Carol P. Christ: Weaver of Visions by Beth Bartlett

Author’s Note: Today’s post is the 4000th FAR blog post!  I first became aware of the Feminism and Religion blog when participating in a symposium honoring the life and work of Carol P. Christ in October 2021. I was inspired to write a piece on Christ’s contribution to ecofeminism, that was posted in the FAR blog a year ago today. I wanted to post another piece on Christ on the anniversary of that first post. I’m delighted that it is the 4000th, and so fitting that it is written in honor of Carol Christ, who was such an important part of the FAR blog.

A while ago, a friend asked me what spiritual reading I’d been doing lately. I told him that I’d been revisiting classics from the past. When he asked me who specifically, the first name I mentioned was Carol Christ. Even though he was a minister, he had never heard of her. Sadly, I suspect the same would be true for the vast majority of ministers, priests, rabbis, theologians, and other religious leaders. Yet, I can think of no one who has had a greater influence on my religious and spiritual thought and beliefs.

Continue reading “Carol P. Christ: Weaver of Visions by Beth Bartlett”

Remembering Rosemary Part 2 by Janice L. Poss and Theresa A. Yugar

Editor’s Note: A more formal memorial to Catholic Feminist Theologian Rosemary Radford Ruether was posted here at Feminism and Religion at the time of her passing. Now we are delighted to share these memories of her by two scholars, Theresa A Yugar and Janice L. Poss, who knew her well, especially in her last months. Therese’s reflection is below and Janice’s will appear tomorrow. As Janice notes in her post, “More than any deep theological concept, doctrinal exegesis, or other hyper-scholarly thought, she taught me simply by being who she was – a woman – and she gave me the ultimate gift, the gift of herself.” Through these posts, Theresa and Janice pass on some of Rosemary’s wise and caring gifts to our FAR readers. Part 1 was posted yesterday. You can read it here.

Janice, Theresa with Rosemary

Almost five years ago, Rosemary Radford Ruether suffered a devastating stroke that left her partially paralyzed and no longer able to speak or write, activities that were integral to her life as a writer, teacher, activist, and scholar. During her difficult last years Janice and I learned new ways of engaging her that were academically stimulating and fulfilling for her. We became advocates for her during her disability as she had been an advocate for us. Thus, out of pain grew blessings.

Janice and I dedicate and share with you these two short reflections that reflect our struggle to find our way without her. We know there will be many more reflections composed and shared by others whom she mentored, influenced and touched. Now—in the midst of our grief and sadness at her loss—we offer our personal memories of how she enriched our lives every day until she passed from our midst at 2pm, on Saturday, May 21, 2022.

Continue reading “Remembering Rosemary Part 2 by Janice L. Poss and Theresa A. Yugar”

Remembering Rosemary Part 1 by Janice L. Poss and Theresa A. Yugar

Editor’s Note: A more formal memorial to Catholic Feminist Theologian Rosemary Radford Ruether was posted here at Feminism and Religion at the time of her passing. Now we are delighted to share these memories of her by two scholars, Theresa A Yugar and Janice L. Poss, who knew her well, especially in her last months. Therese’s reflection was posted yesterday and Janice’s is below. As Janice notes in her post, “More than any deep theological concept, doctrinal exegesis, or other hyper-scholarly thought, she taught me simply by being who she was – a woman – and she gave me the ultimate gift, the gift of herself.” Through these posts, Theresa and Janice pass on some of Rosemary’s wise and caring gifts to our FAR readers.

Janice L. Poss, Rosemary and Theresa A. Yuger

She’s gone, but not forgotten. She is there, presence felt. The Spirit, as they say, works in mysterious ways. I knew about Rosemary for several years after attending two presentations  on feminist topics that she gave at Loyola Marymount University in 2005 and 2008. In 2006, I also recall hearing about her while organizing the first Roman Catholic Women Priests (RCWP) Mass in Los Angeles. Once I entered Claremont Graduate University as a Ph.D. student I heard quite a bit about her because my colleague and friend, Theresa Yugar, mentored me through orientation until she graduated. Occasionally I would see Theresa and Rosemary at Pilgrim Place when I attended Women Church Services. Although Rosemary was still teaching one class a semester, I could never attend because I was working full-time.

