“Denial of the Female—Affirmation of the Feminine: The Father-Mother God of Mary Baker Eddy” in Beyond Androcentrism: New Essays on Women and Religion
Setta, Susan. “Denial of the Female—Affirmation of the Feminine: The Father-Mother God of Mary Baker Eddy,” Pages 289–304 in Beyond Androcentrism: New Essays on Women and Religion. Edited by Rita M. Gross. Series: American Academy of Religion Aids for the Study of Religion Edited by Gerald Larson. Missoula, MT: Scholars Press, 1977.
Setta’s sociological perspective on Mary Baker Eddy’s struggle with 19th-century womanhood highlights Eddy’s theology as a liberating phenomenon. Modern scholars have attempted to explain Eddy’s frequent childhood illnesses from a variety of perspectives, and Setta argues they were a symptom of the 19th-century form of American Calvinism. It was more patriarchal and severe than Calvin’s own doctrine, but it resulted in the age of the self-made man, forcing woman to become passive, protected, and dependent. It is not surprising, Setta argues, that Eddy’s illnesses coincided with those situations in her life in which her femaleness was most pronounced (marriage and birth). But Eddy succeeded more than her contemporaries in escaping these societal roles by 1) a denial of the body as a point of identity and 2) a conception of the union of masculine and feminine through the divine Being. Her theology, Setta explains, returned the creative powers from male humans to God, which resulted in ridding her of victimization by social and natural forces. Rejecting the female role established by 19th-century society standards, Eddy reinstated the feminine qualities of Deity, whereby woman, as well as man, become spiritual beings. Both are active rather than passive participants in society.
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