Rethinking Church Communally and Creatively by Xochitl Alvizo

I spend a curious amount of time discussing, studying, and writing about polity – the structures and procedures of congregational/denominational governance (my previous post about communion reflects one kind of polity). Amid theological and sociological research about the decline, revival, or re-emergence of Christianity and the church, my research specifically focused on how emerging congregations organized and structured their decision-making processes. As a “body” – ecclesial, social, political – what are the new and creative ways that congregations structure and organize their collective living and relating?

Continue reading “Rethinking Church Communally and Creatively by Xochitl Alvizo”

SpiritualiTEA with Chasity Podcast, Episode 3 by Chasity Jones

An excerpt from SpiritualiTEA with Chasity Podcast Episode 3: Why are we afraid of Divination??? What is divination?

Divination is from Latin divinare “to foresee, to be inspired by a god”. (Goleman, David. The Varieties of the Meditative Experience. London: Rider, 1975.)


This is beautiful to me because it reminds me of how when the prophets would begin to prophesy in the bible or even the explosive forward movement of the spread of the gospel- driven by the Holy Spirit, as well as those who documented the gospel are all described as being inspired by God. 

The most popular form of divination right now is tarot cards but we will discuss how there are many other forms- including forms that are acceptable in the church RIGHT NOW.

There are many bible verses cursing those who divine but I want to reiterate that one bible verse cannot be a comprehensive ethic or set of ethics, especially when there are other verses that contradict that verse.

Continue reading “SpiritualiTEA with Chasity Podcast, Episode 3 by Chasity Jones”

From the Archives: Rape is Not a Political Platform – Rape is a Violent Crime! By Michele Stopera Freyhauf

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. They tend to get lost in the archives. We are beginning this column so that we can revisit some of these gems. Today’s blogpost was originally posted August 23, 2012. You can visit it here to see the original comments.

Just when you think you have heard it all, here we go again – another politician with “open mouth-insert foot” syndrome.  Discussing his zero-tolerance policy for abortion, Missouri Representative Todd Akin made the following statement last Sunday about pregnancies that result from rape:

“from what I understand from doctors, that’s really rare.  If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.  But let’s assume that maybe that didn’t work or something.  I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be on the rapist and not attacking the child.”

Continue reading “From the Archives: Rape is Not a Political Platform – Rape is a Violent Crime! By Michele Stopera Freyhauf”

Musings on The Crown by Janet MaiKa’i Rudolph

Even though I was a late-comer to the Netflix series The Crown, when I did watch it, I was riveted. Lots of thoughts ran through my mind at this picture of royalty. The concept of royalty in human history is vast and multi-faceted, however in this blogpost I am only pulling on a few threads that tugged at me as I watched this show.

I laughed as people greeted the Queen and said, “your highness.” Does that make the rest of us lownesses? And where did all this pomp come from anyway? And why is the British monarch the head of the Church of England which is a bible-based Christian religion?

Monarchy, religion and war have always seemed so connected in our culture. Indeed, during the coronation of Queen Elizabeth, she was handed “the sword of state” as if she would actually be using it. (I looked it up, true to the ceremony). Continue reading “Musings on The Crown by Janet MaiKa’i Rudolph”

Judaism or Christianity: Which Tradition Is More Open to Feminist Change? by Carol P. Christ

Jill Hammer’s recent post on midrash surrounding the Biblical figure of Eve (Hava in Hebrew) sparked me to muse again about the fact that, despite its patriarchal roots and overlay, Judaism is a much more flexible tradition than Christianity and, therefore, much more open to feminist change.

Part of this is due to the fact that Judaism is midrashic while Christianity has been and remains a doctrinal tradition. Midrash is a form of Biblical interpretation that includes retelling the story to fill in the blanks and to answer contemporary questions left unanswered in the original text. Jews consider the Torah (the 5 books of Moses) to be the “Word of God” though opinions vary as to what this means. In the rabbinical tradition, the Torah is interpreted through the Talmud which is an extensive collection of discussions and disputes that draw on Biblical texts in relation to contemporary (to the rabbis) questions. Midrash included in the Mishnah (a collection of teachings that preceded the Talmud) and the Talmud are considered part of the “oral Torah.” which is also “the Word of God.”

