Can Good Theology Change the World? Part 1 by Carol P. Christ

Carol P. Christ by Michael Bakas high resoultionTheology is often viewed as abstract and removed from the problems of the real world. Yet many of the problems of the real world are caused by bad theologies. If bad theologies shape the world, might the same not be true of good theologies?

Opposition to a woman’s right to choose birth control and abortion is fueled by appeals to the command of God to protect life. Opposition to lgbtqi rights is couched in divine authorization of normative heterosexuality. Opposition to efforts to counter climate change are challenged by those who claim to believe in the Bible, not science.

All of these claims are rooted in a prior claim that God is and must be the only source of authority for human beliefs and moral decision-making. This view can and often does lead its adherents to distrust scientific and other humanly created forms of knowledge. In America, supporters of Donald Trump routinely dismiss not only the claims of modern science, but also every attempt to disprove the assertions of their candidate by citing facts. Continue reading “Can Good Theology Change the World? Part 1 by Carol P. Christ”

Thinking about Goddess and God by Judith Plaskow and Carol P. Christ

Goddess and God in the World final cover design

Talking about our deepest beliefs and feelings can be surprisingly intimate. In our new book Goddess and God in the World, we discuss our different theologies and challenge each other’s views. In the conclusion, we consider whether there is any way to judge between our positions. While we believe that theologies are rooted in experience, we also insist that they must make sense of the world we share and provide the orientation we need as we face the social, political, and environmental crises of our time.

Theologically, we disagree on two fundamental issues: whether divinity is personal or impersonal; and whether divinity is good or inclusive of good and evil. Does one of our views meet our criteria for adequacy more fully than other?

Does the notion of a personal or impersonal deity make more sense of our experience of the world? Carol argues that if consciousness and intelligence is a fundamental aspect of human existence and is found in varying degrees throughout the web of life, then it makes sense to think of divinity as also having consciousness and intelligence. Judith responds that the notion of a personal deity seems to her a holdover from the biblical picture of God and that she can find no evidence in her experience or reflection that a divine individual who is conscious and intelligent exists. We seem to be at a standoff here. There is some consolation in recognizing that this is a fundamental divide in the history of religions, but this insight does not resolve our disagreement.

Does one or the other of our views offer better guidance in making moral decisions? Judith argues that her view places moral responsibility firmly in human hands, which is where it belongs. Carol agrees with Judith that humans and other individuals are the ones whose decisions will determine the fate of the world, and she finds recognition of the interdependence in the web of life sufficient grounds for moral decision-making. But she would add that the love and understanding of a divine individual inspires her to love and understand the world and to promote its flourishing. Judith believes that the idea of one divine presence that enlivens and unites the universe is a sufficient basis for ethical action.

Our other major theological difference concerns whether divinity is good or inclusive of good and evil. Judith argues that if divinity is inclusive of the world, it must be inclusive of both good and evil. Carol counters that if divinity is reflective of what is best in ourselves and in other individuals in the world, then divinity must be good, not evil.

Does one of our views provide better moral guidance? Carol argues that a divinity who is good inspires us to try to make the world better. Judith replies that the notion that divinity is good leads us to idealize ourselves and to forget or deny our capacity to do evil. Carol feels that a clear focus on the world is sufficient to remind us of our capacity for evil.

Does one of our views offer a more adequate account of the existence of evil in the world? Judith asserts that the idea that divinity is the ground of both good and evil provides a better answer to the problem of evil: the potential for both good and evil are inherent in the creative process that is the foundation of life. Carol believes that the world is created by a multiplicity of individuals, including the divinity. The capacity for good and evil is inherent in the creative process that structures the world. The divinity is good but not omnipotent. What we call evil is created by individuals other than the divinity. Judith replies that this view does not adequately account for the origin of evil.

Is there any way to choose between our different positions? Each of us is firmly convinced that her view is clear, consistent, coherent, and comprehensive, that it takes full account of the complexity of human experience, and that it provides the moral orientation we seek….Each of us has tried without success to win the other over to her perspective. In the process, we have gained a deeper appreciation of each other’s views and clarified our own. This is as far as we have been able to go. We acknowledge that, in the end, we cannot know which, if either, of our theologies expresses the nature of ultimate reality or provides the crucial ethical guidance we need. Our views have been shaped by our standpoints, including personal, communal, cultural, and historical factors, and this means that they are relative and partial. Because we cannot see into the future, we cannot know the long-term effects of either of our theological worldviews.

At the same time, we are unwilling to throw up our hands and declare that all theological perspectives are of equal value. We firmly reject the fundamentalist insistence that particular texts, traditions, or truths are universally and eternally valid. This position denies that people create and interpret traditions, and it has repeatedly led to intolerance and violence. We continue to insist that the views of divinity we have articulated make more sense of the world as we know it and provide better orientation as we face the problems of our time than the traditional views we have criticized. On the one hand, all theologies—and all worldviews—are relative to experience and limited by human finitude. On the other hand, they can be examined, evaluated, and debated in relation to their understanding of the world and the kind of life they make possible for both the self and others.

Excerpted from Goddess and God in the World: Conversations in Embodied Theology–order now. Ask for a review copy (for blog or print) or exam or desk copy. Post a review on Amazon.  Share with your friends on social media using the links below.

carol p. christ photo michael bakas

Carol P. Christ and Judith Plaskow are co-authors of Goddess and God in the World and co-editors of Womanspirit Rising and Weaving the Visions. Judith wrote the first Jewish feminist theology, Standing Again at Sinai, while Carol wrote the first Goddess feminist theology, Rebirth of the Goddess. Judith is co-founder of the Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion. Carol leads the Goddess Pilgrimage to Crete. Space available on the fall tour!

