Remembering to Be Thankful by John Erickson

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

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

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

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

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

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

Making Our Way – Updating the Guide for Women in Religion by Kecia Ali

dissertation, Advising, feminism and religion

Mary E. Hunt, Monique Moultrie, and I are updating the Guide for Women in Religion. The original version was edited by Mary with an impressive cast of contributors and first published ten years ago. Organized with entries from “A” (AAR) to “Z” (Zeitgeist), it was the successor to the 1992 Guide to the Perplexing, which billed itself as a “survival manual” and was team-written by a group that includes several now-legendary figures in the field, then junior folks trying to find their way in the sometimes hostile, often bewildering landscape of academic religious studies, particularly at the AAR and SBL.

With each iteration of the Guide, some important things have changed. (Others have not, but that’s another blog.)

One thing that has changed for the better:  There are now plenty of women in senior positions, women who have attained the rank of full professor (and retired as emerita), or direct major organizations, who are recognized as leaders in their scholarly fields. Women’s studies in religion has gained prominence as a serious subfield, and gender as a crucial category (or factor, or variable, or consideration, or analytic lens) appears in a great deal of scholarship and not a few job ads. Continue reading “Making Our Way – Updating the Guide for Women in Religion by Kecia Ali”

Sanctioned Ignorance and the Theological Academy By Egon Cohen

Namsoon Kang writes that dislocation can be a theologically transformative process of self-discovery, using the metaphor of the “homeless traveler . . . leaving home for Home.” Kang also states that one’s identity—one’s location as traveler—is necessarily influenced by one’s position along axes of identity such as race, religion, ethnicity, class, gender, ability, and sexuality. And it is at this interstice that I, and many other liberationist theologians, grapple with issues of privilege. We are committed to traveling with the marginalized, but our luggage is packed with advantages denied to our companions. Indeed, as individuals with the luxury of pursuing advanced theological studies, most academic theologians operate within a space of significant privilege.

In this regard, I have observed four main typologies of response: (1) denial, (2) guilt, (3) cataloguing, and (4) instrumentalizing. It is hard to constructively engage the first type of response within the present discussion—the existence of such institutionalized privileges is one of my implicit operating premises, so I will bracket this analysis for another occasion. Similarly, I believe that the constructive/transformational capacity of guilt for or detailed acknowledgment of privilege is quite limited. So the question becomes, how do white and/or male and/or heterosexual and/or “first world” theologians instrumentalize our privileges for and (more importantly) with our “fellow travelers”? Continue reading “Sanctioned Ignorance and the Theological Academy By Egon Cohen”

Running for the President of the American Academy of Religion By Kwok Pui Lan

Dr. Kwok Pui-Lan is an internationally recognized scholar and pioneer in Asian feminist and postcolonial theology. She teaches at the Episcopal Divinity School and is the 2011 president of the American Academy of Religion. Dr. Kwok has published extensively and is the co-editor of two volumes Off the Menu: Asian and Asian North American Women’s Religion and Theology (Westminster) and Empire and the Christian Tradition: New Readings of Classical Theologians (Fortress). Her other publications include Postcolonial Imagination and Feminist Theology (Westminster), Discovering the Bible in the Non-Biblical World (Orbis), and Introducing Asian Feminist Theology (Pilgrim).

“Pui Lan, would you be willing to run for the Vice-President of AAR?” the chair of the Nominations Committee of the American Academy of Religion (AAR) called and asked me back in April 2008.

The AAR, with 10,000 members, is the world’s largest professional organization of scholars in religion. The majority of its members are from the U.S., but approximately 17 percent are international scholars from over 70 countries.

It was a great honor to have been nominated—for the Vice-President would be in line to become the President in 2011. The problem was that there would be an election and I would have to compete with another candidate, who happened to be a professor at Harvard University.

I thought, “If I win, that’s good. But what happens if I lose?”  Continue reading “Running for the President of the American Academy of Religion By Kwok Pui Lan”

Privileged Feminist By Xochitl Alvizo

 I have the privilege of having radical lesbian feminism ‘work’ for me. I can’t explain why it does – but it does – it just works for me. I am not of the same generation as most feminists who experienced and awakened to radical feminism during the women’s movement of the 70s and 80s in the United States. I am not white nor was I middle-class when I encountered it (though I probably am middle class now). But nonetheless, as I encountered radical lesbian feminist writing, and eventually some of the women who wrote them, it spoke to me in the depths of my being and rattled my very core. Radical lesbian feminism liberated me and birthed me into a whole new way of Be-ing…and that is a privilege I must not take for granted and must hold loosely. Continue reading “Privileged Feminist By Xochitl Alvizo”

Forty Years and Counting: Women and Religion in the Academy By Carol P. Christ

Carol P. Christ is a founding mother in the study of women and religion, feminist theology, women’s spirituality, and the Goddess movement.  She teaches in the Women’s Spirituality program at CIIS and through Ariadne Institute offers Goddess Pilgrimages to Crete. Her books include She Who Changes and Rebirth of the Goddess and the widely used anthologies Womanspirit Rising and Weaving the Visions.

The receipt of an invitation to the Fortieth Anniversary Celebration of the Women’s Caucus in the American Academy of Religion and the Society for Biblical Literature this week, takes me back to the summer of 1971.  At the first meeting of Women Theologians at Alverno College (which was followed up at Grailville in succeeding years), I proposed that we form a feminist caucus in the field of religion, as had already been done by feminists in several other fields.

Since I was one of the few women at Alverno who had attended the annual meetings in the field of religion, I was delegated to call Harry Buck, then director of the AAR, to ask for space on the program.  Harry, who continued to support the work of women in the field through lecture series at Wilson College and the magazine Anima which he founded, offered not only space at the meetings, but a print-out of the names and addresses of all of the members of the AAR who were not obviously male.  I invited all of them to come to a feminist meeting at the AAR in Atlanta. It is hard to imagine now, but before 1971, the women who attended the AAR in any given year could probably have been counted on one hand. Continue reading “Forty Years and Counting: Women and Religion in the Academy By Carol P. Christ”

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