No More Of This in Academe! by Grace Yia-Hei Kao

Last week, social media was ablaze over a September 18 Pittsburg Post-Gazette column entitled “Death of An Adjunct” by Daniel Kovalik that had the following teaser: “Margaret Mary Vojtko, an adjunct professor of French for 25 years, died underpaid and underappreciated at age 83.”  Inside Higher Ed reports that the column went viral as “adjuncts across the country reported seeing something tragically familiar in her story.”  The Chronicle of Higher Education likewise covered the story with this tagline: “An Adjunct’s Death Becomes a Rallying Cry for Many In Academe.”

This tragedy involves all sorts of issues with which readers of this blog are concerned: power, structural injustice, job insecurity, underemployment, unions, healthcare, and Catholic values (the last of these since Margaret worked at a Catholic institution), to name a few.

Continue reading “No More Of This in Academe! by Grace Yia-Hei Kao”

Genetic Testing: The Ethical Implications of Expanded Newborn Testing – Who Benefits? (Part One) by Michele Stopera Freyhauf

Freyhauf, Feminism, Religion, Durham, Old Testament, Blogger, Bible, Gender, Violence, Ursuline, John CarrollWith Angelina Jolie’s electing to have a double mastectomy because she carried the BRCa Gene, and her mother and aunt died at a very early age of the disease, the issue of genetic testing is in the forefront again.  This is a three-part essay explores genetic testing when it comes to newborn testing (part one and part two) and concludes with exploring personal choices, availability, and psychological ramifications of genetic testing.

Picture originally found at

After nine months of worrying and diligent pre-natal care, the day to meet your unborn child is here.  Labor is long and for hours you lie in the birthing suite riding out contraction after contraction.  The moment finally arrives and you discover you have a son; ten fingers, ten toes and seemingly healthylungs by the cry that you hear.  He is then quickly taken over to the nurse’s station and a drop of blood from his heel is placed into a machine that in seconds will decode his entire genome. Soon your son’s future will be written in stone; he has a life expectancy of 30.2 years and has a 99% chance of dying from heart failure.  In that instance, your son has been labeled as an in-valid and he is now doomed to exist within a lower class of society, one that will prohibit him from pursuing his dreams. Society has discriminated against your new baby boy based solely upon his DNA.  A new form of eugenics is born.

This was the opening scene of the 1997 science-fiction movie called “Gattaca.” Besides pushing the bounds of human imagination, science fiction can serve as a warning about a future caused by the abuses of humankind.  The opening birth scene in this movie is quickly becoming a potential reality.  Now, a person’s entire genome can be decoded and in an instant, a person knows whether he or she will be susceptible to Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, Cancer, or other life threatening conditions.  Proponents of genetic sequencing believe that this is the holy grail of medical care and tout phrases like “personalized medical care” and “significantly reduced costs of healthcare.”  There is a rapid movement towards this goal through the proposed expansion of newborn screening for eighty-four conditions, most of which are not understood or have no known treatment. Continue reading “Genetic Testing: The Ethical Implications of Expanded Newborn Testing – Who Benefits? (Part One) by Michele Stopera Freyhauf”

Appreciating the Sacrament of the Present Moment by Michele Stopera Freyhauf

In order to be at peace, it is necessary to find a sense of history – that you are both part of what has come before and part of what is yet to come. Being thus surrounded, you are not alone; and the sense of urgency that pervades the present is put in perspective. Do not frivolously use the time that is yours to spend.  Cherish it, that each day may bring new growth, insight, and awareness.  Use this growth not selfishly, but rather in service of what may be, in the future tide of time. Never allow a day to pass that did not add to what was understood before. Let each day be a stone in the path of growth. Do not rest until what was intended has been done. But remember – go as slowly as is necessary in order to sustain a steady pace; do not expend energy in waste. Finally, do not allow the illusory urgencies of the immediate to distract you from your vision of the eternal.

                                                     (Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, The Final Stage of Growth, 167)

Freyhauf, Feminism, Religion, Durham, Old Testament, Blogger, Bible, Gender, Violence, Ursuline, John CarrollLast month we lost a good friend unexpectedly.  His death, just days after his 49th birthday caused me to confront my own mortality. His death also makes me think about that void in life that we leave as well as the legacies we leave behind. How will I be remembered?  Did I make a difference while on earth? Have I served and given back enough?   Continue reading “Appreciating the Sacrament of the Present Moment by Michele Stopera Freyhauf”

Why are We Troubled by a Homeless Jesus? by Michele Stopera Freyhauf

Michele Stopera Freyhauf Durham John Carroll Religion TheologyThere are standard depictions of Jesus that show a Caucasian male with blue eyes (some pictures have the occasional brown eyes), shoulder length brown hair, and usually wearing a tunic with sandals. Jesus’ demeanor is usually victorious, prayerful, inviting, and even reflects humility. Our culture creates an unrealistic depiction of Jesus so that in the United States (at least), we see a savior as a white male representative of the power structures that permeate every facet of life.

