Despite halting attempts to live my life with hope, I’ve failed. My experience is not unique. We suffer. The recent pandemic, including its side effects of loss and displacement, is but one example. Suffering can leave a sense of hopelessness in its wake. One place I look for balm is in poetry.

As with most poetry, Emily Dickinson’s (1830-1886) work requires me to pause and ponder. What is being said? Not easy to tell, nonetheless, I often do find meaning in her poems. If I understand her thrust at all, much of the meaning I glean disorients me.

Continue reading “HOPE, PAIN, DESPAIR, AND JESUS by Esther Nelson”

Life Still Shaped by the Witch Hunts? by Eline Kieft

In this article I reframe my understanding of feminism through the lens of Mona Chollet’s In Defence of Witches, and reflect on how my psyche as a woman today is still deeply influenced by the effects of the witch hunts in mediaeval times. 

Continue reading “Life Still Shaped by the Witch Hunts? by Eline Kieft”

Hope Is Giving Birth in the Face of the Dragon by Beth Bartlett

Syrian Baby

The image of the baby born under the rubble of the earthquake in Syria has been haunting me. So has the image in my mind of her mother, giving birth to her baby while trapped after the building, where she, her husband, and their children were sleeping, collapsed.  The baby’s uncle, when digging through the debris hoping to reach his brother and family, found the baby alive, her umbilical cord still attached to her mother. When he cut the cord, the baby let out a cry.  Tragically, her mother had died after giving birth, as had her father and siblings.

Continue reading “Hope Is Giving Birth in the Face of the Dragon by Beth Bartlett”

Two Steps Forward, Three Steps Back By: Anjeanette LeBoeuf

It is a new year, 2023 and with it, some truly concerning elements. One of the most all consuming is that of the persistent and continual attack on women, communities of color, non-Christian communities, and the queer community.

One of my last FAR posts talked about the situations, uprising, and horrible killings done by the Iranian Fundamentalist regime. The protests are still happening, more people are being arrested, and the death toll has continued to rise. We have also seen the death of the longest reigning monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, and the surprised resignation of New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern.

Continue reading “Two Steps Forward, Three Steps Back By: Anjeanette LeBoeuf”

Deconstructing and Reconstructing Love by Chasity Jones

Note: This is based on a podcast which can be heard here.

“Black love exists and Black women deserve love that does not require pain.”

What is love? What’s love got to do with pain and suffering? Are they related? Pain and love? Must one always be present with the other? In this blogpost I explore pain and suffering through a womanist perspective (centering the perspectives and lived experiences of Black women) and discuss how to live into wholeness and wellness. This is especially important because the Black community/women in particular’s experience in the US (and globally) has been and continues to be defined by pain and suffering. What are the theological implications?

How have Christian frameworks at associating love with sacrifice and pain justified the pain and suffering of Black women? How can we decolonize love so that liberated Black women are empowered to embrace a love that does not hurt first with false promises of rewards later in life or afterlife? Black women, pain does not equal love.

Continue reading “Deconstructing and Reconstructing Love by Chasity Jones”

For Mahsa by Lori Stewart

On Friday, September 16, 2022 Mahsa Amini died in a Tehran hospital having been arrested by Iranian morality police on September 13 for wearing “inappropriate attire”. She was 22. Mahsa’s family claims she had bruises to her head and limbs from being beaten. The Iranian police dispute that claim saying Mahsa died from a pre-existing health condition.

Mahsa’s death sparked major protests against the Islamic Republic in Iran and protests of support are occurring around the world. Women are burning their hijabs, which they are mandated by Iranian law to wear, chanting, “Women, life, freedom”. They are cutting their hair which is a longstanding symbol of protest and loss in Iran’s history. This action harkens back to the epic Persian poem “Shahnameh” by Ferdowsi in which hair is a theme and the cutting of hair a symbol of mourning. Around the world, people have followed suit by cutting their hair in solidarity with the protesters in Iran. A recent chant by the protesters is “it’s the beginning of the end” as they challenge their theocratic government.