Maiden, Mother, Crone: Ancient Tradition or New Creative Synthesis? by Carol P. Christ

Carol P. Christ by Michael Bakas high resoultionThe image of the Goddess as Maiden, Mother, Crone is widespread in contemporary Goddess Spirituality. The Triple Goddess honors three ages of women, in contrast to the wider culture that: affirms young women as sex objects while shaming them as sluts; celebrates mothers on Mother’s Day, while providing few legal and economic protections for mothers; and ignores older women.

Though Goddess feminists have created rituals for menstruation and birth, I suspect that a greater number of rituals have celebrated “croning.” The reasons for this are twofold. One is that women have time and space to reflect on the meaning of life in middle age. The other is that aging women are not honored and respected in the wider culture–creating a need for rituals that do just that. Many women I know have spoken of the empowerment they felt in their croning rituals.

On the other hand, many women I know have not been particularly interested in a croning ritual. Continue reading “Maiden, Mother, Crone: Ancient Tradition or New Creative Synthesis? by Carol P. Christ”

Embodied Theology: Goddess and God in the World by Carol P. Christ and Judith Plaskow

Goddess and God in the World final cover designToday is the official release date for Goddess and God in the World: Conversations in Embodied Theology. It just so happens that August 1 is also a day for celebrating the harvest. An excerpt from the Introduction introduces the embodied theological method” we hope will turn the field of theology upside down.

People who reject the popular image of God as an old white man who rules the world from outside it often find themselves at a loss for words when they try to articulate new meanings and images of divinity. Speaking about God or Goddess is no as longer simple as it once was. Given the variety of spiritual paths and practices people follow today, theological discussions do not always begin with shared assumptions about the nature of ultimate reality. In the United States, the intrusion of religion into politics has led many people to avoid the subject of religion altogether. In families and among friends, discussions of religion often culminate in judgment, anger, or tears. Sometimes the conversation is halted before it even begins when someone voices the opinion that anyone who is interested in religion or spirituality is naïve, unthinking, or backward—or, alternatively, that religious views are a matter of personal preference and not worth discussing at all.

Talking about divinity is also surprisingly intimate. Continue reading “Embodied Theology: Goddess and God in the World by Carol P. Christ and Judith Plaskow”

The Emergence of Feminist Theology: Remembering our Roots by Judith Plaskow and Carol P. Christ

Goddess and God in the World final cover designThis blog is an excerpt from our new book Goddess and God in the World which will be published by Fortress Press in just one week — on August 1. As we look forward to its release, we remember the critical works that started us on a journey of discovery that continues to unfold. In a jointly written chapter, we describe the beginnings of feminist theology.

Feminism was welling up from under during [the late 1960s]. We became feminists early in graduate school but did not discover feminist theology until we were preparing for our comprehensive exams. As Judith was later to write, feminism placed a question mark over absolutely everything for us: the maleness of God, the male authorship of the Bible, and the male perspectives from which virtually all theologies had been written. Three key essays set the stage for future work in the field, including our own. We have already mentioned these essays, but it is important to address the challenges they posed to traditional theology, and our own responses to them, in more detail here. Continue reading “The Emergence of Feminist Theology: Remembering our Roots by Judith Plaskow and Carol P. Christ”

Feministing Sarah and Hagar by Vanessa Rivera de la Fuente

sarah_hagarOne story that has marked my life as a feminist is that of Sarah and Hagar. This is a story of pain and enmity among women under patriarchy that despite its age, is still relevant to illustrate the negative effects of the androcentric socialization. But it can also hold an inspirational feminist reading that leads us towards a reflection on the amazing possibilities of a shift in the way we women look at each other.

Feminism is a political practice, an ethics for living based in an option for women. It is not or should not be a Diploma, a chair where to work from 9:00am to 5:00pm, or an excuse to act from our own privileges against other women. In private and in public, in academia or in the street, in sexual, cultural, intellectual and religious affairs, a feminist is a feminist, without excuses or regrets.

This year I was part of the anthology “Jesus, Muhammad and The Goddess” with an essay called “The Wounded Goddess: The History of Sarah and Hagar From a Feminist Outlook” from which I want to share some excerpts with you, as follows: Continue reading “Feministing Sarah and Hagar by Vanessa Rivera de la Fuente”

A Tale of Two Sisters by Carol P. Christ

When I first returned from my ancestor quest in Germany, I fell ill with a bad cold and cough and had little physical energy. For two weeks I lived in the dreamtime, communicating with the ancestors and trying to make sense of the information about their lives I had discovered. After I got better, I had difficulty returning to daily life. The ancestors wanted to speak through me. Their stories, based on facts, come to me in waking trance.

