Outsider Looking In: A “Tradition” of a Different Name By John Erickson

The following is a guest post by John Erickson, doctoral student in Women’s Studies in Religion at Claremont Graduate University.  His research interests involve an interdisciplinary approach and are influenced by his time as the director of a women’s center and active member in the GLBTQ and women’s rights movements.  His work is inspired by the intersectionality of the feminism, queer identity, and religious political and cultural rhetoric.  He is the author of the blog, From Wisconsin, with Love and can be followed on Twitter at@jerickson85.

I often read on this blog about the effects various religious traditions have on people’s personal and professional psyches.  As I sit in class, I listen to people tell their harrowing stories of how they “escaped” restrictive religious practices or were able to “work within” their religious community to attempt to or even in some cases create the change they wanted to see.

Although I enjoy listening to my peers talk about the issues that have followed them along throughout their life, I find myself struggling to personally validate these experiences in relation to my non-religious background.  More specifically, I want to associate with your feelings but I just cannot seem to relate in any way no matter how hard I try.   Continue reading “Outsider Looking In: A “Tradition” of a Different Name By John Erickson”

Anita Caspery, IHM: Prophetic Icon of Renewal By Cynthia Garrity-Bond

this we were, this is how we tried to love,

and these are the forces they had ranged against us,

and these are the forces we had ranged within us,

within us and against us, against us and within us.

Adrienne Rich

Last week a colleague of mine forwarded the sad news that Anita Caspary, IHM, had died at the rich age of 95. This was the same day (October 5) that Steve Jobs passed away from his battle with pancreatic cancer.  The tension between the two figures was not lost on me.  The death of Jobs, an icon of ingenuity and leadership, wonderful husband and father, is mourned throughout the world.  The life and legacy of Anita Caspary will be remembered and mourned as well, but by comparison, on a much smaller scale. That’s unfortunate, because the life and legacy of Caspary as an instrument for change in the lives of Catholic women in general, and Women Religious in particular is what legends are made of.

As an IHM sister, Caspary was teacher, poet, author, and president of Immaculate Heart College (1958-1963), but is best known in her role as Mother General Sister Humiliata (1963-1973) of the IHM’s.  In Witness to Integrity, Caspary dramatically chronicles the painful struggles and controversies between the IHM sisters and Cardinal Archbishop of Los Angeles, James Francis McIntyre, in which 600 IHM Los Angeles nuns were released from their canonical vows in 1970.  Released because of their self-determination in remaining at the center of their religious fidelity and thought by putting into practice The Second Vatican Council’s  Decree on Up-to-Date Renewal of Religious life, or Perfectae Caritatis Addressed to priest and religious, this decree sanctioned the exodus from the middle ages for the sisters by insisting they join the modern world in both dress and discernment of vocation that best utilized each sister’s talents.  In an exert put forth from the 1967 Decrees of the Ninth Chapter, the IHM community clarify their position for renewal: Continue reading “Anita Caspery, IHM: Prophetic Icon of Renewal By Cynthia Garrity-Bond”

The Misbegotten Male: Male Sex-Selection & Female Abortion By Cynthia Garrity Bond

I turned away and, despite myself, the tears came, tears
Of weakness and disappointment; for what woman
wants a girl for her first-born?  They took the child from
me.  Kali said: “Never mind.  There will be many later
On.  You have plenty of time”
To our modern sensibility, the ancient Greeks understanding of procreation is as far reaching as say Nordstrom’s may be to any dollar store.  To the Greeks, men’s testicles had a particular function or job to fulfill: the left one produced girls with the right one producing boys.  For Aristotle, if you were willing to “man-up” and take the pain, tie off your left testicle during intercourse in order to insure the birth of a son.  In this formula, if something were to go wrong, even though you followed the correct game plan and a girl was born instead of the hope for son, something obviously went wrong at conception, thus the term “The Misbegotten Male,”i.e. a daughter, as the misbegotten.   Continue reading “The Misbegotten Male: Male Sex-Selection & Female Abortion By Cynthia Garrity Bond”

Mary Daly: My Springboard Into Critical Feminist Thought By Katie Driscoll

This post is written in conjunction with the Feminist Ethics Course Dialogue project sponsored by Claremont School of Theology in the Claremont Lincoln University Consortium,  Claremont Graduate University, and directed by Grace Yia-Hei Kao.

Katie Driscoll is pursuing an MA in the Applied Women’s Studies Program at Claremont Graduate University and is participating in the Feminist Ethics Course Dialogue project.

