Legacy of Carol P. Christ: Curiosity About Everything and the Language of the Goddess

The was originally posted on April 14, 2014

mochlos altar stone

My recent discovery of Marija Gimbutas on Youtube rekindled my admiration for her work. In her slide-lecture “The World of the Goddess” Marija Gimbutas allows us to follow the line of reasoning she used to decipher the “language of the Goddess” in Old Europe.

Careful attention to her lecture shows that Gimbutas did not close her eyes, dream, and then attach her own ideas and intuitions to the artifacts she later discussed. Rather, she catalogued groups of images with similar symbolism and used her knowledge of nature (what does a water bird or an owl look like?) and folklore (she collected thousands of songs connected to the agricultural and life cycles in her native Lithuania in the 1930s) to unlock the meaning of ancient symbols.

Continue reading “Legacy of Carol P. Christ: Curiosity About Everything and the Language of the Goddess”

Revisiting Our Sisters’ Feminisms by Xochitl Alvizo

This post draws much from a previous post I wrote back in 2013, which generated great discussion in the comments. I came back to it as I was reflecting on our sisters’ revolution in Iran, Women, Life, Freedom, following the death of Mahsa “Zina” Amini while she was in the custody of the “morality police” in Iran. This woman-led movement has been nonstop for seven weeks. I’m in full support of the women and have continued to learn more about their context and history. The movement is powerful and inspiring, heavy and difficult, but its energy is alive and blazing. There is an impromptu song that has come to represent the movement; the song was created by linking real-time tweets and Instagram posts together – you can hear the song, read the lyrics, and see the screenshots in the video below:

Now the post I’m drawing back to from 2013 – a little different from the original – but one intended to invite us to reflect on our engagement with and support of one another across place and difference. And about the relationship between the local and global, and the need to hold a balance of both.

Continue reading “Revisiting Our Sisters’ Feminisms by Xochitl Alvizo”

From the Archives: Does the Term “Women of Color” Bother You? By Grace Yia-Hei Kao

Moderator’s note: This marvelous FAR site has been running for 10 years and has had more than 3,600 posts in that time. There are so many treasures that have been posted in this decade that they tend to get lost in the archives. We are beginning this column so that we can all revisit some of these gems. Today’s blogpost was originally posted August 11, 2015. You can visit it here to see the original comments.

Grace Kao

I recently came back from a weeklong camping retreat for Christian faculty and their families in beautiful Catalina (an island an hour’s boat ride away from the Southern Californian mainland). This year’s conference theme was “Power Revealed: Gifts, Dangers, and Possibilities.” Not surprisingly, the topics of race, race relations, and institutional racism came-up repeatedly in sessions and informal conversations.

Continue reading “From the Archives: Does the Term “Women of Color” Bother You? By Grace Yia-Hei Kao”

From the Archives: #MeToo and the Idolatry Trap by Tallessyn Zawn Grenfell-Lee

Moderator’s note: This marvelous FAR site has been running for 10 years and has had more than 3,600 posts in that time. There are so many treasures that have been posted in this decade that they tend to get lost in the archives. We are beginning this column so that we can all revisit some of these gems. Today’s blogpost was originally posted January 20, 2018. You can visit it here to see the original comments.

Really – everywhere we look – there are dead white guys. National holiday? Most likely in honor of a dead white guy. Statue on a green? Founder of a major Christian denomination? Dead white guy. Classic literature, painting, play, music ‘everyone’ is supposed to know about? Yup, probably by a dead white guy.

It’s a little exhausting.

It’s easy to develop a pretty negative attitude about all these dead white guys. I mean, some of them were pretty questionable if not downright oppressive people. Enough, already! Am I right?

Yes! Yes. Well… sort of. The thing is, some of them really did say and do wonderful, important things. I suppose we should not dismiss an entire portion of our history just on race and gender alone. And, truth is, I have a confession to make. I kind of really love the insights of some of these folks. I guess it’s easy to complain about all these dead white guys… until you fall in love with one of them.

Continue reading “From the Archives: #MeToo and the Idolatry Trap by Tallessyn Zawn Grenfell-Lee”

Carol Christ Symposium ~ Call for Papers by Mara Lynn Keller ~ Deadline for Proposals this Week!

Carol P. Christ
A Symposium in Celebration of Her Spiritual-Feminist Activism and Women’s Spirituality Scholarship

“The Goddess is the intelligent embodied love that is in all being.”
~ Carol P. Christ

Free Symposium via Zoom hosted by
Women’s Spirituality Graduate Studies Program California Institute of Integral Studies
October 22, 2021. 10:00 am to 4:00 pm

Call for papers focusing on Carol P. Christ’s scholarship and activism in the key areas of Women’s Spirituality, Goddess Studies, Ecofeminism, and Women and Religion.*

Please speak to what you think and feel are Carol P. Christ’s most important contributions to one of the academic fields listed below, and then also, to how her writings are important to you personally. We will arrange papers into the following six panels of 3-4 presenters.

