Virtual Voices

The Jesus of Asian Women

Books

In some respects, the Christian West's colonization of Asia has proved harmful for women. In The Jesus of Asian Women, Filipino author Muriel Orevillo-Montenegro offers a sobering narrative of female oppression in the Philippines, India, Korea, and Hong Kong. Because Western Christian imperialists saw Asian religions and culture as vile and idolatrous, they thought redemption possible "only if Asia's heathen souls adopt Western culture and abandon Asian religions and ways of life" (11).

Orevillo-Montenegro also laments the fact that the first Western Christians only seemed concerned with saving souls and failed to address the oppressive social realities facing Asian women. One of the book's major themes is that the teachings of Jesus should expose "the oppressive elements of religion and the dehumanizing structures of society" (19) rather than enable them:

Christology should not endorse the oppressive structures in culture, religion, and society, by being silent and hiding behind metaphysical concepts while the broad masses of Asian peoples, mostly adherents of Asian religions, suffer poverty, exploitation, and marginalization under the imperial powers of this world. Women and children in particular continue to suffer under patriarchy and sexism in the church and society.

When Western missionaries reduced Christianity to an escape-from-Hell-plan instead of seeing it as a way of life that embraces God's sovereign covenantal redemption of all creation, they missed the connection between "the historical context of Jesus' death and the suffering inflicted on the colonized peoples by the colonizers" (44).

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It should be noted that the author intertwines her poignant concerns about the conflation of Christianity and Western culture with her own conflations of Christianity and feminism (another Western culture). She notes that Asian men are captive to the "Euro-American, middle-class, white, male theologies that are not only patriarchal, androcentric, and sexist, [but] sometimes misogynistic" (53). However, is it really true, as she says, that "a male-centered or androcentric Christology inevitably promotes patriarchal norms and sexists attitudes toward women" (53)?

If readers can get past Orevillo-Montenegro's more extreme points, she presents challenging issues that the gospel needs to address. If our missionary activities are directed at the reality of Christ redeeming all things, should not Christians also fight passionately for the human rights of Asian women who are culturally oppressed?

Anthony Bradley
Anthony Bradley

Anthony is associate professor of theology and ethics at The King's College in New York and serves as a research fellow at the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty. He is author of Liberating Black Theology. Follow Anthony on Twitter @drantbradley.

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