Mary Daly, a professor of theology at Boston College, is known as a radical feminist, one who is widely understood to have epitomized the stereotypical “man-hating femi-nazi.”  Daly earned the latter title as the result of a dispute with Boston College concerning her supposed refusal to grant male students admittance into her classes.  This dispute ultimately resulted in Daly’s retirement from Boston College in 1999.  Somehow, Daly remained a presence on campus, attending panels and other events for years to follow.  I had the privilege of meeting her twice while attending BC between 2002 and 2006.  I cannot claim that she was particularly warm or personable.  She was actually quite cold and demanding.  While I was never close to Mary Daly, I feel that I owe her my deepest gratitude for her role in my Self-discovery. I would like to take this opportunity to reflect upon her influence in my life and, utilizing the insights of some of Daly’s former colleagues and students, to set the record straight regarding her alleged refusal to allow men into her classes. Continue reading “Mary Daly: My Springboard Into Critical Feminist Thought By Katie Driscoll”

Infantilizing Women, Sexualizing Girls By Grace Yia-Hei Kao

Continue reading “Infantilizing Women, Sexualizing Girls By Grace Yia-Hei Kao”

The Real “Affirmative Action”: Musings on Race, Class, and Gender in the Religious Academy By Egon Cohen

Egon Cohen is completing a Master of Theological Studies at Brite Divinity School in Fort Worth, Texas. His research focuses on gender, sexuality, ethics, hermeneutics, and the intersection of liturgical praxis, politics, and BDSM. Egon likes riding motorcycles and eating Haribo gummibears. He is secretly still 10.

According to the Association of Theological Schools, about 1,100 students enroll in Ph.D. programs at divinity schools and seminaries in theU.S.each year. And hundreds more enroll in graduate religion departments at public and secular universities. However, job postings on theAmericanAcademyof Religion, Society of Biblical Literature, and Chronicle of Higher Education websites suggest that in any given year there are only around 200 tenure track openings in the field. Needless to say, those of us who are pursuing academic careers in religious studies/theology are a bit nervous (and if we aren’t nervous, we should be).

So, when we’re not discussing all the fun God stuff, grad students in theology often spend our time talking about our (lack of) job prospects. And there’s a common refrain that almost invariably surfaces. My friend, Mr. X, put it rather eloquently the other day: “My dad told me that I need to work extra hard—after all, I’m a white male trying to get a job in theology.”  Continue reading “The Real “Affirmative Action”: Musings on Race, Class, and Gender in the Religious Academy By Egon Cohen”

Religious Mestizaje by Xochitl Alvizo

Some have said that all theology is autobiographical. Whether this is always the case or not, in my case, it is absolutely true. I came to the topic of religious mestizaje because of my own need to make sense of the fact that I fully identify as a Goddess loving person as well as a Christian-identified one. I have made reference to this before on this blog; I have admitted that even after my feminist awakening, even after coming to love and practice Goddess spirituality, even after reading all of Mary Daly’s books (some of them more than once), I have chosen to affiliate with Christianity all while also maintaining my Goddess devotion nonetheless. Therefore, Gloria Anzaldua’s understanding of mestijaze, and religious mestizaje in particular, has contributed to the ongoing revision of my religious identity.

The word mestiza or mestizo is born of the incarnation of hybridity and diversity.[1] Historically mestizaje is the new hybrid race, a reference to Mexicans who are the mixed people born of Indian and Spanish blood in the 16th century.[2] The Spanish invaded the land now called Mexico, and in partnership with rival tribes, conquered the Aztec people. Oscar Garcia-Johnson, in his book A Mestiza Community of the Spirit, states that mestizaje “represents a hub of dehumanizing stories and self-empowering templates.”[3] Thus, there is an inherent violence implied in mestizaje as the word originated, and this violence is also implied in my Goddess Loving Christian mestizaje. Christianity has been the cause of much harm and dehumanizing violence, especially in its relationship to women, and really is in need of transformation and self-empowering templates. The origin of mestizaje implies the violence of one tradition or people dominating and suppressing another and the reality that new life, a new people and tradition, find a way nonetheless; I think this is part of what leads to my religious mestizaje. The new ‘way’ that I have found has taken form in a Goddess Loving Christian religious practice that reflects the concrete embodied reality of my experience – a religious practice that is always negotiated with a community of people. .