  1. Ecofeminist Philosophy and Activism 
  2. Goddess Studies and Egalitarian Matriarchal Studies 
  3. Spiritual Feminism and Peace Activism 
  4. Spiritual Feminist Literary Criticism  
  5. Women and Religion
  6. Women’s Spiritual Pilgrimage 

Please send an abstract of your proposed paper (in 300 words or less) to Mara Lynn Keller at mkeller@ciis.edu, by Wednesday, September 16, 2021. Acceptances will be sent out Friday-Monday, 9/24-27/2021. Papers are to be 12 minutes in length.  

*Primary Sources include:

  1. Diving Deep and Surfacing: Women Writers on Spiritual Quest (1986)
  2. Woman Spirit Rising: A Feminist Reader in Religion, anthology co-edited with Judith Plaskow (1992)
  3. Odyssey with the Goddess: A Spiritual Quest in Crete (1995) 
  4. Weaving the Visions: New Patterns in Feminist Spirituality. Anthology co-edited with Judith Plaskow (1989) 
  5. Laughter of Aphrodite: Reflections on a Journey to the Goddess (1987)
  6. Rebirth of the Goddess: Finding Meaning in Feminist Spirituality (1998)
  7. She Who Changes: Re-imaging the Divine in the World (2004)
  8. Goddess and God in the World: Conversations in Embodied Theology. Co-authored with Judith Plaskow (2016) 
  9. Carol’s blogs on Feminism and Religion can be found at: Carol P. Christ (feminismandreligion.com)

In addition to the panels, the Symposium will include:        
In Memoriam: Ritual Honoring Carol’s Life and Death (1946-2021)
Circle of Remembrance: Personal reminiscences and reflections on Carol’s life and work.

This is What Female Leadership Looks Like! by Vicki Noble


Continue reading “This is What Female Leadership Looks Like! by Vicki Noble”

The Sacred Love We Can Share through Kindness and Patience by Elisabeth Schilling

new FAR pic“Love is patient, love is kind.” – 1 Cor 13:4.

I think it was either Simone de Beauvoir or Betty Friedan who mentioned we live in a “sea of hostility.” Mainly it is the comment section of almost any post of photo or text where this can be evidenced. Since much of humanity spends a solid amount of time on social media these days, such negativity, judgment, criticism, canceling, and general snarky reactivity and pushing of opinion starts to leak into our veins. I was thinking about the human predicament the other day and what might be a central issue for many: the avoidance of pain.

We think we avoid suffering, discomfort when we project it on to another person. When we decide to play the game and live life for ourselves, acquiring more and more wealth, we forget there is a cost to the earth and often our near and far global neighbors. We try to avoid suffering when we demand our freedoms, trying to fashion a world according to our preference even as it means imposing our personal moralities onto others. Continue reading “The Sacred Love We Can Share through Kindness and Patience by Elisabeth Schilling”

A Tribute to Rupert Sheldrake by Sara Wright

I first discovered Rupert Sheldrake’s work by reading his first two books: “A New Science of Life” written in 1981 followed by “The Presence of the Past.” These two books changed my life because they validated my experiential reality and demonstrated that my personal experiences were located in a much larger context. I was not imagining things I felt or dreamed!

(At the time I first read these books I was in personal crisis. I was struggling to accept that I was living the shadow side of Rupert’s hypothesis of Morphic Resonance as a rejected member of my own family. This rejection had so little to do with who I was that it left me paralyzed and numb, least until I began to sense that my situation was rooted deep in a very dark past I knew nothing about.) Continue reading “A Tribute to Rupert Sheldrake by Sara Wright”


Pentecost is followed by Ordinary time, the longest season of the church year. It gives us plenty of time to think about what happened when the Holy Spirit descended on the Apostles. I have always loved the idea that this one moment changed us, it was and is the fulfillment of God’s promise to pour out the Holy Spirit on all flesh, empowering diverse people to exercise divine power. It is commonly understood that the first to receive the power from on high are the male disciples, “locked in a closed room for fear of persecution.” Apparently these Jewish disciples were not too worried about their wives and children.

