Introduction: Global Women’s Voices on Christian Doctrine and Climate Justice (@theTable: Planetary Solidarity)
By Grace Ji-Sun Kim and Hilda P. Koster.
The book Planetary Solidarity (Minneapolis: Fortress Press 2017) brings together leading Latina, womanist, Asian, Asian American, South American, European, and African theologians on the issues of doctrine, women, and climate justice. (See also JFSR‘s own roundtable “Climate Change Is a Feminist Issue” in JFSR 33, no. 2, 2017: 139-75). We believe that a focus on women is warranted because theological and ecclesial documents too often do not spell out the ways climate change affects poor and indigenous women around the globe. Indeed, the voices of women are conspicuously absent from Laudato Si’. Nor does the encyclical draw on the insights and experiences of women environmental activists working to mitigate the negative effects of climate change and fossil fuel extraction on their communities, let alone include the rich theological writings by feminist/womanist/mujerista theologians in the field of ecotheology.
Climate change affects everyone. Yet, because women make up the majority of the world’s poor and tend to be more dependent on natural resources for their livelihoods and survival, they are at a higher risk. In the exploited world, poor women are often the primary caregivers of their families and hence play an important role in securing household water, food, and fuel. In times of drought, women must walk farther and spend more of their time collecting water. Girls may have to drop out of school to help their mothers with these tasks, continuing a cycle of poverty and gender inequity.
The women theologians writing in this round table are much attuned to the intricate ways questions of climate justice and gender intersect with those of class, race, and ethnicity, which are prevalent in both the Global South and North. While they come from a wide range of denominational and ecclesial backgrounds, they all write as feminist/womanist/mujerista theologians. What this means is that they critically analyze the myriad ways constructions of gender, race, class, and ethnicity inform church doctrine and practice.
The purpose of engaging doctrine is to open up fresh possibilities for life together—with one another and with the Earth. Yet, in order for this to happen, it is imperative to rework interpretations of doctrines that have reinforced colonialism, patriarchy, climate change, racism, and other injustices. The theological work of creative reimaging with doctrine must therefore always include critical retrieval, reformation, and reconstruction.
Planetary Solidarity follows in the footsteps of two earlier volumes edited by Grace Ji-Sun Kim and Jenny Daggers: Reimagining with Christian Doctrines: Responding to Global Gender Injustice (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014) and Christian Doctrines for Global Gender Justice (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015). Planetary Solidarity is the third volume in this series and answers the question of how Christian doctrine may be put to work toward both gender and climate justice. The book answers the call of Laudato Si’ to work toward climate justice and connects this to the struggle for gender justice by having women theologians from around the globe speak in their own voices.
The title of our book reflects our deeply held conviction that the daunting task of working toward climate justice must be done in solidarity with those who suffer most from injustice and who will benefit from change. As both an ideal and an objective of political engagement, solidarity draws from politics, economics, religion, and every other one of our vocations. Whereas solidarity generally includes notions of political activity, it is more than alliances of common interests or objectives. Solidarity expresses a realization and analysis of inequities and patterns of injustice, and a commitment to social change to remedy these inequalities.
Solidarity does not mean, however, that we are the same or that our differences do not matter. Rather, it means just the opposite as it allows us to deal with our differences more constructively and put them to work for a common cause. Solidarity, then, connotes double resistance: resistance to individualism and resistance to totalitarianism. It is otherness in togetherness, not in isolation or competition. In an age of anthropogenic climate change, it is pertinent, moreover, that we broaden and deepen our solidarity to include the nonhuman world and the planetary systems and processes on which all life depends. Theology and doctrine have focused on humanity and made the “rest of creation” external to the story of God with human beings. Climate change brings home that there is no such externality. Planetary solidarity requires that we give voice to these interconnected systems of life. It asks for nothing less than a bio-cracy, in which all life forms have a vote. It is from this Earth-centric stance that the authors in this book work toward gender and climate justice.
The contributors to Planetary Solidarity each focus their reflections around one of the following doctrines: the triune God, creation, anthropology, sin, redemption, Christ, cross and redemption, the Holy Spirit, the church, and eschatology. Contributors write from their specific geographical, sociocultural, political, and economic location; others contextualize their writing within an ongoing doctrinal discussion in ecofeminist theology. This small @theTable is just a handful of the contributors to the book.
With a common urgency and responsibility to save the planet, we need to rework our patriarchal notions of the divine and work toward an inclusive, just, and life-giving understanding of the Creator who brought forth and sustains all life. We do this by working in solidarity with women around the globe who want climate justice and gender justice so that the future generations can live sustainably in a more just Earth community.
Next: Heather Eaton, “An Earth Centric Theological Framing for Planetary Solidarity” (Part 2)