Continue reading “Remembering Rosemary Part 1 by Janice L. Poss and Theresa A. Yugar”

In Memoriam: Rosemary Radford Ruether by Elizabeth Ann Bartlett

Yet another of my great feminist and spiritual teachers has died.  Rosemary Radford Ruether, ecofeminist Catholic theologian, died on May 21st.  Her work challenged my thinking and gave me new understandings and perspectives. She was a prolific writer, authoring hundreds of articles and 36 books, and was the quintessential scholar and historian of world religions and ecofeminist thought and theologies. A scholar of the scholastics, she examined the three strains of Western thought: the Hebraic tradition; Platonic-Gnostic; and Pauline-Augustinian in all their complexities to develop an understanding of the nature of Western thought and its implications for the domination of women, nature, and colonized others. As she described her own approach, she drew out the contradictions and complexities in these theologies, careful “to see both negative and positive aspects . . . and to be skeptical of exclusivist views on either side.”[i] Her thought and writing was ever-expanding, and always striving “to see the dominant system of patriarchy, including its racism, classism, and colonialism, in critical perspective,” and to put herself “in places where in solidarity with its victims, I can see it from its underside.”[ii]To this end, she brought together the ecofeminist theologies of women from around the globe, particularly the global south.[iii] Her thought also grew to include critiques of militarism and corporate globalization.  Needless to say, I cannot begin to encompass all of her contributions here. So I will focus on the ways her thought has most deeply influenced and inspired my own, as well as my students’.

Continue reading “In Memoriam: Rosemary Radford Ruether by Elizabeth Ann Bartlett”

Carol P. Christ’s Legacy: Love Divine, All Loves Excelling

This was originally posted on Sept. 9, 2011

In my last blog I wrote that the image of God as a dominating other who enforces his will through violence–found in the Bible and in the Christian tradition up to the present day–is one of the reasons I do not choose to work within the Christian tradition.  To be fair, there is another image of God in Christian tradition that I continue to embrace.  “Love divine, all loves excelling” is the opening line of a well-known hymn by Charles WesleyCharles Hartshorne invoked these words and by implication the melody with which they are sung as expressing the feelings at the heart of the understanding of God that he wrote about in The Divine Relativity.

Love divine, all loves excelling also expresses my understanding of Goddess or as I sometimes write Goddess/God.  Though I am no longer a Christian, but rather an earth-based Goddess feminist, I freely admit that I learned about the love of God while singing in Christian churches.  Hartshorne wrote that he knew the love of God best through the love of his own mother, and I can say that this is true for me as well.  My mother was not perfect, and she did not understand why I wanted to go to graduate school, my feminism, or my adult political views, but I never doubted her love or my grandmothers’ love for me.  (I count myself lucky.  I know others did not have this experience.)  Like Hartshorne, I also learned about the love of God through the world that I always understood to be God’s body.  Running in fields and hills, swimming in the sea, standing under redwood trees, and encountering peacocks in my grandmother’s garden, I felt connected to a power greater than myself.


Continue reading “Carol P. Christ’s Legacy: Love Divine, All Loves Excelling”

What’s Your Feminism I.Q.? by Barbara Ardinger

Let’s begin a new year by finding out what we know about feminist history and goddess scholarship. Take this little quiz and find out where you stand as a Feminism/Goddess Scholar. (It’s okay to laugh at some of the choices. Laughing shows you’re paying attention.)

1. Who wrote When God Was a Woman?

            a. Ernest Hemingway                         b. Merlin Stone

            c. Sharyn McCrumb                           d. Isabel Allende

Continue reading “What’s Your Feminism I.Q.? by Barbara Ardinger”

Longing for Darkness by Elizabeth Ann Bartlett

When I moved to Minnesota, everyone back home voiced concern about how cold the winters would be.  Nobody warned me about how dark they would be, nor how long the dark would last.  For years, I complained, but gradually I have come to embrace the dark.  The dark invites us to slow down, to rest, to sleep, to dream.  It is a time to open to our depths, and to others. There is a kind of magic in the dark. Without the harsh light of judgment, in the dark we are more likely to share our secrets and stories, our wounds and our wonderings, our hearts and hopes with each other. As the deciduous trees lose their leaves, the sky opens as well, giving birth to the night sky.  The winter dark gives us the gift of stars, giving me a sense of my place in the universe. They arrive like old friends. The Seven Sisters of the Pleiades appear in the evening, and Orion greets me every morning. When Hale-Bopp was visible from earth, I looked for her on my late-night drives home, and there she would be, my constant companion on those cold winter nights.  The stars remind us that we are not alone, that we are all related, for we are all made of the stuff of stars.

Continue reading “Longing for Darkness by Elizabeth Ann Bartlett”

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”

Resisting Shame and Choosing to Live through the Loving Eye by Stephanie N. Arel

This week, I finished reading The Politics of Reality: Essays in Feminist Theory by Marilyn Frye, a text I had not encountered in my studies of feminism (in literary theory, psychology, philosophy, or theology) until now. In some ways, I wish I would have read it sooner. In other ways, I am grateful for this more recent rendezvous. From my current position and perspective – theoretical and personal – I was, I think, more able to hear the core message Frye conveys than I would have been years ago. I have less to protect now, and my ego is less fragile. In the text, she names the mechanisms around which Western – and patriarchal – cultures are founded. Her argument is fluent and cogent, even as it threatens the stability this culture offers. Our lives are embedded in it, even if our personal ethics point to alternative, feminist ways of living. Frye pushes her readers to live alternatively, so that we can recognize the times that we conspire/feed into/comply with patriarchal messages and clean the residue of servitude off of our skin.


For the purposes of this post, I engage two opposing concepts Frye presents in the text: the arrogant eye and the loving eye. Located in the chapter entitled “In and out of Harm’s Way: Arrogance and Love,” Frye investigates how men in phallocentric culture exploit and enslave women. The opposing, contradictory eyes of arrogance and love directly relate to the experience of shame which effectively serves to subjugate women in patriarchal culture.


Shame functions within what I call a logic of exposure. Shame relates intimately to the concept of being seen.  Affectively, shame results from our interest/excitement being partially truncated. For instance, we are drawn to someone (real or imagined); we are interested in their response to us, and somehow something interferes with the desire to connect. Contact is cut off, and interest/excitement partially halted. Shame ensues. We experience that someone (real or imagined) seeing us as other, different, foreign, maligned, wrong, or worthless. We are seen wrongly. This misperception alleviates joy and relates to the gaze of the arrogant eye under which (as the default gaze of phallocentric culture) we often find ourselves seeking approval.

Continue reading “Resisting Shame and Choosing to Live through the Loving Eye by Stephanie N. Arel”

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”

Foremothers: A Book Review & So Much More by Kate Brunner

foremothers-of-the-women-s-spirituality-movementI sometimes feel as though I live caught between feminism’s assorted waves. I am too young to have experienced the rise & crest of the Second Wave. I only just began to learn there was an actual -ism type name for this collection of thoughts, desires, feelings, & beliefs shaping themselves within me during my adolescent years as the Second Wave was decidedly ebbing.

Coming into my own as a very young adult, I found the rising Third Wave frustrating, though. Arguments over even using the word “feminist” to begin with exhausted me and it seemed like there was more debate raging about what was or was not feminism than there was meaningful change-agent action in the world around me. While I now recognize that was probably a necessary step in feminism’s evolution, at the time I was more concerned with confronting the immediate challenges of my work in a massively male-dominated career field under extremely stressful conditions than endlessly defending my conceptual feminist identity. This was the socio-political setting in which I came to Women’s Spirituality.

I came with little knowledge of the herstory behind the re-emergence of Goddess spirituality. I was too young to know the names of the Second Wave women who created the vessel anew. And too put off by my contact with the early Third Wave to study it formally. What I did know was that there was a thing called Women’s Spirituality and it spoke to me body, mind, heart, & soul. So, I eschewed study for direct experience, fumbling my way through creating a personal spiritual practice between myself & Goddess as a very private solitary. Years later, my penchant for autodidacticism & a huge, ugly feminist-on-feminist argument on a blog post I wrote led me on a quest to discover more about both my feminist and spiritual roots. Who had come before me? How did feminism & Women’s Spirituality get to where it was now- in theory & in practice? What was my herstory?

That was when I finally met the work of the women whose stories make up Foremothers of the Women’s Spirituality Movement: Elders and Visionaries. This volume, edited by Miriam Robbins Dexter and Vicki Noble, is precious to me and it is honestly an honor to write a review for it on FAR today. Continue reading “Foremothers: A Book Review & So Much More by Kate Brunner”

Caroline Schelling’s 4th Letter by Stuart Dean

Caroline Schelling

Caroline Schelling (‘Caroline’) wrote the fourth letter of hers that survives (the ‘4th Letter’) on October 7, 1778, shortly after she had turned 15, to a girl she met at boarding school who was to become her lifelong friend (Luise).  The intensity of her friendship with Luise is evident already in the 4th Letter, for she tells Luise that in writing to her she “portrays her entire soul.”  What prompted such depth of feeling for this letter relates not just to a significant moment in Caroline’s life but in every person’s life.  In the second paragraph she refers to what was most likely her first sexual relationship.  Given that context, Caroline demonstrates remarkable emotional maturity and intellectual sophistication in how she expresses herself.

She begins by referring to the “sensations of my heart,” telling Luise how she struggles to find “adequate words” to express them.  She is not, she proudly insists, an “enthusiast” who simply gives into feelings, insisting instead on the importance of “going over” (Überlegung) them herself.  Though Caroline was not taught Latin, it seems as if she had been taught the relevance to German of a Latin treatise from the 4th century CE on the method for defining words.  Caroline’s ‘going over’ her feelings before writing Luise is consistent with its methodology: first, to confront the question of whether something even exists (an sit, Existenz) and then determining, to the extent possible, what it is (quid sit, Wesen) and what its qualities are (quale sit, Eigenschaften)–i.e., its relationship to other words (grammar) and hence how it can be communicated.  

