Let Us Give Thanks for Feminism and Religion Dot Com by Carol P. Christ


carol-christFeminism and Religion was founded in the late spring of 2011. Throughout the summer Gina Messina-Dysert hounded me about submitting a blog while I ignored her emails because I didn’t think I wanted to take on a new project.  Gina was persistent nonetheless. Finally I decided that it would be easier to take an excerpt from a book review I had recently written than to explain why I didn’t want to write something for the blog, and so “Exciting New Research on Matriarchal Societies” became my first contribution.

I must have enjoyed writing the blog or reading the responses to it, because my FAR archives show that I was soon contributing a blog every other week and not long after that, every week.  In those early days, the majority of the contributors to FAR were younger white Christian feminists with connections to Claremont Graduate School. As an older Goddess feminist living abroad, I felt a bit like a fish out of water. However, Gina insisted that the founding staff wanted to be inclusive of as many feminist voices as possible.  Indeed, FAR followed up on my suggestions of Goddess feminists Barbara Ardinger and Daniel Cohen and later Judith Shaw and Jassy Watson—3 of whom are now regular contributors.  I also solicited 2 powerful blogs by Candice Valenzuela and encouraged Karen Villanueva to write for us. They too added important perspectives.

Today the FAR roster of bloggers is far more inclusive than it was at the beginning due in large part to the (shall I say dogged) persistence of Gina and Xochitl Alvizo.  Womanist Christian Kelly Brown Douglas has become a regular contributor, and women of color write from a variety of other perspectives now as well.  There are more blogs by Buddhist feminists these days, and newly arrived Muslim feminist bloggers including Amina Wadud are attracting a wide readership.  There is always room for–and a need for—greater diversity.  I assume Xochitl and Gina are working on this every day.  (One of the nice things about not running FAR is that someone else is doing the hard work for a change.)  At the moment we have only one regular Jewish voice, that of Ivy Helman—it would be nice to have others.

Readers of FAR may think that as an established writer and thinker, I am giving more than I am receiving. They would be wrong!  They would be forgetting that I “ran away from home” and have been living as an expatriate in Greece for over 20 years. One of the reasons I left my academic position in the US was my experience that members of the Women and Religion section of the American Academy of Religion were closing ranks as Christians and “closing out” the voices of those (including “founding mothers” in the field Rita Gross, Karen McCarthy Brown, and me) who were no longer Christian.  It has been healing to be part of a “new-generation” FAR community where diverse voices are genuinely appreciated and where dialogue across our differences actually is beginning to occur—though not always without difficulty.

I have always believed that feminists in religion share a great deal despite our different histories, locations, and religious identities. It hurt me deeply to be excluded from academic feminist conversations that have been carried on for decades “in-house” among Christians, often with the inclusion of a token Jew or Muslim, but not so often with the inclusion of me or the likes of me .

I think hiring conditions in the field played a role in the “Christianizing” of feminist theological discourse in the academy. When departments of Religious Studies cloak themselves in the ethos of objectivity, there is no room for engaged feminist theological voices within them.  That leaves the seminaries—which early on began to “vet” feminist theologians, historians, and ethicists more closely than their male colleagues, in order to make certain that their theological positions were not heretical. In the context of scrutiny, even to enter into dialogue with those outside the fold might have been taken as a “sign” that feminist Christians were “up to no good.” In choosing to make FAR as diverse and inclusive as possible, the founders of FAR took a risk that could make them “suspect” if they seek employment in Christian institutions. I applaud them for that.

Over here in Greece, there is very little feminist conversation about religion. A Greek theologian friend told me that she could not even get other Greek women theologians to meet at her house to discuss a book written by a man on the question of women’s ordination in the Orthodox tradition.  The Church, which despite European Union laws on the separation of church and state, is still powerful in politics and daily life, looks askance at new religions, revival of ancient religions, Eastern religions, and even yoga.  My foreign friends are almost all atheists, and those who are not have the “British reticence” which leads them not to want to talk about religion or politics.

In this void FAR has become an important part of my life.  I read the blogs almost every morning at 10 am Greek time, when they are first posted. I relish my conversations with all of you who post on FAR. One of my hopes for the New Year is that more of you who read our blogs would post your responses. I understand that our blogs often provoke the kind of deep thinking that requires time and recognize that this is not exactly conducive to immediate reply. Still, my wish is to hear from more of you in 2014. Why not start now by posting something below about what FAR means to you?