A happy moment in the life of girl like Agnes
Feeding the ducks

Agnes Lattauer Sweitzer : I was born in Ober-Floerscheim (Hessen Darmstadt) on July 9, 1812. I was the first in a family of five children. Four years after me came Jakob, named after Father, and three years later, Rudolph. It was nice to have brothers, but my dream of a sister came true when Catherina was born a month and a day after my tenth birthday. My mother was busy with Jakob and Rudolph, so I became a second mother to Catherina. I could not nurse her, but I could sing to her and rock her to sleep. I changed her diapers and gave her a bath. It was so wonderful to have a baby to take care of. Three years later little Johanetta was born two days after my thirteenth birthday. Another baby for me and Mother bring up together.  I was in heaven. I was both mother and sister to the little girls. When they got older, I took my little sisters to play by the stream, where they giggled and cooed as we fed the ducks and the geese. In the summer, Mother and I brought them with us to the fields where we hoed and planted, weeded and harvested. They tried to pull weeds with their little fingers. It was my job to keep them from pulling up the plants too. Continue reading “A Tale of Two Sisters by Carol P. Christ”

Islamic Feminism and Heterosexual Dogma by Vanessa Rivera de la Fuente

Santa Niña Marica

Reza Aslan says in his book “No God But God” that religions are myths. He explains that “religion” is a set of stories fluctuating between truth and fantasy that serve to explain and answer questions about human fate. Taking this idea as base, I think “religion” is a historical product that enables other mythical stories and must be addressed critically about its truth and meanings.

Patriarchal religious discourses, currently mainstream, have a common element that often is left outside the reading of equality and is part of the myth: Heterosexual belief.

Feminisms in Religions aim at challenging patriarchal readings. However, questioning the nature of God is not enough if we don´t challenge heterosexual belief that may or may not include the idea of a God Father/Male. In Islam, Allah has no sex or gender, is not masculine nor feminine. However, the heterosexual belief exists in the Islamic religious narrative. Continue reading “Islamic Feminism and Heterosexual Dogma by Vanessa Rivera de la Fuente”

“God is Not a Man, God Is Not a White Man” by Carol P. Christ

“The pictures that line the halls speak volumes about the history of racism and sexism and they shape the future in powerful ways.”–Simon Timm

The author of these words recently posted a short video on Youtube entitled “Mirror Mirror on the Wall: The Legacies of Sexism and White Supremacy at Yale Divinity School.”* The video begins with a catchy little ditty with the words, “God is not a man, God is not a white man.” It tracks paintings and photographs of professors and other luminaries in the field of theology on the walls of the Yale Divinity School. By Timm’s count: 99 white males, 6 women, and 3 blacks. The single black woman is counted in both categories.

Continue reading ““God is Not a Man, God Is Not a White Man” by Carol P. Christ”

Declaring a Theological State of Emergency: Trump’s Ignorance Must Not Be Ours by Mary E. Hunt

Mary HuntOn CNN’s State of the Union, Donald Trump reiterated his call to bar Muslim immigration to the U.S. and predicted that his fellow presidential candidates would soon come around to his position.

This prompts me to  declare a theological state of emergency. And I urge religious first responders to step forward.

His anti-Muslim rhetoric has caused Muslims to fear for their lives and well being—and it runs counter to the American Constitution on matters religious, although that does not seem to deter its adherents.

Because the content of these statements is focused on a specific world religion, I believe that scholars and activists of many religions need to step forward in concrete, educational ways.

Theologians must be among the first responders on this one. And we need to start at the beginning since Mr. Trump’s ignorance of the Muslim faith mirrors that of many Americans. “Islam” has become a code word for terrorism. In fact, it is the name of a monotheistic faith tradition based on the Qur’an which is practiced by more than 1.6 billion people, nearly a quarter of the world. Its practitioners are referred to as Muslims.

So our popular pedagogy must begin in order to right the wrongs of misinformation and demagoguery. Just as Christianity and Judaism have many expressions, so too with Islam. It is for Muslims to sort out their internal matters—but it is incumbent on global citizens to inform ourselves so as not to be cowed by the likes of Trump.

For example, a group of Muslims, including feminist journalist Asra Nomani, is calling for a new movement:

“We are Muslims who live in the 21st century. We stand for a respectful, merciful and inclusive interpretation of Islam. We are in a battle for the soul of Islam, and an Islamic renewal must defeat the ideology of Islamism, or politicized Islam, which seeks to create Islamic states, as well as an Islamic caliphate. We seek to reclaim the progressive spirit with which Islam was born in the 7th century to fast forward it into the 21st century. We support the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which was adopted by United Nations member states in 1948.

We reject interpretations of Islam that call for any violence, social injustice and politicized Islam. Facing the threat of terrorism, intolerance, and social injustice in the name of Islam, we have reflected on how we can transform our communities based on three principles: peace, human rights and secular governance. We are announcing today the formation of an international initiative: the Muslim Reform Movement.”

Do Mr. Trump and the sector of the American public that agrees with him have any such information? I doubt it. Nor do they apparently have much experience with Muslim neighbors who live and work peacefully in virtually every part of the country.

Ignorance of religion is an acute problem in the United States. We have a lack of basic education about religion. Few school districts venture into the topic with their students. So it is not until tertiary education that most American young people have any formal instruction, if then, about religions other than their own. There must be a better way.

I propose that religious professionals, whether educators, pastoral people, or activists, become part of the solution by engaging in a massive, differentiated educational campaign to counter the negative narratives about Islam. This does not mean that anyone need convert to Islam. It is simply that in a democracy we owe one another a fair rendering of our faith traditions. That Mr. Trump’s remarks about Islam have caused such damage already, and could give license for more violence, add urgency to this task.

It is time for community forums where the basics of Islam can be explained in every part of the country. Radio shows, teleconferences, videos, social media posts, religious education classes, community group meetings might usefully focus on the basics of Islam. Simply to demystify the terms and show how ordinary Muslims go about their ordinary law-abiding lives would go a long way toward stemming the current tide.