Continue reading “Religious Mestizaje by Xochitl Alvizo”

Reflecting on the Construction of Race as our National Identity Shifts By Helene Slessarev-Jamir

The following is a guest post written by Helen Slessarev-Jamir, Ph.D., Mildred M. Hutchinson Professor of Urban Studies at Claremont School of Theology.  Her research focuses on the character of religiously inspired justice work in response to globalization and American empire.  Helene is a member of the Board of Directors and writes for Sojourners; she has authored multiple articles and books including most recently published Prophetic Activism: Progressive Religious Justice Movements in Contemporary America.

Today my son Stephan celebrates his 31st birthday. In the year Stephan was born he was one of very few bi-racial children in the U.S. I personally knew of no one else who had a bi-racial child. His father and I agreed that given the racial realities of the U.S. in 1980, he needed to be raised as an African-American because that was how he would be perceived. We consciously constructed Stephan’s identity as black.

We lived on the Southside of Chicago in an all-black neighborhood. Yet, when he was ready to enter elementary school, I was advised to register him as “white” so that he would have a better chance of being admitted into the local public magnet school. Having resisted any significant plans to desegregate its public schools, the Chicago Board of Education used racial diversity as one of the main criteria for admission into their magnet schools. As a result, Stephan became one of the “white” children in his 1st grade classroom even though all the faces in his school photo were varying shades of brown. Continue reading “Reflecting on the Construction of Race as our National Identity Shifts By Helene Slessarev-Jamir”

Be-ing in the Church By Xochitl Alvizo

Sometimes it is difficult to make sense of the peculiar paths our religious lives take, much more so to make sense of one another’s paths which can be so different from our own.

I was raised in a Mexican American family and grew up in Los Angeles, California(my parents say I was “made in Mexico, assembled in the U.S.”). And I grew up going to Spanish-speaking Catholic mass. I have often said that the God I know in Spanish is so different from the God I came to know in English when I began to roam Protestant circles in undergrad. Growing up, the Spanish speaking God I knew was  as assumed and as basic as the air that kept us alive: always available and always with us in the good, the bad, and the ugly. God was a constant without which we could not exist.  But in undergrad, my Protestant friends seemed to have a completely different understanding of God than the one I had grown up with. Theirs was a God that required obedience, a God of very specific expectations, and a jealous God at that! It was a very confusing time for me and my engagement with Christianity wavered.

Then in graduate school, eight years after undergrad, something happened that revolutionized my life – I discovered radical feminists! As ironic as this might seem, radical feminists provided me with a way to make sense of Christianity. They gave me a language and the tools to both critique and engage Christianity and the church. I have often said that if it wasn’t for Mary Daly, I wouldn’t be able to call myself a Christian(!). Continue reading “Be-ing in the Church By Xochitl Alvizo”

Mary’s Feast Rooted in Lesbian Goddesses Diana and Artemis By Kittredge Cherry

Kittredge Cherry

The following is a guest post written by Rev. Kittredge Cherry, lesbian Christian author and art historian who blogs about LGBT spirituality and the arts at the Jesus in Love Blog.  Her books include “Equal Rites” and “Art That Dares: Gay Jesus, Woman Christ, and More“.

August 15 was once the festival of the lesbian goddess Diana (Artemis), but it has been adapted into a feast day for the Virgin Mary.

Midsummer feasts have celebrated the divine feminine on this date since before the time of Christ.  Now devoted to Mary, August 15 carries the torch of lesbian spiritual power to a new generation.

Saint Mary, mother of Jesus, is honored by churches today in a major feast day marking her death and entrance into heaven.  Catholic and Orthodox churches call it the Feast of the Assumption or Dormition, when Mary was assumed into heaven, body and soul.

The Virgin Mary’s holiday was adapted — some would say appropriated — from an ancient Roman festival for Diana, the virgin goddess of the moon and the hunt.  Diana, or Artemis in Greek, is sometimes called a lesbian goddess because of her love for woman and her vow never to marry a man.  The ancient Roman Festival of Torches (Nemoralia) was held from Aug. 13-15 as Diana’s chief festival. Continue reading “Mary’s Feast Rooted in Lesbian Goddesses Diana and Artemis By Kittredge Cherry”

Hearing Each Other to Speech in the Academy By Xochitl Alvizo

Sometimes when I write, especially when I am writing an academic paper but even when I am writing for this blog, I imagine that I am writing it to my feminist peer-group.  I am part of a group of four feminist women who have intentionally decided to stay involved in our religious traditions.  We are Unitarian Universalist, American Baptist, Presbyterian, and Disciples of Christ, and we started our peer-group in order to enCourage, support, and inspire each other as we participate in our churches with our full feminism selves. We get together regularly and we listen deeply to each other, we celebrate, we cry, we mourn, we rage, we laugh, and, of course, we eat together. On many occasions we have each expressed that we are better versions of ourselves because we are part of each others lives.