Profound good wishes to everyone in the FAR community in the New Year! May all of our voices be heard!  And heartfelt thanks to Gina and Xochitl!

Carol P. Christ  has been busy creating a soon-to-be-released new website for the Goddess Pilgrimage to Crete which she leads through Ariadne Institute.  It is not too early to sign up for the spring or fall pilgrimages for 2014.  Carol can be heard on a WATER Teleconference.  Carol’s books include She Who Changes and Rebirth of the Goddess and the widely-used anthologies Womanspirit Rising and Weaving the Visions



Categories: Academy, Activism, Community, Feminism and Religion, General

Tags: , , , , , ,

35 replies

  1. Here Here Carol!!! These forums are vital for connection and discussion with the wider global feminist community. I have learnt a great deal from all contributors. I find that reading other writers personal experiences from within their given faith far more informative than some of the texts I am to read at university. I am having difficulty finding my own voice within academia as taking a feminist approach in the religion and the Ancient history department where I study is proving to be a difficult trudge and is more often than not criticised, however like a red flag waved at a bull, I dig my heels even deeper and study harder and it is conversations with women such as yourself Carol, that keep me steadfast. Participating in FAR has given me the opportunity to write from the heart – authentically and honestly, to share my works of art and their stories. Being invited to write for FAR by you dear Carol was a momentous time in my life, it started the ball rolling for so many other things and I have made many special connections from being in this wonderful wise and accepting community. Thank you to everybody for all the hard work that goes into keeping the forum active. New Year Blessings to you all x

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  2. Carol, thanks again for a lucid, heartfelt and educational post. I didn’t realise how young FAR is, and how far it’s come since then (forgive the pun!)

    Yes, it is a challenge being a feminist, let alone a feminist with belief. I think back to all those amazing women, including suffragettes, who helped create votes for women; the scientists who gave us effective birth-control thus creating a more even toe-hold for women; even though there is much more to be done. I’m well aware of the patriarchy within my own (Anglican) church, and quietly challenge it whenever it happens. I’m also lucky enough that my younger brother was gay, thus introducing me to diversity early on.

    The more people challenge or criticise my inclusive beliefs, the more I choose to bless them, as I see the fear in their eyes as they do so. Too few understand, let alone accept, we are loved beyond measure, no matter who we are, or how we choose to worship. Living in that knowledge is very empowering.

    I love the discoveries of societies which worshipped ancient goddesses aeons ago, let alone the flowering that is coming through many millions (billions) of women’s hearts now. I pray that one day a new Bible will be published, which includes all the gnostic texts hidden in the Vatican. We’re all intelligent enough to appreciate them, certainly here on FAR. Blessings <3

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    • This is a beautiful message: “The more people challenge or criticise my inclusive beliefs, the more I choose to bless them, as I see the fear in their eyes as they do so.” Blessings!

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  3. Carol, thank you for this history of the blog. I don’t recall how Iwas introduced to it, but it is definitely on my daily reading list and has taught me much as I walk my own ever expanding path.

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  4. Thanks so much Carol, for this “story of beginnings”. The variety of Traditions here is one of the reasons I keep reading. No “one” – individual or collective – has all knowledge. We need each other.

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  5. I have to say your weekly post, Carol, gives this group enormous interest. Every time I point out FAR to friends, I get the most curiosity when I mention that Carol P. Christ posts once a week. You are a leader in that sense at FAR, actually, a beacon. And you back that up beautifully with some very inspiring and challenging insights!! One suggestion (since you mention it), though, it might help to encourage more comments if the writers at FAR would occasionally list some provocative questions at the end of their posts. Most people would be delighted to feel challenged in that way, I think, and also it would then be not just commenting, but an actual dialogue.

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  6. Brava! And thanks for inviting me to become a blogger. I’m having fun.

    How about instead of seminaries–the word is based on “semen”–we organize some OVULARIES and fill them with feminist heretics? Except if we’re all feminist, what would heresy be? Associating with men? But among the bloggers here are some really smart men. Ovaries produce eggs, of course, which produce people. All kinds of people. Yippee!

    And multitudinous thanks also to Gina and Xochitl for all their hard work.

