The Pull of Mara by Oxana Poberejnaia

Recently I need to take a deep breath every time I glance at the news headlines. There are terror attacks and military conflicts. People kill each other and cause each other immense suffering. The worst thing is that so many of these conflicts are between people who have lived side by side for centuries: between related ethnic groups or neighbouring people.

I have found that often, while reading news items about tragedies and injustices, I often take sides. I seem to “naturally” support one warring party. This would depend on ideology, ethnicity, or culture that I share with one of the rivals. This is nothing new. People have been joining their brethren in war for the history of humanity.

However, our time is interesting in that we have access to many opposing views. In my life, every time I take a side, eventually I manage to find information or discover a point of view, which supports the opposite side.

Continue reading “The Pull of Mara by Oxana Poberejnaia”

The Trees and We Breathe Bombs Long Gone by Elisabeth Schilling

bikini atoll bombI wish that in our pursuit of finding cures for illnesses we would do more as a collective species to prevent the causes, sometimes environmental ones. Why do we vote for people to make decisions that represent us but that we would never in a million years agree to? Bombs and the consequences of them raise questions of health and power. In the Yoga Sutras, 2.30, we read that “Yama consists of non-violence, non-lying, non-stealing, appropriate use of vital energy, and non-possessiveness.” The yamas are our social restraints. They are a negation of behaviors we might usually partake in.

Ahimsā, or non-violence, is listed first. It is the first element of the first limb of yoga; it is the basis for every other ethical aspect of our lives. Bombs are an example of a common and frequent behavior of violence that make the land, water, and sky increasingly uninhabitable. According to Micah Zenko of the Council on Foreign Relations, in 2016 alone, the U.S. is estimated to have dropped 26,172 bombs. Zenko says that this estimate is “undoubtedly low.” (1) This is one year and the bombs from one nation. (2) What is the environmental impact of all of the bombs dropped from every nation since the beginning of bombing history?

When a bomb is detonated, there is not only harm to the immediate life in that vicinity but life in the future and far away. According to the International Campaign to Abolish Weapons (ICAN) website, “the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War has estimated that roughly 2.4 million people will eventually die as a result of the atmospheric nuclear tests conducted between 1945 and 1980, which were equal in force to 29,000 Hiroshima bombs.” (5)

According to a statistic updated March 2016 on the Ploughshares Fund website, nine countries in the world have a total of 14,900 nuclear weapons, the U.S. and Russia holding 93% of them. (3) They have been used twice, both times by the United States, in war, but additionally they have been used in tests over 2,000 times in more than 60 locations over the globe, according to ICAN. (4) There are already unavoidable consequences to the earth and humans because of this irresponsible behavior that is ongoing.  These tests occur in the atmosphere, under the earth, and under water. (6) Continue reading “The Trees and We Breathe Bombs Long Gone by Elisabeth Schilling”

In This Fractured World, I Will Not Remain Silent by Karen Leslie Hernandez

karen hernandezThe recent killing of 17 year old Nabra Hassanen is on my mind. Not only was she killed—brutally beaten with a baseball bat—but it is thought that she was raped, too. Twice. During Ramadan. By an undocumented Latino from El Salvador.

It is said to be a case of “road rage.” I am having a difficult time believing this. Maybe this man was drunk. Maybe he was angry at his partner. Maybe it was a hate crime. Maybe we’ll never know the whole truth.

What matters, however, is that Nabra—a young woman, black, and a Muslim—was killed. Do not tell me, or anyone, that these three aspects were not factors in her death. That her death had nothing to do with her being a person of color. Or that her death had nothing to do with her wearing an identifying, religious headscarf. Or that her death had nothing to do with misogyny. Because it did. All of it did. Continue reading “In This Fractured World, I Will Not Remain Silent by Karen Leslie Hernandez”

A Beginning: Atonement Theology and the Feminist Critique by Katie M. Deaver

Since many of the comments on my last post expressed interest in my dissertation topic I will use my next couple of posts to talk a little bit more about my work and research in that area.  When we talk about theories of the atonement we are trying to describe a narrative structure of what took place within the Christian cross event.  Generally speaking, Christians believe that atonement serves at the reconciliation between God and humanity and that this reconciliation is realized through the person of Jesus Christ.  The three primary theories that try to explain this event are Substitutionary/Satisfaction, Moral Influence, and Christus Victor.

The Substitutionary/Satisfaction theory of atonement suggests that Christ takes on the guilt and punishment that humanity deserves because of our sinfulness and so becomes our substitute, paying the debt we owe for our sins.  Because of humanity’s sinfulness we deserve death, but instead of giving us what we deserve God instead offers God’s son as a sacrifice to pay our debt, to atone for our sinfulness, and to save us from the eternal punishment of death.

The Moral Influence theory of the atonement focuses primarily on the life and ministry of Christ rather than on his suffering and death.  This theory is centered on the belief that God loves God’s creation so much that God would hold back nothing from us, God would even give God’s own Son in order to save us and remain in relationship with us.  As a result this theory encourages Christians to live as Christ lived and focuses on imitating his life and ministry in order to bring about justice in our own world.

Continue reading “A Beginning: Atonement Theology and the Feminist Critique by Katie M. Deaver”

Becoming Myself by Katie M. Deaver

Last weekend was a special one for me.  After many years of study and dedication I graduated with my Ph.D. and am now, officially, Dr. Katie Deaver.  The weekend was filled with celebrations to mark the completion of a milestone that I have spent years working toward.  The amazing outpourings of love, support, and care that I have experienced throughout the last few days is quite humbling.  The happiness and pure joy of my family, friends, professors, mentors, and multiple church communities have left me in awe.  As I reflect on this love and support it helps to heal the wounds and scars that have accumulated throughout the process of earning this degree.