One of the reasons it is easier for me to write to my peer-group instead of my academic audience is because I know that my peer-group is invested in my empowerment, my liberation, and my continual be-coming – they understand that my well-being contributes to theirs, and vice versa. Thus, when I write for them, I do not fear; I trust that my peer-group will truly hear me and encourage me, and that when they raise questions and point out weaknesses in my writing, they do so not in an attempt to tear down my work but in order to strengthen it and build on it.

My peer-group

My peer-group, while being able to point out the blind spots and shortcomings on my work, never fail to recognize, honor, and express appreciation for my contribution as well. They hear me to speech and understand the importance of that for bringing out my academic best. Continue reading “Hearing Each Other to Speech in the Academy By Xochitl Alvizo”

Love, Loss and Longing: The Rebooting of a Feminist Heart By Cynthia Garrity-Bond

It has been said time heals all wounds, I do not agree.  The wounds remain, in time the mind, protecting its sanity, covers them with scar tissue and the pain lessens, but it is never gone.  Rose Kennedy

 This past Saturday, August 6, would have been my 34th wedding anniversary.  Next Saturday, August 13 will be the wedding of my once fiancé.  The former lasted 20 years, the latter 10.  I have recently begun the delicate dance of getting to know another man; continuing to second-guess myself as if I’m a schoolgirl with her first crush, only I’m not.  I’m a woman drawing upon 30 years of the good, the bad, and the ugly.    Without sounding like Carrie Bradshaw from Sex and The City, I am asking myself what does a feminist relationship look like as it unfolds?  How do I trust another with a heart that is held together by Elmer’s glue?  And more importantly, how do I make myself present to another without past wounds surfacing and then projected onto the innocent?

In a recent post, XochitlAlvizo wrote on the difference, as she understands it, between sacrifice and love. All too often, argues Xochitl, we confuse the two, believing our sacrifice is what redeems us and others, when in reality, it is always love.  The distinction, while at times difficult to discern, is what can bring life to a healthy, loving relationship.  I can’t imagine not being steeped in a committed relationship without some sacrifice on my part.  But when does this practice of sacrifice become the support system for sustaining love?  How do I hold the balance of love and at times sacrifice for another without losing love of self? Continue reading “Love, Loss and Longing: The Rebooting of a Feminist Heart By Cynthia Garrity-Bond”

“I’m in love with Judas”: Names and Taboos within the Scholarly Arena of Religion and Biblical Studies By Michele Stopera Freyhauf

Names provoke opinions, responses, and even controversy.  Lady Gaga’s song “Judas” is a perfect example of this.   Before this song was released, the title “Judas” stirred controversy throughout the nation just because of its name.  If one takes the time to read the lyrics, you find a human struggle summed up with the phrase, “Jesus is my virtue but Judas is the demon I cling to.”   To look beyond the name, a deep theological fight that is relevant to every one of us emerges; struggling between what you know is right but being drawn to what you know is wrong.  Within this song lays a fundamental dichotomy of betrayal and forgiveness that is overlooked because of a name, Judas, or what Mary Elizabeth Williams calls a “Christian taboo.”

The word “taboo” refers to something that is inappropriate or unacceptable by society , and can also indicate ostracizing.  It seems strange to apply this word to female scholars in the field of Religion and Biblical Studies; but it fits.  Scholarship that is identifiably authored as female brings about scrutiny and opinions of inferior quality or lack of creditability; after all “what does a woman know?”  Women and scholarship, especially in the male-dominated fields of Religion, Biblical Studies, and Archaeology, are in fact “taboo;” unaccepted, improper, ignored, and shunned.  This issue was first brought to my attention at a Women’s Luncheon at the annual meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature (“SBL”) in 2008.  Carol Meyers, a professor of Religion at Duke University, was being honored for her mentorship to women in the field of biblical studies.  Amy-Jill Levine, an earlier recipient of this award, introduced Meyers. Continue reading ““I’m in love with Judas”: Names and Taboos within the Scholarly Arena of Religion and Biblical Studies By Michele Stopera Freyhauf”

What about “the final frontier?” Saying goodbye to the Space Shuttle Program By Sara Frykenberg

The following is a guest post written by Sara Frykenberg, Ph.D., independent scholar and graduate of the Women Studies in Religion program at Claremont Graduate University.