I do not expect Muslims to educate the rest of us. But those who want to collaborate with other religious first responders are more than welcome. Among feminist colleagues, plans are afoot to launch some modest efforts, but we recognize and respect the need for safety and security for those who have been put in harm’s way by ignorant rhetoric and unconstitutional proposals.

It is non-Muslims who must bear the burden of this education about religion.

Not since the Nazi period has the specter of religiously-based oppression taken on such a heightened profile, with the potential for such devastating results. I believe it is a true emergency for which strong and constructive countermeasures are necessary.

The following is reprinted with permission from Religion Dispatches. Follow RD on Facebook or Twitter for daily updates.”

Mary E. Hunt, Ph.D., is a feminist theologian who is co-founder and co-director of the Women’s Alliance for Theology, Ethics and Ritual (WATER) in Silver Spring, Maryland, USA. A Roman Catholic active in the women-church movement, she lectures and writes on theology and ethics with particular attention to liberation issues.



Announcing A Serpentine Path: Mysteries of the Goddess by Carol P. Christ

carol p. christ photo michael bakas“The serpentine path is the path of life, a snakelike, meandering path, winding in and out, up and down, with no beginning and no end, into the darkness and into the light.”

As the year draws to a close, I am putting the finishing touches on A Serpentine Path: Mysteries of the Goddess. In the spring of 2016 it will be published by the Far Press, founded by Gina Messina-Dysert.  A Serpentine Path is the original title of the memoir of my journey from despair to the joy of life on the first Goddess Pilgrimage to Crete. It was published in 1995 as Odyssey with the Goddess, a title chosen by the publisher.

A Serpentine Path marked a turning point in my life and in my career as a writer. During the time described in my memoir I had fallen into a deep despair, sparked by the end of a marriage, the end of a love affair, and disappointment in my career. Hoping to make a fresh start, I moved to Greece. Not surprisingly, my despair followed me there. Nonetheless, as I would learn, I made the right decision, for as my Greek therapist was to tell me, I needed to learn to live in my body, not my head, and Greece was the place to learn that.

I was at a crossroads in my spiritual quest. I left Christianity for Goddess feminism, yet I felt the Goddess had abandoned me. I had a contract to write the first Goddess thealogy, but as I said in a speech at I gave at Harvard Divinity School just before I made the decision to move to Greece, I was not sure of the meaning of the symbol of the Goddess. Is Goddess a personal being who cares about the world? Or the name we give to the cycles of birth, death, and regeneration in nature? My inability to answer this question led my editors to return draft of my Goddess thealogy with the comment that something was missing. Continue reading “Announcing A Serpentine Path: Mysteries of the Goddess by Carol P. Christ”

Birth and Community by Sara Frykenberg

My daughter Hazel was born on a November afternoon. Just over two weeks old, my own individual role as mother is too young to comment on much here—I am thinking too much and too little about what it means, adjusting to my little one’s schedule, feeling like my boobs are going to fall off from my breastfeeding efforts, and loving in a new way. (It’s amazing how excited one can get about ‘poopy’ after baby has been struggling for days, isn’t it?)

But when I am lying in my bed, sometimes at night, I find myself amazed and grateful for the community it took to bring my daughter into being. I was pregnant but I also had a pregnant community. I labored with community; and what I am learning, is that my motherhood is also a function of community—something, for me, that would not have been possible without the many, many people who supported Hazel and me through the process of new birth. Continue reading “Birth and Community by Sara Frykenberg”

Friendships That Save Lives: For Rita M. Gross 1943-2015, by Carol P. Christ

Carol Eftalou - Michael HonnegerWhen Rita Gross visited me in Lesbos two summers ago, we spent many long hours discussing our lives and work. Rita and I met at the Conference of Women Theologians at Alverno College in June, 1971 when we were young women. We did not know it then, but our lives would continue to be intertwined through our common interests, first in the Women and Religion section of the American Academy of Religion, and then through our work on Goddesses and feminist theology.

When we met, Rita was a convert to Judaism working on her dissertation on Australian Aboriginal women’s religious lives, and I was a Christian about to begin a dissertation on Elie Wiesel’s stories that would lead me to express my own anger at God. Continue reading “Friendships That Save Lives: For Rita M. Gross 1943-2015, by Carol P. Christ”


Carol Eftalou - Michael HonnegerThough often asked, this is the wrong question.  Every statement about the “essential” or “central” teaching of any religion is based on a prior interpretation rooted in a particular standpoint. Thus, the idea that there is a “central” or “essential” core in any religion is not a matter of fact, but rather a matter of interpretation.

In discussions of religions, we often make global statements about our own and other religious traditions, such as: “Christianity is patriarchal to its core,” or alternatively, “The core teaching of Christianity is to love God with all your heart and your neighbor as yourself.” Or: “The true Islam teaches that God is love,” or alternatively, “Islam always teaches the subordination of women.”

These sorts of claims are made from time to time here on Feminism and Religion too. Every global statement that a particular religion “is” or “ is not” oppressive, calls someone to assert the opposite in the comments. I believe that statements about the “true” nature of any religion should should always be qualified. Continue reading “DO RELIGIONS HAVE AN “ESSENTIAL” “CENTRAL” CORE THAT IS–OR IS NOT–SEXIST? by Carol P. Christ”

The Book Is Finished, Now On to Publicizing It by Carol P. Christ

Carol in Crete turquoiseGoddess and God in the World: Conversations in Embodied Theology by Carol P. Christ and Judith Plaskow, forthcoming from Fortress Press in 2016.

