Prehistoric Feminine Icons

In this blog post I’d like to take you with me on a recent visit to the special exhibition “Arts and Prehistory”* in the Museum of Mankind (Musée de l’Homme) in Paris.**

Like the Feminine Power in London exhibition I wrote about last year, this is another ode to human imagination and creativity in connection to the mystery of life.

The exhibition features women figurines and cave paintings from dating between 26.000-34.000 years old, and I wonder how these prehistoric icons can inspire us to look at female bodies today…

Continue reading “Prehistoric Feminine Icons”

The Motomami Theology: “Segundo chingarte, lo primero Dios.”* Part II

*“God comes first. Fu*king you, a close second.”

In Part 1 of this post, I described my first encounters with Rosalía’s music and visual arts, which are controversial for many, but I find them wonderful. I mentioned how she integrated God, mainly Catholic references and images, into a story of love and suffering in El Mal Querer. But I finished emphasizing my surprise when I listened to the album Motomami, since she managed to combine reggaeton (sexual-indecent music) and her views of God.

So, here is my attempt to describe Rosalía’s theology in Motomami. (Before I start, let me say: yes, I heard every song multiple times collecting references of God or the Christian tradition, so I hope you enjoy it.) Rosalía understands God as someone who controls our destinies amid grief and joy. In Como un G she says “It’s sad when you want something, but God has different plans for you” (“Qué pena cuando quieres algo pero Dios tiene otros planes pa’ ti”.) In Diablo, she says, “What God gives, God takes back” (Si Dios te lo da, te lo quitará), referring to her fans who first loved her but afterward became haters. God also protects us from an evil former partner when she says in Despecha‘ “May God forbid I go back to you” (“Que Dios me libre de Volver a tu la’o). God also is our help and supports our choices. Rosalía brings this concept talking about her identity as a woman, her freedom and autonomy in Saoko: “I know who I am, and I don’t forget where I’m going. I’m driving while God guides me. I am mine and I transform myself” (“Sé quién soy, y a dónde voy nunca se me olvida. Yo manejo, Dios me guía.)

Continue reading “The Motomami Theology: “Segundo chingarte, lo primero Dios.”* Part II”

Re-Anointing the Body by Eline Kieft

How ‘at one’ are you with your body, and what reasons might there be if your body-sense got separate(d) from your soul-sense?

This piece starts with the difference between feminine and masculine spirituality, and introduces a few reasons why living in a physical body isn’t always easy.

It then invites a shift to the beloved body and how we can start to re-instate our body as a sacred place and love it from within.

Continue reading “Re-Anointing the Body by Eline Kieft”

“For I know the plans I have for you:” The coming out story of a queer Catholic raised in the Purity Culture Movement part 1 by Emma Cieslik

It was my last interview for the Muncie LGBTQ+ History Project. I was a senior in college, and I was about to complete my tenth interview focused on the intersections of Christian religion and queer identity. I was slated to conduct an oral history interview with Rachel Replogle, a nonbinary lesbian who runs Indiana’s only queer-affirming wedding videography business. I had expected to explore elements of her work in churches and religious spaces—and I had encountered experiences of trauma, both familial and religious, through the project—but Replogle’s story touched a nerve about my own experiences and made my question the project’s impact on the people conducting it.

Since 2018, the Muncie LGBTQ+ History Project has been collecting the stories of queer people who grew up in and around Muncie. I worked with the project for over a year as a research associate, conducting ten long-form oral history interviews with members of the Muncie LGBTQ+ community about their experiences growing up in Muncie, a small town in East-Central Indiana in the heart of the Rust Belt. Spearheaded by Dr. Emily Johnson [1] the project seeks to uplift and celebrate queer experience in the Midwest. I entered the project with an interest in how queer individuals engage with religious identity, especially in spaces that deny their personhood and/or invalidate their relationships.

Continue reading ““For I know the plans I have for you:” The coming out story of a queer Catholic raised in the Purity Culture Movement part 1 by Emma Cieslik”

The Door by John Erickson

Faith is something we get from each other, and sometimes in the most magical of circumstances, faith becomes embodied by the person you love the most.

I have a Ph.D. in American Religious History but I’ve never been much of a religious person.  It’s been one of the conundrums of my life but nevertheless, I found religion and its role in influencing, for good and bad, the lived experiences of the LGBTQ community something worth exploring.

I’ve been struggling with writing this post ever since I graduated and officially became “Dr. John.” In preparing for my defense, the Chair of my Dissertation Committee requested that at the start of the defense, he wanted me to introduce my project, its overall scope, and most importantly why I wrote it.

Why did I write it?  How does one answer why they chose to devote 8 years of their life to a single subject in search of an original idea?  While some would sit and grapple with this question, I knew what the answer was all along because it always was (and always will be) about my maternal grandmother, Gladys Hritsko.

