Finding Heavenly Mother with Rachel Hunt Steenblik by Caryn D. Riswold

Feminist theologies are filled with queries and questions about the divine feminine. Whether women need the Goddess. If She really is. Where herchurch might flourish. I have my own complicated views about the subject, and continue to be enriched by those who seek and find. Rachel Hunt Steenblik is the newest voice calling to and from the divine feminine, singing in a distinctively Mormon key.

If you read Mother’s Milk: Poems in Search of Heavenly Mother from front to back, you encounter what seem like scratches of verse and fragments of wisdom from a young mother catching time to write in the midst of her graced obligation to feed and sustain tiny bodies. If you read it back to front, you encounter a wealth and depth of engagement with Christian sacraments, feminist theology, sacred texts, Mormon history, modern philosophy, and children’s books and movies. This cacophony of source material and influence is distilled into sparse poems whose brevity bely decades of the author’s feminist engagement with vast religious history, philosophy, and theology.

In my review of Mormon Feminism: Essential Writings, edited by Steenblik along with Joanna Brooks and Hannah Wheelwright, I noted that feminists in many religious traditions “have had to document their history, make their theological case, and engage their scriptures as robustly as any conservative traditionalist would.” In Mother’s Milk, Steenblik offers us her contribution to the reconstruction of religious tradition. The words of her introduction state plainly: “These are the poems that I could write with my questions, my hurt, my hope, and my reading. Others could write other poems with theirs. I hope they will. We need them all.”

Continue reading “Finding Heavenly Mother with Rachel Hunt Steenblik by Caryn D. Riswold”

Queering Kenosis: A Review of “God and Difference” by Caryn D. Riswold

caryn2I still think that Valerie Saving was right.

It’s been 56 years since she published her article on “The Human Situation” in The Journal of Religion, and her most basic groundbreaking insight holds true: Under patriarchy, the fundamental sin and danger for women is not too great a sense of self, too much pride as Reinhold Niebuhr would argue; rather, the problem is too small and diffuse a sense of self. Prioritizing others ahead of herself, the woman under patriarchy accepts second-class citizenship and submission to male headship as her rightful place.


Yet, in recent years, when reminding colleagues of this fundamental feminist insight from the second wave, I have received replies that begin “But Sarah Coakley says ….” What they lift up is Coakley’s supposed reclamation of kenosis as feminist, of self-emptying as a revolutionary Christian act in relationship to God. To them, this corrects Valerie Saiving. I have heard variations on this defense from senior male scholars who believe themselves to be quite advanced in their thinking, as well as from female scholars who believe this is the kind of feminist theology they want.

Wrong. Continue reading “Queering Kenosis: A Review of “God and Difference” by Caryn D. Riswold”

%d bloggers like this: