On Va’etchanan: Do Not Murder, Rather Love by Ivy Helman

29662350_10155723099993089_8391051315166448776_oVa’etchanan (Deuteronomy 3:23-7:11) gives us pause for thought in its contradictions.  First, the parshah (Torah portion) contains the aseret hadibrot (Ten Commandments), among which is:  you shouldn’t murder (5:17). Then, pasukim (verses) 6:4-5 contain the shema (Hear O Israel! The L-rd is Our G-d.  The L-rd is One!) followed by the admonishment to: “love the L-rd, your G-d, with all your heart and with all your soul, and with all your might,” (Deut. 6:4-5).  Finally, pasuk 7:2 instructs the Isrealites, upon entry into the Promised Land, to kill and “utterly destroy” the various groups of people living there.   

In other words, one is supposed to not murder.  One is reminded to love G-d.  And, then, G-d commands the Israelites to commit mass murder. I can’t help but think about the mass murders in the United States. Continue reading “On Va’etchanan: Do Not Murder, Rather Love by Ivy Helman”

Making Space for the Joy and the Grief by Chris Ash

Christy CroftLast week, I made a day trip on short notice to fly with a friend to Orlando. As we said our goodbyes, my friend encouraged me to try to catch an earlier flight to avoid arriving home too late in the evening. I briefly considered it, but instead grabbed a late lunch in the Orlando airport, sat down with a journal, and spent some time writing. It had been a stressful few weeks, and I relished the opportunity to put my heart to paper, to allow the pen to help me sort out the mix of emotions that were rolling over me.

Later that evening, during a two-hour layover in Baltimore, my friend called. “Are you home yet?” they asked, hopeful. Continue reading “Making Space for the Joy and the Grief by Chris Ash”

Supporting Embodiment: Societal and Jewish Views on Body Modification by Ivy Helman

me-hugging-treeEmbodiment is a feminist principle which has, as its basis, two fundamental criteria.  First, humans require their bodies to live.  We must acknowledge that our existence is tied to our bodies.  This fact grounds us in this world.  Here, and not in some other-worldly place, we live out our lives.  We are dependent on our bodies and what the world provides for our survival.  In other words, humans are inseparable and interconnected to this world.  Humans are not above nature as the Western hierarchical dualist mindset would suggest.

Second, embodiment challenges the hierarchical dualistic notion that the mind and body are separable by connecting the mind to the body.  Humans do not exist because they think, as Descartes once said.  Rather, humans exist because of a complex system of interactions between body and mind. Without the body, the mind fails and vice versa.  The link between the mind and the body has led many feminist theorists to reject any sort of existence beyond this physical life.  That is a topic for another time. Continue reading “Supporting Embodiment: Societal and Jewish Views on Body Modification by Ivy Helman”

“Respect: Dualism Subversion and So Much More in Survival Reality Television,” by Ivy Helman.

20151004_161012In “Ecofeminism and Wilderness,” Linda Vance believes that Western society defines wilderness by “… the absence of humans, we are saying, in effect, that nature is at its best when utterly separated from the human world. The idea of wilderness is thus an extreme manifestation of the general Western conceptual rift between culture and nature,” (62).  Reality television shows, focusing on survival or living off the land, often reproduce this dualistic way of thinking.

At the same time they reproduce another of Vance’s concerns, “I would argue that wilderness recreation “re-creates” more than the self: it also recreates the history of the conquest of nature, the subjugation of indigenous peoples, the glorification of individualism, the triumph of human will over material reality, and the Protestant ideal of one-on-one contact with G-d. And as for the elements of physical challenge and risk, I think it goes without saying that they appeal most to those for whom day-to-day mobility is a given, and for whom danger isn’t always close at hand,” (71).  However, by presenting this dichotomy, many of the shows also subvert the ideal of untouched wilderness, challenge the notions of human abilities and highlight our lack of embeddedness and embodiment when it comes to survival situations. Continue reading ““Respect: Dualism Subversion and So Much More in Survival Reality Television,” by Ivy Helman.”

Being Scared: Fear and Authenticity by Ivy Helman

meblogMy partner is a lawyer who works with asylum seekers and other immigrants here in the Czech Republic (ČR). She’s amazing at her job and I’m constantly in awe of her passion and commitment along with her righteous anger at systematic injustices. In fact just last week, her workplace, together with a consortium of other immigration organizations in the ČR, helped organize a demonstration in the center of Prague to protest the Czech Republic’s refusal to admit Syrian children and their families into the country. She invited me to attend the event with her. I went.