Continue reading “For Mahsa by Lori Stewart”

Inspired by Carol P. Christ: Patriarchy Rules the Supreme Court by Janet Maika’i Rudolph

Along with the words of Justices Sotomayer, Breyer and Kagan.

The Supreme Court ruling overturning Roe was expected, but there was nothing that could prepare me (nor likely anyone else) for the devastation of the actual decision. My gut is reeling. I thought it would be useful to survey the landscape through the lens of patriarchy. Thanks to Carol Christ for having always written insightful comments about the roles of patriarchy. This is inspired by her work.

The dissenting judges were quite eloquent, so I will work off their words.

  • “Whatever the exact scope of the coming laws, one result of today’s decision is certain: the curtailment of women’s rights, and of their status as free and equal citizens.”
  • “After today, young women will come of age with fewer rights than their mothers and grandmothers had. The majority accomplishes that result without so much as considering how women have relied on the right to choose or what it means to take that right away. The majority’s refusal even to consider the life-altering consequences of reversing Roe and Casey is a stunning indictment of its decision.”

My Commentary: Through the eyes of patriarchy here is no need to consider life-altering consequences because it only recognizes two roles for women: madonna or whore. We are never seen as full humans with civil and independent rights. Patriarchy doesn’t just hate the sexual freedom of women, it has spent millennia trying to quash it, make it into something dirty, control it. It’s a love/hate relationship with sex. Rape is really OK (look how hard it is to prosecute). Pedophilia OK too (look at the church). But a woman making her own sexual, reproductive choices . . . a bridge too far. Patriarchy will always force us to pay a price for having sex, for being alluring, for being female.

Continue reading “Inspired by Carol P. Christ: Patriarchy Rules the Supreme Court by Janet Maika’i Rudolph”

Women’s Autonomy and Well-Being v. the Patriarchy by Elizabeth Ann Bartlett

A recently leaked draft of the US Supreme Court’s opinion on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization suggests that the court is ready to overturn Roe v. Wade. Most people know the legal consequence of Roe, but few know the grounds for the decision. The focus was on the “important and legitimate interest” the state has in preserving and protecting the health of the pregnant woman. Defining “health” broadly, Justice Blackmun wrote:

            The detriment that the State would impose upon the pregnant woman by denying this choice altogether is apparent. Specific and direct harm medically diagnosable even in early pregnancy may be involved. Maternity, or additional offspring, may force upon the woman a distressful life and future. Psychological harm may be imminent. Mental and physical health may be taxed by child care. There is also the distress, for all concerned, associated with the unwanted child, and there is the problem of bringing a child into a family already unable, psychologically and otherwise, to care for it. In other cases, . . . the additional difficulties and continuing stigma of unwed motherhood may be involved. (410 U.S. 113, 1973) 

Psychological, physical, familial, social, present and future health of the woman are all to be taken into consideration. I would add to this the spiritual well-being of the woman, for this is a deeply personal spiritual decision as well.

Continue reading “Women’s Autonomy and Well-Being v. the Patriarchy by Elizabeth Ann Bartlett”

From the Archives: Rape is Not a Political Platform – Rape is a Violent Crime! By Michele Stopera Freyhauf

Moderator’s note: This marvelous FAR site has been running for 10 years and has had more than 3,600 posts in that time. There are so many treasures that have been posted in this decade. They tend to get lost in the archives. We are beginning this column so that we can revisit some of these gems. Today’s blogpost was originally posted August 23, 2012. You can visit it here to see the original comments.

Just when you think you have heard it all, here we go again – another politician with “open mouth-insert foot” syndrome.  Discussing his zero-tolerance policy for abortion, Missouri Representative Todd Akin made the following statement last Sunday about pregnancies that result from rape:

“from what I understand from doctors, that’s really rare.  If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.  But let’s assume that maybe that didn’t work or something.  I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be on the rapist and not attacking the child.”

