a distinct post-secular realm; rather, in the second half of the chapter, I enter into dialogue with Le Doeuff's criticisms of Søren Kierkegaard, in order to suggest that co-existing with Kierkegaard's misogyny towards his abandoned fiancée, there is also an adherence in his work to a Le Doeuffean ethics of friendship. Thus, I conclude, Christianity is not incompatible with modernity. 3 This chapter is concerned with conceiving Christianity in ways incommensurable with the subjection of women. It, thus, attempts to unmask such subjection in its different guises -sexual, ethical and theological. I contend that post-Barthian theology with its celebration of the infinite difference separating God and humanity often retraces the very logic by which women have historically been oppressed. Human subjectivity, it is claimed, is possible only in subjection to a higher being. This, I argue, is not a necessary theological position. Thus, in the first part of the article, I briefly explore two competing ethical models underlying the rest of the article: G.W.F. Hegel's master/slave dialectic and Michèle Le Doeuff's avowal of friendship. Second, I examine developments in post-Barthian theology (Graham Ward's Christ and Culture serves as representative), arguing that the anthropology developed here is grounded in subjection. Finally, I move to counter this trend with a reading of Kierkegaard's Philosophical Fragments which gestures towards an alternative model of Christian ethics.