More Pie II: Pietism & Gender

Note: See previous post, “More Pie I: Pietism & Ecumenicalism” for introductory comments & part 1.


There were 4 key figures in the Pietist movement of the 1600s- Arndt, Spener, Francke, and Zinzendorf. [I know! Pass the strudel & lederhosen!] J Both Spener with his neighbor Countess Rappolstein, and Zinzendorf with his grandmother Henrietta von Gerstorff, were spiritually shaped by women growing up. These men grew up to become founders and leading figures of Pietism, so could Pietism be gendered in the sense that women are especially attracted to a Pietist approach to Christianity?  Is there something particularly feminine about Pietism?


Firstly, Pietism desires to emphasize experience. This subjective approach to faith can been sticky and left unchecked to an extreme can devolve into a subjective universal, “whatever you feel is fine” pseudo-faith. Rather than allowing this weakness to sway a Christian toward rejecting all serious considerations of experience and emotion, let the Christian examine his or her self in order to better achieve balanced faith.


Perhaps one of the reasons Christians have a hard time balancing and connecting head [orthodoxy], heart [orthopathy], & hands [orthopraxy] in matters of faith are because rational approaches to faith, especially in the orthodoxy department, is typically considered a masculine trait. ‘Masculine’ traits are typically more valued than ‘feminine’ traits.


For example, assertiveness. Typically, women are less assertive than men. [The reasons for why this is the case is complex including socialization.] However, assertiveness is consistently considered a ‘must-have’ for ‘effective’ leadership in popular ‘improve your career’ articles from Yahoo! and other popular media sites online. This implies that in order for many women to be an effective leader, they must be more ‘masculine’, as socially defined, and be more assertive, whether this is a part of their true personality or not.


Perhaps orthopathy has not been highly valued by many Christians because it at least indirectly seems feminine. If God is male [Father, Son, & Holy Spirit], then why would God care about or value ‘feminine’ qualities such as feelings and subjective experience? If God is male or exclusively masculine, as is often implied, then why should I care about how I feel about God? Christians should be concerned about how they feel toward God because to have a relationship with God is to be fully human with a fully Divine God who loves us, flaws and all, anyway. A relationship without emotion, feeling, subjective experience, can be had with a machine, requiring little to no humanity.


To deny the internal, emotional, heart work of God is to deny God’s sanctifying work of the entire person. Much of Christian theology through the ages has been written and discussed among men. It should not come as a surprise then that much of Christian theology has not considered feelings and emotions as these subjective touchy-feely issues are undesirable and decidedly ‘feminine’.


The Church, often personified in the feminine in the Bible. [such as bride imagery in Revelation 21:2] The Church would benefit from a bit more femininity as commonly understood, especially in regard to valuing orthopathy.


“The human body has many parts, but the many parts make up one whole body. So it is with the body of Christ. Some of us are Jews, some are Gentiles, some are slaves, and some are free. But we have all been baptized into one body by one Spirit, and we all share the same Spirit. Yes, the body has many different parts, not just one part.” [1 Corinthians 12:12-14]


“For you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus. And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have put on Christ, like putting on new clothes. There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus. And now that you belong to Christ, you are the true children of Abraham. You are his heirs, and God’s promise to Abraham belongs to you.” [Galatians 3:26-29]


More Pie I: Pietism & Ecumenicalism

Note: This is blog 1 of a 4 part series on Pietism for today.


We studied Pietism today in my class. Naturally, I baked pie. Pietism was a movement led especially by Jacob Spener during the 1600s in response to the Christian establishment. This was one of the few readings or movements in my theology classes that have truly revved me up. Spener was one of the first in Christian history to speak positively about orthopathy or right feelings. There have long been discussions of orthodoxy, right beliefs, and orthopraxy, right actions.


Ignatius of Loyola connects the head and heart for a more complete discernment approach. Why then do we, as contemporary Christians whether implicitly or explicitly reject one or the other? In order to be truly pious, a Christian must carefully balance and connect head [orthodoxy], heart [orthopathy], & hands [orthopraxy].


Certain denominations, approaches to interpreting Scripture and Tradition, then applying and living out, have typically excelled at one [maybe two] of these areas. Catholics excel at orthodoxy with strong hierarchical structure to carefully weigh theology in order to pass down creeds and doctrine. Pentecostals excel at orthopathy with welcoming and expecting emotional responses to the Holy Spirit. Baptists excel at right actions with emphasizing evangelization and exterior holiness.


However, it is not until each Christian, regardless of denominational affiliation, grows in balance of the three that a truly ecumenical understanding and conversation can be fulfilled. If the three- orthodoxy, orthopathy, and orthopraxy- are actually so intertwined, then which comes first? Theologians have gone round and round with this question in a chicken-and-egg conundrum. Perhaps the answer is yes. To be fully Christian means to be converted, changed, in all areas of life.


“Jesus replied, “The most important commandment is this: ‘Listen, O Israel! The LORD our God is the one and only LORD. And you must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’” [Mark 12:29-30]