Marjolaine Legros, KU Leuven

Christian Culture vs. Secular Culture:

A Feminist Critique

In order to answer the two questions of how theology pertains to culture/values and how culture/values affect theology, I will be tackling the issue of separating Christian culture and secular culture. This issue stems from a particular ‘traditional’ understanding of Christianity. Generally speaking, the theologians that adhere to this conceptualization advocate for Christianity to focus on distinct orthodox dogmatics, and see any project making Christianity relevant to be a distraction if not aberration of these core doctrines. If one were to make it fit to today’s time and society, it would be giving up something that is essential to Christianity. For my paper I will be using Stanley Hauerwas as one model of making this argument. My goal will be to advocate against the complete separation of Christian culture and secular culture, by providing a feminist critique of Hauerwas. I understand there to be more nuances to the discussion than exposed by Hauerwas, and hope to shed light on these complexities.

In order to achieve this goal, the presentation will be divided into three parts. First, I will go through a brief exposition of Hauerwas’ conceptualization of Christianity and the way he places Christian culture and secular culture on opposing ends, as presented in With the Grain of the Universe: The Church’s Witness and Natural Theology. Second, I will provide a feminist critique of this conceptualization through the work of feminist theologians Ally Moder and Carol Christ. They argue that Christian culture is inherently linked to society (secular culture) through patriarchal systems and the values of that society. In short, they advocate for a recognition of the nuances and emphasize that a complete separation between Christian culture and secular culture is impossible. Third, in order to highlight these nuances that Moder and Christ advocate, I will examine Pope John Paul II’s ‘theology of the body’ as found in the texts Love and Responsibility (1981) and Theology of the body: Human love in the divine plan (1997). John Paul II’s theology of the body has been incredibly influential for the official Roman Catholic teaching and its effects are seen to have rippled through society and the ages, especially when it comes to the conceptualization of bodies and women.