How often do our beliefs and practices contradict each other?
Usually we think about that in the sense of not practicing what we're preaching, but what if we turn it around, and realize that we are, much of the time, not preaching what we're practicing?
For example, women form the backbone of many churches, and other institutions, offerring incredibly strong leadership, but the doctrine or official policies blatantly prefer male imagery - like the gender-biased language for the God we believe in.
How does that disconnect affect our attempts at trying to have a cohesive self-image, ethos, or world-view? Feminists ask the question of how a male image of God affects the female self-image: if we are made in the image of God, and God is male, then we must be incomplete images, not fully human. But how does it work the other way? But if we, as females, are acting based on the assumption that we do reflect divinity, but continue to talk about that divinity in male terminology, and, moreover, continue to believe that God is more male than female, more father than mother, more strong than compassionate, what does that do? Does it invalidate our actions, since we would not truly be acting out of an authentic belief? And how do we change the preaching, the doctrine, the policies, to reflect what is really going on in our practice? Will those changes make our doctinal claims stronger, or discredit them altogether?
This isn't just a question of feminism, and gender-language, but of every realm where belief and practice, action and word are connected. Should our beliefs shape our practices, or should practices shape our beliefs? Does one have to come before the other? Is it necessary that the two match up in order for us to live confidently in the world?
Good God, all this synergy in seminary is scary.