Rosemary Radford Ruether wrote a classic text: “Gaia and God: An Ecofeminist Theology of Earth Healing.” Ever since I laid eyes on this amazing book and was convinced of the genius Ruether offered within these pages, I adored images of Gaia.
The great goddess is usually pictured holding the world as her womb, a loving representation of compassionately pulling all the hurt and agony to her abdomen for healing.
Ruether says in “Classical Western cultural traditions” of which “Christianity is a major expression,” we “have justified and sacralized” notions of God and domination (3). Such ideas teach us that domination is “the ‘natural order'” and “the will of God” for the “male monotheistic God” and his followers (3).
But Gaia is so much more and challenges these patriarchical messages in today’s culture. To imagine the divine with this motherly image helps with “ecological healing” (as Ruether says), and, being able to picture a “personified being” in the feminine (4). Gaia is truly special.
I love a road trip. It’s exciting to get behind the wheel of a car, get out on the highway (or bi-way), and just go. The road seems to stretch out forever in front of me, full of possibilities, adventure, and fun. Again, this summer I drove two thirds of the way across the United States from Virginia to New Mexico and back again. I varied my route because why not? The country is vast and diverse. I want to see as much of it as I can. The broad, open, colorful skies of Texas and New Mexico. The wheat fields in Kansas. The green, rolling hills of Kentucky and Tennessee. On this particular trip back to Virginia, though, one of the sights disturbed me deeply.
The second day of my journey eastward, I drove from Amarillo, Texas, to Springfield, Missouri. All along the panhandle of Texas and into Oklahoma, I encountered feedlots. These are places where cattle live for several months in order to fatten up before slaughter. The animals are fed grain (mainly corn), growth hormones, and antibiotics. They live in crowded spaces and in the feedlots I saw, the cattle had difficulty walking due to the layers of muck, mire, and manure all over the ground. I could smell a feedlot long before I saw one. The stench nauseated me.
As I wrote in November, I am currently working at the San Francisco SPCA. I took the job to bring something different in to my life as I do the heavy work involved with my Doctor of Ministry. I LOVE my job, I love the people I work with, and I certainly love when I get to play with animals, and more, when I adopt out an animal to their forever home.
As I move through this position and I learn more, I encounter, many times, the concern if the breed of dog up for adoption is “dangerous.” Pit Bulls, Huskies, Rottweilers – they all have a stereotypical reputation for biting and/or attacking, and are therefore banned from many apartment complexes where other types of dogs are allowed.
This all seems puzzling to me, because as my colleagues and I do our very best to save as many animals as we can, it’s the humans that are causing the harm to the animals in the first place. Animals don’t usually attack, unless they are taught to. Animals come to the SPCA and other shelters because they are strays, abandoned, or mistreated. By humans.
Rosemary Radford Ruether is one of the most brilliant theologians of our time and her newly released autobiography, My Quest for Hope and Meaning, is a gift to those of us who have been so touched by her work. In this intimate and beautiful piece, Ruether shares her personal journey in feminist scholarship and activism. The autobiography opens with a profound forward by Renny Golden (that is also shared here on Feminism and Religion) and continues with an introduction and six chapters where Ruether guides us through an exploration of the influence of the matriarchs in her life, her interactions with Catholicism, her continued exploration of interfaith relations, her family’s struggle with mental illness, and her commitment to ecofeminist responses to the ecological crisis.
Ruether states that “Humans are hope and meaning creators” (xii), and her autobiography details her own quests for hope and meaning. She reflects on the incredible impact made by the female-centered patterns in family and community in her life. According to Ruether, these “matricentric enclaves” grounded and shaped her interest in feminist theory and women’s history. She also describes the spiritually and intellectually serious Catholicism that she received from her mother and articulates her continued frustration with Vatican leadership that has undermined the efforts of Vatican II. For Ruether, her ongoing affiliation with feminist theological circles is crucial as she continues to work toward shaping an ecumenical and interfaith Catholicism.
Carol P. Christ earned her BA from Stanford University and her Ph.D. from Yale University. She is a founding mother in the study of women and religion, feminist theology, women’s spirituality, and the Goddess movement and work has revolutionized the field of feminism and religion. She has been active in anti-racist, anti-war, feminist, and anti-nuclear causes for many years. Since 2001 she has been working with Friends of Green Lesbos to save the wetlands of her home island. She drafted a massive complaint to the European Commission charging failure to protect Natura wetlands in Lesbos. In 2010 she ran for office in Lesbos and helped to elect the first Green Party representative to the Regional Council of the North Aegean. She helped to organize Lesbos Go Green, which is working on recycling in Lesbos.
My hope for the new blog on Feminism and Religion is that it can become a place for real discussion with mutual respect of feminist issues in religion and spirituality.
I agree with Rosemary Radford Ruether who argued in a recent blog “The Biblical Vision of Ecojustice” that the prophets viewed the covenant with Israel and Judah as inclusive of nature. Indeed in my senior thesis at Stanford University on “Nature Imagery in Hosea and Second Isaiah,” in which I worked with the Hebrew texts, I argued that too. I also agree that the dualism Rosemary has so accurately diagnosed as one of the main sources of sexism and other forms of domination comes from the Greeks not the Hebrews. I agree that Carolyn Merchant is right that nature was viewed as a living being in Christian thought up until the modern scientific revolution. I agree with Rosemary that it is a good thing for Christians to use sources within tradition to create an ecojustice ethic. I am happy that there are Christians like Rosemary who are working to transform Christianity. Finally, I am pleased to admit that I have learned a great deal from her.
“The earth mourns and withers, the world languishes and withers, the heavens languish together with the earth. The earth lies polluted under its inhabitants, for they have transgressed the laws, violated the statutes, broken the everlasting covenants. Therefore a curse devours the earth and its inhabitants suffer for their guilt.” Isaiah 24: 4-6a.
“They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain for the earth shall be full of knowledge of the Lord,” Isaiah 11: 9.
The 1970’s until today has been a time of an increasing recognition that the western industrial style of industrial development is unsustainable, although this has yet to be acknowledged by leaders of corporate growth. This system of development, based on an affluent minority using a disproportionate share of the world’s natural resources, is fast depleting the base upon which it rests. To expand this type of industrialization is accelerating the coming debacle. We need an entirely new way of organizing human production and consumption in relation to natural resources, one that both distributes the means of life more justly among all earth’s people and also uses resources in a way that renews them from generation to generation. Continue reading “The Biblical Vision of Ecojustice By Rosemary Radford Ruether”