A few weeks ago, I came across a postcard that I was given at a conference last year. I got the postcard (advertisement?) because it has a picture of Fannie Lou Hamer on it, and in my home and office, I like to display images and quotes from inspirational women, especially black women. Hamer was a sharecropper from rural Mississippi who became a leader within the civil rights movement in the United States. I was happy to have something with her likeness on it. It was only later that I looked at the text on the front and back of the card, which read in part, ”Often called the ‘spirit of the Civil Rights Movement,” Hamer worked tirelessly on behalf of the rights of others—including the unborn. [She said,] ‘The methods used to take human lives such as abortion, the pill, the ring, etc. amounts to genocide. I believe that abortion is legal murder.’” I realized then that the card was distributed by an organization called Consistent Life, who, in support of a “consistent ethic of life,” is “committed to the protection of life threatened by war, abortion, poverty, racism, capital punishment and euthanasia.”
I was conflicted about the use of Hamer’s image for this organization’s purposes. It is true, Hamer did have those views about abortion and birth control. But I did not know if her image and story was being manipulated for a particular political and religious agenda—one I do not align myself with. I put the card in a box of other images and quotes. I didn’t display it, but I didn’t throw it away, either, which is why I came across it again a couple weeks ago as I was cleaning and decorating my home office. I had the same misgivings about the image as before, and I set it aside again. Continue reading “Fannie Lou Hamer’s Commitment to Life by Elise M. Edwards”
Notwithstanding 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”
We are familiar with the covenant God made with Abraham and Moses, but are you aware that God also made a covenant with Hagar?
In the wilderness Hagar encounters a deity at the well named Beer-lahai-roi (Genesis 16). Water and wells are important because they symbolize fertility and life. Wells for women are common places where they met their future spouses. Because wanderers in the desert need water to survive, water itself becomes a symbolic of life-giving or life.
In the seemingly barren dessert, the fertile Hagar finds out that she is pregnant and going to be the mother of many children. Hagar is promised progeny in a motherless state. According to Pamela Tamarkin Reis, this is called the “after-me” descendants, which guarantees Hagar that her children will live for “immeasurable generations;” a pattern that fits within the scope of this promise. This same promise of progeny is also given to Eve in Genesis 3:20, providing and interesting parallelism between Eve and Hagar.
It is worth pointing out the irony exists in this promise. Sarai uses Hagar to “build her up.” According to Nahum Sarna, to be built up in terms of the number of children that you have, implies that you are mother to a dynasty. In this pericope, however, it is Hagar, not Sarai that is built up through this divine promise.
This patterns of promise exists within the birth narrative through the annunciation of Ishmael and the promise of progeny. It is through this narrative that Hagar enters into a covenantal relationship with the deity. According to J. H. Jarrell, birth narratives have six common elements that establish this relationship: mother’s status, protest, offer, son’s future forecast, Yahweh naming, and acceptance of the contract. Hagar’s story contain these elements:
- Mother’s Status: Hagar is without child because she is a virgin (16:1).
- Protest: Hagar flees from her mistress (16:8).
- Offer: Return to your mistress and submit to her authority (16:9).
- Son’s Future Forecast: He will live at the east of all his brothers (16:12).
- Yahweh Naming: You will bear a son Ishmael because the Lord has given heed to your affliction (16:11).
- Acceptance of the Contract: She called the name of the Lord (16:13).
Continue reading “And Thus God made a Covenant with Hagar in the Wilderness by Michele Stopera Freyhauf”
A socio-political examination of Genesis 16 explores how ancient myth can influence the story of Hagar and Sarai. Socio-political events could have occurred between the Egyptians and King Solomon that influenced the writing of this text. According to John Currid in Ancient Egypt and the Old Testament, the Egyptians and Hebrews borrowed many things from each other and because of that, an inter-relatedness exists between the languages as well as cultural and religious practices of both kingdoms (26). It is this inter-relatedness that I wish to explore and ask the question -was Hagar an Egyptian Princess demoted to a lower position of servitude in order to make a political statement of superiority of the Israelites over the Egyptians? Or is this a story of conflict between two of Solomon’s wives? Finally, could this story tell us about events that occurred after Solomon’s death since the Biblical texts from the pre-exilic period began to take shape during the reign of David and Solomon? This is a very brief exploration of these theories.
In Genesis 16, Hagar and Sarai connect Egypt and Israel in a familial relationship, one rooted in strife. These two women, an Israelite and an Egyptian, are brought together because of Sarai’s barrenness and need to fulfill the covenantal promise. Because of this, Hagar becomes Abram’s secondary wife. This is not the only time that marriage between an Israelite and Egyptian occurs in the Old Testament. Joseph marries and an Egyptian, the daughter of a priest of On (Genesis 41:45). Solomon also has an Egyptian wife who seems to have some importance because she is mentioned six times in the Old Testament (1 Kings 3:1; 7:8, 9:24; 11:1-2; 2 Chronicles 8:11).
Important is the fact that this passage could be rooted in the writings that emerged in that period that portray family strife. Savina J. Teubal in Ancient Sisterhood: The Lost Traditions of Hagar and Sarah, states these “andocentric writing and editing” of the biblical narratives portray conflicts between women who “vie for the attention of their husbands or sons” (19). In this case the story really could be a tale of family strife inspired by two of the wives of Solomon, one of which was Egyptian.
Continue reading “Hagar – Demoted Servant or Egyptian Princess? By Michele Stopera Freyhauf”
“Life is robbery.”
I re-read this Alfred North Whiteheadquotation to my students in the last weeks as we read through Adventures of Ideas. We were taking a welcome break from the philosophically demanding Process and Reality.
I explained that this is one of Whitehead’s more frequently cited sentences because he succinctly and poetically describes his position that life entails loss, and you can’t go back and get what you lose.
I said the same thing to one of my girlfriends as we chatted in my kitchen a couple of weeks ago. I was cooking and catching up with a friend I had not seen in nearly twenty years. As we chronicled our lives from the intervening decades, my friend said: “I have a religious question.”
In moments like these, I curse the fact that even my closest friends think that I have some special kind of knowledge as a minister and professional theologian. I took a deep breath because that phrase usually precedes some difficult, heart-wrenching question that has no satisfying answer.
Continue reading “Robbed by Monica A. Coleman”
The following is a guest post written by Monica A. Coleman, Ph.D., scholar and activist committed to connecting faith and social justice. An ordained elder in the African Methodist Episcopal Church, Coleman has earned degrees at Harvard University, Vanderbilt University and Claremont Graduate University. Coleman is currently Associate Professor of Constructive Theology and African American Religions and Co-Director of the Center for Process Studies at Claremont School of Theology in southern California. She is also Associate Professor of Religion at Claremont Graduate University.
This post was originally posted on the Beautiful Mind Blog. Be sure to check in there and follow Monica’s journey.
If you’ve been following my blog, you’ve noticed that I’ve been really quiet lately. Like all summer lately. What’s up with that? Well, part of the challenge of writing about depression is that it’s hard to write when depressed, and, well, depression happens. Continue reading “I’m Back and Writing About Loss By Monica A. Coleman”
Gen 16: 1 reads “Now Sarah, Abraham’s wife, bore him no children.” The simplicity of this statement fails to communicate the complicated and devastating situation Sarah faced. The woman who became the matriarch of the Judeo-Christian tradition was barren, unable to fulfill the one duty that gave her worth within her community. While women were already devalued by society, the social status of a woman struggling with infertility was even further diminished.
Sarah is a woman I have come to identify with. I share her plight of infertility and feel a hopelessness that can only be fully understood by women in a similar situation. Like Sarah I have been desperate to become a mother and although it is the 21st century, as a woman I have felt pressure to do so. Feelings of inadequacy and lack of worth have been overwhelming at times as family members and friend have felt it necessary to not only acknowledge my struggle but also offer commentary on what exactly they think is wrong with me. Continue reading ““Now Sarah, Abraham’s wife, bore him no children”: On Experiencing Infertility By Gina Messina-Dysert”