The Talmud is considered to be authoritative, but it includes conflicting interpretations that were never resolved into a single definitive view. Though different Jewish groups have declared certain views to be normative, other groups have disagreed. There is no central authority (such as a Pope or council) to resolve these disputes. Though some Jewish groups disagree strongly with the beliefs or practices of others, in Judaism as a whole an attitude of “live and let live” leads to inclusion rather than exclusion. Indeed. The Talmud records that in the midst of a particularly vehement dispute between two rabbis, a voice intervened, stating: “These and these are the words of the Living God.” (Quoted by Judith Plaskow in Goddess and God in the World.) Continue reading “Judaism or Christianity: Which Tradition Is More Open to Feminist Change? by Carol P. Christ”

A Theological Conversation by Natalie Weaver and Valentine

My son asked me to discuss with him the theological problem of the dual natures, i.e., the divine and human natures, coexisting in the person of Jesus.  He asked me to begin by assuming the premises that 1) Jesus was a real, historical person and 2) that Jesus was both human and divine.  The question then became, “Did Jesus know he was God?”

Of course, as a theologian, I was delighted to have this conversation with my son.  It was fascinating to see how his mind worked, to hear him evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of high and low Christologies, to hear how he resolved the question himself, and to have an opportunity to share my own thoughts with a genuinely engaged, truly curious, and attentively listening dialogue partner in the person of my teenage son.  Not too shabby a victory for any parent!

As we talked, he continued to provide context for the question, which began as a classroom debate in his high school theology seminar.  Apparently, the students were tasked with taking some element from their in-class discussion, evaluating it, and then applying it practically by a twofold retrospective reflection in which the students were 1) to identify a specific situation in their life that could have gone better and 2) to share how their insight drawn from class would have made all the difference.  Now, my son expressed a bit of frustration with this assignment because he would have preferred to discuss how today’s insights might help him in the future, rather than to dwell in the past.  As his wheels turned, I left him alone to puzzle out his assignment, with the promise that I eagerly would return in an hour to see what he produced, accompanied by my own essay on the same task.

Continue reading “A Theological Conversation by Natalie Weaver and Valentine”

Celibacy Is the Lynch-Pin of Male Dominance according to Matilda Joslyn Gage by Carol P. Christ

Matilda Joslyn Gage

Matilda Joslyn Gage was an activist in the nineteenth century struggle for women’s rights equal to Susan B. Anthony, and a writer and theorist equal to Elizabeth Cady Stanton. That she is not remembered is due in large part to Susan B. Anthony’s efforts to write her out of history.

Matilda Joslyn Gage was also a scholar of women’s history unrivaled in her time. In Woman Church, and State, Gage argued that “the most grievous wrong ever inflicted upon women was in the Christian teaching that she was not created equal with man.” (page 1) From this it follows that feminists must never lose sight of the role Christian teachings have played and continue to play in the unequal treatment of women.

According to Gage, women’s position in church and state did not improve in the Christian era. To the contrary it declined! Gage proved this thesis in chapters titled: The Matriarchate, Celibacy, Canon Law, Marquette, Witchcraft, Wives, Polygamy, Woman and Work, and The Church of Today. Continue reading “Celibacy Is the Lynch-Pin of Male Dominance according to Matilda Joslyn Gage by Carol P. Christ”

Musings on the Triune God by Natalie Weaver

This past term I had the opportunity to teach courses on the Christian doctrines of Christology and Trinity.  My first inclination was to approach these doctrines from the perspective of their historical development. For, I find the historical study of doctrinal development to be a fascinating and liberating approach to theology because it delivers the searcher from the illusions of ubiquity and universality, even in matters of the most central tenets of faith.  When people can see doctrine in its political, polemical, and posited guises, we can be free from absolutization of belief in past expressions as well as in present permutations.