In Goddess and God in the World, two leading theologians model a new method of embodied theology, rooted in experience and tested in dialogue. Christ and Plaskow agree that the God who is dead in our time is the transcendent and omnipotent male God of traditional theology. They believe that we must create new understandings of divinity because theologies not only help us to make sense of the world, but also provide guidance as we face the urgent social, political, and environmental issues of our time. In contrast to traditional views, Plaskow and Christ situate divinity in the world and place responsibility for the fate of the world firmly in human hands. They argue for an inclusive monotheism that affirms the unity of being through a plurality of images celebrating diversity and difference. Carol believes Goddess is the intelligent embodied love that is in all being, a personal presence that can inspire us to love the world more deeply. Judith understands God as an impersonal power of creativity, the ground of being that includes both good and evil. Their intense questioning of each other’s views provides an exciting model for theological conversation across difference.
Continue reading “The Book Is Finished, Now On to Publicizing It by Carol P. Christ”


Carol P. Christ at Alverno College 1
Carol Christ at the Conference of Women Theologians

Today I am publishing an early work on female language for God that I wrote with Emma Trout at the first Conference of Women Theologians in 1971. Highly contested at the conference, this essay is a foreshadowing of my subsequent work on the need for female imagery for divinity.

Rereading this essay more than four decades later, I am gratified to see that though we began our essay with the image of God giving birth (which I still view as an important image), Emma and I were aware of the danger that female imagery for God could reinforce “a false sexual polarity.” We insisted then that female imagery for God must not repeat sex role stereotypes, but rather must shatter them. Continue reading “ALTERNATIVE IMAGES OF GOD BY CAROL CHRIST AND EMMA TROUT”

Barth and Woman at Yale by Carol P. Christ

Carol P. Christ at Alverno College 1
Carol P. Christ at the Conference of Women Theologians, Alverno College, 1971

I recently located a copy of an essay on Karl Barth and women that I wrote as a graduate student at Yale University in the Alverno College archives. Rereading it decades later, I am a-mazed at the brilliance and tenacity of my younger self. Had I been a male graduate student, I imagine that I would have been encouraged to publish this paper. Instead, though distributed by Alverno College after the Conference of Women Theologians, it was never published. I am correcting that oversight here. Read  A Question for Investigation (Barth and Women)-Carol P. Christ (1971) and view the original typescript Barth’s Theology and the Man-Woman Relationship by Carol P. Christ (1970). Please note that the essay does not restrict itself to Barth’s view of women, but rather uses Barth’s view of women to raise questions about his theology and theological method. Continue reading “Barth and Woman at Yale by Carol P. Christ”

Experiencing Divinity in the World by Carol P. Christ

carol mitzi sarahAs I work on revisions of the new book, Goddess and God in the Worldthat Judith Plaskow and I are writing, I am thinking again about John Cobb’s notion of the “two ultimates” as two different ways of thinking about divinity. Cobb suggested that religions have defined the nature of ultimate reality as personal and as impersonal, as God and as the ground of being. The ground of being is the impersonal ultimate: the metaphysical principles that structure all of life, principles that he described as creativity or the creative process.

Judith describes God as the impersonal creative process and views personal language for divinity as metaphoric or symbolic. I define Goddess as personal, yet also view the impersonal ultimate, the creative process, as sacred. For me, this raises the question of the relationship between Goddess and the creative process.

In Cobb’s view, the two ultimates are co-eternal: the personal God did not “create” the creative process, nor was the personal God “created” by the creative process. Rather, for Cobb, God as the personal ultimate, like all other individuals, participates in the creative process. What then is the creative process? Although the term “creativity” has multiple meanings, in process philosophy it has a specific one.

Whitehead’s description of the creative process is rooted in the insight of modern science that the most basic components of our universe are particles of atoms that defy being categorized as either matter or energy, but seem to move and change, depending on their relationships. It is from the relationships of these tiny individuals that the evolutionary process of our universe began. This insight led Whitehead to recognize that the nature of reality (or being) is not fixed and static (as Western philosophers before him had concluded) but is always moving, changing, or “in process.” Whitehead’s understanding of the creative process is summed up in his much-quoted phrase, “the many become one, and are increased by one.”

The creative moment in the creative process (which is in fact every moment in the life of an individual) is the moment when the individual (whether particle of an atom, cell, animal, human, or divinity) in an act of creative freedom unifies the world (the many) into a new synthesis (the one): this new synthesis adds a new fact to the world (the many is increased by one). This is an abstract description of the creative process in its most basic form. In fact, however, we do not experience the world in the abstract, but in the concrete.

In this moment I (Carol) remember my past (many different Carols situated in many different worlds and some of the books I have read) as I shape this sentence (with my hands on my computer acting in concert with the feelings of my body and the thoughts that are flowing in my mind) and unite myself and my world in a new synthesis (which is this sentence). As I do so, I add a new fact to the world (the many are increased by one), a sentence that may be read by others in the future, therefore influencing their lives.

The reader who reads my words (you) reflects on them in relation to her or his memory (your memories of your past selves in your past) and asks if what I am saying makes sense: in the moment that she or he (you) decides if it does or it doesn’t, a new fact is added to the world (the many are increased by one), an opinion that in turn may be expressed to someone else (the many is again increased by one) who in turn responds to it (the many is increased by one more).

Though this description of the creative process focuses on mental actions, our mental processes are not divorced from our bodies and feelings, and the relations of mind, body and feeling are complex. In some creative moments, feelings are primary, while in others the body leads. This second richer description of the creative process is still an abstraction. We do not generally experience life as a series of moments but as a flow in which one moment is indistinguishable from the others; nonetheless, we can recognize that our lives are made up of a series of moments in which we along with others create the world anew.

Sometimes we take a longer and broader view of the creative process, recognizing patterns and cycles within the world that we share with other than human life. Traditional peoples, for example, often speak of or invoke the creative processes of birth, death, and regeneration that are the basis of life on this earth. This is also an important way of describing the ground of being because it situates human creativity within the creativity of the web of life. In our time we might also speak about the evolution of life. Taking a long view, we experience the sacrality of the web of life.

I experience—feel and sense—the personal ultimate, the presence of Goddess as intelligent love in my body, mind, and spirit and in all bodies, minds, and spirits, as I go about my everyday life. She is always there: feeling the love and joy I feel; supporting and understanding me when things are difficult; inspiring me to share the grace of life with everyone and everything. I also feel the power of the impersonal ultimate, the creative process that supports the creativity or freedom of all individuals who interact with each other in the web of life. For me the two ultimates—Goddess and the web of life—are both real.

Though the two ultimates are separate in the abstract, in the concrete experience of those of us who affirm a personal divinity, they are intertwined because the personal divinity is experienced through the creative process that is the basis of life. Thus, at one and the same time, I experience myself and divinity within me, other individuals and the divinity with in them, the creative process and the divinity within it.

I celebrate the creative process and its fruits, the powers of birth, death, and regeneration and the evolutionary process as a whole, as the ground of all being as well as the Goddess I experience as a personal, intelligent, loving, compassionate presence who cares about me, all other individuals in the world.

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 in 2016, Goddess and God in the World: Conversations in Embodied Theology.

Gay Marriage: “Tell me why I shouldn’t hate you…?” asks the straight Christian to the lesbian by Marie Cartier

MarieCartierforKCETa-thumb-300x448-72405This is the third of a series exploring gay marriage as a game changer within religion and politics. I have explored the topic as political animus and earlier as almost fairy tale come to life. Today I am examining it from a very person view.

Consider a gay woman (myself) being asked by a straight attempting to understand the “right” for gay marriage, “What does it matter if I know you’re ‘gay’ if I’m not attracted to you?”[1]

Then consider that another right of “marriage” –or being known as “gay”—is the right to be admitted into the hospital room of a loved one, who is considered one’s primary partner, or “spouse.” Yes, one wants to say to the questioning woman in the above scenario, the rights for marriage include the crucial family relationships which allow one person to be able to take sick leave to care for a partner, or a partner’s child; being able to make critical medical decisions, and the right to be together in crisis situations (such as a hospital emergency room).[2]

Imagine the gay woman speaking to the straight woman and saying, “Because I am more than someone you might or might not be attracted to. I am my own person with my own life. I want to among other things, get into the hospital room of my partner, my loved one, the one I am actually attracted to.” Continue reading “Gay Marriage: “Tell me why I shouldn’t hate you…?” asks the straight Christian to the lesbian by Marie Cartier”

Gender, Friendship, Collaboration, and Unacknowledged Authorship by Carol P. Christ

Carol in Crete croppedIn recent weeks Judith Plaskow and I have been revising the manuscript of our new book Goddess and God in the World in preparation for sending it to the publisher. Yes, we have a publisher. We signed a contract with Fortress Press a short time ago. The book should be out in 2016.

We have been hard—and I mean very hard—at work revising the four chapters in the book that are jointly written. The versions have been going back and forth and forth and back as we revision what we want to say and revise each other’s revisions of the drafts we have. We both want the final manuscript to say things just right and it is very hard not to make one more set of (alleged) improvements.

In the process we have realized that while we often disagree on words and wording, we have come to think alike on a wide variety of issues to the point that it becomes hard to say who had the ideas first. In addition we have both become so familiar with each other’s positions that we can each easily articulate both sides of our dialogue on the issues on which we disagree.

All of this has gotten me to thinking again about authorship and co-authorship and original and shared ideas. This train of thought led me back to the subject of Judith’s and my first essay together originally titled “Against My Wife” but published as “For the Advancement of My Career: A Form Critical Study in the Art of Acknowledgement.”  We discussed 5 formulaic tropes used in acknowledgements to wives in academic books, ending with “the wife as unacknowledged co-author.” Continue reading “Gender, Friendship, Collaboration, and Unacknowledged Authorship by Carol P. Christ”

Enemy of (H)Islam by Vanessa Rivera de la Fuente

Vanessa Rivera de la Fuente. Misogyny in IslamSo, again, you, the most holy and enlightened man of the mosque have pointed your finger at me to declare, noisy and hysterical, that I am an “Enemy of Islam.” Then you, who preaches and recites best, have gone out there slandering me, “eating my flesh,” devotedly.

“Enemy of Islam.” Well, which Islam? Is there one unique Islam? Why is your Islam, THE Islam? There are so many ways to be Muslim, or, didn’t you know?

