I never considered myself one of those people who gets really “into” Halloween. But, as one might expect having an eight year old, especially an eight year old who celebrates her birthday shortly before the holiday, has made me much more in tune with the excitement and preparation which surrounds Halloween.
One of the traditions that I do very much enjoy is watching Halloween movies like Hocus Pocus and Double, Double, Toil and Trouble and, new to us last year, drinking warm mulled wine after coming home from a chilly (and this year possibly snowy!) night of Trick or Treating.
In my work as a church musician Halloween is book-ended by the celebration of Reformation and All Saints Day, so it tends to be a fairly busy time for my work schedule. As a result this is often the time of year that I reconsider my self-care and centering routines in the hopes of somehow preparing myself for the coming holiday season and the end of the year. This year, as I checked in on my current practices I realized that I haven’t been reading as much poetry as I used to when I was in grad school. As a result I have been trying to get back in the habit of reading some poetry a few times each week to help center myself. As luck would have it the last few weeks have found me stumbling upon poetry with connections to the Halloween season. I want to share with you a portion of two seasonal poems that I have encountered and are sticking with me.
In 2015 Kira Schlesinger wrote piece for Ministry Matters about how her own pro-choice stance on abortion had become more complicated the more she explored the issue of abortion. The article was widely read and shared, as well as hotly debated by many. You can read this article and the many comments here. Out of the response to this article grew Schlesinger’s Pro-Choice and Christian: Reconciling Faith, Politics, and Justice.
The book does a great job of walking the fine line of being both academically engaging and an easy enough read to engage a book or Bible study group as well. Schlesinger uses the first couple of chapters to dig into the history of abortion, listing recorded examples of the process as early as 1300 BCE. From there she briefly walks the reader through the roughly 100 years (Comstock Act in 1873 until Roe v. Wade in 1973) during which abortion was illegal in the United States. Finally, she wraps up this beginning historical section with details about the generations after Roe v. Wade up to our current reality.
Pay attention to your footfalls, make sure you are landing correctly, breathe and count…
Breathe in deep… fill your lungs… and breathe out the stress and the heaviness.
Over the last few weeks I have been trying to get back into running. A few years ago I discovered that I loved running. I loved being alone with my thoughts, focusing only on how my feet hit the ground and continuing to breathe as I ran far more consecutive miles than I ever would have imagined possible. I even ran a half marathon, which I never would have believed I would be capable of… but, somehow, I was… and actually it wasn’t too bad, I looked forward to doing it again and even started to day dream of the possibility of one day running a full marathon.
In the typical day to day busy-ness of life I hadn’t been able to run much last fall and then this winter I took a bad fall on the ice that left me barely able to hobble along at a walk let alone run any distance. After many months of physical therapy and (mostly) sticking to my stretching and strengthening routine, I finally decided I was brave enough (and trusted my knee enough) to try and get back into my running groove.
The phone rings loud on the bedside table near my head, and I wake with that tiny heart attack that only truly jarring things, like middle of the night phone calls, seem to trigger. It takes me a moment to gather myself, to remember who I am, where I am, and what that sound is… and then I grab the phone, hop out of bed and cross the hall into the office where I can finally answer.
It’s a familiar voice, Eli, my colleague and friend from the domestic violence and sexual assault shelter where I volunteer. They’ve just received a call from the emergency room about a sexual assault survivor asking for an advocate and I’m the volunteer on-call this week.
Eli handles himself so very well, knowing that while he is awake working the night shift I am still trying to grasp his words, trying to shake the sleep from my body and my mind. As his words sink in I write down the survivor’s name and start pulling on clothes to head to the hospital.
Though I’ve taken a fair amount of these calls during daylight hours, this middle of the night call is a new experience for me. I live in the upper peninsula of Michigan and while I love it here, this particular night also happens to be yet another night with significant snowfall, and it takes me quite a while to dig my car out enough to get it out of the tiny alley next to our house and up the hill toward the emergency room.
The first article I ever wrote for Feminism and Religion, (“I Never Thought That I Would Need to Be a Part of History,”) ran just a couple of weeks after the inauguration of the current President. As I sat writing this Monday afternoon, I kept trying to find some new or more exciting way to talk about voting in today’s election, I couldn’t help but go back and take a look at that first article.
As I wrote in that article, I never really imagined that I would need to be a part of history. As a scholar of theology and feminism I certainly understand that we are a long way from being a truly inclusive society. We still need to fight oppression and push for the acceptance of all those who are othered in our society, but somehow our current issues and “battles” seem so much larger than they did only a couple of years ago.