Yet, as much as I enjoy tours through the historical development of faith formulations, I found myself unable to really commit to this approach this year.  I was more concerned with allowing students space to think about Christ and to think about God.  I wanted to introduce the problems and tensions that have dogged Christian logic and practice for millennia, but I wasn’t interested in arriving at conclusions or teaching modern experts’ answers.  I wanted to create occasion for my students to answer for themselves questions of justice and mercy; theodicy; particularity; scandal; and more. Continue reading “Musings on the Triune God by Natalie Weaver”

Open Letter to the Pope and all the King’s Men by Natalie Weaver

Dear Sirs,

It breaks me down.  My anger, my revulsion, my powerlessness.   I have been searching for the way since I was a child old enough to remember my mind.  For a time, I thought Jesus was a white guy knocking on my door after having seen a religious pamphlet placed under our windshield wiper.  I’m not sure he has blond hair anymore, but I still feel him knocking.  I have been in love with him for as long as I have been a self, so much so that I baptized myself as a little girl.

Somewhere along the way, I figured my little, lonely way wasn’t good enough, and I wanted a church home.  I finished a doctoral dissertation trying to find some place I could hang my hat.  I picked the Roman Catholic Church, despite what I knew of it and what I had to defend about its patriarchy and history to family and friends.  I loved the conversation, the so-called “Catholic Intellectual Tradition.”  I always felt myself to be a covert, a conversa, a definitive outsider, and someone not to be trusted entirely as a cradle Catholic might be trusted, yet I tried to be family. I’ve been bringing up my kids in the Church, volunteering, working in Catholic education, paying the boys’ tuition.  I do work-arounds, making excuses for the exclusion of women, defying the Church’s stance on sexuality with a critical repertoire of cross-disciplinary scholarship.  Lord, I even had to help my Seventh-Day Adventist mom with a hostile annulment process that was dropped on her unsuspecting by a horrendously insensitive marriage tribunal.  It wounded us all. Yet, here I have sat, until this.

Continue reading “Open Letter to the Pope and all the King’s Men by Natalie Weaver”

Medieval Torture Devices and the Goddess by Colette Numajiri

There is a campy dinner and tournament “castle,” Medieval Times, in our city in which you can eat and watch a fully- costumed period play complete with stunning Spanish horses in an indoor arena. Inside of this building, for a mere additional $2, there is a “torture chamber” attraction, a mini museum with a dozen or so of actual torture relics used in the Medieval Inquisition (or accurate looking replicas of them!) along with illustrations from the era.

In this collection they have what appears to be an authentic orifice-expanding “pear” and a “breast ripper” (see and read photo below) among other devices meant to inflict pain and often death to those with the misfortune to be accused.

The actual “Medieval Times” period was a horrific and bloodstained era when the NEW ORDER (the established Catholic and new Protestant churches) set out to “Christianize Europe.” They succeeded and became beyond wealthy by creating a WIDESPREAD FEAR of WOMEN, gaining power over more than half of the population and confiscating their money and land.

There is an hour long film funded by the Canadian government called: “THE BURNING TIMES” that tells the story of the people (85% women) that were brutally killed over a 300 year period in what was the WOMEN’S HOLOCAUST.

Continue reading “Medieval Torture Devices and the Goddess by Colette Numajiri”

Forgive Me, Mother, For I Have Sinned: Earth, Ancestors, and the Role of Confession by Tallessyn Zawn Grenfell-Lee

Ah, confession. I admit I never really much understood the Catholic practice of confession to a priest; as a United Methodist growing up, the idea of confession – while challenging – nonetheless seemed to belong squarely between myself and the (supposedly male) God that (apparently) loves and forgives us while still calling us to live into a more perfect vision of our individual selves and of the kin-dom. But to confess things to a minister? In a little booth? The very idea gave me the heebie-jeebies. Probably even more so since my father and/or stepmother were usually said minister. Well, that wasn’t a common Catholic thing either, I suppose.