There are some variations of this image. The most common is this same image with dark skin. A depiction that makes Jesus more tangible to people of color. If we can accept this variation of Jesus, then why would we be upset when images become more culturally tangible, send a message that encapsulates Jesus’ ministry, or make us stop and think – challenging us to take our rose colored glasses off. When an artist creates an image of Jesus that is different than the standard described above, controversy occurs at varying levels. The artwork is removed or de-commissioned, protests occur, and in extreme cases, the artist will even receive death threats. Here is a small sampling of images:

Jesus in Jeans (Peter Royle) picture courtesy of Wikipedia

Sweet Jesus (Cosimo Cavallar) picture from Cavallaro’s website (
Edwina Sandys:
T Edwina Sandys:
Crucified Woman at Emmanuel College
Crucified Woman at Emmanuel College

Continue reading “Why are We Troubled by a Homeless Jesus? by Michele Stopera Freyhauf”

Grief Beyond Belief and Rebecca Hensler by Kile Jones

Kile Jones, atheistIn my last post, “A Pro-Science, Skeptical Woman Speaks” I interviewed a woman with whom I share many views in common.  One of my goals here at Feminism and Religion is to introduce different secular, atheistic, liberal feminists who share many of the same ethical views as regular contributors and readers, but not the same “religious” or “spiritual” ideas.  In this post I examine an online support network for unbelievers, Grief Beyond Belief, and ask a few questions to its founder, Rebecca Hensler.

I met Rebecca in February in San Francisco while on a visit I made to meet with the Unitarian Universalist Association in regards to my ordination.  My girlfriend and I met Rebecca in North Beach, San Francisco for dinner and drinks.  I experienced her as a compassionate, friendly, and genuine person.  Her experiences and insights inspired me to think more about the role of grief and pain among unbelievers.  I mean, atheists cry, agnostics experience loss, skeptics lose family members, and we do it all without a “God” or “spirit” to help us.  And if we were to meet C.S. Lewis, we would make

sure to exclaim, “No…pain is not some megaphone for God to rouse a deaf world.”

R Hensler

Why did you start Grief Beyond Belief?

The original idea was born of my own grief.  After my son died, I found a group in which to share comfort and compassion with other grieving parents: The Compassionate Friends, a mainstream parental grief support organization with a strong online presence.  It was so close to exactly what I needed, but I frequently felt alienated by the religious and spiritual content — not just the offers of comfort that depended on beliefs I do not hold, but the assumption that everyone there held some sort of belief in life after death. And the assumption, so common in mainstream grief support, that even if I am not the same religion as you are, I have a religion, and I believe in some sort of afterlife was equally alienating and hurtful. Continue reading “Grief Beyond Belief and Rebecca Hensler by Kile Jones”

Honoring the Older Women of December’s Darkness by Carolyn Lee Boyd

carolyn portrait

Winter’s hungry hand has taken another powerful and precious older woman. No one knew Ellen beyond her family and friends, her church and her neighbors. She was 90, a nurse, faithful to her church and of service to her community, and quiet in manner and tone. In my work in elder services over 25 years, I have come to know many Ellens, older women who have labored relentlessly in their homes or in the outside world for little recognition or financial recompense but who have made a tremendous difference in the lives of other.  For reasons that may have to do with the harshness of New England winters, or maybe just coincidence, or maybe only perception, winter  seems to be the time when they leave the Earth and we are bereft.

Ellen and the many older women I have known like her do not fit into any standard or feminist image of a powerful woman.  They do not generally challenge the status quo, except with occasional complaints about unfairness to women in comments to friends.  They may not feel comfortable labeling themselves as “feminist.”

Continue reading “Honoring the Older Women of December’s Darkness by Carolyn Lee Boyd”

Visions of My Grandmother by John Erickson

“I never told my grandmother I was gay. I’ve often wanted to visit her grave, clench my hands together, and pray that she forgive me for betraying the trust she instilled upon me long ago. However, even today, I cannot bring myself to make that trek, up the hill into the countryside where her ashes lay below the ground.”

I haven’t dreamt of my grandmother since her passing one hot summer July evening.

The night, and the days that followed, continue to be a blur.  However, as my family members continue to see her in their nightly visions, I, go on unabatedly longing to see and hear the voice of a woman who made me feel the presence of the divine with each passing story.

My sister saw her in a dream when she was buying shoes, my mother has seen her multiple times when she would be undergoing a particularly stressful situation, and I, left alone and oftentimes wondering through an abyss of loneliness and disarray, wake up each morning wondering why, I am left all alone. Continue reading “Visions of My Grandmother by John Erickson”

Goddess as Love: From Experience To Thealogy by Carol P. Christ

If theology is rooted in experience, how do we move from experience to theology? In my life there have been a number of key moments of “revelation” that have shaped my thealogy. One of these was the moment of my mother’s death.

In 1991 my mother was diagnosed with cancer. While she was being treated, I realized that I had never loved anyone as much as I loved her. When I wrote that to her, she responded that “this was the nicest letter” she “had ever received” in her life and she invited me to come home to be with her and my Dad.

My mother died only a few weeks after I arrived, in her own bed as she wished. She was on an oxygen machine, and I heard her call out in the dark of early morning. When my Dad got to the room, he tried to turn up the oxygen, but it didn’t help. Then he called the doctor who reminded him that my mother did not want to go to the hospital under any circumstances.

My Dad then sat by my mother’s bed and held her hand.  As my mother died, I felt that the room was” filled with love.” I sensed that my mother was “going to love.” Continue reading “Goddess as Love: From Experience To Thealogy by Carol P. Christ”

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