In the book, Women v. Religion: The Case Against Faith and for Freedom, editor Karen L. Garst puts together the voices of women from a variety of backgrounds in an effort to present a case against faith.
While the introduction to the full volume suggests that women ought to turn away from all forms of religion the majority of the individual pieces that the book features focus on the Abrahamic religions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. The included pieces are written from a variety of disciplines and viewpoints, some feature historical facts and timelines, while others are the raw and difficult personal stories of women struggling to leave the religions they were raised within.
Most of the articles dig into many of the traditional critiques of religion. For example that the Abrahamic faiths are inherently patriarchal, and cannot be redeemed for women. Others take these traditional arguments against religion a step further and argue that in addition to religion being a tool for female subjugation, religion has in fact inhibited Western progression and is a key reason why the United States has not yet had a female president, and why women continue to have to fight for their bodily and human rights.
In her novel, Kingdom of Women, Rosalie Morales Kearns imagines a reality that is post-patriarchy, and post male violence while showing us what near-future women had to go through in order to get to that reality. Morales Kearns weaves this story through the voices of multiple characters. One of these characters is Averil Parnell, a female Catholic priest. Part I of the book opens with a woman visiting Averil to seek her counsel in regards to taking revenge on her male college professor who has been harassing her ever since she refused to sleep with him.
While Averil seems to be of little help with this particular conversation, we learn that Averil was one of the twenty three original female priests that were to be ordained by the Catholic Church. On the day of their joint ordination however, the Cathedral Massacre took place and twenty two of the female seminarians were killed in cold blood. Averil then, is most definitely a woman who understands the yearning for revenge, the feeling of survivors guilt, and the expectation to be a wonderful priest for her dear friends who had that chance ripped away from them.
At the same time this conversation is taking place it has become clear that small groups of vigilante women are popping up around the world and punishing men for acts of violence against women. The male dominated government of course sees all these punishing acts as coincidental, explaining them away in one way or another, or ignoring them completely, never imagining that it is in fact the beginning of women rising up to truly end male dominance and violence.
A couple of weeks ago I went to see the new Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again! movie. In addition to being a fan of movies inspired by musicals I also loved the emphasis that was placed on the mother/daughter relationship in the first Mamma Mia and had heard that this new installment would continue to focus on that relationship. It definitely didn’t disappoint!
This second movie takes place five years after the original Mamma Mia, and roughly a year after the death of Donna Sheridan, with Donna’s daughter Sophie preparing for the grand reopening of the Hotel Bella Donna. This second movie also features lots of flashbacks where we are able to see a young Donna arrive at the island of Kalokairi as well as see how she first meets Sam, Bill, and Harry, her daughter Sophie’s three possible fathers.
As one might imagine, even if you aren’t familiar with the movie there is a lot going on, but the part that I found most intriguing was the very end of the movie. At this point Sophie has given birth to her own baby and is bringing the child to the church to be baptized. During the ceremony Donna’s spirit is there at the font with her daughter and new grandchild and you could feel this amazing sense of connection and love between not only three generations but across the lines of physical and spiritual presence and space.
“I am the Queen of Sheba and I am not impressed.” This is the first line of one of the monologues from chris wind’s book Thus Saith Eve. This book features 18 stories of biblical women, and a 19th, Lilith, from Jewish mythology. Each monologue offers a new interpretation and gives a voice to the women that we think we know.
In this book the voices and personalities of women such as Noah’s wife, Mary of Bethany, Zipporah, and Vashti are reimagined in an exciting and empowering way. Each of the stories also features an appendix where the reader can learn more about the biblical or mythological context of the woman who is telling her story.
As in her other works, wind uses historical people, events, and understandings to build a truly wonderful source of feminist fiction. In addition to being an extremely enjoyable and thought provoking read, the monologues can also be used for audition and performance pieces. On her website wind explains that two of the monologues, “I am Eve” and “I am Mary” can be performed with specific musical selections in the background. You can find those selections linked to her website above.
I recently had the opportunity to travel to my undergrad institution on a student recruitment trip. During this trip I was able to preach during the college’s weekday chapel service. Despite the fact that I have lived, studied, and worked within a seminary community for the last seven years I had not actually written (not to mention preached!) a sermon since I was a senior at this very college… to say the least I was a bit nervous. As it turned out the sermon writing went well, and I also felt positively about the preaching experience. But even though the writing and preaching are over I can’t stop thinking about the topics I choose to speak about.
The scripture lesson I used was Luke chapter 24 verses 22-24 “Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning, and when they did not find his body there, they came back and told us that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who said that he was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but they did not see him.”
