Blessed By Gratitude and Sharing by Xochitl Alvizo


Incarnation, Goddess spirituality, Xochitl Alvizo,  god became fleshCarol 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.

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Categories: Ancestors, Christianity, Earth-based spirituality, Ecofeminism, Embodiment, Feminism, Feminist Theology, General, Goddess Movement, Goddess Spirituality

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16 replies

  1. Xochitl and Carol, thank you both so much for your thoughtfulness and inspiration and for creating and sustaining this community. I would like to respond more fully as I also live at that intersection Xochitl named. I may have a chance tomorrow, but have a friend who is critically ill and am spending most of my time at the hospital. I am saving your posts as “new” and will write when I can. Meanwhile and always, thank you!

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    • Thank you Elizabeth for your comment and I look forward to your fuller response. I’m sad to hear about your friend – I hope the situation doesn’t stay critical and that your time together go well and be a blessing to you both.

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  2. I hate to be picky, but when you write “God becomes flesh and makes her home among us,” you’re writing correctly but you’re using a pronoun I don’t think a Christian would use. Their god is male (except in metaphysical churches, which sometimes say He/She) and their trinity is all male. Jesus was male. The BVM only made her home among us one time.

    Nevertheless, this is a beautiful, thoughtful blog. Thanks for writing it!

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    • Hehe, thank you for being picky Barbara, I appreciate it. And I hear where you are coming from, but I don’t believe Christianity is monolithic or reducible to just one single perspective or practice. There are actually many Christian identified people, especially feminist ones of course, who use expansive, creative, gender variant language for God, and would definitely affirm that God is not male. Even while there is a lot of male-language references for God in the Bible, there are also female references and language for God – though it is not as prominent. Nonetheless, it’s important for us to point that out and counter the patriarchal dominance that has been embedded in Christianity. We can’t let patriarchal Christianity have the last word!

      I do see how in effect it can be said that using female pronouns for God is not what ‘a Christian would use’, but some of us are still within the Christian tradition and very much do use female language for God (some of us also very much love Goddess!) and we actively draw out the expansive and inclusive elements from within Christianity. The truth is that Christianity has never been understood or practiced in only one way, even as much as some of the more fundamentalist interpreters would like us to think so…

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      • Thank you Xochitl for your comment about not letting patriarchal Christianity have the last word. There ARE female references and language for Deity in the Bible. That is important, especially to women, and it needs to be brought more to people’s awareness.

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      • I second this from a Jewish perspective as well. Patriarchy does not get the last word when it comes to understandings of G-d and gender. One of my favorite images of G-d in the Torah is in Deuteronomy (32:11) when G-d is said to protect us like a mother eagle protects her young. What a comforting and feminine image of G-d!!! I will actually be posting on this site about G-d and gender and my experiences in the classroom on Sunday. Hope many of you check back.

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  3. I love the dialogue you have created with Carol’s Piece. Great response!

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  4. Love your follow-up remarks, Xochitl! As someone who has never been immersed in Christianity, but was turned off to it permanently from the outside (as an agnostic homeschooled teenager amidst primarily fundamentalist Christian homeschoolers, I quickly “learned” that feminism and religion were incompatible) it has taken me many YEARS to come to a different understanding and to become at home in my own spiritual framework. While I still am not interested in Christianity, I AM interested in others’ experiencing of it and the fact that there are many different types of Christians, and not only the tiny slice I was exposed to in my youth.

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  5. Thought-provoking posts, both yours and Carol’s. Carol’s made me think of my West African dance classes and the symbolism in all the movements, and how much of it was about honoring ancestors and honoring the earth. It made me think of the bonds I forged with my classmates. I think the ritual of connectedness is part of that.

    Your post made me think of a conversation I had with a co-worker when I was in college. He was Asian (I don’t remember from what country), and he really lashed out at me when I said plainly that I’m a Christian. He was angry at Christianity and all Christians because when his sister became a Christian when they were in high school, she refused to bow to honor their dead grandmother at her funeral, believing that as a Christian, she could bow to no one but Christ. What she did dishonored his family and tore them apart. I found it very odd and wondered why she didn’t bow; Christianity and cultural norms can co-exist in my world, but in hers, they could not.

