Carol Christ’s post yesterday has gotten me thinking about the differences between Christianity and earth-based spiritualities. Of course, there are many differences, that goes without saying. However, being someone who comfortably stands at the intersection of them both I am usually more aware of the ways in which they seem to intersect in life-changing and inspiring ways for me. Nonetheless, Carol has me thinking…
Over the course of the last year here on Feminism and Religion, Carol has written a lot about the importance of ancestors – how when speaking about embodiment and interdependence it is crucial we acknowledge all the ways in which ancestors make us who we are. Mothers literally give us our bodies and our ancestors’ genes, connecting us to a long line of people both materially/biologically as well as historically. Ancestors give us a sense of connection to places and ground us to lands that were meaningful to them and thus become meaningful to us. And Carol also reminds us that our family and ancestors transmit to us memories that impact us psychically and in powerful ways. These emphases on connection, interdependence, rootedness, and embodiment flow from her earth-based Goddess practice and thealogy. Her spirituality leads her to a greater sense of appreciation and gratitude for the Source of Life and for all the sources of life, and she affirms that because of this deep awareness of interdependence and relationality people who practice earth-based spiritualities are “moved to share what has been given to [them] with others.”
This is such a different point of emphasis than with many typical Christian theologies – although you wouldn’t think it’d be that way. In Christianity we have a story in which God becomes flesh and makes her home among us – the incarnation. It’s a beautiful tradition. In this flesh, God as Jesus of Nazareth was born into a situation that would be considered less than divine, was one who lived on the margins and made friends with the outcasts, called out the religious authorities on their corruptions and oppressive practices, subverted social norms and boundaries, honored the gifts and talents of those others disregarded, and gathered around tables with all kinds of people, blessing and sharing food even with those who would hurt him in the end. Talk about connection to mothers, ancestors, history, and place. This divine life incarnate placed a lot of emphasis on relationality and interdependence, and the absolute disruption of any so-called human/sacred divide…and yet.
So often the emphasis and foundation of too many Christian theologies is on the depravity of the human and the ‘fall’ of creation. Instead of grounding theology and spirituality on the interrelatedness of all creation in and within God, on the incarnation of a life so beautifully lived, too often the emphasis is put on the separation and distinction between the human and the sacred. The incarnation is seen as an intervention come in from afar – “God came down from heaven…” – the sacredness of life is externalized, and problematically so. Because the truth of the matter is that Christians have a much fuller and richer story than the one usually told. There are, of course, a diversity of Christian theologies, and thank Goddess for them, but they are not the most prevalent. Gratefully, feminist Christian theologians, eco-feminist, and process theologians are some of the ones that are doing the work to ground us in our richer and fuller Christian story that does not separate us one from another, or the earth, or from God, but instead emphasizes the web of our interconnectedness and directs us toward care and mutuality in our relatedness.
But Carol’s post yesterday had me wondering about why it seems that (too often) in Christianity we don’t have as much of a sense of rootedness and connection to our ancestors, or groundedness in the earth and the many sources of life (one exception is the Celtic Christian tradition). I think about how central embodiment and incarnation are to Christianity and I think it would/should have the effect of making us more connected, more grounded, more grateful and giving than what is often the case. Can it be that the incarnation itself, which I love so much, is the troublesome cause? That somehow because we hold one human life as the distinctive manifestation of the divine made flesh, we’re also implying that the possibility of human/divine communion isn’t always and ever available? If that is the case, I surely don’t think it has to be.
This requires a lot more reflection though, but I at least wanted to share some of these initial ruminations with you all. For now, let me say thank you to all our earth-based Christian and Goddess practicing feminist sisters, you all move us in a more expansive, healing, and liberating direction. I am so grateful.
Xochitl Alvizo is a feminist Christian-identified woman and a Ph.D. candidate in Practical Theology at Boston University School of Theology. She loves all things feminist. Finding herself on the boundary of different social and cultural contexts, she works to develop her voice and to hear and encourage the voice of others. Her work is inspired by the conviction that all people are inextricably connected and what we do, down to the smallest thing, matters.