These verses offer a quick recap of the Easter story that comes earlier in chapter 24 of Luke. The women go to the tomb with the spices that they have prepared, but when they arrive they discover that the stone has been rolled away and the body of their friend and teacher is not there. Instead, there are two men in dazzling clothes who ask the women “Why do you look for the living among the dead?”
I have never been one to set major resolutions at the beginning of the new year, but this year feels different somehow. I can’t say that I am sad to see the end of 2017. This year has felt like an unpredictable roller coaster both on a national and personal level. The highs of finishing a doctoral program and building a relationship with my boyfriend’s six year-old daughter were met with the complications of job searching, concern over losing access to affordable health care, and my feeble attempts to balance appropriate and timely responses to the constant onslaught of ridiculous, or often downright appalling, headlines with my need to remain at least somewhat sane. All in all I am ready for 2018 to begin and I feel a new drive to find ways to make this a better year for myself and for those around me.
How do I go about accomplishing this? I don’t want my new goals to go the way of so many resolutions… given up on or discarded by mid-January or perhaps February if I’m lucky. Rather I want to find ways to dedicate myself to small changes that I can sustain long-term, small changes that help me feel as though I am having an impact. In addition, I want to find ways to rejuvenate and reinvigorate myself and my actions on a regular basis… to make 2018 feel more like an enjoyable walk in lightly falling snow and less like slogging through five feet of that snow while carrying a heavy burden on my back.
I recently noticed that I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about financial security, the way class systems work in the United States context, and how these types of realities inform my feminism. Part of this is no doubt due to the fact that for the first time in my life I am not a student with multiple part time jobs, but rather am a “real” adult working full time at a job that offers retirement and medical benefits.
As I’ve written about before, I grew up in a poor family in rural Wisconsin and as a result I am often hyper vigilant about my finances. While I likely go a bit overboard when organizing my budgeting, balancing, saving, and spending this type of organizing is something I can control. The simple act of paying a bill, or determining how much I can spend on groceries this week gives me a profound sense of safety because for the first time there really is enough coming in to support my basic needs.
This past weekend I had the privilege of officiating for the wedding of a dear friend. Despite having undertaken all of my graduate and doctoral degrees at a seminary, I had not seriously considered ordination since the beginning of my master’s program when I discerned that my calling was to the academic side of theology rather than to leadership of word and sacrament. When my friend called me nearly two years ago to ask that I officiate her wedding, it never occurred to me that something as simple as an online ordination process would push me toward further vocational discernment… and yet, I think, just maybe, it has.
As a long time church musician I am accustomed to being a part of people’s special days. I have certainly played or sang for more than a few weddings, as well as other services that mark some of the various stages of life – baptisms, confirmations, funerals. I’m no stranger to carefully (and prayerfully) crafting these types of services to fit the families and individuals involved, but I imagine I do leave a certain amount of professional space between myself and these events in most cases.
I recently began a new job as the Associate Director of Admissions for the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, one of the seminaries of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. This week was orientation for our new and returning students and much of the time has been focused on getting to know one another as well as getting to know the corner of Chicago in which we are located. There have been so many life giving conversations as well as so many questions!
Our mornings featured speakers who helped us to engage one another in conversation as well as to start thinking about the unique reality of our place within not only the LSTC community but also within the rest of the Chicago community and the larger world. Throughout these presentations and getting to know you activities my thoughts continued to be pulled back to the question of how to have life-giving conversations in a time when so many of us feel emotionally and spiritually drained by the world around us.
Personal faith often has a huge impact on the lives of survivors of violence. This impact, unfortunately, as can be seen in the other posts as well as in the comments on those posts, is not always a positive one. In her book, Redeeming Memories: A Theology of Healing and Transformation, Flora A. Keshgegian envisions communities of faith as communities of remembrance. A community of remembrance does not ignore or suppress the negative experiences of its members but strives to enable us to embrace personal identity, form our faith, and to nurture hope in order to heal and transform after such experiences.
One question that my dissertation set out to answer was how we might begin the difficult work of moving our communities of faith in this direction. Sadly, the biggest difficulty seems to be the lack of awareness, or the downright denial, that domestic violence is an issue for the average faith community. So many congregation members assume that if their pastor is not talking about an issue then it must not be a problem in their particular community.
In my last post here on Feminism and Religion I unpacked the three primary understandings of atonement theology as well as some of the feminist critiques of those understandings. In this post I’d like to focus a bit more on how the relationship between power and violence influences how Christian women view the atonement.
