(Literary Essentials: Christian Fiction and Nonfiction)

“If God is male, then male is God.” This clichéd tagline about the connection between Christianity and patriarchy might be the thesis of Mary Daly’s first book, The Church and the Second Sex (1968), but in her second and most theological book, Beyond God the Father, Daly finally refuses “God-talk” and renames the Ultimate as the verb of verbs, Be-ing.

The chapter titles give a good overview of Daly’s thesis and method in this work: “After the Death of God the Father,” “Exorcising Evil from Eve: The Fall into Freedom,” “Beyond Christolatry: A World without Models,” “Transvaluation of Values: The End of Phallic Morality,” “The Bonds of Freedom: Sisterhood as Antichurch,” “Sisterhood as Cosmic Covenant,” and “The Final Cause: The Cause of Causes.” In each of these, Daly is careful to give evidence from the theologians of the past (all male of course). As the holder of Ph.D.’s in both philosophy and theology from the University of Fribourg in Switzerland, she is very familiar with the scholarship of the canon, and thus can critique it without resorting to hasty generalization or ad hominem arguments.

In the first chapter, Daly posits God as a verb, not a noun, a verb of verbs, which is intransitive, thus not taking an object, and therefore getting beyond the subject-object dualism that has plagued both religion and philosophy. For women, this step is the refusal to be objectified. Using the language of Martin Buber’s Ich und Du (1923; I and Thou, 1937), Daly says that women can pioneer new ways of being in the world that refuse I-It relationships for themselves and others; instead they can treat others as thou, another subject, not an object. When women do this, they move into new space and new time, “on the boundary of the institutions of patriarchy,”...

(The entire section is 761 words.)