Feminism 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.