    So when I think about your question as to whether the incarnation is the problem, I would say that depending on your interpretation of the Bible, it can be. I think my coworker’s sister was following instructions to put no relationship, no human, no tradition, etc., ahead of Christ, even if those traditions connect you to others and bring others honor. I don’t think that one incarnation implies that human/divine communion isn’t always available or possible–Christ is the one thing that makes it possible. I think it suggests that no human-to-human communion will ever be as great as the human-to-divine one. That’s not inherently bad, but I think problems come in when we can’t see the divine in others and therefore feel justified in abandoning our connections to them.

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  6. What a wonderful piece! It echos many of the thoughts I have had of late and I am amazed once again that a writer here has been able to verbalize my feelings so eloquently – perhaps I should not be, lol! The more study, the more convinced I become that feminist theories are crucial to understanding Jesus, especially for those of us who follow his teachings. Many thanks for a pleasant read while nursing a baby!

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  7. Xochtl —

    Thanks for this post. Like “Talkbirth,” I find it exhilerating to discover Christianties that overlap with my Wiccan path. I believe from what I’ve read that a Mexican or Mexican-American Christianity allows for a much broader Christianity (like Celtic Christianity), grounded in the Earth and the sources of life, in large part because of the Virgin of Guadelupe. For me, She is a Goddess, related to Tonantzin and several other earlier Mexican Goddesses, and She certainly is a symbol of liberation. I’d love to hear more on this from you, if it dovetails with your perspective.

    For me one of the guidelines for whether a theology reflects the interconnectedness of all life is whether or not its precepts are inclusive or exclusivist. If there is only one incarnation for all time, that seems exclusivist. If Jesus as the incarnation of God/dess is a role model or an inspiration for our connection with the Divine, that’s (at least potentially) inclusive.

    I love this blogsite!!! I love the conversations that happen here, even if I sometimes have life experiences that keep me from reading the posts when they come out. Yay for Feminism and Religion!

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  8. Still not up to responding as I’d like. Thank you for your kind words, Xochitl. My friend is going home on hospice care next week.

    I am in total accord with honoring the ancestors and all they went through to pass on the gift of life to us–and to honor the earth as the source of all. I also love the Incarnation, love Jesus for having feet and getting them dirty. I am not sure he ever proclaimed–as it says in the Nicene Creed–that he was the only son of god, the only one to mediate the divine and human. That is not how I read him, one reason I am no longer a Creed-saying Christian.

    My narrative character Maeve (aka Mary Magdalen) is a pagan Celt who never converts. She was taught to be proud of her lineage. There were druids who specialized in keeping track of everyone’s lineage. When she finds herself on a slave block in Rome, she defiantly recites her lineage and is rudely told, “You ain’t got no lineage now, Red!” What she discovers, in her struggle to survive, is that her fellow slaves, from all over the Roman Empire, must become her new kin–are her kin.

    It is ironic to me that some Christians today proclaim themselves defenders of family values, values Jesus was always subverting, because family lineage also meant social class, tradition, loyalty to something other than god. He challenged people to see those considered beyond the social pale as kin.

    How wonderful if we could marry earth-centered reverence for ancestors with the recognition that we are part of the incarnation, all related, all mediating the divine and human, hallowing both.

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    • Elizabeth, I’m not sure I understand the last statement in your reply. In my paganism, “earth-centered reverence for ancestors [IS married] with the recognition that we are part of the incarnation, all related, all mediating divine and human, hallowing both,” as you so beautifully state. I KNOW that I am a spark of the Goddess’ divine light. That’s not something I have to wait for or hope for.

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      • Got you, Nancy. No need to wait. i was just writing about the intersection of Christianity and earth-centered practice that Xochitl invoked, that it could be marriage rather strife. That’s what The Maeve Chronicles are about in part. Good to see you here!

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  9. This is a very lovely, profound and penetrating meditation on christianity, incarnation and God. These topics i also meditate upon in my new book of poems Ardor: Poems of Life. My own feminist spiritual path has led me to the all-embracing teachings of the living female incarnation Amma who says “Love is my religion” and teaches “There is nothing but God.” I love the kind, connecting, feminine way you write about these things. Thank you.

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