The undertaking of a Ph.D. program is significantly more difficult than anyone tells you.  This difficultly lies not necessarily in the course work or the dedication to constant reading, writing, and learning but rather in the personal growth and vocational affirmation that takes place within the process.  My dissertation explored the primary understandings of the doctrine of atonement and addressed how this doctrine can, and has, been used in ways that perpetuate, and in some cases even encourage, domestic violence.

My own fascination with the topic of atonement and its links to domestic violence was brought about at the suggestion of one of my undergraduate professors at Luther College, Dr. Jim Martin-Schramm.  From the moment that Dr. Martin-Schramm explained the links between theologies of the cross and domestic violence I knew that I had found my new passion.  Writing a dissertation on the topics of domestic violence, theology and women of faith was an extremely personal, and intimate experience for me.  This topic forced me to accept my own lived experience.  To claim myself… out loud… as a survivor of domestic violence. As a result the writing of my dissertation was particularly personal, and painful, as well as extremely life giving.

Continue reading “Becoming Myself by Katie M. Deaver”

The ‘Viralocity’ of the Human Race by Karen Leslie Hernandez

karen hernandezIn the past month I have found myself getting sucked in by #Walmartpeople and #viralvideos. In fact, I was so sucked in that Facebook even recommended one such video to me and I watched it several times. However, I don’t watch because I like these videos, and I didn’t re-watch this particular video because I enjoyed it. I watched it because to me, at least, it was so obvious that this woman was, and is, mentally unstable and I was so caught up in the viral aspect of this video. Yet, when you read the comments, people are outing her identity and Facebook page, calling her several expletives such as #slut and #uglybitch, simply adding to her hate. Hate, as we all know, begets hate.

I am perplexed by this whole viral video thing. It’s almost as if it’s a goal—your video goes viral and you too could end up rich, even when you have no talent—just like #KimKardashian. A world where you can become famous, making millions, from one post on Instagram because you once made a #sexvideo (that now costs over $10 million to buy) is mind boggling. Even more so that people support this, because if they didn’t, there wouldn’t be this hope for videos to go viral. Continue reading “The ‘Viralocity’ of the Human Race by Karen Leslie Hernandez”

Reflections on Trauma, Part I: Pink Pussyhats by Stephanie N. Arel

stephanie-arelI have been thinking frequently about trauma, about what perpetuates suffering and what supports the arduous journey of transforming traumatic experiences, especially in the aftermath of traumas of human design. The violation of bodies lies at the heart of such traumas. Thus, how we practice behaviors that refuse to denigrate bodies are critical and necessary to alleviating suffering and promoting the body’s dignity.

This idea of restoring the body’s dignity after trauma is magnified by the reality that trauma remains, stored in our bodies as a residual reminder of the traumatic event (s). Bessel van der Kolk reminds us, “The body keeps the score.” Continue reading “Reflections on Trauma, Part I: Pink Pussyhats by Stephanie N. Arel”

Outraged? Yes, I Am! by Karen Leslie Hernandez

karen hernandezReaders, please note: this post includes accounts of rape and violence agianst women and quotes distrubing statements of assault made by Donald Trump. These are easily identifiable by the use of italics or as indented, quoted text. 

Of course I’m outraged.

I had someone the other day post on my Facebook wall that I’m “angry.” And I have also been told lately that because Donald Trump won and I didn’t, “get my way,” I should just, “get over it.”

What I really wish I could say to these folks is … “Of course I’m outraged, but I am not sure if I am more outraged that you can’t see past your privilege, or, that you think I am angry because Hillary didn’t win.”

Newsflash. I would be ecstatic if George Bush Jr., were in office again. Or, if Sarah Palin had run, and won. This has nothing to do with being a “sore loser” or not “getting my way.” This has to do with the fact that our POTUS is a sexist, misogynistic, racist human being. Continue reading “Outraged? Yes, I Am! by Karen Leslie Hernandez”

I’m Stumped by Karen Leslie Hernandez

karen hernandezI’m stumped.

We’ve all seen and heard what Donald Trump has said in the public sphere…

“If Ivanka weren’t my daughter, I’d be dating her.”

“… a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.”

“When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re sending people that have lots of problems. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.”

“Laziness is a trait in blacks.”

“@ariannahuff is unattractive both inside and out. I fully understand why her former husband left her for a man – he made a good decision.”

“If I were running The View, I’d fire Rosie. I mean, I’d look her right in that fat, ugly, face of hers, and I’d say, ‘Rosie, you’re fired.'”

On Christianity… “We’re gonna bring it back.”

“Build that wall, build that wall, build that wall…”

This and more brings to light that there is no doubt – Donald Trump is sexist, misogynistic, racist, bigoted, spiteful, immature, xenophobic, and all those other big words he cannot even pronounce.

He mocks disabled people, let’s his followers bully and physically harm attendees at his rallies, and he told Univision reporter Jorge Ramos, “… You haven’t been called. Go back to Univision,” after Ramos challenged Trump at a rally last year on his view of, “illegal immigration.”

But, there’s something that should be pointed out – that people are following and voting for him. And even worse, we all know at least one person who is voting for Donald Trump. I am embarrassed to say that I know at least three. I know several people close to me who voted for George W. Bush too. BOTH times! This was stunning enough to me. But, Donald Trump is different. Even Bush wasn’t as bad. And, I can’t believe I’m even writing that. Yet, it’s true. Donald Trump is a whole new piece of work.

