No Longer Moved … by Symbols that Once Moved Me Profoundly by Carol P. Christ

Carol in Crete croppedThis week Judith Plaskow and I submitted the final version of our new book Goddess and God in the World to our publisher at Fortress Press. Just before completion, I added a shorter version of the following passage to my final chapter. In it I tried to describe the odd feeling of not being moved any longer by a religion that once moved me profoundly. Our book, which explores an embodied theological method, will be out in the summer of 2016.

I have never regretted my decision to leave Christianity. Although I have a sentimental attachment to Christmas trees, Christmas dinners, Christmas carols, and some hymns, I miss little else about Christianity. At a distance of several decades, I find that I quite simply have no feeling for the Christian edifice of doctrines and rituals based on the life and death of a single individual. Jesus was a visionary, but there have been many others like him—including Martin Luther King, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Gandhi, all of them flawed, as Jesus must have been as well.

A few years ago, I decided to participate in the Greek Orthodox Easter week services, because they are attended by so many of my neighbors. But while enjoying the company of the women who decorated the epitaphios (tomb for Jesus), the procession through the streets of our town on Friday night, and the lighting of candles at midnight on Saturday, I came to a clear understanding that the Easter drama is no longer my drama. During the Thursday night services, I realized that many of the women were openly grieving the death of Jesus. Though intellectually I could understand that the Easter drama allowed my friends to release pent-up and repressed feelings, I found their deeply emotional response to the re-enactment of the death of Jesus bizarre.

Idean Cave

In leaving Christianity, I had gained the freedom to name the sacred in my own experience, confirmed my deep inner knowing about the human connection to nature, and found the power to create and participate in rituals that have meaning in my life. For me now, the rituals on the Goddess Pilgrimage to Crete are at the center of my spiritual life. To listen to Alice Walker’s words, “We have a beautiful/mother/Her green lap/immense/Her brown embrace/eternal/Her blue body/everything we know”* on a mountaintop or to repeat Ntozake Shange’s cry, “we need a god who bleeds now/whose wounds are not the end of anything”** at the mouth of a cave, moves me more than any passage from the Bible.

Singing “Light and Darkness” in the depths of caves is an embodied act of reclaiming the womb as a symbol of creation and the darkness as a place of transformation. I still enjoy singing the Doxology (Hymn of Praise)—and doing so connects me to my history. But I now sing it in front of altars laden with summer fruits or winter vegetables and with words that express my spirituality: “Praise Her from whom all blessings flow/Praise Her all creatures here below/Praise Her above in wings of flight/Praise Her in darkness and in light.”***

*Alice Walker, “We Have a Beautiful Mother,” Her Blue Body Everything We Know: Earthling Poems 1965-1990 (New York City and Orlando, FL: Harcourt Books, 1991), 459-460.
**Ntozake Shange, “we need a god who bleeds now,” A Daughter’s Geography (New York: St. Martin’s, 1983), 51.
***See Carol P. Christ, She Who Changes: Re-imagining God in the World (New York: Palgrave Macmillian, 2003), 238, for a discussion of the meaning of the new words.

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 in 2016 from Fortress Press, Goddess and God in the World: Conversations in Embodied Theology. Explore Carol’s writing. Photo of Carol by Maureen Murphy. Photo of Idean Cave by PJ Livingstone.

The Transformative Power of Daily Practices by Ivy Helman

My simple daily rituals and spiritual practices are what keep me mindful of G-d and G-d’s presence in my life.  They also remind me of G-d’s call to justice, care, compassion and love. 

“I find by experience, not by reasoning,

but by my own discovery that G-d is near me,

and I can be near G-d at all times.

I cannot explain it but I am as sure of my experience

as I am of the fact that I live and love,

but I know I do.

In the same way, I know I am in contact with G-d.”

This poem by Lily Montagu speaks to me.  I read it most mornings as I say my morning prayers, and it is one of those mantras I try to live by.  I have found that contrary to popular belief, sustained religious practices can be just as transformative as instantaneous conversion experiences.  This is why I have developed certain spiritual and specifically Jewish practices (For more about my joinery to Judaism, see one of my previous blogs “Reflections on my Spiritual Journey: Claiming Judaism”).  I find that they help me develop and cultivate a strong relationship with G-d.  For example, I keep a kosher home; wear a kippah daily; try to pray at least twice a day and before snacks and meals; practice the principles of Mussar; attend regularly Shabbat services Friday evenings at my Reform Congregation in Lowell and Saturday morning services at a Conservative congregation in Nashua, NH; light Shabbat candles; try not cook or create on Shabbat; make Havadalah to mark the end of Shabbat; give tzedakah as much as I can and study Torah with my friends.  This list is not all encompassing and there are quite a few areas of my practice I wish were more disciplined as well.

Continue reading “The Transformative Power of Daily Practices by Ivy Helman”

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