After painting several Pentecost Feast Day icons as an artist, iconographer and child of God I cannot remain silent with what I think the icon has taught me. It feels obvious that the great gift of the Holy Spirit was for all of humanity. I want to commemorate an ongoing Pentecost, a time to fill the world with spirit, where women and children are invited into the closed room and given a rightful place at the table. Images have a great deal of influence in opening the heart and the mind. Imagine a new contemporary understanding of divine light touching all human beings as well as the planet.

The Spirit Descending

A half circle of twelve descending rays is commonly found at the top of any Pentecost icon. This representation is critically important for the beginning of our narrative. “Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them.  And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. (Acts 2:2-4)

Imagine that these rays represent the uncreated energies filling the universe, the same rays any of us might feel when touched by grace. These divine rays envelope us as they come from beyond time and space.

Continue reading “PENTECOST a time to FILL THE WORLD WITH SPIRIT by Mary Jane Miller”

The Finish Line by John Erickson

I see it…do you?

It’s just within reach and I’m almost there…the proverbial finish line to my Ph.D.

That’s right folks, I’m graduating.

To say that this has been an easy journey, one that many of you have read about and witnessed, would be an understatement.  For many of us, that finish line is far away or getting there seems more like a hope and dream rather than a reality.  Whether or not it is because of economic hardships, life in general, or the regular types of “isms” that so many of us face while trying to better ourselves via academic enrichment, the struggle is real. Continue reading “The Finish Line by John Erickson”

Integrity of the Self by Natalie Weaver

I sat in a frigid moot court room at a conference on the morning of March 8, trying to concentrate. Within an hour of the program’s opening keynote, my underarms had become damp with that weird cold sweat that happens when you are at once freezing and yet decidedly overwarm in your wool overcoat. I was distracted, trying to decide whether I was sick, menstruant, nervous, or inappropriately dressed.  My coat was long and fitted over my suit coat, and I was vaguely worried about bleeding through or around what had become a misaligned feminine product.  Sitting straight in all those stiff layers for several hours felt, I imagined, something like the confinement of a full body corset.

The collar was taut around my neck, which made me feel sort of protected, but my presently over-long hair was caught up in a bun that kept bumping against the back of that same collar.  My glasses were smudged, and I can barely see out of them anyway at present, so I pushed them on top of my head.  However, my piled up, giant-feeling hair kept rocking them off center, so they sat at a precarious tilt on their perch.  Every time I leaned to get something from my purse, they would clumsily tumble forward off my head and onto the floor.  My pulled-back hair was giving me hair headache (which is just hard to explain if you’ve never had it – maybe something like a toothache in your hair follicles), and my left eye was working a sty that made my left eyelid twice the size of the right one.  My eyes are naturally a little unevenly sized, and it is especially apparent when I am tired, so with the sty, I was rocking a sort of partial Peter Lori look. Continue reading “Integrity of the Self by Natalie Weaver”

Small Victories by Sara Frykenberg

Last year was a hard year. I wrote about this difficulty—vaguely eluding to challenges of environment, home, and work—in my last post. In this blog, which was a copy of my reflection for our last faculty meeting of the year, I asked my colleagues and myself: should I take the year apart or find thoughts that will help us put ourselves back together again in the fall? I am pretty good at taking things apart. But returning to school in less than a week, I find myself most concerned with the latter question: have I put myself back together again? Have I found these thoughts?

I have slept more, but am I rested?

I have taken space, but am I ready to be close again?

I don’t know. But I am beginning to find the answers, the fragments of thought, in my small victories.

Bringing my panic to ‘get it together’ before school starts to my brother, he said to me: “You have a stubborn Taurus heart.” He’s right. My Taurus moon, which tends towards obstinacy, perfectly suits my Libra (in)decisiveness. I might have a lot of trouble coming to a decision, but once I have, you better believe that I am going to hold onto that decision—particularly in matters of the heart. I tend to hold onto anger too, problematically. I once lived an entire year in perpetual rage. But, I eventually had to let it go to learn how to breathe again (literally and figuratively). This summer has also been a practice in breathing; and the process feels at best, incomplete. Continue reading “Small Victories by Sara Frykenberg”

Knowing my Voice through Writing by Elise M. Edwards

elise-edwardsOver the summer, I’ve been writing more than I do during the traditional academic year when other tasks consume the bulk of my workday.  I have spent more time experiencing the joy of creative discovery and production, but I’ve also had more time confronting the difficulties of creative work as I’ve wrestled with some of its unique challenges.  One of those challenges has been to refine my academic writing voice. I’ve approaches the challenge of developing my voice as both a spiritual and feminist practice and this has helped me find confidence in my work.