This methodology, which is applicable to a wide range of disciplines (e.g., legal argumentation, psychiatric diagnosis), is also analogous to a language theory Charles Segal argued is implicit in what remains of the writings of the 5th century BCE Sicilian Gorgias, a theory Segal related to Sappho’s poetry.  That is relevant, because given the failed sexual relationship about which Caroline writes to Luise, the 4th Letter bears comparison to two poems by Sappho (S. 31 and S. 1) that Caroline surely then knew in translation.  Caroline’s “sensations of my heart” is directly comparable to the palpitations of the heart Sappho refers to in the second stanza of S. 31.  The immediate effects are comparable; Sappho cannot speak and Caroline cannot find “adequate words.”  Though S. 31 appears to break off, S. 1 can be read as a continuation of it.  There Sappho prays for divine intervention (Aphrodite) to deal with a failed sexual relationship; the closing prayer of its final stanza is analogous to the last sentence of the 4th Letter’s first paragraph: “Lord, you who know my heart . . . fulfill no wishes that are not pleasing to you, I am depending on you!” 

In each case it would seem the answer is anticipated to be one that is not heard or read but rather felt in the heart, intuitively understood as the center point of all bodily feelings.  That would be not an abstraction from the senses but an inward intensification of them.  Such intensification becomes the basis for its outward expression not just in words, but in all forms of art.  

Caroline grew up during a time of renewed interest in ancient Greek art and particularly nude sculpture, which rightly can be taken to symbolize the belief in the sacredness of the entire human body (a belief that correlates with heart centeredness).  It is notable that the floruit of such sculpture predates Plato by almost a century and quite literally embodies principles utterly antithetical to his philosophy.  It is also analogous to another art form that predates him and that he disparaged: reciting poetry (whether or not incorporated into a theatrical production).  Poetic recitation requires fully identifying with the poet and poem to such a degree that it can be thought of as internalized sculpting.

The principles underlying sculpture and recitation are thus similar and of general applicability.  Caroline, who enjoyed (and was appreciated for) reciting poetry, makes the point in a review she wrote of a book of essays on artistic appreciation (the “Review”).  To judge art, she says, it is necessary to penetrate “deeply into the meaning and sensibility of both it and its initiator . . . surrendering oneself in quiet reflection to a disposition of loving, receptive observation . . . [to be] transpose[d] . . . into the world of the poet or artist.”  She defends the book’s use of a fictional friar to voice religious reverence for art, effectively equating artistic appreciation with religious devotion, since it is only from feeling the divine within (i.e., internalizing god as the artist) that the divine outside is to be understood.   

This was not something new for Caroline, as is evident from the 4th Letter that was written nearly twenty years before the Review.  Not only does she seem to have internalized Sappho, but the opening line of S. 31 (a man, “equal to the gods”) and the closing line of S. 1 (“my comrade,” the goddess) arguably encouraged her transition in the 4th Letter’s first paragraph from describing her feelings to Luise (psychology) to praying to God (theology).  That transition anticipates the identification of psychology with theology Caroline articulates in the Review.  

The remote antiquity of this identification and its association with goddess worship to which Sappho attests, as well as the recognition of it by Caroline at such a young age deserve attention, for it has quite a history, especially in German culture.  Goethe quoted two lines of a 1st century CE Latin poem on astrology that essentially echo it in the guestbook atop Mount Brocken on September 4, 1784: who is able to know heaven except by a gift from heaven, who finds god unless a part of the gods is within them.  It is not known when Caroline met Goethe; it has been speculated that he was the father of her first daughter, Auguste, born April 28, 1785.  In August 1784 Caroline was living in a mining town not far from Brocken.

The opening paragraph of an essay published by Caroline’s third husband in 1809, only months before her death, contains a reference to the principle of knowing the god outside from the god within, correctly noting that its connection with Empedocles proves it predates Plato.  In 1936 Heidegger characterized that essay as “one of the most profound works” of Western philosophy.  In my next post(s) I hope to show that its profundity relates to a critique of Plato (and other philosophers) that derives from Caroline and her appreciation of ancient Greek female spirituality, and not to glorifying supermen.

Stuart WordPress photoStuart Dean has a B.A. (Tulane, 1976) and J.D. (Cornell, 1995) and is currently an independent researcher and writer living in New York City.  He has studied, practiced and taught Tai Chi, Yoga and related disciplines for over forty years.  Stuart has a blog on Sappho and the implications of her poetry for understanding the past, present and future:

The German Diotima by Stuart Dean

Caroline Schelling
Caroline Schelling

The title of the essay Über die Diotima (hereafter, the ‘Essay’ (translation here (pp400-419))) by Friedrich Schlegel (hereafter, ‘Friedrich’) suggests it is focused on Plato’s portrayal of Diotima in the Symposium.  That portrayal, though, is but a starting point for Friedrich, who attempts to demonstrate that Diotima was a particular type of woman he associates with other ancient Greek women, including Sappho.  The Essay is ostensibly of little relevance today, largely because knowledge of ancient Greece has evolved substantially since Friedrich’s time.  In particular, a compelling case has been made that far from being related to ancient Greek women, Diotima is a fictional figure used by Plato “to vanquish Sappho” (Jantzen, Foundations of Violence, p193).

Yet, the Diotima Friedrich principally had in mind was not the one in Plato’s Symposium, but rather Caroline Schelling (hereafter ‘Caroline’), who was–for a time–his sister in law.  On the third anniversary of his meeting Caroline he wrote a letter to her, reminding her of that anniversary and thanking her “for everything you have done for me and my development” (Caroline was almost a decade older than Friedrich, who was then in his early 20s, and yet to establish a name for himself as a scholar).  Towards the end of his letter he asks her to read the Essay “once more and mark in pencil those passages in which you believe a small change might be necessary.”  While his ‘once more’ suggests Caroline had previously given him input, the fact that in a letter to her from almost a year earlier Frederick refers to her, somewhat flirtatiously, as the “independent Diotima” relative to her ‘god’ (Frederick’s brother, August) confirms his identification of her with the subject of the Essay. Continue reading “The German Diotima by Stuart Dean”

Feminist Interpretations by Elise Edwards

Elise EdwardsI’ve written a few posts recently referencing biblical themes or stories. I’m not a biblical studies scholar; I’m an ethicist and theologian. So I know that ways I use the texts disturb some people who study them from a historical or biblical studies perspective. To say I don’t use the Bible as those scholars do, though, doesn’t mean I don’t have a disciplined approach. I aim to apply a consistent approach to scripture and to encourage my students to do the same.

I get really annoyed when someone proclaims a variation of “The Bible says it; I believe it; that settles it!” in moral debates. Obviously, people within a religious tradition are going to believe there is truth in the scriptures of their tradition. That’s simply how scripture functions. So I’m okay with “I believe it.” I have a problem with the two other parts of the statement – the Bible says it, and that settles it. The assertion that “the Bible says it” masks the task of interpretation that anyone encountering a text takes on. The statement “that settles it,” when adopted in moral debate, rejects the accountability and humility in sharing our interpretations with others. Continue reading “Feminist Interpretations by Elise Edwards”

Give Me That “New” Time Religion! by Susan Gifford

Susan GiffordI want a new religion. I have changed to the point that I cannot be a part of a patriarchal religion and I feel that all of the major organized religions fall into that category. It has taken me a long time, but I can now see that these organized religions were created largely to support the patriarchal culture that most humans have lived in for at least the past 5,000 years.

I started reading Mary Daly, Riane Eisler, Merlin Stone, Carol Christ, Marija Gimbutus and other similar authors in recent years. I was amazed at how much I did not know about life before patriarchy. I was never taught in school that there were cultures – civilized cultures – for tens of thousands of years prior to patriarchy. These pre-historical civilizations were largely matrilineal although not matriarchal.

Women had power in such cultures, but not “power over” others. These cultures were organized as partnership societies, not hierarchical societies. The Divine Presence worshiped was feminine which, of course, makes perfect sense since the female sex is the one that gives birth. As far as I can tell, there is little known about the specific religious beliefs and rituals of these civilizations. However, from the art work that has been discovered, there appears to be a theme of a Great Mother Goddess who gave birth to the world and all that is in it. Although we can’t go backwards to this ancient goddess religion, knowing more about it may open our eyes to other ways of conceiving a Divine Presence. Continue reading “Give Me That “New” Time Religion! by Susan Gifford”

Max Dashu: Feminist Scholar, Author, Historian, Artist by Jassy Watson

JassyI had the honour of hosting Max Dashu, Feminist Scholar, Historian and Artist here at Goddesses Studio this weekend past. Max is currently on her second Australian tour and we were blessed for her to come on quite the journey to present to an intimate group of Wide bay Goddesses, “Rebel Woman Shamans: Women Confront Empire” and “Deasophy: Goddess Wisdom” with a little “Female Iconography” thrown in.

Max’s knowledge and gift of story-telling is inspirational. “Rebel Woman Shamans: Woman Confront Empire” looked at holy women and female prophets who led many rebellions to resist conquest, slavery, and colonization. These women visionaries, priestesses, diviners and medicine women challenged systems of domination on multiple levels and drew on their cultural traditions to resist empire. It was their direct access to transformative power that these women had, that makes the spiritual political, as they act to lead, defend, and protect their peoples. Continue reading “Max Dashu: Feminist Scholar, Author, Historian, Artist by Jassy Watson”

Feminist Professors Are Not Secluded Monks by Kwok Pui-lan

Pui Lan.high resolutionIn his column “Professors, We Need You!” New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof charges that most university professors “just don’t matter in today’s great debates” and admonishes them not to cloister themselves “like medieval monks.”

Many academics and others took offense at what he has written. A Twitter hashtag #engagedacademics sprung up and many have posted opposing views.

That Kristof imagines the professors who isolate themselves from the real world as “medieval monks” betrays his bias that the professors to whom he is addressing and the public intellectuals he longs to see are male (and possibly white)! Continue reading “Feminist Professors Are Not Secluded Monks by Kwok Pui-lan”

Rescuing Martha from the Dishes: A Challenge of Retrieval and Proclamation by Mary Grey – Part III

Rescuing Martha – A Hermeneutic of Retrieval
This is the last part of a three part post. Read Part I here and Part II here

Discovering another tradition means being open not only to artistic witnesses but to myth, legend, and to feminist theory. But to begin with what is uncontested: both sisters, Mary and Martha, were friends of Jesus who loved them and their brother Lazarus. Martha seems to be the householder. We are told nothing about the parents of the three – perhaps they had been caught up and killed in one of the Zealot uprisings. The Church that sprang up at the site of Bethany was one of the earliest Christian pilgrimage places.  The legends that grew up held Lazarus and his 2 sisters in great respect. And this is a sharp contrast with the tradition I began with.

Secondly, to disparage responsibility for housework as a lowly role is an anachronistic viewpoint. It is likely, as in most poor agricultural communities today that domestic work goes alongside income- generating work either inside or outside the house. Many rural women in India and Africa cope with domestic work, child care and a full day’s work in the fields. In the life-time of Jesus, women would be involved in cleaning fish and mending nets – though the Gospels do not tell us this.  Nor was this the work of the sisters at Bethany who did not live near Lake Galilee. The public/ private split between unseen work in the household and public work belongs to a much later date. Thirdly, it is diakonia or service that is at stake here, and this was part of a creative tension in the early communities. Continue reading “Rescuing Martha from the Dishes: A Challenge of Retrieval and Proclamation by Mary Grey – Part III”

Rescuing Martha from the Dishes: A Challenge of Retrieval and Proclamation by Mary Grey – Part II

What do the Gospels of Luke and John tell us?
This is the second part of a three part post. Part I is here and Part III is to follow tomorrow. 

I now return to the story of Mary and Martha in the gospel of Luke: what was its purpose for the evangelist and his community? The text itself has been a subject of multiple interpretations. An abstract interpretation sees the sisters as representing two different principles, one as justification by works and one by faith. Augustine (d.430) saw them as symbolising either the labours of this world and the bliss of the world to come. Origen (185-254), famous for his allegorising interpretation of Scripture, understood them as life according to the flesh or according to the Spirit. So, as Elisabeth Schüssler-Fiorenza points out in But She Said: Feminist Practices of Biblical Interpretation (1992:58), this typologising contrast was already established by the end of the 2nd century.  In a contemporary context Martha and Mary continue to exemplify the two vocations that the church offers to women, contemplative love of God (Mary), or social activism through service of neighbour (Martha). Continue reading “Rescuing Martha from the Dishes: A Challenge of Retrieval and Proclamation by Mary Grey – Part II”

Rescuing Martha from the Dishes: A Challenge of Retrieval and Proclamation by Mary Grey – Part I

Introduction and Martha – Patron Saint of Housewives

Here I explore a troubling issue for feminist biblical interpretation, namely the interpretations of Luke 10, 38-42, with specific reference to the figure of Martha, and the questions that arise when we compare John’s story, the Raising of Lazarus (John 11.1-44).  At first sight Luke seems clear: Martha is troubled with the domestic task of preparing food, while Mary has gone to the heart of the matter, listening to the word of God at the feet of the Lord. Mary is always depicted at the feet of the Christ, while Martha is the active one and this is often interpreted negatively. (One interesting exception is Giotto’s fresco of the raising of Lazarus, where both sisters are prostrate at Jesus’ feet). A clear message seems given for Christian discipleship and this text has had an evocative power through history. But on reading John’s story, are the roles reversed? Martha runs to greet Jesus, Mary remains at home. From Martha comes the confession of faith in Jesus:

Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, he who is coming into the world. (John 11.27)

What we are given is a full confession of faith on Jesus as Son of God, the confession which is on the lips of Peter in the 3 Synoptic Gospels, (Luke 9.20, Mark 8.29, Matthew 16.15-17).

Why is it, then, that Christian Tradition has largely ignored the Johannine text and followed Luke, even a negative interpretation of Luke? Continue reading “Rescuing Martha from the Dishes: A Challenge of Retrieval and Proclamation by Mary Grey – Part I”

A Dream Too Far . . .? by Kelly Brown Douglas

Not too long ago I heard an interview with Eugene Allen’s son.  The recently released movie, The Butler is inspired by Eugene Allen’s life in the White House. Mr. Allen served in the White House through the terms of 8 presidents. His story first came to light after President Obama’s first election when a feature article appeared about him in the Washington Post. This feature told of how he never missed a day of work during his 36 years of service at the White House and it recalled what he witnessed from his position as butler when some of the most momentous decisions were being made, especially for black folks between1952-1988, his tenure of service. There are clearly many compelling things about his story, but there is one thing that stood out for me that actually did not come from him or the movie, but from an interview with his son. During this interview his son recalled the January morning in 2009 that he and his father, as invited guests, witnessed Barack Obama being sworn in as the 44th President of the United States.  He said that he leaned over to his father and asked him if he ever dreamed that he would live to see a black man become President. He said his father responded, “I didn’t dream that I could have that dream.”  To dream such a thing was a dream too far for Eugene Allen. He could not dream the dream.

Continue reading “A Dream Too Far . . .? by Kelly Brown Douglas”

Women’s Christian Heritage by Elise M. Edwards

elise-edwardsIt is difficult to carve out time in a course that covers Christianity from the past 2000 years to address material beyond the standard textbooks.  But yet, I must because the visual and material culture, the worship practices, and the daily activities of women and men who have called themselves Christians or followers of Christ throughout history also comprise the story of the Christian heritage.

Over the past several weeks, I have been developing material for a historical and theological survey course called “The Christian Heritage.” In the multiple sections of this course taught at my university, and I imagine similarly at schools across the country, students are assigned a course reader.  The reader we use is a collection of texts that have shaped the Christian faith from the first century to the 21st.  It is a good collection, and I have no objection to using it.  However, for the way I would like to teach the course, I will need to supplement the reader with other material.  I have two interrelated concerns: the reliance on texts as a way of determining theological history and the absence of women in that history before the medieval period (and even then the number of women included is small). Continue reading “Women’s Christian Heritage by Elise M. Edwards”

Deciding to Leave or Remain in the Religion of Your Birth – Part II by Judith Plaskow

Photo by Manhattan College

This is a response to Carol P. Christ’s blog of April 29, 2013 on why she decided to leave the Christian tradition. Carol and I discuss these questions further in our forthcoming book Goddess and God in the World: Conversations in Embodied Theology.

You raise the important question of what factors lead feminists to leave or remain within the religion of their birth. Your central challenge to me is how I can commit myself to a tradition in which God is imagined as a violent warrior when these images have harmed and continue to harm women and the world. How can I not recoil from using such images in worship? Why is the power of symbols less important to me than to you?

The first thing I would say is that, like you, I find these images profoundly problematic. One of the projects I have taken on in my retirement is reading the Bible from cover to cover, and I was appalled in going through all the prophets together at the amount of violence in their teachings. When I have spoken on the topic of dealing with difficult texts in the Jewish and Christian traditions—a subject that is dear to my heart—I always talk about God’s violence in addition to texts that demean women. And, yes, I have sometimes asked myself how I can remain part of a tradition in which God is depicted in this way. So I do not disagree with your critique of this imagery, but obviously for me, it is not decisive. Why not? Continue reading “Deciding to Leave or Remain in the Religion of Your Birth – Part II by Judith Plaskow”

When Feminists Disagree by Linn Marie Tonstad

Linn Marie TonstadA while back I gave a talk on feminist trinitarian theology to an audience of mostly progressive academics, including feminist and womanist scholars of religion. In the course of analyzing what I called the ‘trinitarian imaginary’ in Christianity and its often-patriarchal and masculinist forms, I suggested that transforming that imaginary might require recognizing the hypothetical character of theological statements until the eschaton, a theme that has been developed in depth by a German theologian named Wolfhart Pannenberg. Now, Pannenberg is decidedly neither a feminist nor a progressive theologian. To name just one example: in his three-volume Systematic Theology, his few explicit references to feminist or female theologians include a brief mention of Mary Daly (volume 1, p. 262) in connection with a critique of feminist theologians for projecting (!) masculinity into God in their readings of divine fatherhood, and a critique of Valerie Saiving and Susan Nelson Dunfee’s positions on the traditional Christian doctrine of sin as pride (volume 2, p. 243). So when I mentioned Pannenberg as a resource in my talk, one of the feminist scholars in the audience audibly gasped and flinched – it became clear in the Q&A that she had significant concerns about whether I could count as a feminist at all. After all, to mine someone like Pannenberg for constructive feminist theological work might imply an endorsement of his other positions, or might entail taking over aspects of his system that would taint my own project in anti-feminist directions – all legitimate concerns.  Continue reading “When Feminists Disagree by Linn Marie Tonstad”

Papal Retirement: A Matter of Conscience by Mary E. Hunt

Mary HuntThe unexpected announcement of the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI is a welcome breath of fresh air. A human being, even a pope, ought to have the option to say enough is enough, I have done what I can do, and now it is time for someone else to take over. I applaud his move and read it as a sign of hope in a dreary ecclesial scene.

Speculation about his health is rampant. As with many elders whose offspring plot to take away the car keys, I suspect there was some backdoor lobbying to make this retirement happen. But I dare to hope that it was at least in part the considered judgment of an octogenarian who saw his predecessor propped up long after his prime and did not want the same for himself.

But before looking for the backstory there’s something in Benedict’s resignation statement that bears noting: “After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry.” Continue reading “Papal Retirement: A Matter of Conscience by Mary E. Hunt”

Monthly Highlight: Emilie M. Townes

Emilie M. Townes

“In my teaching I want to get students excited about that notion of, you know, you’re not just here to get a Yale degree and have it on your diploma and be able to hang it on your wall…You should be here thinking about what kind of contributions can I make to society….What are you doing that helps enhance the lives of all of us, as opposed to (our) own little idiosyncratic research interests.”  – – Emilie M. Townes

Emilie Townes is a pivotal person in the field of Womanist and Christian ethics as well as a foremother and pioneer in Womanist theology. Cornel West of Princeton University said:

“Emilie Townes is the towering womanist ethicist of our time….In this ice age of indifference and evasion, her powerful voice and viewpoint summon us. And we thank her for her vision and courage.”

At an opening address at the Convocation in 2005, Townes stated that there is a need to live in a “deep walking hope” that shapes lives “in ways that are not always predictable, not always safe, rarely conventional” and protests “with prophetic fury the sins of a world, and sometimes theological world views, that encourage us to separate our bodies from our spirits, our minds from our hearts, our beliefs from our actions.” Continue reading “Monthly Highlight: Emilie M. Townes”

Mourning the Loss of Beverly Wildung Harrison


It is with deep sadness that Feminism and Religion mourns the passing of our foresister Beverly Wildung Harrison. As a feminist religious ethicist her work has made substantial contributions to the field and she has paved the way for the next generation of feminists to continue the pursuit of justice and social change.

As Mary Hunt states, “her mentoring and friendship set the bar high for how to be a feminist professor. Her stalwart commitment to justice is a legacy all its own.”

She was known to say, “Bless you, and bless the revolution.” We bless and celebrate Beverly’s life, her wisdom, strength, generous nature, and commitment to our community. May she rest in peace and may we all continue the revolution!

“I believe that our world is on the verge of self-destruction and death because the society as a whole has so deeply neglected that which is most valuable and the most basic of all the works of love — the work of human communication, of caring and nurturance, of tending the personal bonds of community….Those who have been taught to imagine themselves as world builders have been too busy with master plans to see that love’s work is the deepening and extension of human relations. This urgent work of love is subtle but powerful. Through acts of love — what Nelle Morton has called “hearing each other into speech” — we literally build up the power of personhood in one another. It is within the power of human love to build up dignity and self-respect in each other or to tear each other down. We are better at the later than the former. However, literally through acts of love directed to us, we become self- respecting and other-regarding persons, and we cannot be one without the other….The power to receive and give love, or to withhold it — that is, to withhold the gift of life — is less dramatic, but every bit as awesome, as our technological power. It is a tender power….rooted in our bodies, ourselves.”   Beverly Wildung Harrison, Making The Connections, p.12. 

A Gift I hope I can give: A Thank you to Ada Maria Isasi-Diaz by Sara Frykenberg

At some point, I finally asked the mentor what her name was and with a smile and joy that I do remember, she said, “I’m Ada Maria Isasi-Diaz.”  OH MY GOD/DESS.  I was completely taken aback.  I really couldn’t believe that I was sitting at a table and casually talking with this woman whose work I had read and loved: a woman I considered famous.  More than this, however, I couldn’t believe that she was talking to me.

I attended a memorial panel for Mujerista theologian, teacher and activist Ada Maria Isasi-Diaz at the American Academy of Religion National Conference this year.  After panelists shared their memories of their friend and mentor, audience members were also invited to speak.  Sitting in the audience, listening to story after beautiful story of this woman’s life, I was amazed not only by how many people Isasi-Diaz affected in that one room, but also by the similarities of the stories I heard.  Ada Maria Isasi-Diaz was a woman who shared her gift with many people: empowerment and access to their own power.  She generated confidence, both by creating opportunities directly and indirectly for others, and by rewarding the faith of those who believe in her work by living her ideals in an obvious, open and caring way.

I was lucky enough to meet Prof. Isasi-Diaz once in my life.  I was attending a women’s mentor luncheon as a graduate student, hoping to meet a more senior scholar who could tell me something I needed to know in order to get a job some day.  I sat down at a table with another student and a woman older than both of us who seemed to be our mentor representative.  I do not remember the entire conversation.   However, I do remember that we, the students at the table, did most of the talking and the mentor asked us questions.  Continue reading “A Gift I hope I can give: A Thank you to Ada Maria Isasi-Diaz by Sara Frykenberg”

What Do Women Bring to the Interfaith Table? by Rita M. Gross

The most important thing that women bring to the interfaith table is our sheer presence. I do not support theories of gender essentialism, which claim that women and men are fundamentally different, that men have a masculine essence different from women’s feminine essence. Regarding most interfaith issues, I do not think that women offer different insights than men could. But because religions have been such a boys-only club, the presence of women at the interfaith table loudly proclaims a critical message that can be proclaimed no other way. Religions are no longer going to be male sanctuaries, closed off to women except for the supportive roles we have traditionally played. Continue reading “What Do Women Bring to the Interfaith Table? by Rita M. Gross”

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