Continue reading “From the Archives: Rape is Not a Political Platform – Rape is a Violent Crime! By Michele Stopera Freyhauf”

From the Archives:“Vaginas are Everywhere!”: The Power of the Female Reproductive System by John Erickson

Moderator’s note: This marvelous FAR site has been running for 10 years and has had more than 3,600 posts in that time. There are so many treasures that have been posted in this decade that they tend to get lost in the archives. We are beginning this column so that we can all revisit some of these gems. Today’s blogpost was originally posted June 19, 2012. You can visit it to see the original comments here.

I have a beautiful picture of vagina hanging on my wall.  However, for the longest time it was in the back of my closet, with a plastic bag covering it.  I wasn’t ashamed of it but my ex-boyfriend, like most gay men, refused to have it on the wall where he could see it.  He is now long gone; the vagina is now out and proud.

I bid on the picture one fall during a showing of the Vagina Monologues at Claremont School of Theology.  One of my best friends was in the show and I had always loved its powerful message.  I walked out of the theatre, waiting for my friend, and there it was: the picture of the vagina.  I found myself caught up in its beauty.  Its gaze had mesmerized me.  The outlying layers of red, the contours of its shape, they all began to mold into a figure before my eyes.  While I have never thought of myself as a religious person, I realized that at that moment I was no longer looking the old photo but rather I was staring at the outline of the Virgin Mary.  At that moment, I realized that I had to have the picture.

Continue reading “From the Archives:“Vaginas are Everywhere!”: The Power of the Female Reproductive System by John Erickson”

Suffrage is Unfinished Business—On The 101 Anniversary of the 19th Amendment by Marie Cartier

Dear FAR readers – please find photos from a celebration of the 101 anniversary of women’s suffrage, the 19th Amendment, that I attended August 26, 2021. That day marks the end of the 100th year of women having the right to vote.

I have been proud to be a part of, these past few years, a group calling themselves Suffrage in California – LBSuffrage100 Suffrage 100. We have met continuously in person and on line for two years now, stymied by the pandemic, but still pushing forward throughout this year with actions at the Democratic Convention, Long Beach Suffrage 100 celebrates in silence for centennial anniversary of the 19th Amendment – Press Telegram, standing in silence as the original suffragettes did outside the White House. We also of course marked the 100th anniversary of suffrage, and at that time switched focus during the election to lobby for the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, part of the “unfinished business” of suffrage.  Text – H.R.4 – 117th Congress (2021-2022): John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act of 2021 | Congress.gov | Library of Congress which seeks to expand federal ability to challenge discriminatory election rules.

Continue reading “Suffrage is Unfinished Business—On The 101 Anniversary of the 19th Amendment by Marie Cartier”

¡La Vida es la Lucha! – Women in the Colombian Protests by Laura Montoya

*Trigger Warning – Reference and description of distressing violence against women at the hands of police*

Alison Melendez was 17 when she was sexually abused last week by a group of Colombian policemen. She was captured for allegedly being part of the protest groups in Popayán, a city in the south of my country Colombia, South America. The next day Alison was found dead. The official version states that she committed suicide. In the social networks, there is a video of four policemen carrying Alison to the detention center, each holding one of her extremities. One can hear Alison screaming, “Four were necessary to carry me? Four against one woman? Cowards!” The next day – before she was found dead – she posted on Instagram that she was not part of the protests that night. She was walking to a friend’s house when the police showed up. She started recording their actions, they saw her and went mad, so they captured her. When she resisted, four of them took her to the police station. In the post, Alison mentions how they groped her to the soul.” In the video, one can see how her pants came off while they were carrying her, and the policemen did not care. They just kept walking. The last time we see Alison in the video is inside the station. Then cameras were turned off.