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  7. I appreciate this blog because I see the “50 Shades of Gray” within all the religious traditions. Religion is not a digital Christian-yes, Christian-no, it is an analog world of “Yes, I’m a Unitarian, but I actually have a lot of Buddhist beliefs.” I love seeing all the diversity, between religious traditions and within religious traditions, and this blog is a reminder, each and every day, of all the beautiful things that make us different as well as what we share.

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  8. What a great way to begin the New a Year–taking witness! Thanks for yet another example if your leadership at FAR.

    I still hope our paths will cross in the body and not just by sharing in on-line blog contributions.. Who knows, maybe this will be the year!? We’ve been blogging together for more than 5 years now…

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  9. Thank you for the invitation to respond, Carol. FAR is my touchstone every morning–it’s here when I get up and it’s much better than coffee. I love this community and I come back to it when I wonder where the feminists in the world are.
    I was in Crete on one of Carol’s tours in 2006 and those memories are still with me.

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  10. I love being a part of FAR and am grateful for the opportunity. You, Carol, have been a very influential voice to me personally and I am so happy to be able to share virtual space with you on this collaborative project.

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    • Oops. This is Molly. I have two wordpress accounts. One that is linked to FAR (woodspriestess) and one that is linked to my own primary blog (talkbirth). I usually comment under talkbirth since that’s my primary login, even though I write/contribute to FAR under woodspriestess.

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  11. Carol, I cannot begin to tell you how joy-full I feel reading this blog every day. The rainbow of voices echoes around the globe. I cherish the similarities amongst us, and the differences too. Thank you for being one of the pioneers of FAR.

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  12. As I’ve said repeatedly, Carol, I LOVE FAR!!!! I read it everyday (a lot later than many of you, since I’m a night owl who lives in the Midwest). I find the posts and the conversations they begin thought-provokin, as well as enriching. Conversation is one of the great joys of my life, so that’s saying a lot. The breadth of the religious (and non-religious) feminism described and discussed here encourages me as a feminist in my own life. In fact, I have a trove of quotes from many of you that may inspire posts from me in the future. And I know you’re not fishing for compliments, Carol, but I always look forward to reading your blog post Monday morning (or early afternoon as the case may be). Thanks, all of you, and especially Gina and Xochitl, for this exciting and stimulating blog site.

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  13. Thank you for this post, Carol! And thank you for your incredible contributions to FAR. It is exciting to see how much it has grown since its birth. You certainly are a leader in this community and I am grateful to be collaborating with you! xxx

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  14. I began seminary in 2011, the year FAR was birthed, because I wanted to study feminist theology/thealogy. I had been raised Christian and was involved in my United Church of Christ church, but I also was drawn to the Goddess movement. Luckily I found my professors more receptive than you did, Carol, but I still often felt like a fish out of water. Thank God/dess I discovered FAR! I think I learned about FAR through your website, Carol. FAR has given me a wonderful supportive community and all of you who contribute to FAR have taught me so much about your religious traditions. I am very thankful to Gina and Xochitl for starting FAR and to all who contribute to it!

    Blessings!

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  15. Wow! Carol, it is such a gift to read your post and all the comments that follow. Thank you! This is one of the great things about a collaborative project, it’s full of great surprises! And from the get-go, FAR has always been a collaborative project – Cynthie Garrity-Bond and Caroline Kline were also co-founders, and so many more joined it. Carol being one of the early ones. FAR has so many great partners on this; I have been so grateful for each of you.

    I’ll share a fun thing that happened today related to FAR – I’m TA for a winter term class that started today at BU, “Womanist Approached to Religion” and was pleasantly surprised to see that one of the FAR blog posts, amina wadud’s ‘Hajar: of the desert’ (10/17/13) was on the list of class readings. This was the second time I came across a FAR blog as part of a university class reading. You all’s contributions are a such a great resource!

    Thank you Carol, and thank you all for your comments.

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  16. FAR is a bonus benefit to my participation in the Fall 2013 Goddess Tour of Crete. I don’t read everything that is posted but everything I do expands my vision of the holy feminine. Hallelujah.