In her book, On Violence, Hannah Arendt puts forth a new analysis of the relationship between power and violence. Arendt’s analysis, though primarily focused around concepts of the potential for worldwide destruction and war following major global occurrences such as the Second World War and the struggles for civil and women’s rights within the United States context, supplies an interesting framework with which to consider this relationship as it relates to domestic violence. Continue reading “A Middle: Understanding the Relationship between Violence and Power by Katie M. Deaver”
Since many of the comments on my last post expressed interest in my dissertation topic I will use my next couple of posts to talk a little bit more about my work and research in that area. When we talk about theories of the atonement we are trying to describe a narrative structure of what took place within the Christian cross event. Generally speaking, Christians believe that atonement serves at the reconciliation between God and humanity and that this reconciliation is realized through the person of Jesus Christ. The three primary theories that try to explain this event are Substitutionary/Satisfaction, Moral Influence, and Christus Victor.
The Substitutionary/Satisfaction theory of atonement suggests that Christ takes on the guilt and punishment that humanity deserves because of our sinfulness and so becomes our substitute, paying the debt we owe for our sins. Because of humanity’s sinfulness we deserve death, but instead of giving us what we deserve God instead offers God’s son as a sacrifice to pay our debt, to atone for our sinfulness, and to save us from the eternal punishment of death.
The Moral Influence theory of the atonement focuses primarily on the life and ministry of Christ rather than on his suffering and death. This theory is centered on the belief that God loves God’s creation so much that God would hold back nothing from us, God would even give God’s own Son in order to save us and remain in relationship with us. As a result this theory encourages Christians to live as Christ lived and focuses on imitating his life and ministry in order to bring about justice in our own world.
Last weekend was a special one for me. After many years of study and dedication I graduated with my Ph.D. and am now, officially, Dr. Katie Deaver. The weekend was filled with celebrations to mark the completion of a milestone that I have spent years working toward. The amazing outpourings of love, support, and care that I have experienced throughout the last few days is quite humbling. The happiness and pure joy of my family, friends, professors, mentors, and multiple church communities have left me in awe. As I reflect on this love and support it helps to heal the wounds and scars that have accumulated throughout the process of earning this degree.
The undertaking of a Ph.D. program is significantly more difficult than anyone tells you. This difficultly lies not necessarily in the course work or the dedication to constant reading, writing, and learning but rather in the personal growth and vocational affirmation that takes place within the process. My dissertation explored the primary understandings of the doctrine of atonement and addressed how this doctrine can, and has, been used in ways that perpetuate, and in some cases even encourage, domestic violence.
My own fascination with the topic of atonement and its links to domestic violence was brought about at the suggestion of one of my undergraduate professors at Luther College, Dr. Jim Martin-Schramm. From the moment that Dr. Martin-Schramm explained the links between theologies of the cross and domestic violence I knew that I had found my new passion. Writing a dissertation on the topics of domestic violence, theology and women of faith was an extremely personal, and intimate experience for me. This topic forced me to accept my own lived experience. To claim myself… out loud… as a survivor of domestic violence. As a result the writing of my dissertation was particularly personal, and painful, as well as extremely life giving.
My mother and I have always been very interested in our personal connection to the spirit realm. This connection, for us, is an important one. We pay attention to the signs and messages that remind us of our continued connection to those we love who no longer occupy our own physical time and space. Each cardinal, butterfly, and ceaselessly repetitive number (310 in our case) promises the continuation of relationship with the ones we miss so dearly.
A few years ago my mother and I were able to see a live show at the Chicago Theater featuring Long Island Medium Teresa Caputo. Even with hundreds of people in the audience, specific moments of Caputo’s readings spoke to images and memories that resonated and connected to our experiences. The show allowed us to once again be reminded of the continued connection between us and those special ones who we love and miss. Continue reading “Remembering My Saints by Katie M. Deaver”
I never thought that I would need to be a part of history. Don’t get me wrong, I know that each generation does indeed end up in a history book for a handful of headlining events that mark the course of their lifetimes, but I never in my wildest dreams imagined that the women in those old black and white photos, the women marching in the streets, the women burned at the stake might actually need to be me.
There were a few brief months where I truly believed that I would see the election of the first female President of the United States, but as we continue to be horrifyingly reminded each day, that version of history did not come to be. In connection with many of the articles from the last few weeks I continue to be perplexed and deeply concerned by the response of white Christians to the events of the last few months. Continue reading “I Never Thought That I Would Need to Be a Part of History by K.M. Deaver”