In the concluding chapter to her provocative and compelling God, Sexuality, and the Self, Sarah Coakley channels the wit and wisdom of G.K. Chesterton’s famous quip: “there never was anything so perilous or so exciting as orthodoxy.”

In  her own Chestertonian way, Coakley argues,

At the heart of this book has been a paradoxical assertion that ‘orthodoxy’ is very rarely what it seems. The potential for cultural and patriarchal distortion is endless, and the mere ‘complementary’ addition of some new, well-intentioned focus on the Spirit or ‘feminine’ language for God is not in itself going to shift this problem. A deeper sense of our own capacity for self-deceiving idolatry (yes, even potentially a feminist ideology) has to come into play, precisely in and through the ‘purgations’ of prayer: only the primacy of divine desire can attend to this deeper problem. Likewise, and as Freud above all knew so well, ‘to kill the Father is to remain with and reaffirm the rule of the Father’; so there has to be another way out other than enforced repression. So now we know why ‘true orthodoxy’ is so elusive. It can only occur when the idolatrous twoness of the patriarchal dyad is broken open to transformation by the Spirit.

‘Can a feminist call God Father,’ then? One might more truly insist that she, above all, must; for it lies with her alone to do the kneeling work that ultimately slays patriarchy at its root” (326-7).

 

 

 

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