Here’s the harsh truth. Continue reading “I’m Stumped by Karen Leslie Hernandez”

Today, I am 50. And I Know Jack-Diddly Squat by Karen Leslie Hernandez

karen hernandezYou’d think after all these years I would know, right? I would be sure. I could walk comfortably, touting that I am certain, as so many others my age do. The reality is however, I still don’t know. I am very unsure. I am incredibly uncertain.

At 50, I think I have more questions now than ever before. Many times I have moments of panic that challenge what I feel deeply and truly. Moments that challenge my faith and my very understanding of my own existence. Moments where I lose faith in humanity, in my friends, in my family, and in myself.

Yet, maybe that is where the wisdom is. Because if I pretended to never be afraid or uncertain, I would never challenge what I think I know. I would sit, uncomfortably, in unauthentic belief. What a pity that would be.

What am I really thinking…? Continue reading “Today, I am 50. And I Know Jack-Diddly Squat by Karen Leslie Hernandez”

What My Mothers and Mentors Taught Me about Self-Care by Elise M. Edwards

Elise EdwardsDuring another week of killings, war, protests, and debates about whether Black Lives Matter or Blue Lives Matter, I’m concerned about the toll it takes on those who are witnessing the violence and fighting for justice.

I’m not on the front lines of these battles, but I can feel my energy draining, nonetheless. Over the past few days, while I’ve stayed informed about the latest tragedies and conflicts, I’ve intentionally limited my exposure to most news and social media outlets. I’ve begun preparing for a contemplative retreat with other women who also care about justice.  For me to continue to participate in any effort of transforming society, culture, or the church, I must nurture my mind, spirit, and body.

Audre Lorde put it like this:

“Caring for myself Is not self-indulgence.  It is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.”

Self-care is a radical practice of self-love. It is absolutely necessary when engaged in conflict against those who do not show love to you, or worse, those who seek to destroy you.  Your survival and your flourishing are defiantly brave.  Self-care honors the God who created you, the One who loves you, and the Spirit who sustains you. Continue reading “What My Mothers and Mentors Taught Me about Self-Care by Elise M. Edwards”

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”

Sorrow Filled Solidarity by Anjeanette LeBoeuf

AnjeanetteOn an unexpected weekend in June, the city of Orlando was rocked with a string of violent attacks that created an earthquake of shock, grief, fear, hurt, and a sadness too terrible to name, that all ends of our globe have felt. It started with the shocking shooting of the young YouTube celebrity, The Voice reality contestant and established musician 22-year-old Christina Grimmie, gunned down by a deranged young man before he in turn killed himself. It ended with the horrific mass shooting at the gay bar Pulse, where 49 men and women lost their lives, and countless more saw their lives forever altered, shaken, and shattered.

Continue reading “Sorrow Filled Solidarity by Anjeanette LeBoeuf”

#OrlandoStrong: Yes, Baby, the Gay Bar is Still Our Church – Still Our Religion by Marie Cartier

Marie Cartier photo by: Greg Zabilski
Marie Cartier photo by: Greg Zabilski

The worst gun massacre in United States history happened in a gay bar, PULSE, Sunday, June 12, 2016 in Orlando, CA.

It happened during the United States Pride month of June which commemorates the Stonewall riots of June 1969. The Stonewall riot was the first televised riot over a period of time (approximately one week) allowing members and supporters of the LGBTQ community to join the protests against police violence and harassment.

Today’s many social media platforms allow us to respond more quickly than they were able to in 1969. By the eve of June 12, 2016 memorials and vigils were happening around the country. I attended one in Long Beach, CA, at which a couple hundred folks lit candles, sang and mourned. By the following evening I was at a vigil for Orlando in Los Angeles attended by many thousands at which, in Los Angeles style, the reading of the victims’ names began with an emotional tribute to the victims by Lady Gaga. I have included here a video of the reading of the names.

Long Beach vigil
Long Beach vigil

Continue reading “#OrlandoStrong: Yes, Baby, the Gay Bar is Still Our Church – Still Our Religion by Marie Cartier”

Remember by John Erickson

Remember the loss, because we’re going to need it for the tomorrows to come and for those that need our protection the most: the next generation. Remember, we are Orlando; now, tomorrow, and always.

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

I want to tell you a short story about the small town of Ripon, WI. On May 19, the local newspaper, The Ripon Commonwealth, which has served as the town’s paper since 1864, published a story regarding the political right’s uproar concerning President Barack Obama’s executive order that all public schools must allow transgender individuals to use the bathroom which matches that of their gender identity. Angry and upset, the paper’s education reporter wrote an article expressing his clear disdain for the President and also expressing a clear lack of empathy, understanding and sheer bigotry towards the transgender community.

Growing up in Ripon, I always read the paper when it came out on Wednesday evenings. Those of you who grew up in a small town can attest to the luxury of seeing friends, family members, and even the smallest ongoings in one’s town in print for the entire town to see and talk about. However, one thing I never saw in the paper was the clear hate I read in Mr. Becker’s article (the author of said piece). Enraged, I immediately asked myself: what can I do? Having connections back in Wisconsin, I immediately turned to friends who owned businesses, a friend who is the Director of a vocal and important group in the town, and community organizations and friends to begin to write letters. Continue reading “Remember by John Erickson”

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”

Plato’s Diotima as a Symptom of Psychosis by Stuart Dean

Stuart WordPress photoAs I mentioned in my January 30, 2016 post, Grace Jantzen in Foundations of Violence makes a compelling case that Diotima is a fictional figure.  She does not, however, adequately distinguish her from the poetizing female figures Parmenides and Boethius portray as instructing them in their respective works.  If nothing else, the quality of the poetry of Parmenides and Boethius betrays the influence of a very real woman: Sappho.

By contrast, Plato essentially portrays Diotima as the personification of his philosophy–his metaphysics–and it is hard to believe there was such an ancient Greek woman.  Although the term ‘metaphysics’ derives from a neologism coined in Greek centuries after Plato and Aristotle lived, its meaning (‘beyond’ (meta) the ‘natural,’ or ‘embodied’ world (physics)) appropriately characterizes what Diotima and hence Plato’s philosophy is all about.  A key passage is where she characterizes the most intense love as “gazing at and being with” the beloved, without even the need to “eat or drink.”  That leads her to ask rhetorically whether it would not be best to gaze at what is not “infected” by flesh and blood (Symposium (211 d-e)).

Philosophy, Albrecht Dürer (1502)(Die Bayerische Staatsbiliothek)
Philosophy, Albrecht Dürer (1502)(Die Bayerische Staatsbiliothek)

Continue reading “Plato’s Diotima as a Symptom of Psychosis by Stuart Dean”

A Complicated History by Elise M. Edwards

Elise EdwardsIn my previous post, I wrote about my participation in planning a memorial event for the lynching of a man named Jesse Washington in Waco, Texas one hundred years ago. It prompted me to reflect on the challenge of faithfully remembering a conflicted past.  It’s important that we don’t just remember past events, but that we remember them appropriately.

I’m convinced that when we remember the past, we must avoid oversimplifying the stories of what occurred to suit our present day agendas and sensibilities.  We have to acknowledge the complexity, tension and conflict in what occurred, and perhaps even our own guilt and complicity in what is still occurring.  As a black feminist Christian ethicist, I face this challenge when one aspect of my identity seeks to address a particular issue through a narrative that implicates or denigrates another aspect of my identity. Uncomfortable as it is, I recognize Christianity’s complicity in its defenses of chattel slavery.  I recognize women’s support of patriarchy.

I went to a lecture a few weeks ago by Walter Brueggemann, a well-respected Old Testament theologian, titled “The Risks of Nostalgia.” Brueggemann warned us of the dangers of mis-remembering the past.  Pointing to texts from the prophets and Psalms, he demonstrated how the people of Israel remembered a past before exile without remembering the difficulties, the exploitative conditions, and the tensions of that time.  Excluding these harsher realities allowed them to gloss over the differences among them to unite in hatred and distrust in a common enemy—the one responsible of their present situation.  By misremembering, they lamented a version of past that didn’t belong to all of them because it didn’t include their diverse histories.  But the singular narrative served a purpose—it furthered their cause, their yearning and motivation to return to the way things were before.  Did this cause really serve all those who were yearning for it? It’s a question that comes to mind when I hear women yearn for a pre-feminist era or Christians yearn for an era of Christendom.

Like the Old Testament people of exile, we are in moral danger when we remember the past with a nostalgia that sweeps over the real stories of what happened in the past.  We risk buying into a narrative that harms us in its oversimplifcation.  A simple solution will suffice if we believe we have a simple problem.

Lynching was not a simplistic problem and the Waco Horror is not a simplistic story.  A black man was lynched for raping and murdering a white woman named Lucy Fryer.  I’ll admit it. The realities of the story make me uneasy. Jesse Washington confessed to a crime and was found guilty in the court proceedings that preceded his murder.  It makes sense to question whether the criminal proceedings were biased and whether his confession was coerced or illegitimate in some other manner.  But even if we question his confession or conviction, we shouldn’t gloss over them as if they never occurred. To present him as a purely innocent victim would be to distort the past to serve a cause – and even a cause as noble as community unity or racial justice should not be attained through lies.  People of integrity must guard against distorting the past for “the good” because the distortions themselves cause pain and harm.

Fryer’s family is still experiencing pain over her murder which precipitated the lynching.  Sadly, their pain is made worse by the remembrances of Jesse Washington.  Their pain does not mean we should not remember, but it does mean we cannot, as people of good conscience, romanticize violence or idealize its victims.  Some people might make Washington out to be a hero or a martyr, but the organizers of the memorial service didn’t remember him that way.  We didn’t cast him as a blameless victim.  But we remembered him as a victim, nonetheless.

We didn’t romanticize the lynching crowds and their pursuit of justice, either. Washington was brutally tortured and killed before a crowd of thousands.  If Christians are a people who embrace the love and mercy of a God who forgives the worst of sinners, they have to condemn even those crimes committed in the name of justice; crimes committed against criminals.

Noble causes, if they are just, must stand in the truth – the messy, complicated truth that resists casting all our heroes as saints, all our villains as irredeemable sinners.  Real humans aren’t characters who wear the white hats and black hats of the old Westerns (or even the white hats of Olivia Pope & Associates on ABC’s Scandal).

When we resist remembering simplistic, nostalgic stories, we can begin to grapple with the reality of how difficult it really is to achieve justice.  We can see humankind for who we really are. And maybe then we can ask for help.

We can ask victims to help us heal the wounds that persist.  We need their help to understand their pain and the underlying causes we seek to solve.

We can ask for the help of those who study the various aspects of our world and culture—the economists, the sociologists, the historians, the artists, the theologians and ethicists, the criminologists, and the scientists. We can be humble enough to learn what we don’t know about what’s really going on.

And I hope we also ask for divine assistance.  Despite their own complicated histories, wrongs, and imperfections, our faith traditions can enable us to do more than merely rightly remember, consider, and observe the problems in the world. They can embolden us with the courage of Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, and Ida B. Wells-Barnett to speak a complicated truth and yet still dare to fight to make this a better world.