I took confession very seriously, however. I firmly believed that we have all sinned and fallen short, and that we can and must do better – for our own lives and wellbeing, for our loved ones, for humanity, and for the whole Creation. Confession was like the first step toward healing – like a diagnosis; without admitting what was going wrong – or what was inadequate – how could we take steps toward what was right?

Continue reading “Forgive Me, Mother, For I Have Sinned: Earth, Ancestors, and the Role of Confession by Tallessyn Zawn Grenfell-Lee”

Catholic Bishops: Corporate Executives or Prophets? by Dawn Morais Webster

Dawn Morais Webster, the Pope off to his summer palace, Castel Gandolfo. He tells the world he will now become just a “humble pilgrim.”

This is a moment to drive the merchants of hate out of the Temple, as Jesus did.  But will the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) bear prophetic witness? Do they have it in them to proclaim the Gospel?

I am a Catholic from Malaysia who has lived in the United States for nearly two decades. I became an American citizen two years ago.  Every day I look for two of the Big Ideas –Catholicism and American democracy—to which I am forever tethered, to be rearticulated by new, principled leaders. And they are: not by those who command the pulpit or political power but by those who live the Gospel through their faith-inspired service to the community.  People like Sister Erica Jordan who asked House Speaker, the conspicuously Catholic Paul Ryan to explain how he translates Church teaching into health care and tax policy. He could not.

Continue reading “Catholic Bishops: Corporate Executives or Prophets? by Dawn Morais Webster”

The Spirit and Jarena Lee: Inspiration to Break Boundaries by Elise M. Edwards

elise-edwardsI am so frustrated that we are still fighting to affirm women’s place in leadership.  I’ve been thinking about this struggle in the context of church ministries (especially preaching) and social activism, seeing a stark contrast between the way institutional churches and universities promote and subvert women’s authority and the ways movements like Black Lives Matter do.

Particularly, I’ve been struck by the ways that more radical movements employ language and practices that are based in spirit more than hierarchical authority.  I have found a theme emphasizing equality in humanity’s access to spirit in both historical and contemporary movements and writings about religious experience.  I’m certainly not the first one to notice or discuss how appeals to Spirit have empowered those excluded from dominant systems of power to challenge constrictive social structures, but I would like to share how this dynamic has become more visible to me so that, together, we might find encouragement, inspiration, and food for thought.

Continue reading “The Spirit and Jarena Lee: Inspiration to Break Boundaries by Elise M. Edwards”

Moving Toward an End: The Role of the Faith Community in the Struggle to End Domestic Violence by Katie M. Deaver

I have used my last few posts here on Feminism and Religion to begin unpacking the three primary understandings of atonement theology, the feminist critiques of these understandings, and how the relationship between power and violence influences how Christian women view the atonement.  This post will consider the role that faith communities are called to play in situations of domestic violence.

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.

Continue reading “Moving Toward an End: The Role of the Faith Community in the Struggle to End Domestic Violence by Katie M. Deaver”

A Beginning: Atonement Theology and the Feminist Critique 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.

Continue reading “A Beginning: Atonement Theology and the Feminist Critique by Katie M. Deaver”

Shariah is not a Law by Esther Nelson

I will never forget the day Nasr Abu Zaid (1943-2010), an Islamic Studies scholar and teacher extraordinaire, told me, “Shariah is not a law.”  In spite of his assertion, many people—both Muslims and non-Muslims—are convinced that Shariah is synonymous with archaic legal rulings that are at odds with democracy and modernity.


What is Shariah, then, if not a law?  When we see or hear the word Shariah, the word “Law” almost always follows.  Shariah literally means a path—a well-trodden path such as animals use on their way to a watering hole.  Shariah, then, can be understood as something that when embraced has potential to give life and sustenance.


Muslims believe that the Qur’an was revealed to Prophet Muhammad by the angel Gabriel circa 600 C.E.  That revelation—Muslims believe it to be God’s actual speech—took place over a period of approximately twenty-one years. The Qur’an contains Shariah (path) in the form of information, narrative, and poetry.  Since Shariah is essentially a path that leads to life, the critical question centers on how Shariah can be appropriated, leading us to the water that sustains.