I wanted to know what made me different.  Throughout my dissertation, I interviewed people who, much like myself, grew up in similar small towns, attended the same conservative church services, and heard the same damning things that I did about my sexuality being preached from the pulpit. Many of my subjects were deeply hurt by religion and it set some of them up for years of searching and painful memories and experiences that both forced them to leave their religious and faith-based communities they grew up in or, in the worst case, being kicked out by their family as a result of their religion.

Continue reading “The Door by John Erickson”

Let’s Talk About Shame by Janet Maika’i Rudolph

Disclaimer/Trigger Warning: This post includes content about rape, sexual assault, domestic abuse, violence.

The recent, meaningful discussions on this forum about how so many of us feel broken due to our own personal histories have fortified and inspired me. I’ve marveled as women have spoken up so honestly and even brutally about the effects of trauma, rape, cold and dismissive mothers, abusing fathers and so on.

Some of you know my own story. I am a survivor of my father’s childhood abuse and then a rape at knifepoint in my early twenties. I carry a deep and abiding sense of shame. This feeling has always flummoxed me. Why should I feel shame when I didn’t do anything to create my own abuse? Shouldn’t my father have felt the shame? The rapist? Why did I get saddled with it? I was the victim (and survivor), not the perpetrator. But shame is indeed the feeling I carry and I’m not alone. Why is this feeling so pervasive? I don’t have all the answers, but I do have some clues about where to look.

Continue reading “Let’s Talk About Shame by Janet Maika’i Rudolph”

The Bodies of Christ, Broken for You by Tallessyn Zawn Grenfell-Lee

Years ago, I learned of a small Christian sect that has an unusual sexual practice due to an interpretation of each Christian as the literal ‘bride of Christ.’ Every member of this religion is instructed from the age of 12 to imagine their sexuality always in relation to the (male) person of Jesus; men are encouraged to imagine they are women during intercourse and masturbation, to avoid a homoerotic relationship with Jesus; and they basically imagine their wives are Jesus.

I admit that I find this idea both bizarre and alarming. Yet, ironically, this sexual practice does accomplish one interesting goal: men imagine women as the literal Body of Christ.

Huh. Continue reading “The Bodies of Christ, Broken for You by Tallessyn Zawn Grenfell-Lee”

Pleasure, Touch, and Spirituality by Chris Ash

Sitting in front of the computer, I slowly and intentionally insert earbuds, click to start my favorite writing playlist, and open up Microsoft Word. I feel the tips of my fingers resting lightly on the keys, and notice the slight give of each printed square, glossy in the middle from months of 80 words per minute. I lightly tap my fingers on the keys, not pressing enough to type a letter, body motionless except my fingers, watching the absolute stillness of the screen, exploring the edge between pressure and performance with slow, shallow breaths, finally noticing the moment when the edge is breached, the key catches, and a letter appears on my screen, taking it in with satisfaction.

This is how all my writing starts, with a ritual of simple pleasure and partial attempt at channeling. My partner recognizes this move when he sees it. It’s one I repeat throughout the writing process, as I’m waiting (hoping) for the next words to come to me. I’ll stop, lift my head and close my eyes, and allow my fingers to wiggle lightly over the keyboard as if inviting the unseen to move through me and write my piece. If that still doesn’t produce words, I might run my hands from thigh to knee, fingers pressing with increasing depth into denim-covered flesh. Or I might bring my hands up to my face, fingers resting on my hairline, palms lightly covering my eyes, as I experience the instant soothing of darkness and warming effect over closed eyelids, connecting to the me-within so she can help me bring forth missing concepts. Continue reading “Pleasure, Touch, and Spirituality by Chris Ash”

Playing Safe: BDSM & The Ethics of Justice and Care By Angelina Duell

From the archives – 9/23/11 – our first FAR year! 

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.

It is Wednesday night and I am alone in the house. It’s dark; the only light is from my computer screen. A bead of sweat rolls from my brow as I delicately tap the keys of my keyboard until two words stare back at me, “BDSM feminism.” With bated breath, I press enter.

Just kidding.  Continue reading “Playing Safe: BDSM & The Ethics of Justice and Care By Angelina Duell”

Sex is a Feminist Issue: An Interview with Rev. Dr. Beverly Dale by Jera Brown

Sex is a feminist issue. Harmful perspectives on sex and our physical bodies have been used to disempower and invalidate the sexuality of women, LGBTQIA folks, and people of color. It runs through our theology and cultural traditions within the church.

I run a personal blog which speaks positively about sex and queerness. And when folks find it, frequently, their first questions to me is what other resources are out there that teach a better Christian perspective? I often tell them to start with The Incarnation Institute for Sex and Faith.

IISF offers “inclusive, science-friendly, sex-positive” educational programming for church leaders and lay people. Founder Rev. Dr. Beverly Dale, affectionately known as “Rev Bev,” is ordained through the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and currently teaches courses on sexuality and religion at Lancaster Theological Seminary.