Elise M. Edwards, PhD is a Lecturer in Christian Ethics at Baylor University and a graduate of Claremont Graduate University. She is also a registered architect in the State of Florida. Her interdisciplinary work examines issues of civic engagement and how beliefs and commitments are expressed publicly. As a black feminist, she primarily focuses on cultural expressions by, for, and about women and marginalized communities. Follow her on twitter, google+ or

To Work and to Pray in Remembrance by Elise M. Edwards

Elise EdwardsOne hundred years ago, Jesse Washington was lynched downtown in Waco, Texas. Next week, on March 20th, some of my colleagues and I are organizing a memorial service to remember this horrific event and pray for a better future for our city.

We invited submissions of original prayers, poems, spoken-word pieces, music, drama, and other pieces of liturgy for this ecumenical memorial event.  We received a number of thoughtful, heartfelt submissions, but we also a question:

“Why in the world do we need a memorial for one person who was lynched?!?! In the reality of things, Jesse Washington was one of thousands of Blacks that were lynched in America during the time period.”

I thought the answer was so obvious that I initially brushed off the question. But as our group proceeded with the plans, I thought about the question and wondered whether our university community would understand why we are doing this. And honestly, in moments of exhaustion when I put off responding to emails, I wondered, too. Why am I doing this?

To remember. We memorialize one person who was lynched to remind us that every single one of the thousands who were lynched was a human being who was killed unjustly.

In the speech “Lynch Law in America,” from 1900, Ida B. Wells-Barnett describes the injustice: “Our country’s national crime is lynching. It is not the creature of an hour, the sudden outburst of uncontrolled fury, or the unspeakable brutality of an insane mob. It represents the cool, calculating deliberation of intelligent people who openly avow that there is an “unwritten law” that justifies them in putting human beings to death without complaint under oath, without trial by jury, without opportunity to make defense, and without right of appeal.”

Wells-Barnett was an African-American journalist and activist for civil rights and women’s suffrage. Her writings and activism advanced anti-lynching campaigns adopted by Black women’s clubs and the NAACP. Unsurprisingly, her work was controversial, even among women’s groups. Wells-Barnett argued that lynching began after the emancipation of slaves to repress “race riots.” When a constitutional amendment permitted black men to vote, lynching was used to violently prevent their participation in state and national elections. When fraud, intimidation, and local policy succeeded in suppressing the black vote, the brutality continued in the name of avenging or preventing rape and assault of white women.[1] For this argument, lawmakers, ministers, and women’s groups accused Wells-Barnett of defending rapists and subverting “justice” for their alleged victims.

She did not defend rapists. (Neither do I.) She condemned a system that used allegations of rape of white women to legitimate hanging, burning alive, shooting, drowning, dismembering, dragging, and displaying black men’s bodies. Some allegations may have been true. Many were false. Despite the veracity of the allegations, the vigilantes tortured and killed men, women, and children in brutal, public ways, and we must not mistake that for any form of justice. Lynching apologists explicitly valued white lives over others. Lynching was, and remains a crime against humanity.

In our own age of campaigns against the impartiality of law and law enforcement, we should remember the lynching victims and the tensions within earlier waves of feminism and the temperance movement over anti-lynching campaigns. We do not have to condone criminal behavior to call for humane law enforcement or prison reform. We can affirm the humanity of accused and convicted criminals in the pursuit of justice. So we remember Jesse Washington and the other lynching victims to engage more consciously in the activism of our time. We remember so that we don’t lose sight of the complexities of our work. We work in remembrance of the many victims of injustice.

We also gather to pray. For some people, prayer is about making requests to the divine. But in a more expansive sense, prayer is communication with the divine. In prayer, we set time aside to connect to something greater than ourselves. It’s our hope that gathering as a community to pray for the future of our city prompts us to see beyond individual concerns. In a liberation ethics framework, as explained by Miguel De La Torre[2], prayer is not limited to individual, private conversations with God in hopes of gaining wisdom and guidance. De La Torre presents prayer as a communal activity that brings together different members of the spiritual body. It involves the critical application of the biblical text to the situation at hand. This involves critical analysis of the social context that gave rise to the text or its common interpretation. So we pray to give us time to come together, to read scripture, to seek God and hear God through other members of our community.

So why are we gathering? Why do we memorialize one person when there are so many others who have been harmed, not just in my local community but all of our communities?

To remember past wrongs.

To commemorate.

To honor.

To inspire.

To call attention to persisting injustices.

To make us mindful in our work.

To provoke us to pray.

[1] This argument about the reasons for lynching is found in several of Wells-Barnett’s essays, but is quite developed in The Red Record: Tabulated Statistics and Alleged Causes of Lynching in the United States (1895).

[2] See Miguel A. De La Torre’s Doing Christian Ethics from the Margins (2nd Edition, 2014).

Elise M. Edwards, PhD is a Lecturer in Christian Ethics at Baylor University and a graduate of Claremont Graduate University. She is also a registered architect in the State of Florida. Her interdisciplinary work examines issues of civic engagement and how beliefs and commitments are expressed publicly. As a black feminist, she primarily focuses on cultural expressions by, for, and about women and marginalized communities. Follow her on twitter, google+ or

Drop the sense of entitlement towards life by Oxana Poberejnaia

oxanaAt the time of climate change and crises of capitalism we need to drop our sense of entitlement to comfortable life or even to life at all. Nature will not spare us just because we are humans. When the meltdown of economic and environmental systems occurs, we are all going down: humans and non-humans, women and men, spiritual or not. We have almost run out of time.