Continue reading “Knowing my Voice through Writing by Elise M. Edwards”

Reflection for the End of the Year by Sara Frykenberg

At my school, a religious institution, we start every faculty meeting with a reflection, meant to inspire us, make us think, help us to connect, etc.  I am admittedly, sometimes very uncomfortable with these reflections. I don’t always like corporate ‘prayer’ because of my  past experiences in an abusive faith. They make me uncomfortable, defensive; even though I understand the value of collective ritual. Challenging me to face these feelings, my department chair asked me to give a reflection for our faculty assembly. So I did so by sharing the way I know how to share (in a collective way) best: in a blog. And here I present these reflections, my blog, with all of you as well. My thoughts about taking the year apart, and putting ourselves back together again at the end of the year:

(Reflection has been edited slightly in terms of length and clarification for presentation to this online audience.)

Faculty Assembly Reflection: Sara Frykenberg, April 2018 Continue reading “Reflection for the End of the Year by Sara Frykenberg”

The Three Mothers: Feminine Elements and the Early Kabbalah by Jill Hammer

For over ten years, I’ve been teaching a work of early Jewish mysticism known as Sefer Yetzirah, or the Book of Creation.  There are widely differing opinions on the book’s origin and dating, but many scholars date it to the sixth century.  Its core concept can be described simply: the Divine used the Hebrew letters as metaphysical channels to create the different aspects of reality: the directions, the elements, the planets, the months of the year, and so forth.  Each letter is a channel by which God creates a unique form or entity, and meditating on the letters provides us with a connection to divine creative power. In its discussion of the letters, Sefer Yetzirah shows a strong connection to feminine imagery, and thus helps the later kabbalah develop its own link to the feminine.

Sefer Yetzirah shows influences from Aristotle to Gnosticism, and is often viewed as a work of Jewish philosophy.  However, it is also a work of meditation, giving the reader instruction on how to focus and connect to the divine. Scholars such as Richard Hayman and Marla Segol have noted that the book’s structure and content connect it to magical literature: for example, the book has a deep concern with “sealing” the space of the world: letters of the Divine Name are used to seal the six directions of the universe.  In a similar way, ceremonial magicians of the ancient world used sealing ritual, including the incantation bowls that were buried in the corners of a home to keep out evil forces.  The book, like much ceremonial magic of the region, also discusses the elements.  However, Sefer Yetzirah has a three-element system rather than a four or five-element system.  The three formative elements are air, water, and fire.

Continue reading “The Three Mothers: Feminine Elements and the Early Kabbalah by Jill Hammer”

My Heroine’s Journey: Writing Women Back in History by Mary Sharratt

Alma Maria Schindler

We have been lost to each other for so long. My name means nothing to you. My memory is dust.             

This is not your fault or mine. The chain connecting mother to daughter was broken and the word passed into the keeping of men, who had no way of knowing. That is why I became a footnote, my story a brief detour between the well-known history of my father and the celebrated chronicle of my brother.

Anita Diamant, The Red Tent

I am an expat author. My home is everywhere and nowhere. A wanderer, I have lived in many different places, from Minnesota, my birthplace, with its rustling marshes haunted by the cries of redwing blackbirds, to Bavaria with its dark forests and dazzling meadows and pure streams where otter still live, to my present home in the haunted moorlands of Pendle Witch country in Lancashire, England. My entire adult life has been a literal journey of finding myself in the great world.

For as long as I remember, I longed to be a writer. As a novelist I am on a mission to write women back into history. To tell the neglected, unwritten stories of women like my pioneering foremothers who emigrated from Bohemia (now the Czech Republic) in the 1860s to break the prairie soil of southern Minnesota.

To a large extent, women have been written out of history. Their lives and deeds have become lost to us. To uncover their buried truths, we must act as detectives, studying the sparse clues that have been handed down to us. We must learn to read between the lines and fill in the blanks. My heroine’s journey, in other words, is about reclaiming the lost heroines of history. My quest is to give voice to ancestral memory of that lost motherline.

Continue reading “My Heroine’s Journey: Writing Women Back in History by Mary Sharratt”

Walking Away from the Ivory Wall by Vanessa Soriano

Reading the brilliant post Another Brick in the Ivory Wall by Natalie Weaver brought back some old feelings about being an ex-academic who finally let go of the search.  While the wound reopened a bit, I can honestly say that I’ve come to a calm peace about walking away from my goal of becoming a professor.  This was a messy, emotional process, but through the muck, a lotus emerged within me nurtured by equanimity, humility, peaceful detachment, trust, and surrender.  Here’s my story.

