While I celebrate the rise in status of Hildegard to official saint and soon to be Doctor of the Church, I cannot help but be suspicious of the Vatican’s motivations. One only has to take in the last two months behavior of the CDF, sanctioned by Pope Benedict, to see the real intentions of this papacy—the continued subjugation of all women to clerical authority.
The past month or so has been a very busy time for the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith or CDF and their examination of women. First they (and this includes Pope Benedict XVI) decided American nuns are guilty of the sin of silence by not speaking out on abortion & homosexuality. Their “radical feminist” ideology of standing with the poor and disenfranchised, while good, is not good enough for the CDF. The firestorm of solidarity coming from both laity and religious surely caught the Vatican off guard. Right? Well, not quite. This past week the CDF began its investigation of the Girl Scouts for their purported association with the likes of Planned Parenthood and Oxfam. While both address the needs of the poor, it is the latter and its troubling advocacy for safe sex via condom use that initiated the inquiry. Keep in mine that in 2010 Pope Benedict retracted from his earlier position and bane on condoms, seeing instead their use as a “lesser evil” in the fight against HIV/AIDS. The CDF angst is that the message of condom use might be too much sex-talk for impressionable young women. Continue reading “The Sainthood of Hildegard von Bingen by a Feminist-Friendly Pope? by Cynthia Garrity-Bond”
The wages of the sin of sacrificing our children is their death, whether the sacrifice is to some supposed higher order, to absolute obedience or to appear to be the “good Christians” we are “supposed to be”…
Maybe its because I enjoyed the books more, or because of my sister’s all too expectation-garnering reviews or even, because I’d seen this theme before, in an amazing yet gruesome Japanese movie, Battle Royal, I left the theater unsatisfied after watching The Hunger Games. I did however, LOVE the song that played at the end of the movie, which I downloaded before we left the theater. I listened to it in the car on the way home. I listened to it the next day, the day after that and for days after that… I listened and listened, and I found surprise, power, anger, sorrow and a channel for grieving that I had needed in the Midrash “Abraham’s Daughter” by Arcade Fire.
Abraham took Isaac’s hand and led him to the lonesome hill
While his daughter hid and watched, she dare not breathe
She was so still.
I discovered the practice and potential power of Midrash from my teachers in graduate school. The idea of an “extra-biblical” story that might help to expound upon Biblical passages that are all too often unexplained or unsatisfactory to (my) feminist consciousness was very appealing to me—and it is still appealing to me. But I have to admit that the feminist Midrash I read in my classes seemed too positive and did not resonate with me. The pieces were too much like a tender hug or a mother hen covering my wounds with her wings. I wanted to hear a story of Bible that could help me make sense of the violence I’d discovered in my childhood religion. I needed a story of Bible that honored my violent struggle to counter the abuse within it and within me.
Like Isaac, I was too intimate with my abuser: unable to avoid walking hand and hand with him when pushed to do so. Asked to create a prayer or Midrash for a class once, I wrote about the way I would turn the radio in my car up when I started to hear ‘God’ speak to me. I didn’t know how to listen and tune out the abusive maxims that played over and over again in my head (maxims that surfaced every time I even thought about the divine). Continue reading “A MEDITATION ON A MIDRASH: “ABRAHAM’S DAUGHTER” BY ARCADE FIRE by Sara Frykenberg”
I’m a teacher’s assistant for an undergraduate course at New York University called, “What is Islam?” The other day in class, my professor asked the students whether or not the Qur’an is considered a “book”. Fraught with anxiety over inheriting such a problematic scholarly tradition of defining and delineating what “religion” is, I kept quiet. While my professor was aiming more for something sounding like, “a book is read, while the Qur’an is recited,” I kept thinking about the physicality and sacrality of the Qur’an (among other authoritative religious texts) and the way it is handled, revered, preserved, loved, an constantly under interpretation. It was about a week later when news broke out that U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan were guilty of burning several copies of the Qur’an on their military base, followed by an unfortunate slew of casualties including at least 30 Afghan deaths and five US soldiers. Continue reading “Beyond “Liberal” Female Piety or “Women Read the Qur’an Too” by Amy Levin”
“We need to start examining the underlying questions of counter-cultural relationships that view one man marrying many women to be hip because we begin to see that although a polygamist idea of marriage may be sexy from a popular culture standpoint, the thought of legally recognized gay marriage always then gets likened to bestiality.”