*End Trigger Warning*

Alison is one of the 18 cases of sexual violence reported during the protests that started last April 28 in different cities of Colombia. In addition, there are 87 reports of violence and abusive behavior against women protesting. Alison’s case has been more visible, but it is easy to find several videos of police officers beating, harassing, and capturing women in the protests on social media. We have been witnessing this terrible violence full of indignation and impotence, despite protesting is our legitimate right as citizens. 

Continue reading “¡La Vida es la Lucha! – Women in the Colombian Protests by Laura Montoya”

I Believe Dr. Blasey Ford by Anjeanette LeBoeuf


I had a completely different post that I was going to submit for my FAR contribution this month, but that went out the window on Thursday September 27th with the Supreme Court Justice Nomination hearings of Brett Kavanaugh and the testimony of Dr. Christine Blasey-Ford. And with the Friday’s senate committee’s vote to allow for Brett Kavanaugh to be one step closer to being sworn in as a Supreme Court Justice, I am reminded once again how important our work here on Feminsmandreligion.com is. It has put a spotlight on the pervasive and pernicious rhetoric that surrounds sexual violence, toxic masculinity, and hatred.

Continue reading “I Believe Dr. Blasey Ford by Anjeanette LeBoeuf”

See, Hear, and Believe Women’s Pain by Katey Zeh

women in pain

Rachel Fassler was in so much pain that she couldn’t remain still long enough for the emergency room nurses to take her blood pressure. After hours of being overlooked, dismissed, and misdiagnosed (she was initially treated for kidney stones) by two male doctors, Fassler was finally treated appropriately by a third physician, a woman, and rushed into emergency surgery to have a swollen ovary removed.

The details of Fassler’s horrific experience in the hospital that day was told by her husband Joe Fassler in The Atlantic back in 2015. The piece “How Doctors Take Women’s Pain Less Seriously” opened the floodgates for women to share their stories of having their pain ignored sometimes for years by mostly by male doctors, though not exclusively. Rachel Fassler refers to this as “the trauma of not being seen.”

Continue reading “See, Hear, and Believe Women’s Pain by Katey Zeh”

Saving Joan of Arc by Natalie Weaver

I’m finished with my first semester as a studio arts major at Kent State University.  I am not sure whether I’ll be registering for a second one.  There were pros and cons about the experience, and I am not sure if one set outweighed the other. Regardless, I am on sabbatical this spring, have two books to complete, and figured I would do well not to be trekking back and forth in an hours worth of snow and ice over the next few months from my home to the school.  So, I am taking a semester off, and I have become one of those retention risks. I am grateful for the opportunity to reflect on the experience with only minimal consequence to my bank account and my (laughing) future in the arts.

It wasn’t a bad experience; it wasn’t a good one either, really.  I learned some things in drawing, but I am very much on the fence about my experience in sculpture.  For starters, I imagined playing with clay and making pinch pots while some Swayzesque spirit from beyond rubbed my shoulders.  Instead, I was more Jessica Beal with a welding mask, except, instead of wearing a swanky black leotard and off-the-shoulder-slouch-dance tunic, I was wearing ugly jeans and steal-toed shoes under the green welding suit that had half-dollar size holes in it.  The protective gear only partially worked; I was scared of the tools after a classmate almost lost a finger; and the top of my hair went up in smoke when a spark shot under my ill-fitting Vader hat on week two.  I put it out quickly, fortunately.

Continue reading “Saving Joan of Arc by Natalie Weaver”

Radical Inclusivity – Just Go ‘Inside’ – by Karen Leslie Hernandez

I am a firm believer of experiencing that which you don’t understand, so then, you can understand. Reading a book is one thing. Stepping into that which you wonder about, is another.

With that philosophy, I have found myself in India (three times), Turkey, the West Bank/Israel, at the Branch Davidian House in Texas back in 2011, and last year, I began tutoring women in prison that are working toward getting their GED.

Just walking into the prison takes a bit of mojo. And, quite honestly, walking out feels a bit better than going in.

Continue reading “Radical Inclusivity – Just Go ‘Inside’ – 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”

How do you feel about me now? by Natalie Weaver

How do you feel about me now?

I was talking to an old friend the other day, and when I asked how he was, he said, “I’m getting by.”  “Getting by?  Not tearing it up, not taking ‘em down, and taking names?”  I joked. “No,” he replied too dryly, “not at my age.”

“Well, how old are you now?” I inquired playfully.  “Eighty-three,” he said.  “Oh,” I paused.  “And, I tell you, Nat,” he continued, “I don’t know about these last twenty years.  I just don’t know what happened to me.  Never imagined my life would turn out like this…” he spoke, trailing off.

His talk prompted me to wonder about the girl I once was, the woman I used to be, the mother I had imagined in myself at the outset, the scholar I prepared, the indefatigable friend I was to my peers as a teenager, the filial duty I felt in my youth, the honor I ascribed to my vocation as an educator, the family I tried to create.  I have changed too, I realized.  These last twenty years have been markedly transformational for me as well.  As I considered, I saw in all of the things I tried to do how my spirit and my faith walked alongside my life unfolding as companion and guide and interlocutor.

At each step along the way, my faith both informed and framed the meaning of my choices and my disposition toward the outcomes of my efforts.  For a long time, there was a harmony and an alignment between my meaning, my disposition, and my experience of living purposefully.  But then, sure as rain, the wheel turned, and I began to lose clarity on that alignment.  The idealism I had brought to each of my roles and endeavors was tested and tried as a matter of course.  But, in some instances, the trial was egregious.

I concluded that some disappointments run so deep they change who we are.  Some wounds are structural enough that they scar the tissue permanently and alter the curvature of our spines.  Some blows are so devastating that our speech transforms and our thinking must be rewired to survive.  Whether they are inflicted by the self or by others, whether by accident or intent or illness, injury has a common thread – it calls the Spirit to awaken and challenges it with the question: “How do you feel about me now?” Continue reading “How do you feel about me now? by Natalie Weaver”

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”

Ending Suffering for the Sake of Others by Oxana Poberejnaia

I have recently noticed an interesting thing: just like the Buddhist goal of ending suffering requires consideration of others, so often feminist change requires thinking about other women.

I often had conversations with people on both these subjects. I heard actual people say: “I do not want to end my suffering, the reason being…” And the reasons can differ. Some consider suffering to be part of genuine human experience, some find a spiritual advantage in having suffered. While some simply say that they are fine with their suffering; they are used to it; change would bring even more suffering. Continue reading “Ending Suffering for the Sake of Others by Oxana Poberejnaia”

Facing the Shame that Lingers: A. Denise Starkey and Michelle Obama Lead the Way by Stephanie Arel

stephanie-arelIn March of 2011, at a symposium on trauma, healing, and spirituality in Belfast, Ireland, I spoke about shame in the context of war, addressing the experiences of women survivors of rape during the Rwandan genocide, US soldiers returning from war with PTSD symptoms, and cultures, such as those in Belfast and Bosnia, steeped in war and violence. While discussing how theology has a responsibility to examine how the church talks about shame, guilt, and sin to help survivors of war trauma heal, I recognized A. Denise Starkey in the audience, a woman whose work was instrumental in the crafting of my own. Her book, The Shame that Lingers: A Survivor-Centered Critique of Catholic Sin Talk, published two years prior, provided a critical backdrop for my presentation, and would be foundational to my dissertation and subsequent book: Affect Theory, Shame, and Christian Formation.

Five years later, Starkey and I had a chance to meet and exchange stories about what inspired our writing about shame. I acknowledged her influence on my own work, and we discussed our current personal and professional commitments to continuing critical conversations we raise in our texts.  Continue reading “Facing the Shame that Lingers: A. Denise Starkey and Michelle Obama Lead the Way by Stephanie Arel”

It’s Domestic Violence Awareness Month – So, Do Something by Karen Leslie Hernandez

karen hernandezOctober is National Domestic Violence Awareness month. By the end of this month, approximately 93 women will have died at the hands of their partners and about 150 children will have died at the hands of their parents. And that is just here, in the United States.

As a Domestic Violence Advocate, these numbers are still stunning to me. Along with advocacy, I have written about it, lectured about it, preached about it, and at one point in my life, I was in an abusive relationship. I still cannot ask enough why these statistics are valid. In fact, I wonder… Why are they even statistics at all? Aren’t women and children who are killed out of rage, misogyny, misplaced anger and fear, more than just statistics? How can our system be so geared toward allowing harm to come to women and children, when, as a nation, we tout being so progressive? If this were true, we wouldn’t lose 93 women and 150 children every single month. Continue reading “It’s Domestic Violence Awareness Month – So, Do Something 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”

I Am a High School Drop-Out by Karen Leslie Hernandez

karen hernandezIn 1985, four months before I was supposed to graduate from high school, I awoke one morning, made a hasty decision to escape my harsh reality, and by the end of the day, I was a high school drop-out.

Even now, with a BA from Wellesley College and two theological master’s degrees, I have a difficult time admitting I dropped out of high school. It’s not necessarily because I am embarrassed, but more, it is because it reminds me of that very painful time in my life.

My journey is, I am aware, different, to say the least. However, as I rummage through my past, I am always reminded that I didn’t get here alone. No, indeed, there were many beautiful souls that helped me get to where I am today.

In all the work and conversations I have had with women around the world – women in the Slums of Mumbai, domestic violence survivors, rape victims, women that have experienced war and trauma, incest survivors – I am always reminded of one thing – women are all born with strength, beauty, hope, and a future. Somewhere along the way, for many of us, things change, and the sad reality is that things change because of where we are born, or our educational opportunities, or our social class, or our race, or our religion, or our place in the family, or mental illness, or abuse, and so on. I think a lot of times things change for women, simply because we are women. Continue reading “I Am a High School Drop-Out by Karen Leslie Hernandez”

A Place for Everyone at the Table by Carolyn Lee Boyd

carolynlboydWinter’s bone-chilling, relentless cold makes it the most treacherous season in the north when you don’t have a warm place to sleep or enough to eat. Poverty may look different in the city and the country, in various countries and continents, but it can be devastating to body, mind, and soul anywhere.

When I lived in New York City, no day went by that I wasn’t aware that people near me were hungry and homeless. When I moved to a more rural community, I found that, while small groups of volunteers ran food pantries and emergency assistance programs, many in my generally well-off town did not know that they had neighbors who were in need. While contributing to organizations that assist people around the globe is essential, clearly we must also consider what we, as human beings and especially as feminists with a focus on religion and spirituality, must do to support those who live within a few miles of us. Continue reading “A Place for Everyone at the Table by Carolyn Lee Boyd”

The Acid Attack on WomanPriest Alexandra Dyer: The Cancelation of Evil with the Face of God/ess by Cynthia Garrity-Bond

cynthia garrity bondOn August 20, Alexandra Dyer, a Roman Catholic WomanPriest was the victim of a targeted acid attack to her face.  Dyer had just left a meeting at The Healing Arts Initiative in Queens, NY.  As she was walking to her car, a man in his 30’s came up from behind and said, “Can I ask you something?”   As she turned to face her assailant, he threw a full cup of thick acid into her face.  In her pain and hysteria, Dyer somehow managed to get into her car, driving approximately 200 feet before losing complete control.  Her screams from the pain drew the attention of others, who called for help.  Dyer suffered third degree burns to her face and hands.  Here’s the thing about acid—it continues to inflect damage to the skin and bone after the fact.  While Dyer will survive the physical attack, she will never be the same woman.  Her outer scars will forever remind her of what she suffered—those physical features that made her Alexandra are gone, replaced by years of reconstructive surgery and further pain.