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  17. It thrills me to realize that women have created various platforms where we are make our voices heard without apology or permission. That Carol P. Christ is writing here on a regular basis is surely a sign of the decentering of the feminist theological universe. No longer are academic programs and theological schools the default places for such discourse. We are really broadening out the circle. Kudos to FIR, FAR and other such efforts. Thanks, Mary E. Hunt

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  18. Funny synchronicity – Before reading your post this morning I was thinking the same thing about FAR – how much I appreciate its diversity and inclusiveness. Thanks for sharing FAR’s history and thanks for being such a strong voice here.

    I have found the same problem in the art world that you speak of in academia – even more extreme in some ways as spirituality is not welcome. I remember being told by one gallery director a number a years ago that they could not represent my work because “Your work is very beautiful but we can not move work with spiritual content”. Mention the Goddess to a gallery dealer and you are laughed out of the room as “New Age”.

    But the growing readership at FAR shows that the human desire for spiritual connection and even for the Goddess is alive and powerful. My thanks go out also to Gina and Xochitl and to you Carol and to all of our contributors and readers.

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  19. Hello Carol. Thank you for your post. I was touched by what you shared of yourself and the responses you have had in work and social circumstances. I will hold you in my prayer. In line with the comments above I too benefit from this blog, especially as you say with the range of voices and perspectives. It is a wonderful resource in seeking to live within a faith and community that too often exclude. Thanks to all the contributors for a willingness to think aloud with us and of course to Gina and Xochitl for making this happen.

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  20. Thanks to all of you for responding from your hearts and minds.

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  21. FAR is my daily oasis. Thank you for sharing your journey and others who write here.

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  22. Thank you so much for this post and public giving thanks to Gina and Xochitl. I’ve never been connected to Feminists outside the Muslim community because I have never felt welcome. It became exhausting to have to explain why being a Feminist and being a Muslim are not mutually exclusive. Or worse, why I am still a Feminist even though I engage with the Qur’an as a revelation from the Divine. This blog has been its own revelation for me by bringing me into a fold of Feminist sisters who hear each other even in moments of disagreement. I am truly grateful.

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  23. Bonne année, Carol! I AGREE WITH YOU. Maybe, I feel lazy about writing in english but it is important that we, women, whatever the background, express ourselves. MERCI, CAROL!
    Annie

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  24. Carol, thanks for sharing these thoughts. I would like to echo your thoughts on the need for greater diversity. It is sometimes hard to be the only regular Jewish contributor. It would be nice to have more conversation partners. Part of the beauty of a space like this is it’s ability to challenge us to grow in our research, in our experiences and in developing and clearly articulating our thoughts. That is difficult to do when you are the only regular contributor from a faith tradition. I sometimes envy the string of Christian or pagan posts and wish I could see posts from a Jewish perspective for even just two days in a row. Wouldn’t that be great! More diversity I think will also bring greater interest.

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    • I have tried to get Jewish women friends of mine to contribute, but they only did one post. Maybe you should try to get some of your friends to submit.

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      • There are some excellent thealogians doing work on Hebrew Scripture, who are not necessarily Jewish. I did a ton of research on the Book of Ruth some years ago, because it has some amazing parallels to the Hymn to Demeter, for instance, if anyone might want to work on it, this powerful insight by Ilana Parades in “Countertraditions in the Bible: A Feminist Approach (pp. 106-107, 1992) —

        “[In the Book of Ruth] one may well wonder why the plot of female bonding is the plot of fertility. This somewhat paradoxical combination calls to mind the myth of [the two goddesses] Demeter and her daughter Persephone. […] Demeter springs annually to meet her daughter, and upon their happy reunion restores fecundity to the land.”

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      • Thanks, Nancy, I put the Ruth stuff online just now — download it page by page if you like, I’m not sure I want to leave it online — I did the translation myself from the Hebrew — like the Hymn to Demeter there are a number of sources who think the Book of Ruth was written by a female scribe, and I think so too. The search on the site doesn’t work — but there’s an extensive bibliography and an Intro I wrote myself, and the books are fabulous, some great feminism and religion insights —
        http://earlywomenmasters.net/ruth/
        http://earlywomenmasters.net/ruth/introduction.html
        http://earlywomenmasters.net/ruth/bibliography.html

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  25. Carol – thanks so much for providing your story of how you became so involved with this blog. It pains to me to hear of your experiences in the academy and I am sorry for the ways you’ve been excluded. I, too, am delighted by the greater diversity of voices and perspectives represented here and thank you tremendously for what you’ve done to make that happen!

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