It was my first time attending a public demonstration in Europe. It was moving to see many of her co-workers there and inspiring to listen to the passionate speeches against xenophobia, Islamophobia, racism, the plight of the Roma people as well as the need to come together and welcome diversity. In addition, there were signs in Czech, German and English saying “No One is Illegal,” “End Xenophobia,” “Do Syrian Children Have to Wait for their (Nicholas) Winton?” “I want to have a Syrian Friend!” and “Refugees Welcome!” I wanted to hold each one of those signs! Continue reading “Being Scared: Fear and Authenticity by Ivy Helman”

How Shall We Then Live? by Esther Nelson

esther-nelsonPresident Obama, responding to the beheading of American journalist, James Foley, by ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant), said, “ISIL speaks for no religion…and no faith teaches people to massacre innocents….ISIL is not Islamic” (August 20, 2014). I don’t believe President Obama realizes the tangled thicket he’s entered with those words.

We don’t like to think of our faith traditions as places that harbor theologies or ideologies that promote death and destruction. We’d rather think along the lines of what Huston Smith (b. 1919), a philosopher and religious scholar, asserts: “If we take the world’s enduring religions at their best, we discover the distilled wisdom of the human race.” So words that reflect “religions at their best”–love, justice, mercy, compassion, peace, fairness, kindness, truthfulness, and charity are what come to the minds of most people when thinking about how faith traditions should manifest themselves in the world.

This proclivity to think of religion as weighted on the side of “best” is most noticeable when faith traditions express themselves dualistically–good/bad, right/wrong, sacred/profane, pure/impure, etc. Those things labeled “bad” most often get ascribed to an anti-god or Satan. Monotheistic religions (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) have a more dualistic bent than do Goddess traditions, Hinduism, and Buddhism.

In addition, when we understand our sacred writings to be “revealed,” meaning information has been given to humanity by a divine source–information that could not be known other than through revelation–we become more prone to dualistic thinking. The “Revealer of Truth” (God) brings light to a wayward humanity. God (a symbol that often gets reified) easily fills the role of being and defining all that is “good” although “good” is a relative term. Kill a journalist? Bomb an abortion clinic? Start a war? Feed the hungry? Educate children? Eradicate Ebola? Humans have engaged in all these activities in the name of God. Each activity has been defined as “good.” Continue reading “How Shall We Then Live? by Esther Nelson”

1, 2, 3, 4: FEMINISTS DON’T WANT ANOTHER WAR by Carol P. Christ

War is a feminist issue for many reasons, most importantly because war is always war against women.

Patriarchy, war, rape as the “spoils” of war, and the taking of women and children as slaves in the wake of war arose together.  Recent blogs on Feminism and Religion have addressed the war on women—from the rape culture, to Humane Vitae, to the Catholic Church’s and other church’s  attempts to remove birth control from health care, to the tolerance of sexist hate speech in the culture at large. While the issue of Rush Limbaugh calling Sandra Fluke a slut is being focused on in the press, the drums of war are being sounded again in the Middle East:  the US is considering bombing Iran or supporting Israel if it decides to do so.  Feminists must stand together against war and the harm it does to women, children, and all living things.

Military spending is 28-38% of US government spending.  US government spending accounts for 40% of total global arms spending. The US and its allies are responsible for up to 75% of total global spending on the military. It does not take a mathematical genius to figure out that if good-sized chunk of this spending were cut, the US budget could be balanced, the deficit covered, and there would be plenty of money left over for the social good. Continue reading “1, 2, 3, 4: FEMINISTS DON’T WANT ANOTHER WAR by Carol P. Christ”

A Personal Journey of Embodiment by Stacia Guzzo

My struggle and fascination with the subject of embodiment began at a young age. Perhaps my first sense of the nuances of being an embodied being began with the realization that my younger brother was considered “different” as a result of being born microcephalic (having an abnormally small head and brain) and therefore having lifelong developmental delay. I remember wondering: How is it that the body can work so perfectly sometimes and yet have so many complications other times? What had happened to make his development so starkly contrast my own? And why can’t it fix itself?

As a high school student, my struggle manifested in the forms of anorexia and bulimia. The anorexia came first, and began almost as if a switch had been thrown. I dieted severely and dropped 60 pounds in a little under 3 months, in the end making it a goal to lose a pound a day. My cheeks sunk in. I slept through lunch. I found little occasion to laugh. And still I could not see an ounce of beauty or satisfaction when I looked at my body. I poked at the jutting bones of my pelvis and wished my bones were smaller. I saw my body as a devious enemy. During my junior year, I became bulimic as a means of coping with increasing pressures by family and friends to eat. Continue reading “A Personal Journey of Embodiment by Stacia Guzzo”

%d bloggers like this: