What “I Believe” and Found Worth Sharing by Xochitl Alvizo

Incarnation, Goddess spirituality, Xochitl Alvizo, god became fleshThe end of my Ph.D. program is in sight. Originally, in 2004, I came to Boston University School of Theology (BU STH) from Los Angeles for a two-year masters program. Along the way I switched to a three-year masters program, after which I ended up staying for the Ph.D. Now, eleven years later, the end is actually in sight.

Last week I successfully defended my dissertation, “A Feminist Analysis of the Emerging Church: Toward Radical Participation in the Organic, Relational, and Inclusive Body of Christ.” Two days ago I had the last class section that I will ever teach as TA (teaching assistant) – next time I teach I will be doing so as a professor of religious studies at Cal State Northridge.  Finally, because I am one of the students who will be graduating this year, I was invited to participate in the last chapel service of the year and be a speaker for the “This I Believe” service – themed after the NPR series by the same name. Yesterday, I was one of six students who were given three minutes each to share what we believe – which, let me tell you, is not a small task! 

I thought about what “I believe” for a week, ruminating on different possibilities and trying to figure out what it is that “I believe” before finally realizing that it was an impossible task, for how could I actually compress what I believe into three minutes worth of sharing? So I changed my strategy. Instead of trying to figure out what “I believe,”  I thought about what I could say in three minutes that I found worth saying in this context and in this time and place. Suddenly the task seemed easy and the answer came to me immediately.

After eleven years at BU STH, what follows is what I found worth sharing with my STH community as my time as a student there comes to a close. And as it turns out, it only took me two minutes and forty seconds to say.


I believe that before Jesus was his mother.

…and Elizabeth, and John the Baptist, and Zechariah, and an inn keeper, and a barn owner, and whole host of people.

We often forget that there was a whole community of people always involved in the incarnation of Christ. We make the mistake – those of us who call ourselves Christian – of exalting Jesus as if he lived and loved and ministered and died in isolation.

Perhaps it can be comforting, or somehow easier, to think we have a hero or a shera who we can turn to who will make everything better – who will swoop in to save us – or who already has. But when we do this, we distort the truth that it takes a whole community of people to embody a new divine reality. And when we exalt Jesus as if he was a solo savior – we do so at the expense of the many – we effectively erase all the others who also participated in this incarnation – and in turn we stunt our imagination of how we too play a role in giving flesh and blood to a divine new way of living and relating. We need a community of people with whom to practice and embody such a way of life.

So, in the words* of Reverend Dr. Alla Renee Bozarth, I believe that:

Before Jesus
was his mother.

Before supper
in the upper room,
breakfast in the barn.

Before the Passover Feast,
a feeding trough.

Before his cry,
her cry.
Before his sweat
of blood,
her bleeding
and tears.

Before his offering,

Before the breaking
of bread and death,
the extending of her
body in birth.

Before the offering
of the cup,
the offering of her

Before his blood,
her blood.

And by her body and blood,
his body and blood
and whole human being.

The wise ones knelt
to hear the woman’s word
in wonder.

Holding up her sacred child,
her God in the form of a babe,
she said: “Receive and let
your hearts be healed
and your lives be filled
with Love, for
this is my body,
this is my blood.”

* This is a shortened version of Alla Renee Bozarth’s poem “Before Jesus.”

Xochitl Alvizo is a Ph.D. candidate in Practical Theology at Boston University School of Theology. She loves all things feminist. She often finds herself on the boundary of different social and cultural contexts, and works hard 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; it makes a difference for good or for ill.

Author: Xochitl Alvizo

Feminist theologian, Christian identified. Associate Professor of Religious Studies in the area of Women and Religion and the Philosophy of Sex Gender and Sexuality at California State University, Northridge. Her research is focused in Congregational Studies, Feminist and Quuer Theologies, and Ecclesiology specifically. Often finding herself on the boundary of different social and cultural contexts, she works hard 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 the good one can do in any one area inevitably and positively impacts all others.

34 thoughts on “What “I Believe” and Found Worth Sharing by Xochitl Alvizo”

  1. Congratulations! You will be a wonderful professor of religious studies who will change lives for decades to come. And thank you for sharing this wonderful, poignant, and wise offering of your faith. We on the East Coast will miss you!


    1. I will miss being a train ride away from you Carolyn – but we still have one more get together before I move west – I’ll email soon!


  2. The title of your dissertation is enticing to me! Please put me on the list to buy the book you will write on this. We need it. Thank you for spending yourself in the work of midwifing our emerging church and may there always be great joy in it for you.


  3. Congratulations Xochitl. May your becoming in this new identity and role be accompanied by wonderful people who will celebrate with you, develop with you, with whom there may be mutual learning and sharing. May you find delight as well as challenge, hope as well as hard work. I look forward to reading your book and books – as well as continuing to hear your reflections here.
    Be well celebrated and enjoy the changes to come


  4. Congratulations Dr. Xochitl! It seemed like just yesterday when you were procrastinating over writing your thesis. Please remember to celebrate this big achievement. I mean it. C E L E B R A T E!!!

    I very much enjoyed your 2:40 talk, so cool that you got a POEM in there as well as a beautiful “shout-out” to the community. And, being a member of the FAR community, I must admit, I felt a teeny tiny bit proud (responsible-ish, like a parent) that you had mentioned the importance of communities for spiritual development and nurturing.


    1. Thank you so much! And yes, for sure – my FAR community, my feminist community, is central to my understanding of spiritual development and key in what I bring with me to the communities of faith in which I participate. Thank you for being part of this with me :)


    1. Oh, that’s awesome, Laury – you should definitely do that! I totally believe we need to decenter the central male figures of these traditions – traditions that truly continue to inspire so many of us – as an act of faithfulness to the expansive vision to which these traditions actually call us. We need to continually refresh our memories, resisting the patriarchal forces from within and from outside the traditions that would distort the beauty within them. Thanks!


  5. Way to go, Xochitl! It’s sooooooo good when one is finished with graduate school. I always thought it was a sort of womb-like existence: you’re fully wrapped up in something and you don’t think you’ll ever get out. Then you get “born.” As a Real Scholar!

    I love the idea that Jesus was not conceived, carried, born, and nursed in solitary confinement, that his mother and father were members of a community. I love the idea that Jesus was born into that community and he’s not a solo superhero. Thanks for sharing that splendid poem.

    And of course we who post and read and comment here at FAR are a community, too.


    1. Yes, thank you, Barbara – I totally relate to the womb metaphor. There are corresponding pains that go with being born a scholar too! Thank you for your comments!


  6. Such a beautiful, stirring post, dear Xochitl! I am all over goose bumps from reading it. Congratulations on your Ph.D and Godspeed on the path before you. I know you have inspired and will inspire many. Thank you for the community you have created here.


    1. Aw, thank you, Elizabeth! And, I know I owe you a phone call – I’m slowly catching up on everything :)


  7. Congratulations from me too Xochitl! And all that’s best in your return to the west, and future sharing of what you believe. May you always keep it as clear and vibrant as your sharing in 2:40 above!
    Feel a need to send you a (HUG)! :-)


    1. Thank you, Barbara – and I agree, clear and vibrant is a good goal for me to keep. Thank you for the hug!


  8. Xochitl — Yay, yay, yay!! Congratulations on finishing your Ph.D. As has been said, it’s a big milestone, so make sure to celebrate it.

    And thank you for the shortened version of the Alla Bozarth poem, with its feminist take on Jesus. I found it very moving. But most of all, thank you for starting FAR, a community that keeps on giving to all of us who participate here in whatever way.


  9. Felicidades Xochitl! I am so excited that you will be joining us at CSUN. I hope we can collaborate! I am in Dept. of Chicana and Chicano Studies. Lara Medina


    1. Muchas gracias, Lara! I am so excited to be joining you all at CSUN – I can’t wait! And absolutely, I also hope we can collaborate – so I am sure we will make it happen. I am looking forward to it.


  10. Seeing this late, but happily! I love everything that you articulated above, am delighted that you quoted “Before Jesus” as part of your statement of faith/belief, and say YES to your every thought and word~ and to You in your new professional and spiritual state of accomplishment and further adventures. May they be sweet and satisfying. (And yes, also safe.) The Blessings of Our Divine Mother Continue to Be Upon You and Fill You with Holy Wisdom and All Good Things.


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