You seem to follow the principle “you believe like me or you believe against me,” especially when the discussion is about women. In your narrow view, I am an enemy of Islam because I’m a feminist, radical, progressive woman. I am engaged in interfaith dialogue and in political struggle against discrimination instead of “being at home serving [my] husband as a good Muslimah.” Continue reading “Enemy of (H)Islam by Vanessa Rivera de la Fuente”

Ashes, Sacrifice, and Abundance by Melissa Browning

Melissa BrowningLast year I got my ashes at the airport. As I sat in that airport chapel, I halfheartedly listened to a (mostly terrible) litany that was proclaimed in between announcements for gate changes. I was leaving for another campus interview after having been home for only 24 hours since the previous one. The Christian season of Lent came during a time of stress and chaos in my life. That year, when I contemplated what I might give up for Lent, I could think of nothing. So much had been taken away that I had nothing left to give.

The season of Lent is often linked with the idea of sacrifice. Some people fast, others give up a favorite vice or a favorite food. As a feminist theologian, I spend a great deal of time thinking about the idea of sacrifice. I wonder how women who consider themselves part of Christian churches can be asked to sacrifice when we have already given away too much. Too often, our labor is welcomed but our voices are silenced. As a Baptist theologian and ordained minister who has sojourned in Catholic universities, I’ve felt this in my own tradition and in traditions that are not my own. Continue reading “Ashes, Sacrifice, and Abundance by Melissa Browning”

Relationship, Freedom, Change, and Interdependence in the Web of Life by Carol P. Christ

carol p. christ photo michael bakasMarjorie Suchocki says that feminist theology needs a metaphysics, a coherent world view that can hold together what we might otherwise be seen as a series of unrelated assertions made by feminists. Metaphysics is one of those terms that make most people cringe. If they have any idea at all what the word means, they might categorize metaphysics as the most abstract and out of touch with reality aspect of philosophy. In the Platonic tradition where ideas precede reality, metaphysical truths are revealed by rational contemplation of transcendent principles that precede the world. “I think, therefore, I am,” Descartes said. This notion of metaphysics makes me cringe too.

In process philosophy metaphysics refers to the fact that the world is governed by and expresses certain fundamental principles. This does not mean that ideas are more important than reality. Quite the opposite, metaphysical principles are conclusions reached through paying close attention to the world. Continue reading “Relationship, Freedom, Change, and Interdependence in the Web of Life by Carol P. Christ”

A Women’s Mosque: An Interfaith Space for Feminist Spirituality by Vanessa Rivera de la Fuente

Vanessa Rivera de la Fuente. A Women MosqueIf you thought that all I could do in regards to feminism and religion is challenge Patriarchy and tease around ladies and gentlemen of good temper and better reputation with my corrosive comments, this post may change your mind.

As I said in a previous article, this year I started, with a small group of people, a social project called Imaan, whose goal is centered on inter-faith dialogue and better visibility of the actions and contributions of women in Islam (and religion in general,) plus critical thinking on religion from a feminist and progressive perspective.

As part of the activities of Imaan, we are developing “A Women’s Mosque” project; an initiative that aims to create a meeting place for women and our spirituality. The idea came after a reunion to talk on Islam and inter-faith dialogue with women from different denominations. At one point in the discussion, they asked me about sex segregation in mosques, which led us to a broader reflection on the position of women in the religious space, both material and symbolic, and how uncomfortable we were with that.

We realized that, in a variety of ways, places of worship displace women. Whether they relegate us to separate rooms, or refuse to allow us to speak, limiting our participation to “strictly female” issues such as maternity, caregiving, the role of wife and – of course- clothing, these prohibitions are always from a patriarchal “canonical” perspective.

So we decided to join together to create our own space. Continue reading “A Women’s Mosque: An Interfaith Space for Feminist Spirituality by Vanessa Rivera de la Fuente”

Death with Dignity by Carol P. Christ

Carol Christ in LesbosIn the summer of 1960 when I was 14 years old my much loved grandmother Mae Inglis Christ died of a cancer that affected her brain. The last time I saw my Nannie was shortly after her diagnosis in the early spring. While we were visiting, the cancer affected her back, and she took to her bed. In those days children were not allowed in hospitals. I never saw my grandmother alive again, but my mother told us that our grandmother was hooked up to tubes much longer than she should have been. Mother vowed, “This will never happen to me.” I was driven to the funeral in a limousine with my grandmother’s girlfriends. They spoke about my grandmother’s last days, describing how (because her mind was affected by cancer) my little grandmother had screamed and screamed at them for not visiting–even though they were with her every day. They found my grandmother’s outbursts so traumatic that they said they were relieved to see her looking so peaceful in her coffin. Continue reading “Death with Dignity by Carol P. Christ”

The Ancestors Live in Us by Carol P. Christ

Carol Christ in LesbosOn the recent Goddess Pilgrimage to Crete women had the option of riding up a winding road on a mountainside in the back of a farm truck singing “She’ll Be Comin’ ‘Round the Mountain” or could choose to go with the guard in his closed automobile.

That evening one of the older women who had chosen to ride in the car said, “I saw how much fun you were all having, but I have done that before. This time I was happy to let the rest of you do it.”