The institute recently released a four-part web series, Reading the Bible with Sex-Positive Eyes, which includes the topics: “Introduction to Christian Sex Negativity: The Beginnings,” “Discerning Truth, Discerning Culture,” “Sex in the Bible: The Good, The Bad & the Ugly,” and “Sex: Whether, When, and How.”

I interviewed Rev Bev about the new series.

Continue reading “Sex is a Feminist Issue: An Interview with Rev. Dr. Beverly Dale by Jera Brown”

“The Burning Lava of a Song” by Joyce Zonana

Aurora’s autobiographical narrative is a passionate paean to poets as the “only truth-tellers, now left to God”; she celebrates them as agents for personal and social transformation. As we come to the end of this National Poetry Month in the U.S., where truth is under siege, it’s worth recalling Aurora Leigh and its daring exploration of poetry, gender, divinity, and social justice.

jz-headshotI was in graduate school when I first read Aurora Leigh, Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s fiery 1856 epic about a young woman claiming her vocation as a poet despite Victorian society’s patriarchal strictures. The poem was not on any assigned reading-list; I’d simply stumbled across it while doing research for my dissertation. The opening lines brazenly assert the speaker’s authority and ambition:

OF writing many books there is no end;
And I who have written much in prose and verse
For others’ uses, will write now for mine,–
Will write my story for my better self . . .

Encountering those words, I was immediately possessed by Aurora’s voice and vision, a welcome change from all the male poets and critics I’d been reading. I devoured the verse novel’s nine books in one night. The poem became the centerpiece of my dissertation, and I studied and enthusiastically taught it for years.

Continue reading ““The Burning Lava of a Song” by Joyce Zonana”

Pride by John Erickson

When we come together, we are the Divine.  I didn’t think I could experience that twice in one year; clearly, I was wrong. 

If you’re anything like me you not only hate opening up your Twitter feed each morning but also feel compelled to in order to make sure you didn’t miss whatever new atrocity to come out of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. After the Women’s March, I felt charged. I felt that whatever this administration threw at the proverbial “us,” I knew we could and would overcome it. Although that charge kept me going for a few months, there came a time where I just couldn’t go on anymore and that I was completely drained; then walked in a man named Brian Pendleton.

After the Women’s March on January 21, I didn’t know what to expect. The event was truly so successful that many of the organizers and coordinators were on an activist high as a result of what was a truly magical and divine moment. A few months came and went and the 45th President of the United States continued (much to our surprise) to be as awful as we all knew and expected. However, while I am able to exist in a world, no matter how oppressive, as a cisgendered white male and the full on privilege and power that comes along with that territory, many of the individuals and communities being attacked did not have those same freedoms; and like with the Women’s March and how that all took shape, in walked Brian Pendleton to my life to talk to me about the #ResistMarch.

Cover PhotoAlthough my involvement during the 120 days or more that led up to the #ResistMarch happened in a flash, one thing is for certain: miracles exist not because of divine intervention but because G-d places people on this Earth to make positive impacts. The beauty of the #ResistMarch was not just the passion of the organizers but the beauty of the rainbow that came out in full force on June 11

The strength shown by our community was one that, for all intensive purposes, proves that love does conquer all. RuPaul couldn’t have expressed the common and conquering theme better than when he said: “It’s all about love; giving love and being able to receive love. That’s our secret weapon; that’s the one thing they don’t have: our love and our music. That is our activism. That is what we use and what we always use to fight the ugliness.”

That is the one experience that I took most out of the #ResistMarch: the power of love and friendship; the beauty in the unexpected conversation that leads to changing the world, again.  Thank you, Brian. Thank you, for bringing us all together to resist, recharge, and love.


When we come together, we are the Divine.  I didn’t think I could experience that twice in one year; clearly, I was wrong.

John Erickson is the President of the Hollywood Chapter of the National Organization for Women. John is a Ph.D. Candidate in American Religious History at Claremont Graduate University where he is finishing up his dissertation tentatively titled “Step Sons and Step Daughter”: Chosen Communities, Religion, and LGBT Liberation.” John holds a MA in Women’s Studies in Religion; an MA in Applied Women’s Studies; and a BA in English and Women’s Studies. He is the Founding and Past President of the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh’s LGBTQA+ Alumni Association and currently serves as the Chair of the Legislative Committee for the Stonewall Democratic Club, a Diversity and Inclusion Fellow at Claremont Graduate University. He is a permanent contributor to the blog Feminism and Religion, a Co-Founder of the blog The Engaged Gaze, and the Co-Chair of the Queer Studies in Religion Section of the American Academy of Religion’s Western Region, the only regional section of the American Academy of Religion that is dedicated to the exploration of queer studies in religion and other relevant fields in the nation. In April 2017, he was the first openly gay athlete to be inducted into the Wisconsin Volleyball Conference Hall of Fame. Most recently, John was one of the coordinators of the Women’s March Los Angeles, which brought together 750,000 people in downtown Los Angeles on January 21, 2017, and a Committee Member for the #ResistMarch, which brought together 100,000 people from Hollywood to West Hollywood in honor of LA Pride on June 11, 2017.






