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can you spare a paradigm?

By Diogenes ( articles ) | Oct 19, 2009

Indian Theologian Calls for New Women Religious Paradigm! squealed the NCR headline. We're all thrilled beyond measure by original paradigms, it goes without saying, and impatient Uncle Di almost crippled his left mouse button clicking on the link. Here's the lede:

Samphran, Thailand. Speaking before an international gathering of women religious leaders here, Indian theologian, Assumption Sister Rekha M. Chennattu called for a radically new religious paradigm.

Got that? We're promised a radically new paradigm: like a Copernican, Darwinian, Second Law of Thermodynamics-ish new paradigm. As an Indian theologian, Chennattu is understood to be unhindered by conventional Western concepts and categories. My excitement was intense. Then came the pay-off:

Chennattu based her egalitarian call on the gospel story of Jesus’ encounter with the Canaanite woman, a piece of scripture that has served at the anchoring text for a nine-day meeting at a conference center 30 miles outside of Bangkok.

Said Chennattu: “Matthew portrays the woman as an active dialogue partner who dares to confront Jesus, the newly found Jewish prophet, with counter theological arguments.”

Ka-lunk. Sister travelled all the way to Bangkok to tell us THAT? The Emboldened Canaanite Woman Shtick is one of the oldest gags in the white suburban liberal homiletic repertory, already a cliché-benumbed yawner by the late 1960s. Their point was that, if Jesus was not above correction, neither is the Church he founded, whence we should all feel free to follow our own moral and theological intuitions. That explains why most of the preachers who took this line from the pulpit succumbed in the intervening years to complications of pneumonia (they were eager to be emancipated from official Catholic teaching on … cold-weather attire).

Helpfully, the NCR does not leave us in the dark about the implications of Chennattu's radically new paradigm but spells out its foundation-shivering impact.

Her point was that women religious today need to be daring and active dialogue partners.

Please stand for the Creed.

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