When I completed my Ph.D. in Women’s Spirituality in 2015, I was on a MISSION to become a professor and finally become credible in the eyes of the world (or, maybe just my father).  From the Bachelors to the Ph.D., I had 15 years of schooling under my belt.  Throughout the entire journey, I was told that I would probably never secure a position as a professor in Religious Studies or Women’s Studies for a myriad of reasons (e.g., those topics aren’t relevant anymore, there isn’t any money in academia to fund those fields, they only hire from within, etc.).  Of course, the scared parts of me believed them, but nevertheless, I persisted, because truth be told, I was called to study religion, spirituality, gender, god/dess, female-centric philosophies, and diverse ethnic worldviews (everything my degree exposed me to).  It wasn’t necessarily a choice to study; I felt called to from a soul level. Continue reading “Walking Away from the Ivory Wall by Vanessa Soriano”

“Womenspiration” for International Women’s Day by Elise M. Edwards

elise-edwardsHappy International Women’s Day!  I hope it is a happy day for you as we recognize women’s achievements throughout the world.  Our FAR community is not only for or about women, but as feminists in some form or another, collectively we support women, their growth, their health, and their contributions to the world.  On a day like today, we should take note of what still needs to be done and recommit ourselves to our work.  But let’s not rush past an opportunity for joy and celebration. Many generations of women have fought for equal rights and participation in all sectors of society, and we have made progress. To commemorate that legacy today, I am highlighting just a few of the women who inspire me with their lives and with their work. They are my “womenspiration.”  My hope is that you join me in recognizing them and that as you read about them, you reflect on the women who inspire you.

Continue reading ““Womenspiration” for International Women’s Day by Elise M. Edwards”

Another Brick in the (Ivory) Wall by Natalie Weaver

I have recently read a couple of articles in the Chronicle of Higher Education about the challenge of working in academia.  One article lamented the paucity of tenure line positions and the great disappointment some ex-academics feel when they finally give up searching for that elusive job, which is actually non-existent.  Another article reported on the sham interview experience, in which a national search is conducted, but the whole thing is a ruse since an internal candidate already has the position.  Hopeful candidates put their families and lives on hold as they bide months of time while thinking, completely ignorant of the reality of situation, that they may be in line for a new position.  They get letters of reference, prepare for interviews, buy suits, arrange childcare, manage time away from whatever they would otherwise be doing to make an interview, and then endure the emotional trial of waiting.

They never had a chance.  They never even knew they never had a chance.  As one who has been in this situation, I can vouch that such pretenses of fairness and transparency are not equal opportunities for employment but dishonestly motivated, targeted opportunities for exploitation.

Academia, friends, worries me enormously.  And, I’m not at all sure what we are doing.  As a former board member of a large theology society, I had the privilege of working with new members, many of whom were degree-seekers, finishing up courses, exams, and research projects.  Each person’s work could arguably be, to a greater or lesser degree, sufficiently interesting to some population of readers, but the lot, en masse, would inevitably strike me as, well, struggling in the very least to be relevant.  What schools could or would support these newly minted degrees?  What academic programs would these new scholars populate, and who in turn would be their students? Continue reading “Another Brick in the (Ivory) Wall by Natalie Weaver”

Goddess Spirituality and Women’s Leadership by Jessica Bowman

As a public school administrator, and a human, I feel tremendous grief for the tragedy generated in the latest school shooting. The impact is devastating and disastrous. Immediately after such a calamity is the public outcry for change and the immediate backlash from others who don’t want to lose their perceived rights under the constitution. Blaming federal agencies isn’t the answer either.

I find it critical to recognize that school shootings are not isolated events. Despite the outcry and current tug-of-war, stricter gun laws will only serve as a Band-Aid to one aspect of a major debilitating world problem. In just over 15 years of serving children and communities as a school administrator, I have witnessed extreme violence, rape, racism, walkouts orchestrated by teachers, administrators engaged in illegal behavior, parents abusing children, bullying, decay, outrageous political power struggles, and more.

Public schools are a microcosm of society; they are not stand-alone programs independent of the larger world. Truthfully, I am sometimes quite taken with how successful school programs are across the nation in spite of these immense pressures and misguided criticisms. Increasing student achievement in math and the English language arts is our charge; sometimes the realities and tragedies of life make this very difficult. But, that isn’t the point of this conversation.

Continue reading “Goddess Spirituality and Women’s Leadership by Jessica Bowman”

What We Can’t See by Sara Frykenberg

As a professor, I find myself returning to a similar struggle again and again. I know what I know; and I know what I hope students will gain from the class, in terms of content knowledge, critical thinking, classroom community-making, etc. But often, I don’t know what they don’t know.

This might seem a silly kind of observation. No duh, Sara, you barely know this group of people. Also, this may seem an easy question to answer. And sometimes it is; and I do have part of the answer when I begin a class. My “Intro to Ethics” students, for example, will understand and be frustrated by the way people use the Bible to justify their own positions, but they usually won’t know the term “proof texting,” or easily understand “hermeneutics.” My “Women in Christianity” students will understand sexism and often, the idea of gender as a social construct, but they are usually unfamiliar with the dualistic gendering and ranking of larger social realities, like nature and culture, production and reproduction, etc.

There are obvious differences in academic training—that’s why I’m allowed to teach at a university after all. But I’m not really wrestling with what I can contribute in terms of content knowledge or historical/ theoretical contextualization. I think what I don’t know is what understandings of reality they bring into the classroom and what these realities have allowed them to see. Learning and/or teaching feminist theory and theo/alogy for the last fifteen years at least, I also often take my own reality for granted. I “know what I know,” after all—I just can’t always remember what it was like to learn it. And all of these classroom dynamics can make it harder to catch the realities we can’t yet know or can’t see. Continue reading “What We Can’t See by Sara Frykenberg”

Questions that Matter: What is Feminism? by Elise M. Edwards

elise-edwardsIt certainly is a busy time of year for me, but I’m fortunate that many of the events I am participating in offer a chance to share what is important to me.  Next week, I’ll be speaking to a group of students in one of my campus’ residence halls about feminism and Christianity.  For this informal setting, I was allowed to choose my own topic under the broad heading of “Questions That Matter.” I’ve decided to take on the f-word in religion and attempt to explain why it’s important to me and how it relates to my religious identity.  Although I’m still trying to figure out what to say, I’d like to share my thoughts so far and get some insight from you. Continue reading “Questions that Matter: What is Feminism? by Elise M. Edwards”

#MeToo and the Idolatry Trap by Tallessyn Zawn Grenfell-Lee

Really – everywhere we look – there are dead white guys. National holiday? Most likely in honor of a dead white guy. Statue on a green? Founder of a major Christian denomination? Dead white guy. Classic literature, painting, play, music ‘everyone’ is supposed to know about? Yup, probably by a dead white guy.

It’s a little exhausting.

It’s easy to develop a pretty negative attitude about all these dead white guys. I mean, some of them were pretty questionable if not downright oppressive people. Enough, already! Am I right?

Yes! Yes. Well… sort of. The thing is, some of them really did say and do wonderful, important things. I suppose we should not dismiss an entire portion of our history just on race and gender alone. And, truth is, I have a confession to make. I kind of really love the insights of some of these folks. I guess it’s easy to complain about all these dead white guys… until you fall in love with one of them.

Continue reading “#MeToo and the Idolatry Trap by Tallessyn Zawn Grenfell-Lee”

Considering Our Spaces in the Pursuit of Justice by Elise M. Edwards

This past summer, my friend and I were perusing the exhibits at the National Museum of African-American History and Culture when she urgently called for my attention.  “Psst… Isn’t this where you are from?” she asked, pointing at a placard titled African American Life in Montgomery County.  Yes!  I grew up, I was educated, and I was churched in Montgomery County, Maryland.  So I eagerly read the exhibit’s description:

By 1900 there were at least eight African American communities in Montgomery County, Maryland. Unlike many rural African Americans, the residents were not tenant farmers—they owned their property and homes.  This gave them greater control over the land and the crops they produced.  They also directly benefited from improvements to their homes, which was an incentive to make additions and to stay in place.  Descendants of these early settlers still live in these communities today. Continue reading “Considering Our Spaces in the Pursuit of Justice by Elise M. Edwards”

Sunday Shaming by Alison Downie

On a recent Friday, I learned that the 43 year old husband of someone I went to graduate school with, parent of four young children, died suddenly. Though I had been out of touch with my grad school friend for some years, I felt deeply for her loss, her unexpected plunge into single parenting, the way her life and the lives of her children would forever be shaped by this grievous tragedy.

I carried this family in my heart as I drove to my weekly Sunday visit with one of my adult sons, who lives about 75 miles from me. At this time, disabled by mental illness, he lives in an AA recovery house, surviving on Supplemental Security Income of $740.00/month and SNAP food allotments. Now 27, he dropped out of college after one semester, has never held a job for more than a month, and has been hospitalized three times for psychiatric care.

I usually enjoy our weekly visits, during which we sit at a coffee shop or do an errand. But I never know how he will be doing. When he is doing poorly, my own tendency to depression means that being present as best I can, even for just a few hours, to his deep suffering may utterly deplete me for the rest of the day or several days following. Continue reading “Sunday Shaming by Alison Downie”

Women Religion Revolution and its Political Theological Orientation by Xochitl Alvizo

I introduced the volume  Women Religion Revolution,  the collected works that Gina Messina and I co-edited, in a previous post. I now write about the political theological orientation with which we entered the project of the book.