Sexuality and Spirituality: Convergence or Alienation? by Stephanie Arel

stephanie-arelI just finished reading for review The Bloomsbury Reader in Religion, Gender, and Sexualityedited by Donald L. Boisvert and Carly Daniel-Hughes. Targeting an undergraduate audience, the text explores ways that religion, gender, and sexuality intersect and interact in a variety of religious traditions.

The book’s essays traverse a wide sampling of religious inheritance including indigenous traditions, Christianity, Judaism, Islam, and various Asian religions. The topics examined range from the culture of male love in Japanese Buddhism to various themes of love in Haitian Voodoo, from sexual desire in Beguine communities to Gandhi’s experiments in sexual chastity, and from the passion of St. Pelagius to the transgender performance characteristic of the Hijra identity in India. Among other things, the book offers a wide array of interpretations regarding how sexuality emerges in particular traditions and contexts. One is left with a feeling that nearly anything goes depending on which set of rules or religious mores a particular group of people follow. The variations presented in each chapter related to the interpretation of sexuality’s embeddedness in spiritual expression problematize the notion of the “normal” emerging in sexual desire and expression. Continue reading “Sexuality and Spirituality: Convergence or Alienation? by Stephanie Arel”

Writing Through the Body: Betty Smith’s A TREE GROWS IN BROOKLYN by Joyce Zonana

 TreeGrowsInBrooklynIn her 1975 manifesto, “The Laugh of the Medusa,” French feminist Hélène Cixous urges women to write: “Writing is for you, you are for you; your body is yours, take it. . . . Women must write through their bodies, they must invent the impregnable language that will wreck partitions, classes, and rhetorics, regulations and codes . . .”

“The Laugh of the Medusa” remains a thrilling essay, challenging and inspiring women to “return to the body” and to language.  “Woman must write woman,” Cixous insists, “for, with a few rare exceptions there has not yet been any writing that inscribes femininity.”

Although Cixous may not have been aware of it, Betty Smith’s beloved, perennially popular 1943 novel, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is one of those “rare exceptions” that “inscribes femininity” in precisely the way she advocates. This autobiographical novel, so often dismissed as sentimental or as a children’s book, is actually written through the female body—which may explain its lasting popularity and power. Continue reading “Writing Through the Body: Betty Smith’s A TREE GROWS IN BROOKLYN by Joyce Zonana”

Eros, Caritas, and Relationship by Chris Ash

Christy CroftIn 2011, the Anglican Theological Review published arguments for and against same-sex marriage. “A Theology of Marriage including Same-Sex Couples: A View from the Liberals,” co-written by Deirdre Good, Cynthia Kittredge, Eugene Rogers, and Willis Jenkins, presents a rationale for same-sex marriage that is surprisingly traditional, grounded in scripture and doctrine, understood and interpreted “in the company of patristic interpreters as well as in the company of readers long silenced by the tradition.” Part of the liberal view explores the relationship between eros and caritas, and how the marriage vows, which “mark marriage as an arduous form of training in virtue,” teach us to love and “offer a means by which God may turn eros into charity.”

As someone for whom eros is both a modality of intimate communion and manifest expression of divine love, the idea that it would need to be transformed into something less sensual, more socially acceptable, seems an arbitrary sanitization that positions eros as untamed and dangerous, in need of redemption by sexless ideals of Christian charity. Admittedly, my aversion to scrubbing eros of its rawness likely comes from my own understanding of the word, which might differ from that of traditional Christian theology, and which is inherently tied to the ways in which I’ve known the divine more deeply through expansive, mystical, erotic experiences that engaged my every sense in the coolness of rivers and grazing touch of mountain breezes.

We know through the body; we sense through our skin and parts and cells and perceive through nerves and fibers and tissue – seismic shocks of color and sound reverberating through our beings in the abstract, or the specific, deep, and warming awareness of divine love washing over our grief, fear, or loneliness. Each of these teaches us about the nature of the universe and of love, about bodies and subjectivity, and (by extension) about God and God’s action in the cosmos. My experience of eros – of the sensual explosion of erotic energy that makes me tremble, lays gooseflesh across every inch of me, and takes my breath as it rises inside my chest and belly – is not limited to sexuality, but comes through nature, art, song, movement, and touch. It is my primary way of experiencing divine love, and needs no purification. Continue reading “Eros, Caritas, and Relationship by Chris Ash”

Present in Our Bodies: Sensuality, Movement, Feelings, and Joy by Chris Ash

Christy CroftChristmas morning. I don’t usually have Sundays free and our family holiday celebrations lean nontraditional, so I’d come to a special ecstatic dance celebration and brought my 9-year-old daughter with me. As the music started and people all around us began to flow and move, I reached out to touch her hand. As if she’d been doing it for years, she shifted into a beautiful contact improv flow with me, rolling her arm down and across mine as she beamed love and radiance right into my heart.

