Mary Daly: Can I Love the Luddite and Deplore the Transphobe? by Dirk von der Horst

David’s Loves, Jonathan’s Laments by Dirk von der Horst

Mary Daly was one of the most prescient voices of her time with regard to environmental disaster.

Daly was also an explicitly transphobic thinker.

These two facts are deeply related.

What links these two directions in her thought is a radically anti-interventionist ethic.  Daly repeatedly shows how the patriarchal impulse to control everything in the world not only destroys womens’ lives but is destroying the living, natural world.  She describes boundary violation as one of the key elements of control, and her concern for the ability of nature to be on its own terms extends to such unconscious phenomena as comets.  In Quintessence: Realizing the Archaic Future, she laments scientists “harpooning a comet, just to see what’s inside,” revealing the extent of her respect for the integrity of natural processes. (3)

In contrast to the technological use of science to bend nature to human purposes, Daly advocates participation in Be-ing.  Be-ing is a natural process of unconstrained movement, in which various Selves and Elemental forces unfold.  In an unalienated state of participation in Be-ing, connection is genuine and unforced, and the relations that emerge in this process further spur the development and creativity of a natural unfolding process.  Among the many words Daly reclaims and plays with, her use of “Wild” describes women’s participation in Be-ing, and it especially brings out a sense of uncontrolled creativity.

Continue reading “Mary Daly: Can I Love the Luddite and Deplore the Transphobe? by Dirk von der Horst”

David’s Loves, Jonathan’s Laments by Dirk von der Horst

David’s Loves, Jonathan’s Laments by Dirk von der Horst

LGBTQ+ people in biblical religions often turn to the story of Jonathan’s love for David as an example of biblical affirmation of same-sex love.  The biblical narrative in 1 and 2 Samuel stresses Jonathan’s love for David from the moment David and Jonathan meet to Jonathan’s death after which David utters the famous words, your love to me was wonderful, passing the love of women.” Nevertheless, “love” can indicate many different kinds of relationship, both sexual and non-sexual, and one finds much resistance among biblical scholars to reading Jonathan and David as a model of sexually-expressed love between men.  While some passages in the text are sexually suggestive, nothing in the Bible explicitly states, “David and Jonathan had sex.”  Thus, the strategy of holding up Jonathan and David as a biblical vindication of same-sex love and desire only throws LGBTQ+ people back into the exhausting state of being endlessly debated.

My new book, David’s Loves, Jonathan’s Laments: Gay Theology, Musical Desires, and Historical Difference speaks from the pain of the experience of being caught in the crosshairs of that debate.  Inspired in large part by Mary Daly, it also speaks from an impatience with the state of being stuck in a debate that endlessly repeats itself.  This inspiration from Daly is only one way in which feminist thought deeply informs my project of rethinking the relationship of Jonathan and David.

Continue reading “David’s Loves, Jonathan’s Laments by Dirk von der Horst”

Settling into God during the Demise of Gender Neutral Language by Dirk von der Horst

DirkAs my life ambles along, some things change, some things are surprisingly persistent.  As a young person, the last thing I would have predicted about my future would have been developing even a mild interest in sports, but now I have a mild interest in sports.  Mild, but there.  So, that’s a surprise element in my life story.  But while developments arise, I’ve found that in the growth of my faith, the word “God” has settled into all the movements of my being, taken root in my bones, provides many well-worn neural pathways that make the day go on.  It sometimes seems like it would be easier to let the word go for the sake of communicating with a culture that turns more and more to science for cultural coherence, but the word “God” is as there in my psyche the laptop is there beneath my fingers.

While the word God has settled and made itself at home, I’m less and less sure – and it becomes less and less important – what the word means.  I look across history and the word becomes muddled.  Is what the author of Judges meant by “God” what Aquinas meant by “God?”  I’m hard-pressed to find a common referent behind the word when I encounter it in those very different perspectives.  I’ve come on a minimal definition – “the appropriate object of worship” – that lets the theological critique of idolatry work its relativizing acid on various God images and God concepts. Continue reading “Settling into God during the Demise of Gender Neutral Language by Dirk von der Horst”

#SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen and the Power of Micropolitics by Dirk von der Horst

DirkIn my last year of seminary, I experienced a crisis of faith that left me struggling for my theological voice for about ten years.  Sure, there were basics I still affirmed, or wanted to affirm, but speaking my truths was a challenge.  I found my voice again at the now defunct web community Street Prophets, the first place I’d found that combined interreligious dialogue and progressive activism in a way I’d been looking for for all of my adult life.  From 2006-2009, it was home.

It took only one person to destroy that home.  Well, one person and the many people who stood by and let that person attack the LGBT people on the site.

It was this experience that reminded me that I had some serious listening to do when the hashtag #SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen erupted on Twitter on August 12.  Continue reading “#SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen and the Power of Micropolitics by Dirk von der Horst”

The Cooptation of Relational Theology: Another Example of the Erasure of Women’s Contributions to Theology by Dirk von der Horst


DirkThe meaning of relational theology has changed, and not for the better.

Over the last couple of years, I started to notice “relational theology” crop up in what I considered unlikely contexts.  I had previously associated the term primarily with the feminist and womanist work of Carter Heyward, Catherine Keller, Rita Nakashima Brock, Katie Geneva Canon, Karen Baker-Fletcher, Kelly Brown Douglas, and Sharon Welch, as well as the gay/feminist work of Gary David Comstock.  In each of these thinkers, the pursuit of relationality as divinity was always linked to a profound wrestling with suffering and oppression.  Furthermore, a clear diagnosis of individualism, transcendence, and other forms of disconnection as manifestations of patriarchal/hierarchal forms of subjectivity was central to the rationale for doing relational theology.  As I experienced it in the 1990s, relational theology was simply a dimension of feminist theology.  Forging through the searing pain of oppression to the roots of problems in order to propose radical solutions to real social evil, not general ruminations on divine being, was the first step. Continue reading “The Cooptation of Relational Theology: Another Example of the Erasure of Women’s Contributions to Theology by Dirk von der Horst”

The Joy of Honoring Rosemary Radford Ruether by Dirk von der Horst

DirkA cutting-edge voice in many theological conversations, Rosemary Radford Ruether has been an inspiration to many of us over the last few decades.  The tremendous joy of my last couple of years was co-editing a volume of essays in her honor.  Even discovering just how dreary indexing is was a labor of love for a true pioneer in feminist theology.  The result: Voices of Feminist Liberation: Writings in Celebration of Rosemary Radford Ruether, a collection of fourteen essays by Ruether’s doctoral students, put together by Emily Leah Silverman and Whitney Bauman, along with myself.

Voices of Feminist Liberation documents the current state of her impact and legacy.  The richness of her thought is manifest here in the variety of directions her students have taken her insights.  While most of the essays are scholarly works that engage her ideas above all else, some essays have more personal recollections.  Rosemary’s preface recounts her personal experiences of and with us, with descriptions of incidents from her relationships ranging from hearing a live-in student coming down the hall to slip a paper under the door, to seeing a student’s dissertation prospectus enrage a committee member, to switching from same-sex hand-holding in Palestine to male-female hand-holding in Israel as a small gesture of recognizing cultural difference. Continue reading “The Joy of Honoring Rosemary Radford Ruether by Dirk von der Horst”

Textual Religion and the Marginalization of Two Huldas by Dirk von der Horst

DirkI am a Protestant in large part because I like to read.  Even after grappling with feminist critiques of patriarchal religions, a spirituality rooted in the Word (capital “W”) is very deep-seated in me.  One reason I think of my faith as biblical is that a scriptural religion engages me in my favorite activity.  At the same time, there are real connections between exclusive dependence on written records and the erasure of women’s history, as well as various ways in which women have been excluded from literary production.  The opposition between text and world often becomes a manifestation of the hierarchy of mind and body that many feminists have seen as damaging.  It’s like the question of “why are there no great women composers?”  The problem with this question is not only that it ignores great women composers such as Hildegard of Bingen, Barbara Strozzi, Louise Farrenc, or Thea Musgrave.  As feminist musicologists Marcia Citron and Suzanne Cusick have shown, the question reinforces a hierarchy in which composers, those who create musical texts, have precedence over those who perform and listen.  It also relegates places where women’s contribution has been essential to the production of music – educating children, for example – to irrelevance. Continue reading “Textual Religion and the Marginalization of Two Huldas by Dirk von der Horst”

On Being a Gay Male Theologian During the War on Women by Dirk von der Horst

For some time, a prominent strand of gay and feminist theory and theology has taken it almost as axiomatic that gay men, lesbians, and straight women have a common stake in dismantling patriarchy.  While I have always understood my own work as a gay theologian in terms of that common struggle, recent developments point to a significant challenge to keeping that bond intact in the larger sphere of political activism.

At the end of last year, National Public Radio deemed 2011 an extraordinary year for gay rights.    Buzzfeed listed 40 reasons why it was the best year for gays ever, beginning with a Gallup poll showing that for the first time a majority of Americans supported same-sex marriage.  The list also included the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and several firsts for openly gay elected officials.  Even the world of professional sports is becoming more accepting: in a recent tweet, Ravens’ linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo equated support for same-sex marriage with playing in a Super Bowl when asked about his life’s greatest accomplishments.

Simultaneously, we saw a steady legislative assault on women’s reproductive freedom.   Continue reading “On Being a Gay Male Theologian During the War on Women by Dirk von der Horst”

A Horrific Bible Story – and Why I Read It By Dirk von der Horst

There are smart, and there are polemical, ways to think about religiously-motivated violence.  As someone who spent his seminary years thinking about Christian anti-Semitism, I was taken aback by the simplistic account of religious violence offered by Sam Harris some years back:

“Religion is the one area of our discourse in which people are systematically protected from the demand to give good evidence and valid arguments in defense of their strongly held beliefs. And yet these beliefs regularly determine what they live for, what they will die for and—all too often—what they will kill for. Consequently, we are living in a world in which millions of grown men and women can rationalize the violent sacrifice of their own children by recourse to fairy tales” (The Case Against Faith).  In response, I’d like to explore some reasons I continue to engage with violent biblical stories, taking Judges 11:29-40, the story of Jephthah, who sacrifices his daughter in fulfillment of a vow, as an example. Continue reading “A Horrific Bible Story – and Why I Read It By Dirk von der Horst”

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