Practice Great Generosity by Carol P. Christ

Nurture life.

Walk in love and beauty.

Trust the knowledge that comes through the body.

Speak the truth about conflict, pain, and suffering.

Take only what you need.

Think about the consequences of your actions for seven generations.

Approach the taking of life with great restraint.

Practice great generosity.

Repair the web

In Rebirth of the Goddess, I offered Nine Touchstones of Goddess Spirituality as an alternative to the Ten Commandments. The Nine Touchstones are intended to inform all our relationships, whether personal, communal, social, or political.

The eighth touchstone asks us to practice great generosity.

Confronted by the great generosity of village Cretans who have far less than I do, I was provoked to examine my own values. Having been brought up in a family that always had enough to eat but often did not have enough to buy me everything I wanted, I was taught to “count my pennies” and to “save for a rainy day.” I began babysitting at the age of ten and as a teenager used my savings to buy fabric and patterns and sewed almost all of my own clothing. My brother and I fought constantly about who would get “the biggest piece” of whatever sweet was on offer.

The habits I learned early have served me well in some ways. I do not spend more than I have, and I have invested wisely. I am for the most part a kind person, but the practice of great generosity in regard to the money I have does not always come easily to me. Sometimes I give generously to charities, but I am not consistent. (Note to self: you can do better.) Moreover, it is not part of my cultural upbringing to offer to pay for someone else’s meal or to give gifts, not only on birthdays and holidays, but every day.

I sensed that the generosity I experienced among the Cretan people had ancient roots. Now I understand that this practice may have been passed down from egalitarian matriarchal cultures in which the generosity associated with mothers was considered to be the highest value—to be practiced not only by women but by men as well, not only in the home, but in the world as a whole. It is my belief that before war and the spoils of war became commonplace, people were valued not by what they had (or hoarded) but by what they were willing to give. These values were, and in some places still are, practiced in rural farming communities.

In a recent weeks Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has been telling Americans that democratic socialism “means that we should guarantee basic elements of dignity and human life: education, health care, housing, food. It’s about guaranteeing a minimum level of dignity in the United States.” I have often said that I would be more than willing to pay higher taxes order to ensure basic dignity to all Americans. (I am not happy about paying taxes to the war machine: Barbara Lee speaks for me.)

In response to Republican attacks on socialism, Paul Krugman examined democratic socialism in Denmark. Krugman noted that:

American politics has been dominated by a crusade against big government; Denmark has embraced an expansive government role, with public spending more than half of G.D.P. American politicians fear talk about redistribution of income from the rich to the less well-off; Denmark engages in such redistribution on a scale unimaginable here.


Danes are more likely to have jobs than Americans, and in many cases they earn substantially more. Overall G.D.P. per capita in Denmark is a bit lower than in America, but that’s basically because the Danes take more vacations. Income inequality is much lower, and life expectancy is higher.

Growing up, I was taught that giving to others requires selflessness and personal sacrifice. In other words, giving is not always “fun.” My parents and my church were wrong about that. Unless we are completely cut off from our inborn capacity for empathy, most of us would be much happier knowing that our neighbors and others with whom we share the world have enough to survive and thrive. Krugman finds that:

The simple fact is that life is better for most Danes than it is for their U.S. counterparts. There’s a reason Denmark consistently ranks well ahead of America in measures of happiness and life satisfaction.

Growing up, I was also taught that “it is better to give than to receive.” I didn’t believe that then, but I am beginning to believe it now.

The eighth touchstone asks us to practice great generosity.

Doing so will not only help others. It will also make us happier to be alive.


Also see: Ethics of Goddess Religion: Healing the World , Nurture Life: Ethics of Goddess Spirituality,  Walk in Love and Beauty: A Touchstone for Healing,  Trust the Knowledge that Comes through the Body: Heal Yourself, Heal the World,  Speak the Truth About Conflict, Pain, and Suffering, Take Only What You Need, Think About the Consequences of Your Actions for Seven Generations, Approach the Taking of Life with Great Restraint


Carol P. Christ is an internationally known feminist writer, activist, and educator currently living in Lasithi Prefecture, Crete. Carol’s recent book written with Judith Plaskow, Goddess and God in the World: Conversations in Embodied Theology, is on Amazon. A Serpentine Path: Mysteries of the Goddess is on sale for $9.99 on Amazon. Carol  has been leading Goddess Pilgrimage to Crete for over twenty years: join her in Crete. Carol’s photo by Michael Bakas.



My Turn: A Femifesto by Marcia Mount Shoop

It’s coming up on a year now that pretty much everything changed in my family’s life. My over twenty years of married life, up until last year around this time, our lives had been built around my husband’s job. John’s work as a coach in the NFL and Division I collegiate football had moved us all over the country—coast to coast and in between.

MMS Headshot 2015This time last year our move was for me to take a job. No more football. And a move not for football meant massive shifts in the daily life of our family.

I cannot count the number of times since I took this new job that people have said to me, “Finally, it’s your turn!” Continue reading “My Turn: A Femifesto by Marcia Mount Shoop”

Fear and Loathing in Discussions of Female Power in the Academy by Carol P. Christ

Carol Molivos by Andrea Sarris 2No matter how carefully developed they are, theories of female power in pre-patriarchal societies are dismissed in academic circles as “romantic fantasies” of a “golden age” based in “emotional longings” with “no basis in fact.” I was reminded of this while reviewing three books about the Goddess last week.

In one of the books, the co-authors, who define themselves as feminists, summarily dismiss theories about the origins of Goddess worship in pre-patriarchal prehistory. In another, the author traces the origin of certain Goddess stories and symbols found in recent folklore back to the beginnings of agriculture. Inexplicably, she stops there, not even mentioning the theory that women invented agriculture. Considering that possibility might have suggested that the symbols and stories the she was investigating were developed by women as part of rituals connected to the agricultural cycle. To ask these questions would have raised a further one: the question of female power in prehistory. And this it seems is a question that cannot be asked. This question was addressed in the third (very scholarly) book, which I fear will simply be ignored. Continue reading “Fear and Loathing in Discussions of Female Power in the Academy by Carol P. Christ”

Can You Imagine a Society of Peace? by Carol P. Christ

Carol Molivos by Andrea Sarris 2As war and the fruits of war, including hatred and the desire for vengeance, threaten our human community, I take this opportunity republish a vision of a Society of Peace. If we cannot imagine a Society of Peace, we will never be able to create one. Can you imagine that:

As a child, you would not have to fight with your sisters or brothers for your father’s or your mother’s attention. You would not have one mother but many as you would be raised in a large extended family. Both girls and boys would be equally loved and cherished by their mothers and grandmothers and by their uncles and great-uncles. Both girls and boys would know that they would always have a place in the maternal clan. As a boy or a girl you would never have to “separate from” or “reject” your mother in order to “prove yourself as an individual” or in order to “grow up.” You could grow up without severing the bond with the ones who first loved you and first cared for you.

You would be raised in a large family with sisters and brothers and cousins, all of whom you would consider your siblings. You would never feel lonely. You would not be taught to compete with your siblings. You would never be hit by or hit others, because violent behaviors would not be considered appropriate in families. Continue reading “Can You Imagine a Society of Peace? by Carol P. Christ”

Restored in Beauty by Carol P. Christ

Carol Christ in LesbosThe path leading to the Klapados Waterfall begins at the edge of an open meadow in the pine and oak woodlands of a mountain in the island of Lesbos. After driving several miles on a very rutted dirt track, we parked under an oak tree, crossed the meadow and scrambled down a winding path. After about 20 minutes, it ended at a stream surrounded by plane trees. From there, we climbed over rocks to reach a pool created by the seasonal waterfall.

waterfall at klapados 1On the day we visited it, the waterfall was only a trickle of cascading drops that moistened its moss-covered path to the pool. The roots of a plane tree growing at the top of cliff followed the path of the water, weaving a web over the rockface all the way down to the pool.

Sitting on a rock at the edge of the pool I realized that the cliffs that embraced it on three sides were the remains of a crater formed twenty million (or so) years ago when a finger of molten lava pushed its way through the earth, exploding in clouds of dust and projectile rocks.

In Lesbos the volcanic activity came not from a single source–for example, from the highest mountain. Rather, like the plane trees in whose shade we rested, the volcano’s trunk with roots in the molten lava of the earth’s core, had many branches from which it erupted at different times. Huge boulders thrown out in the explosions can be seen in the meadows, while the trees in the forest curve their roots around them to reach the soil. The mountain was also shaped by the settling of volcanic dust that crumbles again into tiny fragments when exposed.

As I was thinking of all of this my friend Cristina climbed over the roots of the plane trees that surrounded the pool, removed her clothes, and slipped into the water. Soon I followed her. We sensed that we were in a sacred place, and as we have done rituals together many times before, our ritual emerged spontaneously: it almost seemed as if our minds and bodies were moving as one.

We renewed ourselves in beauty, submerging our bodies under the water three times, while floating in the embrace of the pool, gazing up at the rock formations, admiring trees that looked like dancing women, moss that looked like pubic hair, and blue black damselflies that all together had created a most beautiful place that called to something deep within us on that day.

Later we would sing the English version of the song of the Navajo Beautyway:

klapados waterfall 056


I walk with beauty before me.
I walk with beauty behind me.
I walk with beauty all around me.
As I walk the beauty way.
I walk with beauty above me.
I walk with beauty below me.
I walk with beauty inside me.
As I walk the beauty way.

We are the creative process of life.

We are restored in beauty.

Blessed be!


Carol 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 next year, Goddess and God in the World: Conversations in Embodied Theology. Explore Carol’s writing.

Who Is Gender Queer? by Carol P. Christ

carol p. christ photo michael bakas“It seems to me that calling oneself queer can be a way of affirming the parts (or all) of oneself that do not fit into the heteronormative paradigm. In my case, though I am white and straight, I am too tall, too smart, too assertive, too strong, too bold, too flashy, too unwilling to be controlled by men to fit the heteronormative paradigm of woman as in every way a little less than man–not as tall, not as smart, not disagreeing too much, not putting herself forward too much, not taking too many risks, not standing out in a crowd, and at least letting men think they are in charge. From this perspective, a whole lot of women are queer.”*

I wrote the above statement in response to a question posed to Vanessa de la Fuente after she called herself a gender queer Muslim feminist. Ivy Hellman asked if it is appropriation for a woman who does not herself identify as LGBTI to identify herself as queer: “where have you left room for queer individuals in their specificity and with their concerns? As a queer person (who happens to be Jewish and not Muslim), I have a problem with this because you end up losing what is particular about a certain group of people and their contributions as well as their particular gifts, struggles and perspectives within Islam (in your case) and Judaism (in mine).”

Vanessa responded that she claimed the term gender queer to describe herself as a feminist Muslim convert with dark skin who along with the “the women who participated in the mosque of women project” was about to “march along with feminist collectives, women theologians, trans women, lesbians, immigrant women, rural women, sex workers women, indigenous women, housemaids unions, all together to call for the early adoption and passing of the bill that legalizing abortion and ask on behalf of all women of Chile that our government hears each of our particular demands .”

I agree with Ivy that it is wrong for others to claim lesbian, gay, Jewish, or Muslim identities as a way of supporting struggles to end discrimination against particular groups. But am not so sure about the term “gender queer.” Though queer theory originally called attention to the ways in which butch lesbians and drag queens challenge gender stereotypes, the word “queer” has broader connotations, including “strange” or “different.”


Not long ago my friend Cristina called me “eccentric,” and I cringed. When I was very young, very tall, and very thin, my mother used to say to me, “You should be careful never to  gain weight because then you will not only be taller than the other girls, you will be bigger too.” While recognizing that in many ways I do not fit the “norms” that define the ideal female, I have spent a lifetime trying to pretend that I am “normal.” The idea I might be able to affirm that I am not normal but that I am nonetheless fine just as I am was an idea that my mother and I simply were not able to consider.

When I asked Cristina please not to call me “eccentric,” she responded that for her eccentric is a positive term because the last thing she would want to be is normal. Cristina’s embrace of her eccentricity caused me to wonder why I was still expending so much energy trying to claim my normality.

These questions were in my mind when in a ritual at the Skoteino Cave on the recent Goddess Pilgrimage to Crete, I dropped a stone down a deep hole affirming my desire to let go of my fear of being different. While sitting in meditation in darkness of the cave, I was surprised to hear the words from a Sesame Street song my little brother used to sing form in my mind: “One of these things is not like the others. One of these things just isn’t the same. If you can tell me which thing is not like the others, then we’ll finish our game.”**

As the words from the song swirled in my mind, I found myself physically raising my hand like a school child and while answering silently, “I am. I am the one who is not like the others.” This meditation was powerful because being taunted, excluded, or categorized because of my difference had caused me to spend a life time wanting to be like the others.


Before I posted my response to Ivy and Vanessa, I asked my theological pal Judith Plaskow (who like Ivy identifies as lesbian) if she would categorize me as gender queer because I am so much taller than women are supposed to be. She said yes. She went on to say that she gets tired of insisting that a woman can be as smart as she is and still be a woman. Sometimes, she mused, it is easier just to acknowledge that she is gender queer.