The very first thing to note is that this work was, from beginning to end, a collaborative effort at multiple levels. First is the personal, relational. The idea for the book was Gina’s, but she invited me to join her in the project very early on. We brainstormed contributors and hit the ground running. Next, with the help of Kate Ott, we partnered with Feminist Studies in Religion, Inc. and its newly launched FSR Book Series. We were excited for the opportunity to have our book be among the first ones published. Organizationally, FSR Inc. partners with the Carter Center and its Mobilizing Action for Women and Girls Initiative. The Carter Center helped support the launch of the FSR Books series out of its concern to support works that make a difference to women and girls. And so, by way of FSR, this project was also made possible by the Carter Center (more on that in a bit). Continue reading “Women Religion Revolution and its Political Theological Orientation by Xochitl Alvizo”

The Making of Women Religion Revolution by Xochitl Alvizo

Last month in Boston during the American Academy of Religion (AAR) Annual Meeting I presented on Women Religion Revolution, a volume of collaborative work with fifteen other women that Gina Messina and I co-edited. The book is the third one published with FRS Books, the new book series of Feminist Studies in Religion, Inc. (FSR, Inc.) – a project with which we are very proud to partner.

FSR Books organized a panel featuring these first books. Serving as a backdrop of the whole panel was Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza’s own book, Congress of Wo/men: Religion, Gender, and Kyriarchal Power, which was FSR Books’ first publication. In this book, Schüssler Fiorenza introduces the concept and vision of the ekklēsia of wo/men as kosmopolis. Defining the ekklēsia of wo/men as “the decision-making assembly of the kosmopolis,[1] she explains the kosmopolis as the polis/city-state “governed by the egalitarian values and visions of justice and well-bring for everyone without exception” (106). She calls feminists in religion to “build a global, transcultural, cosmopolitan organizations for articulating a wisdom spirituality of cosmic world citizenship and for securing the welfare of everyone in the kosmos/world and of the kosmos itself” (111-112). In other words, Schüssler Fiorenza’s volume is a renewed call for feminists to think big and think together beyond the binary of secular/religious so as to more effectively counter the neoliberal domination of our current global context. Continue reading “The Making of Women Religion Revolution by Xochitl Alvizo”

Another Season of Reflection and Review by Elise M. Edwards

elise-edwardsI turn inward and become reflective at this time of year.  It’s the Advent season in the Christian liturgical year, which encourages practices of piety focused on preparation, examination, and hopeful longing.  It’s the end of a semester and a calendar year, which provokes review of the months before.  In the northern hemisphere, it’s a time of darker days and longer nights, which suggest a retreat indoors, in silence or in stillness.

During this time of year, I’m typically exhausted, and so I seem to enact annual rituals with a recurring sense of ambivalence.   I really love the celebration of Christmas, but preparing for it takes a lot of energy.  So I do some decorating, but not as much as I planned.  I attend some parties and celebrations, but end up missing or cancelling others.  I start a new devotional book, only to set it aside within a week or so.  I want this time of year to be both reflective and celebratory.  I want it to be spiritual and religious.  I want to be sociable with friends and family and also find time to rest and recover in solitude.  At some point, those goals seem too contradictory to be realizable and then I start practical negotiations:  How much decorating will I do? What kind of time will I set aside for solitude and self-care?  Will I have enough energy to be joyful and present with my family and friends?

“Some, but not enough” is the answer I seem to come to every year.

Some decorating, but not enough.  Some time for solitude and self-care, but not enough.  Some energy for social occasions, but not enough.  This year, I want to let go of that voice that says it’s not enough.  That voice that says I am not enough.

To help myself let go of the guilt and self-deprecation, while retaining the reflective focus of the season that may be life-affirming, I reviewed my previous years’ December writings on this blog.  What might I discern from this pattern of yearly reflection?

In 2012, I wrote about why women might be tempted to cancel Christmas.  I was in my final year of the Ph.D. program when I wrote that, and was prompted to do so when I heard that friends and colleagues were planning to skip Christmas preparations or scale them back dramatically.  That year, I sought to maintain “religious and social rituals associated with Christmas” so that I could be “spiritually grounded, emotionally provoked, mentally rested, and physically fed.” I don’t have a vivid memory of that year’s holidays, but as I read it again, I wonder if I was carrying a sense of religious obligation rather than release.  Did I feel free or beholden to social custom? I’ve learned that I will only be able to let that “not enough” voice go when I let go of the expectation that Advent and Christmas should look a certain way or I should be present to it in a certain way.  I’m more willing this year to let peace and joy ebb and flow  in celebrations and moments of sadness and mourning that accompany the season, too.

In 2014 and 2016, my Advent reflections were more focused on justice and peace at the societal level than in the household.  They were mournful.  In December 2014, I was trying to stave off despair after Michael Brown’s killer was not indicted by a grand jury.  The police officer would not stand trial for killing the black teen.  That year, I was mourning Michael Brown and Trayvon Martin and the loss of my own naivete as I became more conscientized about racial violence. I had a similar wake-up call last year when Hillary Rodham Clinton lost the US presidential election and I working through the anger and dread I felt at 45’s approaching presidency.  This year, the struggle continues as we anticipate changes to the tax code and DACA.  But at least Roy Moore lost.  We do continue to work for progress and systemic change, and sometimes, it works.

Feminists have long asserted that the personal is political and that the political is personal.  I’m acknowledging this holiday season that my perpetual weariness during Advent and Christmas is legitimate, as it emerges from personal and political struggle.  I am frustrated with the injustices and hardships I encounter at home, work, and the broader community.  I would not be weary if I was not awakened to the suffering.  This year, I accept that the exhaustion is part of the cost of my work and my calling.  The weariness will ebb and flow, as will joy and peace. Being able to teach and write is a blessing that allows me to help others become more aware of injustice and more involved in addressing it.  This year, I’m acknowledging that I’ve done what I can do.  I’m resisting the impulse to assess whether it was enough.  In previous years, I’ve been trying to hold on to hope; this year I’m resting in God’s grace.

As Christmas approaches, I’m embracing the Christian teaching that the divine meets humanity where we are.  The beauty of the Incarnation is that the eternal meets the temporal and that God unites with human to bring light to a suffering world.  That’s a gift for me this year, a comfort to be able to shift the focus from my own action and being to divine action and being.

I can see the sacred work and presence in this online community and other communities of faith.  Holiday blessings to you all.

Elise M. Edwards, PhD is a Lecturer in Christian Ethics at Baylor University and a graduate of Claremont Graduate University. She is also a registered architect in the State of Florida. Her interdisciplinary work examines issues of civic engagement and how beliefs and commitments are expressed publicly. As a black feminist, she primarily focuses on cultural expressions by, for, and about women and marginalized communities. Follow her on twitter, google+ or academia.edu.

Faith in Action by Lisa Kloskin

Nearly a month ago, American voters showed up at the polls and delivered some big wins: the first openly transgender person was elected to a statehouse—Danica Roem in Virginia. Roem defeated an incumbent candidate who authored an anti-trans bathroom bill. Also in Virginia: the boyfriend of a reporter shot and killed on live TV, Chris Hurst, won a seat to the statehouse on a gun-control platform, defeating the three-term NRA-backed incumbent. And Hoboken, New Jersey, got its first Sikh mayor: Ravi Bhalla. These and others are encouraging signs that love and tolerance are gaining ground in the public sphere. But there’s still so much work to do. White Supremacists and Nazis still walk boldly in the streets, LGBTQIA teens still face bullying and higher rates of self-harm, women are still paid less for equal work and harassed in every arena, sea levels are rising at faster rates than we previously thought, people of color are still being killed by police, mass shootings are still a regular part of our news cycle, refugees are still waiting in camps around the world for a chance at a better, safer life.

Activists and advocates have been working for justice in these and other areas for decades. In the last year, spurred on by events like the Women’s March, a growing group of would-be activists has emerged. These allies are a welcome addition to the justice movement, but many worry they won’t do or say the right things, and want to have their perspectives deepened on important issues. They need guides and resources to give them the knowledge, tools, and confidence to make a real impact.

Continue reading “Faith in Action by Lisa Kloskin”

Why We Don’t Tell by Gina Messina

Roy Moore is the next in line to be exposed as a sexual predator in a long list that has unfolded since the Harvey Weinstein scandal. I find it both comical and distressing that Moore has attempted to justify his behavior by saying “I’ve never dated a girl without her mother’s permission.” In addition, he argued that such claims against him could not be true; it was so long ago; who would wait forty years to tell?

Apparently Moore has not heard the term rape culture – one he is clearly a product of – and how it leaves victims feeling silenced and ashamed. Perhaps he has not listened to the woman he assaulted sob on television as she spoke of her fear, embarrassment, and pain? Recounting her victimization, Beverly Young Nelson said she didn’t speak out because Moore told her no one would believe her. At only sixteen, Nelson knew that reporting the assault would lead to more trouble for her and no consequences for Moore. Continue reading “Why We Don’t Tell by Gina Messina”

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