“Can I Ask You Something?” Continue reading “The Acid Attack on WomanPriest Alexandra Dyer: The Cancelation of Evil with the Face of God/ess by Cynthia Garrity-Bond”

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”

Painting Women from Judges – Part 3: The Sacred Account of the Levite’s Pîlegeš by Melinda Bielas

Melinda BielasReading the story of the Levite’s pîlegeš – found in the Hebrew Bible, Judges 19:1-20:7 – is unlike any other scholastic endeavor I have undertaken.1 The narrative is of a woman who leaves her husband’s house, only to be retrieved by her husband, gang raped on her way to his home, and dismembered upon arrival. This intense violence then escalates to the abduction and rape of more than 400 virgins and the death of many more (Judges 20-21).

The first time I encountered this narrative was while reading Phyllis Trible’s Texts of Terror as an undergrad student. While at the time I did not fully understand the textual nuances Trible points out, I did understand this story was sacred in a way I could not articulate. It was not until years later that I realized I was not truly listening to the story because I had not read it from the pîlegeš’ perspective and was yet to be affected by the horror of it.

An explanation is needed when one calls a story of violence sacred. To clarify, it is the telling of the story that makes it sacred, not the violence. In much of the world today, violence done to women is taboo.2 Not only are the violent acts ignored, but the victim and her retelling of the acts are also often ignored. Perhaps this is because our society is biased towards the perpetrator. Perhaps it is because our faith communities have self-identified as loving and to acknowledge violence is to acknowledge failure. But perhaps it is mostly because violence is hard to process, especially when the violent act is committed against a loved one, and we prefer not to struggle with the presence of violence all around us. Continue reading “Painting Women from Judges – Part 3: The Sacred Account of the Levite’s Pîlegeš by Melinda Bielas”

Bodies of More and Less Value by Oxana Poberejnaia

oxanaThere is a story in the collection called Avadanasataka (One Hundred Legends) of the Sarvastivadin school, one of the schools of early Indian Buddhism that did not survive to present day, relating one episode from the Buddha’s previous lives. The story is about king Padmaka who sacrificed his life to cure his subjects of a disease. Here is an academic article about this episode.

The Buddha was prompted to tell this story of his previous life in order to illustrate to his monks, once again, the workings of karma. All of the monks in the Buddha’s milieu were sick with a digestive disorder, while he remained well. The Buddha presented the story of king Padmaka as a proof that no good deed is ever lost and that what he had done then has an effect now in that the Buddha has good digestion.

Continue reading “Bodies of More and Less Value by Oxana Poberejnaia”

Responding to Human Suffering by Elise M. Edwards

Elise EdwardsIn the past few weeks, there have been renewed debates throughout the US about death with dignity laws and the role of government is providing or securing access to health care. The tragic story of Brittany Maynard and the incessant election-year politicking about the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) have made issues about human suffering more visible and volatile than usual. These are topics I deal with in two courses I am teaching this semester–one about Christian ethics and the other about bioethics.

I truly admire those who work in the presence of suffering daily by caring for others.   It’s difficult to even talk about suffering in the classroom day after day. My intention behind doing so is for my students to resist simplistic responses by either valorizing human pain and suffering or retreating to escapism. I caution them about using religion to legitimize suffering when it accompanies from evil, yet encourage them to see the meaning in suffering as well. We try to maintain the fine line of affirming the experiences of those who claim to gain strength or some other good from their pain without crossing into discourse that names the pain itself as something good. We debate whether there can be any way of discussing suffering as redemptive. We discuss disparities in medical treatment and health care along economic, racial, gendered, cultural, and international divides and what the responses of clergy, medical providers, and everyday people to remedy them.

Through these heavy debates, I’ve gained more clarity about the ways that suffering is often a result of human injustice and I’m deeply saddened by it. Continue reading “Responding to Human Suffering by Elise M. Edwards”

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