Victor Pelevin, my favourite contemporary Russian author, has a novel called “The Sacred Book of the Werewolf“. I love it in part because, like Kill Bill, it is a rare creation by a male author, which manages to capture the female warrior spirit.

surprise___you__re_a_werewolf_by_mightywarlordIt starts with the main character, a Chinese Buddhist Were Fox who lives in present-day Moscow, consoling herself: “What else (or What the fuck) did you expect from life, A Huli?” A Huli is her name, supposedly meaning Fox A in Chinese. It is also a swear phrase in Russian, meaning “What the fuck?”

Continue reading “Drop the sense of entitlement towards life by Oxana Poberejnaia”

Feminist Grace – Leading to the Why and the How by Karen Leslie Hernandez

me writingOn the occasion of my first post as a new regular contributor to FAR, I decided to share with you my ponderings on my stance as a feminist and what that means to me.

I’m a staunch feminist. However, that doesn’t mean I have hatred for men, or, have a deep-seated desire for men to drop off the face of the planet. Honestly, I like men.

Yet, I have known men to exert violent behavior, be arrogant in the workplace, get paid more than women in almost all fields, harass and cat call women as they walk down the street, and, in the theological context, exercise patriarchal privilege often.

My work as a theologian has taken me many places. I’ve worked side by side with some of the most oppressed women in the world in the Slums of Mumbai, India, and I’ve sat and listened to women that have lived through conflict in Africa and the Middle East. I have also made sure to connect with men around the world and all too often I’ve found myself sitting, as not the only Christian woman in the room, but the only woman, holding my own, listening, and understanding. Continue reading “Feminist Grace – Leading to the Why and the How by Karen Leslie Hernandez”

It’s Mom’s Fault by Esther Nelson

esther-nelsonMy conservative, local newspaper ran an article recently titled, “Gun Control is Not the Answer.”  The author, Jay Ambrose, is a contributing columnist employed by the Independence Institute, a libertarian think tank based in Denver, Colorado.  The group’s stated mission according to Wikipedia is “…to empower individuals and to educate citizens, legislators and opinion makers about public policies that enhance personal and economic freedom.”

As expected from the title of his article, Mr. Ambrose is against gun control.  He writes, “…any move short of the absurdity of confiscation would unlikely reduce killings.”  He cites Russia as an example, noting that Russia’s murder rate, with its strict gun restrictions, is more than twice that of the U.S.  “Guns,” he writes, “undeniably facilitate murder…[but] do not make a culture.”  He contends that “culture is a prime mover of violence.”

And then he says it!  “…one cultural circumstance ceaselessly cultivating criminal conduct in offspring is the enormous growth of single-parent–usually single-mother–homes.” Continue reading “It’s Mom’s Fault by Esther Nelson”

It’s Okay to Kill Each Other by Kate Brunner

Kate Brunner at Llyn MorwynionI drive my child to chess class. The truck in front of me has a tow hitch that is the profile of the chamber of a loaded six shooter. I pick another of my children up from a co-op class on entrepreneurship. The suburban minivan that passes me is covered in bullet hole decals & American flags.

We go to a local minor league baseball game– America’s game. The man seated a few rows ahead of us is wearing a t-shirt that says “I plead the 2nd” with the black silhouette of an M-16 on it.

My children’s friends invite them to a laser tag birthday party. My child’s birthday party package at a bowling alley comes complete with a round of laser tag for everyone. And all the children, even my own, are excited to play, excited to shoot at each other.

Children practice lock down drills as part of their school day & are told to report the sighting of a person wielding a gun– an immanent threat– immediately.

Those same children see a man with a gun strapped to his body while at the grocery store with a parent & are told that’s not necessarily a threat, but a patriotic right we should be grateful for in this country.

Our children don’t know what to think about all these people with guns. Continue reading “It’s Okay to Kill Each Other by Kate Brunner”

Let My People Go! Modern Day Oppression and Exile by Michele Stopera Freyhauf

FreyhaufLet my people go!

Where is the humanity? Why are my sisters and brothers continuously subjected to persecution? Who will help and stop this madness?

I am a member of the human race. Collectively I identify with those who need help and are oppressed. I do not identify with the oppressors, for they are like Pharaoh whose heart was hardened. In identifying with this group, I will provide a label of humanity; for the oppressors do not show care or love but evil and sin towards my people – they cannot be part of this group. As my people flee the boarders from the oppressors, the world has opened their gates to let them in. The world has not turned their back on them. However the oppressors continue to mar their homeland, destroy their culture, and attempt to erase their history, their identity, their footprint on this earth. They are not oppressors but are in fact committing cultural genocide. They are committing genocide against humanity, against anyone who does not follow their ideology, their way of life.

Why should we care? Should we care? For this I say yes. My people need protection and help, but like the Israelites in the story of the Exodus, they yearn for their homeland – a place they were forcibly exiled from. They yearn for food and clean water. They yearn for safety and protection.  While you may think that my people were not forcibly exiled – they were. They fled for their own lives – for their own people, and the community’s hearts became hardened to their pleas for help.

The Syrian crisis is one that we have allowed to repeat over and over again. According to World Vision, nearly 12 million Syrians have been forced from their homes – half of which are children.  At least 7.6 million have been displaced within Syria and more than 4 million have fled the country.  Children affected by this crisis are at risk of becoming ill, malnourished, abused, or exploited.  Save the Children produced a video that shows what happens to a girl after three years of conflict:

Continue reading “Let My People Go! Modern Day Oppression and Exile by Michele Stopera Freyhauf”

The Utter and Undeniable Need For Walls of Compassion by Karen Leslie Hernandez

karenFor all souls who died on, because of, and since 9/11 …

We build a lot of walls, especially when we are fearful, hateful, angry, and retaliatory.