“It all started when they messed with Pluto,” my husband joked to me as we listened to the NPR report last week about the end of NASA’s Space Shuttle Program.  I imagined a slighted god of the underworld smiting our exploration of the heavens!  “How dare you tell me that Pluto doesn’t count,” he yells, dragging our shuttles out of the sky.  But joking aside, I am really, truly bummed about this new “development” is US space exploration.  The idea that human beings have the ability to travel in outer space is a great source of hope and inspiration for me— but why?  And why am I so bummed?  I decided that I needed to examine these feelings from both a feminist and a spiritual dimension.

Does feminism care about the Space Program?  That is a question, because I really don’t know.  I know particular feminists do.  I know some don’t. Continue reading “What about “the final frontier?” Saying goodbye to the Space Shuttle Program By Sara Frykenberg”

What Feeds Your Soul? By Cathy Dundas-Reyes

The following is a guest from Cathy Dundas-Reyes, Ph.D.

I have finished coursework in Leadership Studies, but feel like I could use another three years to read all the additional leadership literature out there. I took comps two weeks ago and now get to wait…for the results. I had prepared my mind before I headed back for my test. I knew it would be hard to switch gears – having nothing to really study anymore. But it has been harder than I thought.

For a few days, I was restless and irritated. I tried to study for lit review but was not productive. All I felt was exhausted. I napped everyday and still wanted to sleep at night. I realized I could use the time to minister to my own soul. My feminine soul to be more specific.

I had a glimpse of her in my mind. She was a runner in a race and was worn out. She had kept up for the race, but she was done. Her head was down and she needed to rest. She was toned and in good shape – she had been a faithful companion. But now she needed something from me. Could I just sit and listen? When was the last time I did something that fed my soul?

What feeds your soul? I thought about lots of things that feed my feminine soul. A visit to the Getty museum, exploring the coast for unexpected beauty, a massage, dancing…chocolate ice cream. So that is what I will do…while I wait.

Interestingly, I had another image of my feminine soul almost a year ago. She was a slave, in chains, at the mercy of the task master. She was malnourished, neglected and in torment. I was struck by the contrast of the two images. Now, she may be tired, but she is powerful and strong. She grew from a slave to a powerful running partner. Lady Wisdom says “I am understanding, power is mine” (Prov 8:14). Find out what feeds your feminine soul – find that deep understanding and power. I would love to hear your comments about what you discover.

For more about the feminine soul – see Janet Davis’ book, The Feminine Soul: Surprising Ways the Bible Speaks to Women (2006).

Mary Daly: Radical Elemental Feminist and Sinner By Gina Messina-Dysert

While some argue that Mary Daly was too radical, I have been greatly influenced by her contributions to the field of feminism and religion.  I can still remember the first time I read a piece of her work.  It was during my undergraduate career at Cleveland State University in a course entitled “Women and Religion.”  I was immediately impacted and wanted to know more about this bold, strong and courageous woman, and although I had already considered myself a feminist, it was in that moment I recognized the existence of patriarchy in religion.  Shortly thereafter I applied to a graduate program in religious studies and became better acquainted with Daly’s work and the intersection of feminism and religion.

While I must admit that I am troubled by some of Daly’s claims and disagree with some of her contentions, I have also been significantly influenced by her foundational work in feminist theology, her demand for women’s liberation and Spinning of new tales and new ideas.  Daly called for women to have the courage to be, to experience a new fall out of patriarchal systems and into a new being that allows women to discover their capabilities, the dynamic power women possess within themselves.

According to Mary E. Hunt, co-founder and co-director of the Women’s Alliance for Theology, Ethics and Ritual (WATER), “Her contributions to feminist theology, philosophy, and theory were many, unique, and if I may say so, world-changing. She created intellectual space; she set the bar high. Even those who disagreed with her are in her debt for the challenges she offered…She always advised women to throw our lives as far as they would go. I can say without fear of exaggeration that she lived that way herself.”[1]

While I never had the opportunity to meet Mary Daly, I have no doubt been inspired by her brilliance, courage, wit, and spirit.  My feminist and theological views have been shaped through her influence. I have been able to spiral into freedom and rename and reclaim my own experiences; I have found my own creative power.  Thank you for having the courage to sin big Mary Daly.

“There are and will be those who think I have gone overboard. Let them rest assured that this assessment is correct, probably beyond their wildest imagination, and that I will continue to do so.” – Mary Daly

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