Carol P. Christ earned her BA from Stanford University and her Ph.D. from Yale University. She is a founding mother in the study of women and religion, feminist theology, women’s spirituality, and the Goddess movement and work has revolutionized the field of feminism and religion. She has been active in anti-racist, anti-war, feminist, and anti-nuclear causes for many years. Since 2001 she has been working with Friends of Green Lesbos to save the wetlands of her home island. She drafted a massive complaint to the European Commission charging failure to protect Natura wetlands in Lesbos. In 2010 she ran for office in Lesbos and helped to elect the first Green Party representative to the Regional Council of the North Aegean. She helped to organize Lesbos Go Green, which is working on recycling in Lesbos.
My hope for the new blog on Feminism and Religion is that it can become a place for real discussion with mutual respect of feminist issues in religion and spirituality.
I agree with Rosemary Radford Ruether who argued in a recent blog “The Biblical Vision of Ecojustice” that the prophets viewed the covenant with Israel and Judah as inclusive of nature. Indeed in my senior thesis at Stanford University on “Nature Imagery in Hosea and Second Isaiah,” in which I worked with the Hebrew texts, I argued that too. I also agree that the dualism Rosemary has so accurately diagnosed as one of the main sources of sexism and other forms of domination comes from the Greeks not the Hebrews. I agree that Carolyn Merchant is right that nature was viewed as a living being in Christian thought up until the modern scientific revolution. I agree with Rosemary that it is a good thing for Christians to use sources within tradition to create an ecojustice ethic. I am happy that there are Christians like Rosemary who are working to transform Christianity. Finally, I am pleased to admit that I have learned a great deal from her.
The reason I cannot embrace Rosemary’s analysis of the Biblical vision of ecojustice has to do with the notion of God as a dominating other modeled on a warrior king that is found in the Bible and in the very texts Rosemary holds up as the sources for a theology of liberation and ecojustice. In Isaiah 24:1 the text reads:”Behold the LORD [Yahweh] will lay waste the earth and make it desolate.” Yes, the text continues to say that the reason for this is that the people of Israel have not lived justly with each other on the land. However, I don’t think the prophet is only saying that “what goes around comes around.” He is saying that God is the one who will lay waste to the land and punish the people for their failure to live justly.
While I too have been inspired by the vision of ecological and social justice the prophets, I cannot endorse a vision that comes with a God who enforces his (in some respects very good) will through violence. This view is also found in Exodus. God liberates the Hebrew slaves, which is a very good thing, but in praise of his act he is invoked as a “man of war” who crushes his enemies (Exodus 15:3).
I was conceived in war, came of age during war, come from a country that is at war today, and know that the US military is increasing indoctrinating troops with the notion that they are fighting not only for country but also for God. Because I know that war is not healthy for women, men, children, and other living things, I cannot endorse a God who is imaged as a warrior or the prophets and writers of Exodus who invoke him. I have also criticized images of warrior Goddesses that are invoked by Goddess feminists to justify anger and rage at injustice.
At the end of my recent article on Isaiah 47 in the Jewish (sic) scriptures, I offer a postscript in which I judge that the use of the metaphor of warrior for the Hebrew god Yahweh in the Book of Isaiah is inappropriate or morally questionable when it leads to the possibility of presenting Yahweh as warrior-rapist. I make this judgment for the Christian community that reads the text today but also suggest that the metaphor was inappropriate even for the community from whom the text originated.
I made a similar point in my essay “Yahweh as Holy Warrior” in Laughter of Aphrodite. Maybe I have been watching too many episodes of Law and Order and Boston Legal of late, but it seems to me that the prophetic visions of social and ecojustice are “the fruit of the poisonous tree.”
This poisonous tree, the image of God as a dominating other who enforces his will through violence, is one of the serious moral (and by no means selfish or trivial) reasons that I do not choose to work within the Christian tradition. For me this is a matter of intellectual, emotional, and moral integrity and also a matter of the harm I believe this image is doing to others, most especially the victims of wars fought in the name of God.