… you have to allow polygamy, bestiality, and everything else!” The title for my post this week is a quote from an individual I used to associate with. This individual, haling from a conservative evangelical background, tried to explain to several others and myself the reasons why gay marriage would eventually lead to the repeal of anti-polygamy and bestiality laws across the United States.
I often feel that there is this need both within and outside religious communities to promulgate the idea that LGBTQ individuals want to get married within the sanctified walls of “the church” just as much as heterosexual couples do. Although I do not want to disqualify those who desire to see LGBTQ equality within their faith based communities, buying into a heternormative ideal of what traditional marriage should look like needs to result in LGBTQ individuals asking why marriage should be performed in sacred spaces in the first place The normative traditions that have often defined marriage have also served as shackles keeping LGBTQ couples in the mindset that to achieve fully marriage equality with their heterosexual counterparts is to fully immerse themselves within the same traditions and practices. Continue reading ““If You Allow Gay Marriage…” by John Erickson”
In the first part, I posed the question about whether or not the so-called “Curse of Eve” could be interpreted alternatively from the traditional understanding of Genesis 3:16a (the result of Eve’s disobedience being the punishment of painful childbirth for all generations of women). I considered an alternate interpretation of “sorrow” rather than “pain” for the verse, a lens through which the punishment could then be seen as impacting the God-human relationship rather than as a condemnation of pain.
I would like to further examine the consequences of this consideration. What if we were bold enough to interpret both the punishments of Adam and Eve (toiling over the land and pain in childbirth, respectively) as symbolic for all of humankind—and, furthermore, as speaking specifically of the God-human relationship? After all, men certainly aren’t the only ones who have toiled in the fields to bring forth food (I say this specifically thinking of a female farmer who lives down the road from me, and remembering her 10-14 hour days laboring over her harvests). Nor are all women subject to painful childbirth; in fact, the documentary Orgasmic Birth specifically devotes its study to women who find the experience of birth both sensual and ecstatic. If interpreting the Scriptural “curses” as literal and final, these not-so-exceptional exceptions would seem to contradict God’s decree. Yet when interpreting the punishments as indicative of a schism in relationship between God and humankind, the implications can be more clearly understood. Continue reading “The “Curse of Eve”—Is Pain Our Punishment? Part 2 by Stacia Guzzo”
After considering Virginia’s Transvaginal Utrasound Bill in light of the womanist critique, I wonder if religiously-motivated lawmakers considered that they alone do not have access to God’s intentions, but that the divine spirit is operative in a pregnant woman as well, would they be so willing to negate her moral agency?
On Tuesday, the senate in Virginia approved a law that would require women to get an external ultrasound before an abortion. This is a scaled-back version of an original bill that mandated transvaginal ultrasounds prior to abortions. According to this Washington Post article, opponents like Sen. Janet D. Howell describe the measure as “state rape,” since it is the state, not the woman and her doctor who decides that she must undergo this procedure requiring the insertion of a probe into the vagina. Although proponents of the bill say that it is designed to give women more information about a fetus’ gestational age and development, most would agree that it is ultimately intended to discourage the women from having an abortion. This is why bloggers like Kendra Hamilton believe that religion is the motivation behind this and the other 5 abortion-related bills introduced in the Virginia General Assembly connected to issues of women’s sovereignty over their bodies. Yet, as I heard about these bills, another religious response came to mind – one that expresses horror and condemnation of coercive practices regarding women’s childbearing. Continue reading “Get Your Laws off my Body! by Elise Edwards”
The underlying principle that links a feminist critique to every other critical lens since the rise of feminist discourse is the “hermeneutic of suspicion.” Essentially, a hermeneutic of suspicion identifies the disconnect between rhetoric and a lived reality. The lived lives of women are different than the pontifications espoused directly and indirectly by the traditionally patriarchal social, political, cultural, religious, and educational structures in which individuals participate.
I like to think that I live my life bucking these structures whenever possible because the roles a woman plays in her own life should: 1) be determined by her; and 2) if she negotiates more “traditional practices” (e.g. marriage, motherhood, etc.) then these practices do not limit her to traditionalist practices (e.g. staying at home, spousal servitude, etc.). Granted, I used the two most generic examples of traditional and traditionalist practices, but the point is still valid. When I go to holidays with my extended family there are very few questions or comments about my PhD program, but many comments about the fact that I do not make a plate of food for my husband. Continue reading “Practice What You Preach by Corinna Guerrero”
I have been involved in several interesting discussions lately involving friends asking me what I thought of the so-called “Curse of Eve.” This “curse,” which is generally used in reference to the pain of childbirth, is assumed from the text of Genesis 3:16a. On one side, I have had friends and colleagues argue that the pains of labor are a direct result of Eve’s sin, and thus all women who bear children will suffer them as a reminder of their inherent sinful nature. On the other hand, I have had friends question this interpretation: Why, they ask, would God use such an incredible event to punish us? And what about women who don’t experience any pain in childbirth at all? Or who do not have children? Is God’s punishment reserved for those who procreate? This doesn’t seem to make much sense in a larger spiritual framework. Continue reading “The “Curse of Eve”—Is Pain Our Punishment? Part I”
I attended a service at Congregation Shalom in Chelmsford, MA two Fridays ago. During the service, Rabbi Shoshana Perry spent a few minutes addressing the last word of a Hebrew prayer found in the Reform siddur, Mishkan T’filah. It was translated in the siddur as “God rested” but the Hebrew word used was vayinafash, which comes from the word nefesh, or soul. The prayer emphasizes on the seventh day that God did not rest as much as God took time out to re-soul. Rabbi Perry believes that our Shabbat should be spent doing things that help us also re-soul.
Initially, I spent quite a long time considering why God would need to re-soul and what exactly God would do to re-soul. When I realized the futility of trying to sort that out, I moved a little closer to home: what do I do on Shabbat to re-soul? I was quite overwhelmed trying to answer this question as well.
Traditionally, Shabbat is about study, rest, prayer and family among other things. In fact, many Jews avoid creative processes like writing, cooking, painting, driving and working because God rested from creative work on the seventh day. (Incidentally, our creativity is also how we are considered to be made in the image of God). Part of the reason this idea struck me so deeply is because I often find painting, cooking and writing rejuvenating. Continue reading “RE-SOULING ON SHABBAT BY IVY HELMAN”
This week Twitter has been a flurry with information for victims of domestic violence and rape. This ranges from the U.S. redefinition of rape to include men to Nigeria’s first anti-rape toll free hotline for women. There is even a male movement to stand against rape. This problem is an ongoing issue, one that shows no sign of diminishing or going away. According to Amnesty International, one in three women worldwide have been beaten, coerced into sex, or otherwise abused and their abuser is normally someone they know. As I contemplate this very difficult issue, I am reminded of the Biblical Hagar in Genesis 16. The story of Hagar and Sarai is abundant
in ethical situations that draw in the reader and presents complex issues that can be very troublesome. If you take the text hermeneutically, through an ideological examination in its English translation, we have an Egyptian woman, who is also referred to as slave or concubine, forced to engage into sex with her owner’s husband for producing an heir. Here the abuser is a woman with a docile and obedient husband portrayed by Abram. What can we glean from such a story for today’s battered women? Hope or horrific defeat? Continue reading “Hagar: A Portrait of a Victim of Domestic Violence and Rape”
Son of Manis an updated story of the life of Jesus set in the fictional State of Judea that is modern day South Africa – complete with warlords and child soldiers. It could easily be mistaken for modern day Rwanda or Darfur with itsmodern issues and political overtones. Roger Ebert stated, “The secret of the movie is that it doesn’t strain to draw parallels with current world events – because it doesn’t have to.” The director draws parallels between the gospels and 21st century Africa. According to Dartford-May, “we wanted to look at the Gospels as if they were written by spin doctors and to strip that away and look at the truth.” The director “captures the rhythms of African life in both rural settings and sprawling townships.” “Feather-clad young angels offer an eerie echo and reminder of Africa’s lost generations.”
There are smart, and there are polemical, ways to think about religiously-motivated violence. As someone who spent his seminary years thinking about Christian anti-Semitism, I was taken aback by the simplistic account of religious violence offered by Sam Harris some years back:
“Religion is the one area of our discourse in which people are systematically protected from the demand to give good evidence and valid arguments in defense of their strongly held beliefs. And yet these beliefs regularly determine what they live for, what they will die for and—all too often—what they will kill for. Consequently, we are living in a world in which millions of grown men and women can rationalize the violent sacrifice of their own children by recourse to fairy tales” (The Case Against Faith). In response, I’d like to explore some reasons I continue to engage with violent biblical stories, taking Judges 11:29-40, the story of Jephthah, who sacrifices his daughter in fulfillment of a vow, as an example. Continue reading “A Horrific Bible Story – and Why I Read It By Dirk von der Horst”
On Nov. 14 I posted Part 1 of Advent: The Active-Wait. What follows (in Part II) is a rereading or exegesis of Mary’s encounter with her cousin Elizabeth as an Advent waiting with hope, anticipation and trust, but also with action.
The second form of waiting, illustrated in verse Luke 1: 39, reads: “In those days, Mary set out and went with haste to a Judean town in the hill country, where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth.” The verse before this has Mary in complete surrender, “Here I am” Mary proclaims, “the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your Word.” Continue reading “ADVENT: THE ACTIVE-WAIT, PART II, By Cynthia Garrity-Bond”
Zau Sam is a first year MA student in Feminist Studies with interests in process theology, ecotheology, feminist and ecofeminist theologies. He is ethnically Kachin (Jinghpaw) and from Myanmar (Burma). Zau is a minister at Yangon Kachin Baptist Church (in Myanmar) and Academic Dean of the Church-based Bible School there.
Throughout our Feminist Ethics class, I have been thinking about Mary Daly’s concept of “Goddess” in her Gyn/Ecology: The Metaethics of Radical Feminism. I don’t believe that there is any sound theological argument that the term “God” itself represents patriarchy. Theologically speaking, if we study the Bible systematically, particularly Genesis 1:27, it is unquestionable that God is associated with both feminine and masculine imagery. God is imaged as both mother and father. In contrast to this nature, Mary Daly does not merely seek to erase masculine imagery from the term “God,” but the word “God” itself. However, “Goddess” without the masculine imagery can no longer be the Perfect Goddess, just as “God” without the image of the feminine also remains imperfect.
Terrorism is a worldwide issue, not specific to one religion. While we attribute the atrocities of 9/11 to Islamic extremists, Christianity has a long history of imposing terror, especially on women. Phyllis Trible’s book Texts of Terrordescribes texts in the Old Testament that causes harm to women, i.e. abuse, betrayal, torture, rape/gang rape, and mutilation (See Genesis 16, 21; 2 Samuel 13:1-22, Judges 11:29-40, 19:1-30). Texts such as these are used to validate violence against women, because of the fundamental view that the text is divinely revealed or God’s own words.
This phenomenon is not specific to the Old Testament. Writings in the New Testament are used to put women in their place, define their role in church, family, and society. The remedy for disobedience allows for violence to be committed against the offender. The most damning of these texts are derived from the Pastoral Epistles (1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, and Titus). Here, women’s place and role in society is defined. Women should be silent, submissive, and subservient to men. Women are to be veiled, dress modestly without adornment, no gold or pearls. Finally women are not permitted to teach and have no authority over men (See 1 Timothy 2:9-15). Continue reading “Using the Bible to Promote and Impose Terror on Women By Michele Stopera Freyhauf”
Carol P. Christ earned her BA from Stanford University and her Ph.D. from Yale University. She is a founding mother in the study of women and religion, feminist theology, women’s spirituality, and the Goddess movement and work has revolutionized the field of feminism and religion. She has been active in anti-racist, anti-war, feminist, and anti-nuclear causes for many years. Since 2001 she has been working with Friends of Green Lesbos to save the wetlands of her home island. She drafted a massive complaint to the European Commission charging failure to protect Natura wetlands in Lesbos. In 2010 she ran for office in Lesbos and helped to elect the first Green Party representative to the Regional Council of the North Aegean. She helped to organize Lesbos Go Green, which is working on recycling in Lesbos.
My hope for the new blog on Feminism and Religion is that it can become a place for real discussion with mutual respect of feminist issues in religion and spirituality.
I agree with Rosemary Radford Ruether who argued in a recent blog “The Biblical Vision of Ecojustice” that the prophets viewed the covenant with Israel and Judah as inclusive of nature. Indeed in my senior thesis at Stanford University on “Nature Imagery in Hosea and Second Isaiah,” in which I worked with the Hebrew texts, I argued that too. I also agree that the dualism Rosemary has so accurately diagnosed as one of the main sources of sexism and other forms of domination comes from the Greeks not the Hebrews. I agree that Carolyn Merchant is right that nature was viewed as a living being in Christian thought up until the modern scientific revolution. I agree with Rosemary that it is a good thing for Christians to use sources within tradition to create an ecojustice ethic. I am happy that there are Christians like Rosemary who are working to transform Christianity. Finally, I am pleased to admit that I have learned a great deal from her.
“The earth mourns and withers, the world languishes and withers, the heavens languish together with the earth. The earth lies polluted under its inhabitants, for they have transgressed the laws, violated the statutes, broken the everlasting covenants. Therefore a curse devours the earth and its inhabitants suffer for their guilt.” Isaiah 24: 4-6a.
“They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain for the earth shall be full of knowledge of the Lord,” Isaiah 11: 9.
The 1970’s until today has been a time of an increasing recognition that the western industrial style of industrial development is unsustainable, although this has yet to be acknowledged by leaders of corporate growth. This system of development, based on an affluent minority using a disproportionate share of the world’s natural resources, is fast depleting the base upon which it rests. To expand this type of industrialization is accelerating the coming debacle. We need an entirely new way of organizing human production and consumption in relation to natural resources, one that both distributes the means of life more justly among all earth’s people and also uses resources in a way that renews them from generation to generation. Continue reading “The Biblical Vision of Ecojustice By Rosemary Radford Ruether”
Rape culture – a culture where violence against women and victim blaming is the norm – is alive and well in our society. Women are taught from a young age that rape is the worst thing that could possibly happen in our lives. As a patriarchal institution, the Church supports rape culture. Although texts, traditions, and teachings can be a resource for women who have been victimized, they can also serve as a roadblock and encourage further victimization.
There has been a long history of women and girls being taught by the Church that their lives are of little value once their hymens are broken. Citing the rape of Roman matron Lucretia, Church father Jerome stated that rape is the one exception for suicide. In fact, according to Jerome, “Although God is able to do all things, he cannot raise up a virgin after a fall.”* Although he argued that at the time of the resurrection of the body every affliction and mutilation would be healed, Jerome claimed that not even the power of God could repair a broken hymen. Likewise, Tertullian commended Lucretia for her suicide and claimed she was an example for Christian women.
Harmful ideas about women, rape, and victimization have been promoted by biblical rape texts and their interpretations. These “rape texts” of the Bible have been utilized to typify how “real” rape victims behave and suggest that women who claim rape are suspect. From the story of Ms. Potiphar (Genesis 39), that offers the image of a woman crying rape as one not to be trusted, to the story of Susanna (Daniel 13) that presents the notion that a rape victim should be silent, biblical texts set forth images of women and sexual violence that support rape culture. Continue reading “Rape Culture and the Church By Gina Messina-Dysert”
I am a Christian. Not a “Catholic” Christian or a “Protestant” Christian, just a Christian. I spent most of my early life thinking we (Christians) were making a fairly good effort doing what Jesus would do. I never thought much about this whole feminism thing until I happily, discovered that my firstborn was a girl. Then, everything changed. This little one, this new life, arrived into our world and our world was not ready for her. At the prospect and the potential of her venturing into the world and being able to discover everything for the first time, I found myself frightened and grieved by the ill-fated history of women and the little that the Church has done to resolve the problem. My once ideal and naive understanding of Christianity as being liberating and freeing was dashed to pieces in the hopes of my daughter finding a place in this world and within my Christian faith.
I cannot understand how we have come so far in “Christendom” just to learn that we have not yet begun to “fight the good fight.” When you read the Gospels, you quickly learn that Jesus was a Liberator. He sought to liberate anyone and everyone to free us from each other and ourselves. Paul quoted in Galatians a primal Christian baptismal creed that cries out for freedom and liberation: “There is no Jew or non-Jew, slave or free, male and female.” In this he saved the best for last. He doesn’t say “male or female” as if we should be identifying the differences within Christianity, but “male and female” identifying the unity within our diversity. Paul later writes a series of epistles and letters that seem to have forgotten the basic principles that he allegedly set forth in the Letter to the Galatians. 1 Corinthians 15 mentions a myriad of “witnesses” to the resurrection of Jesus Christ without ne’er a mention of a female. But, when we look back to the 4 canonical (i.e. chosen by men at the leading of god) Gospels, that are supposed to be foundational to our faith, the women were the first and some of the only witnesses to Jesus’ posthumous physical appearances. The men were gone, scared away from Jerusalem, in abstentia, AWOL, missing. Hence, Jesus in his resurrected condition, after enduring hours of debilitating torture and death, and then a shocking-to-the-system resurrection, had to travel on foot all the way to Galilee to “find” his disciples who were “hiding” some 65 miles away. Continue reading “A Christian Theologian’s Perspective on Feminism By David Buhrow”