There are personal walls, our own little “bubbles,” that give us the illusion of safety. Then we have bigger walls. Walls that our governments build. Walls to keep people in, and walls to keep people out.

Current walls that come to mind are the Mexican-US Border Wall – you know, that one that Donald Trump loves – because it keeps all those rapists out. We have the Israeli-West Bank Separation Barrier-which has contributed to the drop of suicide bombing exponentially, but, in the meantime, has cut off Palestinian livelihoods, and led to the death of many who can’t get through the checkpoints in an emergency. Here in the US we have “gated communities” – those communities that give a false sense of security to keep the “degenerates” out. No crime inside those walls, right? Right. We also have prison walls to keep people in. The prison industry is thriving here in the US and more walls need to be put up to incarcerate all the “offenders.”  And, now, we have a new wall, just finalized on August 29, in Hungary – a razor wire wall to keep fleeing refugees from Syria, out. Continue reading “The Utter and Undeniable Need For Walls of Compassion by Karen Leslie Hernandez”

A Day of Peace: On the Anniversary of Michael Brown’s Death by Qumyka Rasheeda Howell

Q Howell

I remember when I heard of the death of Michael Brown who was shot by a Ferguson, Missouri Police Officer exactly one year ago today. His bloody body laid in the middle of the street for four hours before receiving help. I wondered if Michael Brown would still be alive today if he hadn’t been shot and left for dead. I remember looking at my beautiful black sons that night as they slept. I wept until my knees gave way. I do not think I have stopped weeping as I continue to be imbued with reports of black and brown bodies dying at the hands of police officers month after month.

One year later, I am still grieving and praying. I am still tired. I am now joined into a call with my sisters who work alongside me in the anti-violence movement. We held each other as we listened over the phone.  Then my friend Corine Reed gets our attention. She says it’s time for peace. That word, peace, was the divine pause I needed. I think it is what the world needs right now – PEACE. Continue reading “A Day of Peace: On the Anniversary of Michael Brown’s Death by Qumyka Rasheeda Howell”

A Christian Response to Racism, Sexism, & the Rise of American Terrorism by Trelawney Grenfell-Muir

Trelawney bio pictureAs our country reels in horror at the brutal massacre of nine worshipers at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, one particularly important detail has emerged: the young man who killed those nine people entered the world of white supremacism after the object of his romantic interest rejected him and dated a black man.

According to his cousin, the experience dramatically changed the young man, led to his obsession with racist hatred, and motivated him to commit the atrocity. In some ways, the event resembles the 2014 Santa Barbara massacre, in which a young white man with strong racist tendencies massacred young women because he felt angry that women generally did not respond favorably to his romantic advances. Other mass murderers have also exhibited violent misogyny. Moreover, our country has begun to notice that most mass shootings are carried out by white males, and to point out that white masculinity may lead young men into feeling like failures if they do not achieve all the trappings of their supposedly superior race and gender identity.

My questions are: how did we, as a society, fail these young men? And how have we, as a church, failed society? And, most important, how can we help heal these diseases that are killing us? Continue reading “A Christian Response to Racism, Sexism, & the Rise of American Terrorism by Trelawney Grenfell-Muir”

THE REFUGEE CRISIS IN GREECE: A TEST OF OUR COMMON HUMANITY by Michael Bakas, translated by Carol P. Christ

Note from Carol Christ: I returned home from the Goddess Pilgrimage to Crete a week ago to find my island, Lesbos, and my village, Molivos, overwhelmed with a refugee crisis of enormous proportions. We are a town of about 1000 permanent residents, and I would estimate that 10,000 or more refugees from the wars in Syria and Afghanistan have passed through our village in recent months. Local authorities and volunteers are exhausted, and there is an urgent need for help from the European Union. This week instead of my own blog, I am offering my translation of a moving plea for help from my dear friend and colleague in the Green Party, Michael Bakas, who by the way is himself a feminist.

Refugees in Mytiline 1914-1918There is nothing new about refugees fleeing from war. At the beginning of World War I, more than 50,000 people arrived in Lesbos from the nearby shores of what is now Turkey. At the end of the war many of these refugees returned to Asia Minor, but after the Greek army invaded and was driven back, the Asia Minor Catastrophe of 1922 sent nearly a million refugees to Greece.

Faced with an ocean of refugees flooding the island, the local population was dumbfounded, fearful, and tied up in knots. They shut their doors and averted their eyes: “it was as if a dark cloud of death had descended on their minds, and so they felt nothing. They did not want to see anything or to hear anything that was happening on the other side of their doors.” The end of this story is well-known: with courage and a great will to live, the refugees put down roots and found their way.

In the first decade of the 21st century Lesbos again experienced a wave of refugees who came via Asia Minor. This group, mainly from Afghanistan, came to the island with the hope of putting war behind them. Most of them were held for a year or more in cramped conditions near the capital of Lesbos. This center was closed in 2009 due to the efforts of local volunteers who had alerted European groups to the problem.

But the Greek debt crisis soon followed. For several years, the flow of refugees lessened. When it began to increase at the end of 2012, volunteers from all over the island came together without any government support to provide help. Thousands of refugees were housed in a former campground for children’s holidays, where they were offered clean clothing, blankets, and food, as well as love and compassion.