“That’s exactly how I feel about death,” I responded. “Some people want to live on after death, but I don’t. I am happy to let others do it. The only thing that would upset me would be if life did not go on after me.” Continue reading “The Ancestors Live in Us by Carol P. Christ”

Anne Hutchinson, America’s First Feminist Theologian: 1591-1643 by Carol P. Christ

Carol Christ in Lesbos“She had rather been a husband than a wife; and a preacher than a hearer; and a magistrate than a subject.” Reverend Hugh Peter of Salem

Anne Hutchinson was banished from the Massachusetts Bay Colony for heresy in 1637 and excommunicated from the Puritan Church of Boston in 1638. Her banishment came just three years after she, her husband, and eleven living children arrived in America seeking the freedom to practice their religion as they saw fit. Governor Michael Dukakis pardoned her in 1987. Historian Howard Zinn called her a true American hero.

anne hutchinson trialI managed to get through graduate school in Religious Studies without ever having studied the theology of Anne Hutchinson,* though I vaguely remember references (probably with smirks of disapproval) to the “Antinomian Controversy” which is associated with her name. I recall Anne Hutchinson’s name because of an article published in Feminist Studies in the 1970s, when I had just begun to study women and religion. However it was not until recently that I learned of her place in history through reading American Jezebel by Eve LaPlante.

Hutchinson was accused of theological errors in her trials. The Calvinist doctrine of predestination figured heavily in the accusations. But the real issue at stake was that Anne dared to follow her own inner knowing, to articulate it theologically, and to teach her views against the grain of the Puritan authorities in Boston. Continue reading “Anne Hutchinson, America’s First Feminist Theologian: 1591-1643 by Carol P. Christ”

You Are What You Read by Martha Cecilia Ovadia

10298689_10104523891581853_7256973903379376739_nWhen it comes to my family, I’ve always felt different. One of my earliest memories from when I was really young was being told that I felt things too passionately—that I felt too much. What was never said but was implied was that I felt dissent too much, too often, too vocally. It made people uncomfortable. It made my family uncomfortable. When it came to understanding my faith/religious path, my family and I started diverging early on, never really meeting again—at least not for now.

When I was about five, I remember asking why women could not be priests. My mother brushed it aside and said we could be nuns. She was blind to the inherent misogyny behind the same Church that so many of her female family members had built (we come from a long line of nuns and Jesuits). I thought maybe someday I could be a woman priest. I would change it all. I would be Pope Joan. 

When I was thirteen, I started noticing the wealth involved in the Roman Catholic Church, the opulence of the lived Catholic life. When I asked my parents why the Church did not lead in example and live in poverty using its wealth to actively live the gospel, I was told, “ This wealth is a gift to humanity. It is there for all of us, a patrimony to those who open their hearts.” I wasn’t talking about art, I was talking about the RCC’s gold assets—valued in the billions —but it didn’t matter. I’ve seen my family donate to Church building funds my entire life—buildings that were then sold off to pay for the Church’s offenses later on. Still, I thought if I became more involved, with the “right kind of Catholics”, I would be able to change the Church from within.  Continue reading “You Are What You Read by Martha Cecilia Ovadia”

A Radical Conclusion: We Are Our Own Authorities by Carol P. Christ

Carol Christ in LesbosElisabeth Schussler Fiorenza articulated a widely held tenet of feminist theology when she stated that feminism places a question mark over all inherited texts and traditions. This means that feminists cannot and must not accept any teaching or traditional way of performing religious acts simply because “the Bible [or the Koran or the minister or the priest or the rabbi or the imam or the guru] tells me so.”

Instead, feminists must question every text and tradition and the words of every religious leader to see whether or not they promote the full humanity of women. The implication of this is that we must acknowledge and take responsibility for becoming our own authorities—as individuals and in communities.

A tongue –in-cheek letter that began circulating on the internet in 2000 under the title “Why Can’t I Own a Canadian?” makes the point that even those who claim to be adhering to every “jot and tittle” of the Holy Book are in fact choosing to accept some aspects of tradition while rejecting others. Continue reading “A Radical Conclusion: We Are Our Own Authorities by Carol P. Christ”

Postcolonial Feminist Theology and… Deep Space Nine by Sara Frykenberg

Sara FrykenbergIt’s no secret here that I am a big fan of science-fiction and fantasy. Discussing the NASA Space Program, the shuttle Curiosityvideo gaming and cosplay is fun for me, and I assert that there is transformative and hopeful potential in these kinds of imaginative fictions. I also find that when done well, science fiction offers soci-political critique and encourages us to critically engage our own world without (no pun intended) alienating some part of its audience completely, as many political debates are apt to do. For example, I use a clip from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (DS9) in my ethics classes to discuss issues of motivation, intention and end result–as these concepts relate to war and violence. (The clip is from the episode In the Pale Moonlight, and you can see it here.) Episodes like this one can be used to refigure issues we struggle with today, projecting them into a future struggle from which we can draw comparisons to our own time.

Recently I have been reading Kwok Pui-lan’s book Postcolonial Imagination & Feminist Theology; at the same time, I have been re-watching some episodes of DS9. Powerfully addressing the ways in which Western theology helps to reinscribe colonial ideology and practice, Pui-lan argues for (and exemplifies) the creation of new, emancipatory, postcolonial feminist theological discourses. Reading these “texts” together, I was struck with how powerfully DS9 illustrates many of the postcolonial politics and tensions Kwok Pui-lan considers in her book. She describes a “contact zone” as “the space of colonial encounters where people of different geographical and historical backgrounds are brought into contact with each other, usually shaped by inequality and conflictual relations.”[i] DS9 explores this place of contact, imagining how the different parties involved are changed by the encounter. Continue reading “Postcolonial Feminist Theology and… Deep Space Nine by Sara Frykenberg”

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