I was reminded that identity theories and politics name the experiences of excluded groups in order to call attention to injustice and to offer more inclusive theories. My work on women’s experiences is situated in this framework. While it can be exhausting to explain that women are, can be, and have been different than gender norms have dictated, I (along with Judith) continue to insist that our theories and our politics take account of and value all of women’s multifaceted and intersectional experiences.

Queer theory challenges identity theory by asking whether there are any fixed identities at all. Vanessa speaks to this point when she writes, “I think the beauty of being human is being able to flow, to mutate, to be free of categories and asserting oneself to embrace our quirks and our dark areas and our sorrows and doubts, without wanting to be anyone but myself and without wishing to be anywhere else than in the present moment . . . I am a queer person for many reasons . . . I surrender to the possibilities of life, of my body, of my mind, of my soul.”

As Vanessa states so eloquently, identifying as queer means no longer having to try to fit in, to be like the others, to be normal. Identifying as queer means that it is fine to be different, eccentric, not like the others. It means telling the gender police to “go jump in a lake and swallow a snake and come out with a belly ache.”***


Before beginning to write this piece, I watched the most recent episode of Grey’s Anatomy. I was delighted to see the camera focus on the way the character played by Geena Davis (who is six feet tall) “towered over” Arizona, Amelia, and Bailey. I hope Davis’s character will survive her brain surgery because it is such a rare treat for me to see a woman who is different in the way I am different have a part on television program. Thanks to Shonda Rhimes for creating a series where women who are not like the others are celebrated in their difference.

*The quote is edited slightly from the way it appears in the responses to Vanessa’s post.

**The Sesame Street game taught children to identify difference: for example, colors or apples and oranges.

***A children’s rhyme used to respond to being taunted.

Carol leads the life-transforming Goddess Pilgrimage to Crete (facebook and twitter)–space available on the spring and fall 2015 tours.  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 next year, Goddess and God in the World: Conversations in Embodied Theology. Photo of Carol by Michael Bakas.


carol christBesides being advocates of social justice, the prophets of Israel were advocates of “exclusive monotheism,” exclusively “male monotheism,” “religious othering,” and “religious prejudice.” 

Many progressive Jews and Christians find inspiration in prophets because of their insistence that their God cares about the poor and “the widow at the gate.” For progressive Christians, Jesus stands in the prophetic tradition, and the core of his message is “concern for the poor.” For progressive Jews the prophetic tradition is the root of their concern for human rights.

Those who locate their spirituality and concern for social justice in the prophets can point proudly to Martin Luther King and the many priests, ministers, and rabbis, as well as ordinary Christians and Jews who marched with him as exemplars of the prophetic tradition.

But the prophetic tradition also has a nasty underside. Continue reading “JUSTICE AND PREJUDICE IN THE “PROPHETIC TRADITION” by Carol P. Christ”

Remembering Audre Lorde and “The Uses Of The Erotic” by Carol P. Christ

carol p. christ 2002 colorI was  given a copy of Audre Lorde’s essay “The Uses of the Erotic” in my first year of teaching at San Jose State by a young white lesbian M.A. student named Terry.  It was 1978.  I was in my early 30s.  This essay came into my life and the lives of my students, friends, and colleagues at “the right time.”  It became a kind of “sacred text” that authorized us to continue to explore the feelings of our bodies and to take them seriously.

The second wave of the women’s movement was about to enter its second decade. We had already been through years of consciousness raising groups.  There we learned to “hear each other to speech” about feelings we had learned to suppress because we had been told they were not acceptable for us as women to have or to express.  Those early days of the women’s movement were one big “coming out” movement.  We were bringing our feelings and ourselves out of the closet.

Many of us had been exploring various forms of body and feeling based therapies broadly called “humanistic” that encouraged the open acknowledgment and expression of feelings.  It was also the time when large numbers of women were beginning to “come out” as lesbian.  Some of these were women who had theretofore not “known” or even had any idea that they were lesbian. The song by Lavender Jane Loves Women with the refrain “any woman can be a lesbian” was well-known in feminist circles.  Women who did not stay lesbian explored their sexuality with other women. Women who did not do that were naming and recognizing the importance of female friendship and its life-saving and life-transforming part in their lives—an act that was in itself transgressive.

Audre Lorde told us that all of this was not only good–it was sacred. “The erotic is a resource exists in each of us on a deeply female and spiritual plane.”  Continue reading “Remembering Audre Lorde and “The Uses Of The Erotic” by Carol P. Christ”

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