Lesbos became known as an all-European model for solidarity. Resisting the xenophobia that was growing in Greece and in Europe as a whole, the citizens of Lesbos reached out to the refugees, refusing to listen to those who were promoting hate. The neo-fascist anti-immigrant party known as Golden Dawn gained less support in recent elections in Lesbos than in most of the rest of Greece.

refugee children in LesbosThe good will of the people of Lesbos is currently being tested by the wave of migrants now arriving on our shores. Estimates are that more than 20,000 refugees have arrived in our island alone in the first five months of 2015. There are no systems in place to deal with them. Yes, the European Community has dedicated resources to the “refugee problem,” but most of that has gone into patrolling the borders in hopes of stemming the flood of refugees—not to helping those who arrive on European shores.

Those who arrive in northern Lesbos are being welcomed and fed by volunteers, but the Coast Guard does not have the resources to transport them to the capital city for processing. Thus they are being told—mothers and babies among them—that they must walk 60 kilometers on mountainous roads in summer heat to reach their next destination.

Once they arrive in the capital city, the Coast Guard is not able to accept and process all of them, because the reception center cannot cope with the numbers. Thus, thousands of refugees sit in the harbor, hoping the authorities will arrest them and thus be forced to process them.

The residents of Lesbos are once again beginning to become afraid of the influx of refugees. In the touristic village of Molivos, at the same time that both locals and foreigners are helping the new arrivals, others are saying that “it spoils the vacations of tourists to be faced with seeing so many refugees.”

The situation seems to be more than government officials can cope with. The mayor of the island has been trying to find a place where the refugees can stay while they are being processed. The regional government has not yet lifted its hand. The Minister of Immigration visited the island, but no interventions followed. The European Community has yet to act. The UN and international aid groups have not arrived.

This state of affairs plays right into the hands of the racists and xenophobes. Rumors are spreading about the refugees—lies about diseases they are carrying and threats they pose to local and tourist women. People who in the past have been sympathetic to the refugees and the volunteers are getting fed up. Their pent up anger could lead to violence within our own communities or against the migrants.

At the same time more and more refugees are arriving, sleeping in the streets, relieving themselves without toilets–among them pregnant women, babies and old people, and even disabled individuals—all trying to save themselves from violence in their own countries.

Instead of fighting each other, it is time to get serious about finding a solution to a humanitarian crisis of vast proportions. Lesbos—along with other islands of the Aegean—must be declared an “Emergency Zone.” The Greek government, the European Community, and international organizations must provide resources.
We need arrival centers in northern Lesbos, where the immediate needs of the migrants can be met—including shelter from the sun, food, toilets, blankets, and a place to sleep if necessary. Processing centers adequate to the numbers of refugees need to be opened in the island’s capital. Transport to these centers must be provided. Trained Greek or EU officials must be sent to staff them.* We also need a plan for August when the ferryboats being used to transport the refugees to Athens will be full, and if no alternate plans are made, large numbers of migrants will be forced to stay on the streets or in already crowded centers in the worst of summer’s heat.

It is time for us to move forward–Greeks, Europeans, and migrants together–in the name of our common humanity and in concern for the lives of all human beings on our planet. We also need to work to end the wars and the violence that drives people from their homes and homelands.

*We have just learned that the EU is planning to send a team of officials to assist with processing the refugees.


michael bakas2Michael Bakas is a leader of the Green Party in Lesbos, Greece and has been working for many years with its committee on Human Rights. This call to action was originally published in longer form in Greek on June 16, 2015 on, and was published in English in Green European Journal on June 19, 2015, the International Day of the Refugee.


timothy jay smithTimothy Jay Smith  has been working closely with volunteers in Molyvos and Mytilini to provide for the refugees. If you wish to contribute to these efforts, you can donate through Tim’s account at PayPal: or send a personal check to Timothy Jay Smith in U.S. dollars or Euros (French banks only). Also see his “Mister, They’re Coming Anyway.”


Carol P. Christ leads the life-transforming Goddess Pilgrimage to Crete (facebook and twitter).  Carol’s books include She Who Changes and and Rebirth of the Goddess; with Judith Plaskow, the widely-used anthologies Womanspirit Rising and Weaving the Visions and forthcoming next year, Goddess and God in the World: Conversations in Embodied Theology. Explore Carol’s writing.


How Do You Honor Your Parents, When They Do Not Always Honor You? (Part 2) by Karen Hernandez

karenRead Part I here

This is the first time I have written openly about my childhood. It isn’t to get back at anyone, it is more to give a voice to the voiceless. I will admit right here, that, of course, I have anger. Yet, I write this not to blame, or to be spiteful, or to seek revenge. Many of us who move through this world with deep resolved and unresolved pain caused by our parents, are told we shouldn’t talk about our abusive past, because it could hurt our parents. To this all I can say is that children grow up. As children we are muted out of fear and ignorance. As adult survivors, we should speak – not to do more harm, but to create change.

I am happy to report that my relationship with my mother is intact. Although she still has an edge to her, she has not hurt me, in any way, shape, or form, for a very long time. I set boundaries, and in those boundaries, she and I have found a way to coexist. My father and I also have a good relationship. Yet as with any relationship that has gone through what he and I went through together, as well as individually, the past affects our interactions, which are, understandably, sometimes heated.

As I write this piece I am thinking of all the other children who are being abused by their parents in unspeakable ways right now. Children who are afraid, feel unloved, and are simply confused. These kids too will grow to be adults – adults who struggle every day to face their past holistically and with love. Or, they will become adults who can’t deal on a non-violent level and end up abusing their family members as well, and the vicious cycle continues. Continue reading “How Do You Honor Your Parents, When They Do Not Always Honor You? (Part 2) by Karen Hernandez”

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