This child brings up so many feelings in me as I watch her grow.

On many occasions at ecstatic dance, I’ve looked around the room and been overwhelmed by the beauty of the dancers and their joyful embodiment. When delight, peace, and ease are conditioned out of many of our bodily relationships through past traumas, body issues, or simply living in a disembodied or misembodied culture, feeling comfortable in our own skins is simultaneously an intentional act of cultural resistance and a profound act of self-care and self-love. Being present in the ecstatic dance space with lovely people moving confidently in fluid, sensual, emphatic, and silly ways fills my heart to overflowing on any given dance day.

Joyful dancers move ecstatically
Photo by Flickr user dannysoar

Being present in that space with my daughter, looking around the room and imagining what it must look like through the eyes of a 9-year-old girl, gave it a whole new hue of meaning. People danced alone or with partners, men danced with men and women with women, all without shame over their bodies or feelings. The occasional dancer who slipped off to sit on the periphery, nursing tears that flow in the way holidays bring for some, was joined, held, hugged, cried with. My little girl danced with joyful abandon surrounded by men and women of all ages and shapes, present in their bodies and feelings, moving in ways that felt good, glowing with presence and the freedom of acceptance. Continue reading “Present in Our Bodies: Sensuality, Movement, Feelings, and Joy by Chris Ash”

Sacred Marriage or Unholy Cover-up? by Carol P. Christ

carol-p-christ-photo-michael-bakasMany women are drawn to the image of the Sacred Marriage—perhaps especially those raised in Roman Catholic or Protestant traditions where sex is viewed as necessary for procreation but nothing more, and who learn that the naked female body as symbolized by Eve is the source of sin and evil. In this context, the positive valuing of sexuality and the female body found in symbols of the Sacred Marriage can feel and even be liberating.

Jungians have claimed that the Sacred Marriage is an archetype of the wedding between the “masculine” and the “feminine.” Many women have been attracted to this idea as well. It “softens” the radical feminist critique of patriarchy and male dominance. Rather than “castrating” the “phallocracy” as Mary Daly urged, we can think in terms of the “marriage” of qualities traditionally associated with male and female roles. Women, it is said, can use a good dose of ego and assertiveness traditionally associated with the masculine, while men need to have their dominating rational egos tempered by feminine qualities like care and compassion. Continue reading “Sacred Marriage or Unholy Cover-up? by Carol P. Christ”

A Crisis of Faith-We’re Not Listening by Karen Hernandez

karen hernandezOrlando. Syria. Sandy Hook. Belgium. Somalia. Ethiopia. Venezuela. Paris.

After the shooting in Orlando I was numb. In fact, every time a mass shooting occurs now, I am numb. I think we all feel that way, but we all handle it in various ways. Within hours, there are blog posts, articles, and news pieces. People explode on social media with memes, arguments, and debates. There’s a whole lot of projection, a whole lot of persecution, and a mess of ideologies. Yet, what have I noted that is lacking? The ability to listen.

It seems Omar Mateen was gay. No one will ever know for sure. Lovers have come forward, information was found on his computer and phone that points to him being gay, yet, it is all speculation. Mateen didn’t just attack a gay nightclub because he was homophobic. It seems his inner demons ate away at his soul. The fact that he was Muslim on top of that, which, if you follow the doctrine, forbids homosexuality, obviously lent to his actions that fateful night.

Let’s say Mateen was gay. His faith dictated to him that he couldn’t be. He struggled. He prayed. He married two women. Then, he killed 49 people.

Yet, what people aren’t seeing is the real crisis here. We’re not listening. Continue reading “A Crisis of Faith-We’re Not Listening by Karen Hernandez”

Remembering to Be Thankful by John Erickson

Remembering to be thankful may just be a privileged illusion that individuals in positions of power get to write about in the December of each year to self-congratulate themselves about being actually able to be able to be thankful. It may just seem like people who write about being thankful are complaining or pontificating that being thankful is in itself a chore.

WEHO CA (June 7, 2015)©2015 Rebecca Dru Photography All Rights Reserved
WEHO CA (June 7, 2015)©2015 Rebecca Dru Photography All Rights Reserved

With the holidays just around the corner and the frazzled, crisp ping of anxiety, rush, and panic take over the air around us, it is easy to forget to stop and “smell the roses.”  In times where teaching positions continue to shrink and more universities switch to adjunct labor, fees and class costs continue to rise, or just simply life becomes a little more complicated, due to the nature of balancing life, activism, work, friendships, or relationships, remembering to remind myself to be thankful is another task, I find adding to the never-ending list of stuff I always seem I have to do.

However, remembering to be thankful, scheduling it into one’s daily schedule are vital to our success as new and emerging faculty or activists or just in general because being thankful reminds us that we have aspects of our lives that are worth being thankful for.  Remembering to be thankful proves that we are in some way, connected to a larger sense of life that, at times, grants our wishes, wants, or desires, brings us despair, and then allows us to get through it, or even makes us feel alive.

As I sit back and look at the personal and professional landscape around me I understand that I have a lot to be thankful for both consciously and unconsciously.  Most recently at AAR, I participated on a panel in response to Bernadette Barton’s Pray the Gay Away.  During the course of our panel, the conversation of chosen vs. biological families came up.   Most recently, my mentor and panel moderator, Dr. Marie Cartier, talked about the same topic here on FAR and the difficulties many of us experience in regards to our chosen families vs. our biological families.   With the holiday season all around us, and regardless of what or if, you celebrate it or not, it is quite hard to get away from it all without realizing who your “family” is and whether or not you’re close or connected with them can be traumatizing during these times where we’re taught or expected to be with them.

After our discussion on the panel and then at the hotel bar, people discussed the pains and traumas in relation to not having a biological family to go home to during the holidays.  Sitting there and listening to the conversations, I realized that, for once in my life, I had nothing to say. Continue reading “Remembering to Be Thankful by John Erickson”

“Cocks Not Glocks:” Protesting and the Phallus by Sara Frykenberg

Sara FrykenbergIn the past month, Feminism and Religion has posted important pieces regarding the serious debate in the United States over gun control in the wake of mass shootings at our schools, including “Its Okay to Kill Each Other,” by Kate Brunner, and “It’s Mom’s Fault,” by Esther Nelson. Both of these authors give powerful insights into this discussion, pointing to the humanity (or inhumanity) involved, and challenging assumptions/ attitudes underlining this debate and corresponding inaction.

Preparing for motherhood these past nine months, a state of being that both authors also discuss when considering the larger issue of gun control, I have found myself hoping for hope—looking for something positive: progressive action in this sea of violence and inaction. I wanted to share one of my discoveries in light of this national (and international) discussion of gun control, something that gave me hope, a protest that made me smile even when given such great cause to despair.

#CocksNotGlocks is a demonstration organized by former University of Texas (UT) student Jessica Jin, to protest concealed carry legislation that would allow students to carry guns on campus, specifically, “into classrooms, dormitories and other buildings at public and private universities.” Continue reading ““Cocks Not Glocks:” Protesting and the Phallus by Sara Frykenberg”

#LoveWins by John Erickson

On Saturday, September 19, 2015 I married two of my best friends Andrea and Cindy in holy matrimony in Appleton, WI.

John Erickson, sports, coming out.Don’t urge me to leave you or turn back from you.
Where you go, I will go, and where you stay, I will stay.
Your people will be my people and your God my God.
Where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried.
May the God deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me.
Book of Ruth 1:16-17

On Saturday, September 19, 2015 I married two of my best friends Andrunnamedea and Cindy in holy matrimony in Appleton, WI.  Having been ordained since 2009, I truly never thought I’d ever get the chance to use these credentials until they asked me a few months back.  Although my answer was an automatic yes, I sought to make sure that my homily and the words of advice I gave them on their special day were something unique, not always heard at wedding ceremonies. Continue reading “#LoveWins by John Erickson”

Two Wrongs Don’t Make a Right by John Erickson

Kim Davis does need a lot of things but saying of suggesting that she needs a haircut, a makeover, or even to lose weight, makes you and those that continue to repeat it no better than she is; to state such statements doesn’t purport the ideal that #LoveWins, which took over social media just mere months ago, but changes the whole narrative to symbolize that sexism and hate are more important than love and equality.

John Erickson, sports, coming out.Kim Davis, the defiant county clerk, is currently sitting in isolation in a jail cell after refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples in Rowan County, Kentucky, even after she was ordered by a judge to comply with the Supreme Court’s ruling on same-sex marriage or be held in contempt of court.

Everywhere I turn on both social media or in person people are talking about Ms. Davis, her actions, personal history and for some weird reason her hair and looks.   I’m all for individuals taking a virulent stand against an individual who chooses to not uphold the law of the land as well as continually acting in an unjust discriminatory way but bringing her looks or anything else about her physical appearance into the narrative is not only just plain wrong it is sexism in its worst form. Continue reading “Two Wrongs Don’t Make a Right by John Erickson”

Four Days of Bliss (or How I used The System to beat The System) by Vibha Shetiya

Vidha SI’m not particularly fond of my periods – they’re painful, full of cramps. But they are a part of who I am, and I’m not going to apologize for them. We women, especially those of us belonging to the sub-continent, have been shamed or embarrassed into silence, while being reminded that motherhood is the most exalted position a woman could ever hope for. I mean, isn’t that paradoxical – if it weren’t for the bloody nemesis (pardon the pun), we would never get to experience motherhood.