Continue reading “Shariah is not a Law by Esther Nelson”

Becoming Myself by Katie M. Deaver

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.

Continue reading “Becoming Myself by Katie M. Deaver”

Sexuality and Spirituality: Convergence or Alienation? by Stephanie Arel

stephanie-arelI just finished reading for review The Bloomsbury Reader in Religion, Gender, and Sexualityedited by Donald L. Boisvert and Carly Daniel-Hughes. Targeting an undergraduate audience, the text explores ways that religion, gender, and sexuality intersect and interact in a variety of religious traditions.

The book’s essays traverse a wide sampling of religious inheritance including indigenous traditions, Christianity, Judaism, Islam, and various Asian religions. The topics examined range from the culture of male love in Japanese Buddhism to various themes of love in Haitian Voodoo, from sexual desire in Beguine communities to Gandhi’s experiments in sexual chastity, and from the passion of St. Pelagius to the transgender performance characteristic of the Hijra identity in India. Among other things, the book offers a wide array of interpretations regarding how sexuality emerges in particular traditions and contexts. One is left with a feeling that nearly anything goes depending on which set of rules or religious mores a particular group of people follow. The variations presented in each chapter related to the interpretation of sexuality’s embeddedness in spiritual expression problematize the notion of the “normal” emerging in sexual desire and expression. Continue reading “Sexuality and Spirituality: Convergence or Alienation? by Stephanie Arel”

Doctrine and Fidelity by Elise M. Edwards

elise-edwardsThis past week, I was listening to Krista Tippett’s podcast On Being as she spoke with Pádraig Ó Tuama.  He is a poet, theologian, and leader in the Corrymeela community of Northern Ireland. As he spoke about several things related to the challenges of belonging, reconciliation, and fractured communities, he said, ”The measure of Christian fidelity is more than the positions we take.”

I agree.  I interpreted his statement as a condemnation of the ways Christian doctrines and moral positions too often take priority over other matters of faith.

Continue reading “Doctrine and Fidelity by Elise M. Edwards”

A Crisis of Faith-We’re Not Listening by Karen Hernandez

karen hernandezOrlando. Syria. Sandy Hook. Belgium. Somalia. Ethiopia. Venezuela. Paris.

After the shooting in Orlando I was numb. In fact, every time a mass shooting occurs now, I am numb. I think we all feel that way, but we all handle it in various ways. Within hours, there are blog posts, articles, and news pieces. People explode on social media with memes, arguments, and debates. There’s a whole lot of projection, a whole lot of persecution, and a mess of ideologies. Yet, what have I noted that is lacking? The ability to listen.

It seems Omar Mateen was gay. No one will ever know for sure. Lovers have come forward, information was found on his computer and phone that points to him being gay, yet, it is all speculation. Mateen didn’t just attack a gay nightclub because he was homophobic. It seems his inner demons ate away at his soul. The fact that he was Muslim on top of that, which, if you follow the doctrine, forbids homosexuality, obviously lent to his actions that fateful night.

Let’s say Mateen was gay. His faith dictated to him that he couldn’t be. He struggled. He prayed. He married two women. Then, he killed 49 people.

Yet, what people aren’t seeing is the real crisis here. We’re not listening. Continue reading “A Crisis of Faith-We’re Not Listening by Karen Hernandez”

A Woman Leads: Church and Politics 2016 by Dawn Morais Webster

Dawn Morais Webster, the Pope off to his summer palace, Castel Gandolfo. He tells the world he will now become just a “humble pilgrim.”There is no shortage of men in power. No shortage of men who are ready to issue warnings and threaten punishment for straying from the party line. No shortage of men ready to hold forth in front of cameras. And yet, and yet….It took a woman with a lot of guts, a lawyer, and a person of faith to champion healthcare for all. It took a woman to criss-cross the country, standing in solidarity with those in need, ministering to those with “broken hearts” who stand on the margins.

There was no shortage of men with institutional power and access to the pulpit, but it took a woman to speak publicly about supporting the President as he worked in the face of Republican obstructionism to make the Affordable Healthcare Act a reality for millions who had no coverage. And once again in this the craziest of elections, it has taken a woman to stand with other faith leaders to call for a Moral Agenda. Continue reading “A Woman Leads: Church and Politics 2016 by Dawn Morais Webster”

What Traci West Taught Me about Dominant and Excluded Voices by Elise M. Edwards

Elise EdwardsIn my previous post, I mentioned a book I am writing about how theological and ethical considerations in architectural design can define good architecture.  In that post and in ones to follow, I am acknowledging the feminists and womanists and mujeristas who have influenced me while also opening up the dialogue to the feminists in this community who continue to inspire and guide me to do my best work.

But today, instead of talking about creativity or architecture, I want to discuss how I arrived at the conviction that community decisions about how we ought to live—whether those are decisions about laws, institutional policies, religious practices or architectural buildings—need to include the voices of the diverse people they directly and indirectly influence. Continue reading “What Traci West Taught Me about Dominant and Excluded Voices by Elise M. Edwards”

What Dorothee Soelle Taught Me about Creativity by Elise M. Edwards

Elise EdwardsI’m currently developing a book that considers how theological and ethical considerations in architectural design can define good architecture.  My book discusses five virtues related to the architectural design process that promote human participation in bringing out God’s intention of flourishing for humanity and creation.  Those five virtues (or values) are: empathy, creativity, discernment, beauty, and sustainability.  In the book, I’ll explain how these virtues orient design tasks to the social and ethical aims of architecture.

In this virtual space, I want to have a discussion about what these virtues mean from a feminist standpoint.  In my writing, I draw from theological ethics, architectural theory, and feminist theory to emphasize community discernment and participation.  It’s fitting, then, to claim opportunities in my work to acknowledge the feminists who have influenced me while also opening up the dialogue to the feminists in this community who continue to inspire and guide me to do my best work. Continue reading “What Dorothee Soelle Taught Me about Creativity by Elise M. Edwards”

I am a Suicide Attempt Survivor by Karen Leslie Hernandez

karen hernandezIn the past year, I have several friends that have lost loved ones to suicide. The statistics are real, raw and all too sobering. In the United States, an average of 117 people choose to end their lives every day. Almost all of us know someone who has lost someone to suicide, or, personally know someone who has taken their own life.

Suicide is a choice for many reasons, not just from mental health issues. 42,773 souls end their lives every year. That is the population of a small city in America.

I rarely talk of my attempted suicide and most people are shocked when they find out about it. My sunny disposition, along with a well adjusted approach to all that is, can be construed as me having an extra whip-cream, cherry topped, Hot Fudge Sundae, life. There’s a lesson in that. I was 19, had grown up in an abusive home, had a mother who left when I was 13 years old so she could survive, and I had recently dropped out of high school. My life seemed stagnant, and worse, morbid. The statistics were mounting against me as a woman, a person of color, no parental guidance, and, I was a serious rebel. I think one of the things I had going for me was friends that cared, and the fact that I didn’t drink or do drugs. Continue reading “I am a Suicide Attempt Survivor by Karen Leslie Hernandez”

Reform? Progress? By Elise M. Edwards

Elise EdwardsIn my class yesterday (a survey of Christian thought and practices), I was lecturing about monastic life in the Middle Ages. Among other points, I mentioned that medieval religious orders provided settings where women could be educated and assume leadership roles (primarily among other women), thinking of Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179) who was the Abbess of a monastic community in Rupertsberg. Other women medieval writers who developed influential writings, like Mechtild of Magdeburg (ca. 1210-1282) and Catherine of Siena (1347-80), belonged to tertiaries or third orders, which were monastic community for laypersons. This part of the lesson emphasized that monastic reforms around the 12th century opened religious orders more extensively to women and laity.

Still speaking of medieval reforms, I displayed a picture of Francis of Assisi on the screen at the front of the room. I mentioned that Francis was concerned about the poor and the animals and that he has inspired some contemporary Christians, including the current pope who took Francis as his name. We talked about how both St. Francis and Pope Francis are seen as reformers.

Because earlier in my lesson I’d made a point of speaking of women’s experience, when I spoke about the Pope’s name as a possible sign of renewal or reform, Gina Messina-Dysert’s question “What about the women?” came to mind. In her recent post, she responded to the Pope’s exclusion of many issues that concern women in his address to the US Catholic Bishops. Like Gina, I applaud many of the Pope’s reforms but I am confused about how rarely he is criticized for maintaining the long-held Catholic view that disallows women to be ordained as priests.

Let me provide an example: During the Pope’s visit to the US, one of my students described Pope Francis as “very liberal.” When I interjected that he has not supported the ordination of women, the student laughed and said the pope would be accused of heresy for supporting that! While that may be true, my more immediate concern was that in a classroom of students who are mostly supportive of women in ministry, the Catholic restrictions on the priesthood were seen as a part of the tradition not worth challenging. Why is it that preserving male leadership is excused as a part of the tradition while preserving exclusive marriage practices is something to be challenged? They are interrelated.

As we know from blogs and social media sites, many people who support LGBTQ rights were upset over news stories about the Pope meeting with Kim Davis, the county clerk who was jailed for refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Certainly such a meeting is disturbing to same-sex marriage advocates. But is it surprising? At least one womanist ethicist I know, Eboni Marshall Turman, pointed out in a Facebook discussion that the church has long since been public in its support of male privilege and heteronormativity. My intent is not to single out Catholicism for sexist practices. When recently asked about women’s ordination and leadership in Baptist churches in my own town of Waco Texas, I had to admit that even though ordination of women is permissible and practiced in many of the churches, the number of churches that have called women to the position of senior pastor is shockingly few.

My point is this: When we find teachings in particular religious traditions that justify the exclusion of one group, we should expect to find justifications for excluding other groups, too. In the same discussion I referenced above, Eboni Marshall Turman said, ”Oppressions are compounded and intersectional. If they come for me, it is just a matter of time before they come for you. This is basic theological ethics.”

The experiences of varied groups are not the same; our oppressions and marginalizations also differ. But practices of exclusion are constructed on the same logic that values some persons (the in-group) more than others (the outsiders). Therefore, feminists have a responsibility to advance the well-being and interests of other groups (besides women) who are being marginalized.

Another reason for this advocacy is that many women are included in other marginalized groups. To ignore the intersectionality of oppression is to deny its pervasiveness and the realities of women’s lives. This is why feminists of color are often critical of white feminism. (The recent debate over the photo shoot for the movie Suffragette is a new instance of a persistent critique of white or mainstream feminism. See Rebecca Carroll’s piece on “Suffragette’s Publicity Campaign and the Politics of Erasure”).

To counter the limitations of our own experiences and be consistent in our pursuit of equality, feminists should intentionally cultivate practices of solidarity and coalition-building in our work. I, like everyone else, am often unable to see the inconsistencies in my own practices and teachings without others’ experiences to expand my view. This is one reason I value this Feminism and Religion community. Thank you for the wisdom and practices you offer from your own religious traditions and your own experiences of marginalization. You make me a better feminist through your writings and comments.

Perhaps working together, we can bring about religious reforms that our descendants will recognize in the centuries to come.

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

Two Wrongs Don’t Make a Right by John Erickson

Kim Davis does need a lot of things but saying of suggesting that she needs a haircut, a makeover, or even to lose weight, makes you and those that continue to repeat it no better than she is; to state such statements doesn’t purport the ideal that #LoveWins, which took over social media just mere months ago, but changes the whole narrative to symbolize that sexism and hate are more important than love and equality.

John Erickson, sports, coming out.Kim Davis, the defiant county clerk, is currently sitting in isolation in a jail cell after refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples in Rowan County, Kentucky, even after she was ordered by a judge to comply with the Supreme Court’s ruling on same-sex marriage or be held in contempt of court.

Everywhere I turn on both social media or in person people are talking about Ms. Davis, her actions, personal history and for some weird reason her hair and looks.   I’m all for individuals taking a virulent stand against an individual who chooses to not uphold the law of the land as well as continually acting in an unjust discriminatory way but bringing her looks or anything else about her physical appearance into the narrative is not only just plain wrong it is sexism in its worst form. Continue reading “Two Wrongs Don’t Make a Right by John Erickson”

Why Is Pizza Round? The Black Goddess of Rome by Stuart Dean

The remains of an ancient Roman bread pie from Pompeii, carbonized in the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 CE
The remains of an ancient Roman bread pie from Pompeii,
carbonized in the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 CE

The poem Moretum (discussed in my last post) narrates the preparation of a meal that can be characterized in modern English as ‘pizza.’  Round flatbread is baked; to go on it, a cheese spread is mixed.  The details of the narration are such as to create a recipe of its ingredients and related cooking instructions.  

The most important ingredient, however, is not an ‘ingredient’ as such, but a shape.  The bread, the cheese, and the cheese spread are all round.  That by itself might not seem remarkable, but the Latin terminology (words from which ‘orbit’ and ‘globe’ derive) is identical to then contemporary astrological terminology.  The bread is even scored into quadrants, symbolizing, among other things, the four elements and the quadrants of an astrological observer’s circle. 

The ancient audience of Moretum would have recognized in all this the world view of the Italian poet from southern Campania, Parmenides.  Though the only poem he is known to have composed is in Greek, the combination of the fact that he likely wrote it while in Italy and that it had over the centuries since its composition become one of the most influential philosophical works of pre-Christian antiquity meant Parmenides had special importance to Romans.  It is not surprising Moretum has the same meter and many of the poetic images as are found in the poem of Parmenides. Continue reading “Why Is Pizza Round? The Black Goddess of Rome by Stuart Dean”

From Evangelical Christianity to Feminist Evangelism by Andreea Nica

AndreeaI always knew I was a feminist, despite my lack of knowledge in the movement and philosophy growing up. I did, however, have the religious support of my family and community to be an Evangelical Christian. I knew all the right words, mannerisms, and behaviors to represent myself as the proper Christian woman. I went on mission trips abroad, wore purity rings, attended sexual purity retreats and church camps, prayed fervently, spoke in tongues (glossolalia), contributed 10 percent of my meager earnings, and above all, fell in love with God.

As a first-generation college student, I was thirsty for knowledge and ready to take on the world. Some of my favorite courses during my undergraduate career included: “Psychology of Women,” “Women, Gender, and Ethnicity,” and “Psychology of Sexuality.” My coursework in gender, sexuality, and the social sciences compelled me to pursue graduate studies in gender, culture, and media at a university abroad. My studies in gender theory and feminist philosophy, and how it intersects with religion and social institutions ignited my spirit.

As a result, my relationship with god suffered. My newfound feminist beliefs were not solely to blame, however. Rather, a variety of reasons contributed to my detachment from god and the Evangelical church which I explain in my post, “Leaving Behind My First Love.” My new feminist identity was the main driver for questioning my relationship with god. Everything from the male-dominated language and rhetoric used in the church, to the discrimination and prohibition of female pastors, to the stringent gender roles expected of congregants. Continue reading “From Evangelical Christianity to Feminist Evangelism by Andreea Nica”

Contraception, Christianity & Law by Stuart Dean

Stuart WordPress photoNotwithstanding the widespread belief that contraception is not consistent with the principles of Christianity, there is no basis for it.  On the contrary, contraception was closely associated with early Christianity.

Matthew 19:12 is the only passage quoting Christ that is on point.  Christ has been speaking about family law (adultery), acknowledging here that the issue is not relevant to eunuchs, including those who castrate themselves “for the kingdom of heaven.”  At a minimum it seems problematic how this verse is to be understood today.  Yet, the evidence for Christians castrating themselves in the first few centuries after Christ comes from a variety of sources, many of which are considered to be otherwise reliable.  It is very difficult to see why Matthew 19:12 itself should not be taken both as evidence of the practice and Christ’s implicit endorsement of it.

Continue reading “Contraception, Christianity & Law by Stuart Dean”

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