I grew up in a Western environment (in southern Africa) where “period” wasn’t necessarily synonymous with repulsion. But when I moved to India, the land of my birth, soon after my “life-altering” experience, things began to look different. I came to realize that I ought not to be like the neighbour girl who was so besharam, or shameless, that she insisted on announcing her monthly ignominy to the world by refusing to conceal the fact that she had indeed been at the pharmacist’s to buy sanitary pads. Why, the pack of pads, sealed in newspaper and carried in a little black plastic bag was right there for the entire world to see on her ten minute walk back home! I gradually came to understand that “those four days” were taboo – do not speak of “it,” do not make it obvious even if you are writhing in unbearable pain, do not contaminate sacred space with your womanly profanity. Continue reading “Four Days of Bliss (or How I used The System to beat The System) by Vibha Shetiya”

The Religiosity of Silence by John Erickson

In a repetitive culture of abuse and silence, is it really shocking to find out that an individual who preached such hate and discontent for others actually perpetuated other forms of heinous abuse against others?

John Erickson, sports, coming out.In 2013, I wrote an article about the then latest reality TV scandal featuring A&E’s Duck Dynasty’s Phil Robertson and his rampant foot-in-mouth disease that caused him to express, in the pages of GQ, his true distaste for the LGBT community and specifically for the sexual proclivities of gay men.

Now, two years later in another reality TV show, TLC’s ’19 Kids and Counting’, it isn’t star Josh Duggar’s anti-LGBT statements getting him into trouble but rather his sexual assault and molestation of 5 girls, including two of his sisters. However, while the Internet explodes with attacks against Josh Duggar and his Quiverfull background, it is vital to remember that the silence that he and his family inflicted upon his victims since 2006 has not only been ongoing since then but is also being reemphasized today with each keystroke focusing on the assailant rather than the victims. Continue reading “The Religiosity of Silence by John Erickson”

Ireland’s Same-Sex Referendum & The Necessity for Reconstructing Sexual Ethics in the Catholic Church by Cynthia Garrity-Bond

IMG_5296 - catAt this writing, Ireland successfully passed the same-sex marriage referendum which reads, “Marriage may be contracted in accordance with law by two persons without distinction as to their sex.”  It has been 22 years since homosexual acts were decriminalized in Ireland.  Even more astounding is the rapid two-year process from inception to constitutional law for same-sex marriage in Ireland.  This coming from a country where 84% identify as Roman Catholic but less than one-third attend weekly Mass.

While the US Catholic Bishops are vocal about their opposition to same-sex marriage, the Irish magisterium’s strategy, in this case, was less pronounced.  Which is not to say there was no movement by the Irish hierarchy to oppose same-sex marriage. In a pastoral letter to be read at Sunday Mass, Bishop Denis Brennan urged a no-vote on the same-sex referendum saying it would forever change how the institution of marriage is understood.  A number of those in attendance walked out during the reading in protest of the official church teaching.   Archbishop Diarmuid Martin took a more pragmatic stance on the outcome. With the success of the referendum, Martin stated the church is in need of a “reality check” in response to what he identifies as a “social revolution” at least in Catholic Ireland.  Argues Martin: Continue reading “Ireland’s Same-Sex Referendum & The Necessity for Reconstructing Sexual Ethics in the Catholic Church by Cynthia Garrity-Bond”

Miley Cyrus and the Happy Hippie Foundation by Deanne Quarrie

Deanne Quarrie, D.Min.I almost got in a big fight with my son on Facebook yesterday. I posted a link to an article talking about the work that Miley Cyrus is doing for homeless teenagers. He immediately responded to my post by calling her a “skanky-ho.” Whoa!

I feel I need to do some qualifying here for a moment. I am not always a comfortable when I watch her performances. I am sure it is my age (73) and coming up in a far different time and mindset from what we have now. I feel a bit embarrassed watching some of her movements that have been labeled lewd by many and clearly so by my son on Facebook. I try very hard to not be judgmental or to place negative labels on anyone just because I may not always enjoy what they do. I do recognize that our perceptions are driven by our religious beliefs, our cultural backgrounds and our own inhibitions. I have to confess, I am even a bit jealous that she can be so open with her own sexuality in such a public way. I can tell you, however, I really like her voice and see her as an amazing performer! Continue reading “Miley Cyrus and the Happy Hippie Foundation by Deanne Quarrie”

Traumatic Narrative on the Screen: Is there a Grey Area? by Stephanie Arel

Arel - AAUW HeadshotOn May 8, Fifty Shades of Grey became available in DVD format. Marking its release, this post reflects on the mass consumer consumption of this provocative film and the abuse inherent in its script previously discussed here by Michele Stopera Freyhauf. Grossing $500 million dollars at the box office, Fifty Shades will most certainly sell as an unedited DVD. While some self-proclaimed feminists like Emilie Spiegel commend the story, feminists and conservatives slam it, often pressing viewers to reject the film and deny it financial support. Nonetheless, The Fifty Shade of Grey franchise will most probably have a sequel in 2016, continuing to amass hundreds of millions of dollars.

Concerns about the book and film include how the storyline presents a romantic ideal for women wrapped surreptitiously in abuse. Peering deeper at the narrative reveals the potential for conflicted emotional responses including feelings of guilt and shame, revulsion and interest, disgust and seduction. Confronted with the writing of this post, I responded in turn, torn between whether to watch the film or not. While wanting to deny the franchise any monetary gain, I also wanted to both know what I was rejecting and what, if any, value existed in viewing. Continue reading “Traumatic Narrative on the Screen: Is there a Grey Area? by Stephanie Arel”

Oh, Yes! On a Sexual Revolution in Islam by Vanessa Rivera de la Fuente

Vanessa Rivera de la Fuente. Sexuality and IslamFor centuries, religions have controlled sexuality. They have defined the legitimate options with regard to gender, sexual orientation, how to make love and its purpose. The religious discourse on sex imposes patriarchy, binarism, marriage, monogamy, motherhood and heterosexuality as sine qua non conditions for a “proper” sexual life. Also, it has caused the invisibility and subordination of female pleasure and has repressed the power of women’s sexuality that allows us multiple orgasms and tireless self sexual satisfaction for a life time.

The modern mainstream Islamic discourse is the continuation of what I already knew in Catholicism about sex: its purpose is to have children, it is lawful only after marriage, the man controls the couple’s sex life and may have more than one partner while women are the exclusive property of their men.

However, it seems that it was not always this way. The biblical book, “The Song of Songs,” for example, describes a sexual encounter with beautiful metaphors and passionate declarations of sexual desire. I insist in this: declarations of sexual desire. Nowhere in this text do the lovers speak of marriage, fidelity, children they will have or who will pay the bills. The “Song of Songs” is a celebration of sexual desire and the desire to have sex just because it is good and pleasant. Pleasure for the sake of pleasure, without normative assumptions, because sexual pleasure is a divine gift and if is shared, is even more divine. Continue reading “Oh, Yes! On a Sexual Revolution in Islam by Vanessa Rivera de la Fuente”

Poppaea & Paul: Was This About A Female Challenge To Male Privilege? by Stuart Dean

Poppaea Sabina as portrayed on a Roman coin minted 62-65 CE.
Poppaea Sabina as portrayed on a Roman coin minted 62-65 CE.


As suggested in my first post on Poppaea it is likely she knew one or more of the women Paul refers to in Romans. Of particular interest is the woman Paul refers to as his ‘mother’ (Romans 16:13).  If Poppaea knew her she surely knew about Paul.  If that was the case, then it seems all but certain Poppaea was among those members of the imperial household to whom Paul refers at Philippians 4:22.  Corroboration of that may have been in the source(s) of an anecdote Saint John Chrysostom tells, attributing Paul’s incarceration and execution to Nero’s anger at his interaction with a woman with whom Nero was erotically involved.

Though it is difficult to place much reliance on Chrysostom’s anecdote without more knowledge about his source(s), in the aggregate the evidence for Poppaea knowing about or even meeting with Paul is relatively strong, especially when compared to the sort of evidentiary problems with which ancient historians regularly grapple.  Furthermore, it is easy to spot the issue Poppaea would have focused on (that precisely because it relates to sexuality could have led in antiquity to the sort of distortion or misunderstanding of her motivation in meeting with Paul) that may underlie Chrysostom’s anecdote: circumcision.  The problem with understanding that issue today, however, ironically relates to modern perceptions of no relevance whatsoever to the ancient evidence. Continue reading “Poppaea & Paul: Was This About A Female Challenge To Male Privilege? by Stuart Dean”

Are the Gods Afraid of Black Sexuality? by amina wadud

amina 2014 - croppedThis was the title of a two day conference recently held at Columbia University. At one point on the first day, one presenter asked if there was anyone who is not Christian. Two hands went up, sitting side by side: mine and a film maker friend who had been instrumental in getting me invited to present. She is Buddhist and was showing a trailer from her documentary on rape in the Black community.

One problem with my participation was how to introduce another conception of “God” while still engaging the intersection of race and sexuality with only 15 minutes. So I had to talk really fast.

While the easy answer is, “No,” the God in Islam is not afraid of Black sexuality, I still had a lot of ground to cover about the sex-affirming history and spirit of Islamic thought and practice. Because the preference is to marry, which is a contract and not a sacrament. Marriage is not for the purpose of procreation but for the pleasure of sex. Marriage is preferred over celibacy such that no spiritual virtue is applied to the latter. Marriage is the normative example (sunnah) of the Prophet. Continue reading “Are the Gods Afraid of Black Sexuality? by amina wadud”

%d bloggers like this: