Transcendence, Immanence, and the Sixth Great Extinction by Carol P. Christ

carol christIn my recent blog “The Flourishing of Life and Feminist Theology” I discussed Grace Jantzen’s view that theology should focus on “natality” or birth and life, rather than life after death or life apart from this world. This week Tikkun magazine published its summer issue with a feature called “Thinking Anew about God.” In it two male thinkers, one Buddhist and one Christian, argue for a similar turn toward the world in their traditions. Their calls for religions to focus on this world were published the same week scientists warned that the world stands on the brink of the sixth great extinction.

I have come to believe that any religion espousing cosmological dualism (devaluing this world in favor of a superior reality such as heaven) and individual salvation (the idea that what ultimately happens to me is disconnected from what ultimately happens to you) is contributing to our world’s problems rather than offering a solution. … [Religions should] stop emphasizing the hereafter and focus instead on how to overcome the illusion that we are separate from this precious, endangered earth. –David Loy, Buddhist, writing in Tikkun Summer 2014

My aim in this regard is to reawaken in each of us an emotionally felt and primordial sense of spiritual belonging within the wider natural world. In turn, my hope is that this deep sense of belonging to the earth — to God’s body, as it were — will en-flame our hearts and empower our wills to commit us to healing and saving the earth.—Mark I. Wallace, Christian, writing in Tikkun Summer 2014 Continue reading “Transcendence, Immanence, and the Sixth Great Extinction by Carol P. Christ”

The Flourishing of Life and Feminist Theology by Carol P. Christ

carol christI first encountered the image and concept of “flourishing” in Grace M. Jatzen’s feminist philosophy of religion, Becoming Divine. For Jantzen “flourishing” is a symbol of a theology of “natality” or birth and life, which she contrasts to the focus on death and life after death in traditional Christian theologies.

Jantzen argues that the focus on death and life after death is a rejection of birth. Birth is rejected because birth through a body into a body implies finitude. Birth ends in death.  Jantzen argues that embracing natality means embracing finitude and death.

Jantzen is not arguing that motherhood is the highest calling or saying that all women must be mothers. Rather she is calling us—women and men—to embrace finite life in the body and the material world as the final and only location for spirituality. Defending pantheism as an alternative to transcendent theism, she argues further that divinity is to be found “in” the physical and material world—and nowhere else. Though she speaks of natality, Jantzen is no essentialist.  Rather she is a metaphysician making claims about the nature of life. Continue reading “The Flourishing of Life and Feminist Theology by Carol P. Christ”

Good Theology is Feminist Theology by Carol P. Christ

carol christJudith Plaskow and I are just now completing the draft of the manuscript of the book we have been working on for the past 2 ½ years. It has a new title: Two Views of Goddess and God for Our Time.* I have been thinking of little else for the past few weeks. An editor who is considering our book said that she was hoping we could address our book to an audience larger than the feminist theology community. Thinking about this, a light dawned: if feminist theology is right that traditional theology denies the full humanity of women, then good theology must be feminist theology. Our work is not tangential to the theological mainstream, but is at its center.

We have revised the Introduction and Conclusion to the book with the assumption that our work should appeal not just to other feminists, but to a wide range of intelligent readers and thinkers. The fact that we were asked to participate in a dialogue about the nature of God in Tikkun magazine’s Summer 2014 inspires us to hope that we are right that feminist theology is becoming part of the progressive theological mainstream.

We began our new book because – though we agree about many things – we disagree about God and Goddess. After working together for decades with shared commitments to feminism, justice, the environment, and the flourishing of life, it was a bit of a shock to come face to face with our differences on such a major theological issue as the nature of divinity. We began our discussion with a shared critique of the God of Biblical traditions as a dominating male other. We agreed that this God has justified not only male domination of women, but other forms of domination as well, including myriad forms of injustice and war. We questioned the theological doctrine of divine omnipotence in light of the holocaust, the on-going domination of one half of the human race, and other oppressions including slavery, colonialism, and war.

But as we articulated our own views of divinity in light of this critique, our views diverged: Judith concluded that God is an impersonal power of creativity that is the ground of all being and becoming, including all good and all evil. Carol understands Goddess as the intelligent embodied love that is the ground of all being and becoming, a personal presence who cares about the world and all individuals it, but who does not have the power to intervene with a mighty arm to set things straight.

We both can give reasons for our views, and in the course of our theological discussion in our book, we give many. Our different views of Goddess and God are significant both theologically and personally. Is God or Goddess good? Or does the divine power include both good and evil? Does Goddess or God care about the fate of the world and our individual lives? Or are love, care, and understanding qualities that are not appropriately attributed to divinity? Is there someone listening to us when we worship, pray, or meditate? Or is addressing Goddess or God a metaphoric way of speaking that inspires feeling in individuals and communities but not in a divine individual? Is the notion that Goddess is love likely to inspire us to love the world more deeply and to promote its flourishing? Or does the notion that God includes both good and evil remind us more clearly of our own capacities to do both?

The fact that we could not agree about the nature of Goddess or God despite our many attempts to persuade each other with rational arguments, led us to conclude that the philosophical, theological, and moral reasons we give in justification of our views are only part of the story. All of these reasons are situated in our individual bodies and in communities and histories. We do not believe there is any simple link between experience and theological views. On the other hand, our experiences form the matrix from which we all begin to think theologically. As we develop our theological views, we constantly test them against our experiences, asking if they ring true, if they help us make sense of our personal, communal, and social lives.

In the first chapters of our book Judith and I locate our theologies in the contexts of our lives. We not only articulate our views of Goddess and God, but also situate them in community. Judith is committed the feminist transformation of Judaism, while I am one of the early voices of the feminist Goddess movement. In the concluding chapters we probe and query each other’s views–from experiential, rational, and moral perspectives. We are hoping to model the kind of feminist dialogue we would like to see more of—one that crosses religious boundaries and is not afraid to probe the differences in standpoints and theological views.

We also hope that our book will inspire a lively feminist–and wider–dialogue about the nature of divinity—something that has been oddly missing heretofore in feminist theology. Engaging in a thoroughly open and honest theological debate is not always easy—even among friends. But we can both testify that doing so has not only illuminated important issues in feminist theology, but also has strengthened our friendship.

*Much this essay is adapted from a draft of the book.

Carol P. Christ is looking forward to the fall Goddess Pilgrimage to Crete which she leads through Ariadne Institute.   Space available.  Carol can be heard in a recent interviews on Voices of the Sacred Feminine, Goddess Alive Radio, and Voices of Women.  Carol is a founding voice in feminism and religion and Goddess spirituality. Her books include She Who Changes and Rebirth of the Goddess and with Judith Plaskow, the widely-used anthologies Womanspirit Rising and Weaving the Visions.  Follow Carol on GoddessCrete on Twitter.


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”

Gendered Imagery of God (Part 2) by Elise M. Edwards

Elise Edwards

In my previous post, I shared some of the ways in which I’ve been wrestling with gendered imagery for God, the first person of the Christian Trinity often referred to as God the Father. In this entry, I’d like to reflect on ways I am reconsidering the gender of the Christ.

It is only recently, after reading Melinda Bielas’ post “Waiting for Jesus… I mean, Superman” (December 17, 2013), that I began to question male language for the Christ. I got into an interesting conversation with Grace Kao in January about it. My thoughts on this topic are still unformed and more theologically “speculative” than I usually share on this site, but I’d love to hear what you think. I think it is important for Christian feminists to consider the doctrines of the faith and assess where they support the co-humanity of women and when they degrade it. Continue reading “Gendered Imagery of God (Part 2) by Elise M. Edwards”


 carol-christWhat is the origin of evil? Is it innate in human nature or even in the nature of the universe? Judith Plaskow and I discuss this question in our forthcoming book Goddess and God in the World and this is a chance to listen in our conversation.

I am responding to Judith’s allegation that in imagining Goddess as loving and good I am fantasizing an ideal deity who exists apart from the evil-and-good world that we know. Judith speaks of an “evil impulse” in human beings which she considers to be innate in human beings and in the nature of reality. Judith says that my “defense” of the goodness of God comes down to “the traditional free will defense.” She also questions my view that human beings can 

I argue that it does not because the traditional free will defense imagines an omnipotent God who existed before the creation of the world. Then I continue:

I think what you meant to say is that like those who invoke the traditional free will defense of the omnipotent God, I attribute humanly chosen evil entirely to human beings—and not to Goddess or God. Continue reading “IS EVIL PART OF THE NATURE OF REALITY AND DIVINITY? by Carol P. Christ”


carol-christThe Gods made only one creature like them—man.  Greek TV documentary

The sight of a reptile or an amphibian usually provokes, at the very least, a feeling of repulsion in most people. Natural History of Lesbos

In the past days and weeks the two tortoises with whom I share my garden have woken up from a long winter’s sleep.  Henry, testudo marginata, has been up for a while now.  More than a month ago when I was cutting back and weeding in the area of the garden where he had been sleeping, Henry roused himself to sit in the sun near me for a few hours each day before creeping back under a shrub.  At first I thought I had disturbed him, but when he came back out day after day while I worked, I began to wonder if he was coming out to say hello.

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAScotty, testudo graeca, was nowhere to be found.  As I moved my work around the garden, I did not find him in the corner where he had slept the previous winter.  This worried me slightly, but I figured he must be under the rue in the one area of the garden still to be trimmed back.  Imagine my surprise when I almost tripped on him on my way down the stairs to the cellar.  Clever boy, he must have found the garden entrance to the cellar open one day in early winter and slipped in.  The fact that I found him at the foot of the stairs and not in a dark corner was evidence that he too had heard the call of spring.

What we love we protect and what we know we love.  Natural History of Lesbos Continue reading “TWO TORTOISES IN THE WEB OF LIFE by Carol P. Christ”

Terry Pratchett’s Discworld, Feminist Theology, and Finitude by Linn Tonstad

Linn Marie TonstadIn David Kelsey’s theological anthropology, Eccentric Existence, he emphasizes that finitude renders creation vulnerable, but he still insists on the goodness of what he terms the “quotidian proximate contexts” in which human life is lived: our ordinary, everyday lives. Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels bring together a multitude of characters – ethnically, religiously, and otherwise diverse – in the chaotic yet lively city of Ankh-Morpork (a fictionalized London). The Discworld offers what I see as a theology of everyday flourishing that fits with both Kelsey’s analysis of finitude and with significant feminist theological claims.

The books focus on the men and not-men (women, werewolves, vampires, trolls, a six-foot tall dwarf named Carrot, and a Nobby Nobbs) who populate the city and bring it to life. The characters of Pratchett’s city offer a vivid imaginative rendering of the vulnerabilities and possibilities of life in everyday finite contexts that bring together diverse creatures in the service of the goal of common flourishing. Although all theologies outline a social imaginary, whether implicitly or explicitly, the dry and technical character of much theological reflection can make it difficult for the reader to imagine what life would be or could be like given the proposals advanced by a particular author. Pratchett is a consummate observer of the everyday, and his world brings to life what a theology of the everyday would look like. Continue reading “Terry Pratchett’s Discworld, Feminist Theology, and Finitude by Linn Tonstad”

Gendered Imagery of God (Part 1) by Elise M. Edwards

Elise Edwards

I have been doing a lot of thinking about gendered imagery and language for God over the past few months. Honestly, a lot of this reflection was provoked by hostile comments I got from my college students at the end of the fall semester because I require gender-neutral language for God and gender-inclusive language when referring to people. The policy in my syllabus is this:

For academic discourse, spoken and written, students are expected to use gender-inclusive language for human beings, and gender-neutral language for God. (e.g. “God” instead of “He;” “God’s” instead of “His;” etc.) This is to prepare students to communicate to the world beyond the Christian university setting. I want to equip you to succeed in graduate school, in the corporate world, and in public communication, all settings in which gender inclusive language for is increasingly expected.

I provide links to websites that discuss the issue, and we talk about it more when we discuss 20th century feminist issues in my course on the Christian Heritage and when we discuss prejudice and sexism in my ethics class.  Some students have thanked me for the policy. But many students are perplexed by it, and I’m perplexed by their confusion. It shocks my system when I hear people refer to “man” for all people; I first became aware of the issue when I was in 2nd or 3rd grade and the Girl Scouts changed their pledge because it referred to “mankind.” That was over 30 years ago!

While I’m confused as to why replacing “man” with “people” is such a difficult task, I am more empathetic to the reorientation required to replace “He” with “God.”  (And I also acknowledge that the term “God” is not completely genderless either.) I recognize that for many of my students, I might be the first one to challenge their gendered conceptions of God.  So I am empathetic, but insistent.

The way discussions about the “gender” of God and Savior are often dismissed as irrelevant, unimportant, silly, or the remote concern of “those feminists” bothers me. Traditional Christian theology asserts that God is a different kind of being than humans are.  Therefore, God (the first person of the Trinity) and the Holy Spirit do not have a sex or gender, as sex is a characteristic associated with physical creature-ness and gender is (to simplify) a social construction related to sex. The second person of the Trinity, Jesus, is thought to be male.  In the Incarnation, the eternal God became human while also divine, and therefore has a sex and gender in the person of Jesus.  But the Trinity as a whole is without sex and has characteristics that we would associate with femininity, masculinity, and genders in between.  According to this logic, references to the maleness of God should only be understood metaphoricall,y not literally, and therefore replacing that language with genderless/sexless language should not be inherently problematic.

I’m not saying that the use of any language in reference to God is appropriate or acceptable within the bounds of traditional theology.  We (traditionals and non-traditionals alike) should be concerned with how we refer to God, because as Sallie McFague and others remind us, these metaphors/models of God have consequences in the world beyond language.  Maleness becomes deified or closer to godliness than femaleness, maleness becomes the model for the priesthood, maleness is the true form of authority, etc.  I believe that many of the concerns about feminine imagery for God are based in this same concern: that by associating God with one sex or gender, we claim God’s preference for that sex or gender.  In a patriarchal system, this correlation between God and the feminine simply will not do.  Feminists who assert feminine qualities of God are merely making projections of themselves, critics claim.

How we conceptualize the being we worship matters. It matters to me, at least. While I acknowledge that there is a danger of simply projecting an image of myself as a deity that I worship, I also think there is great harm in loving and worshiping the divine imaged as those who are at times hostile to me, and historically have been so to my ancestors and kin. So although I know and have good relationships with older, white males, I see no reason why I should image and worship God “the Father” who looks like an old white man. How would that benefit my spiritual practice?

Thank you Carol Christ, for asking me to state my views about this in the comments to my last post. I look forward to more discussions with you and the members of this community.  When I read your work years ago, I was convinced about the validity and rightness of affirming feminine forms of divinity. Although the Christian (patriarchal) tradition does not have much room for Goddess language, I am comfortable with it, at least for the first and third persons of the Trinity. In my next post, I’ll talk more about the ways I am considering the gender of the Christ.

Elise M. Edwards, PhD is a Lecturer in Christian Ethics at Baylor University and a graduate of Claremont Graduate University. She is also a registered architect in the State of Florida. Her interdisciplinary work examines issues of civic engagement and how beliefs and commitments are expressed publicly. As a black feminist, she primarily focuses on cultural expressions by, for, and about women and marginalized communities. Follow her on twitter, google+ or

“Immanent Inclusive Monotheism” with a Multiplicity of Symbols Affirming All the Diversity and Difference in the World by Carol P. Christ

carol-christIn recent years monotheism has been attacked as a “totalizing discourse” that justifies the domination of others in the name of a universal truth. In addition, from the Bible to the present day some have used their own definitions of “exclusive monotheism” to disparage the religions of others. Moreover, feminists have come to recognize that monotheism as we know it has been a “male monotheism” that for the most part excludes female symbols and metaphors for God.  With all of this going against monotheism, who would want to affirm it?

In response to some or all of the above critiques, many modern pagans define themselves as polytheists, affirming at minimum, the Goddess and the God, and at maximum a vast pantheon of individual deities, both female and male, from a single culture or from many, including divinities with animal characteristics.  Other pagans define themselves as animists, affirming a plurality of spirits in the natural world. A group of Christian feminists have argued that the Christian Trinity, the notion of God Three-in-One, provides a multiple and relational understanding of divinity.

While also rejecting exclusive monotheism and male monotheism, Jewish poet, ritualist, and theologian Marcia Falk provided a definition of inclusive monotheism that I find compelling.

Monotheism means that, with all our differences, I am more like you than unlike you. It means that we all share the same source, and that one principle of justice must govern us equally.  . . Continue reading ““Immanent Inclusive Monotheism” with a Multiplicity of Symbols Affirming All the Diversity and Difference in the World by Carol P. Christ”

The Great Commandment for Women: Love and Care for Yourself as You Love and Care for Others by Carol P. Christ

carol-christA rabbi known as Jesus of Nazareth taught that you should  “love God with all your heart and your neighbor as yourself.”  Charles Hartshorne, philosopher of relationship and a twentieth century advocate of the “two great commandments,” added that it should be understood that this means that God wants you to love yourself too.

I quote Hartshorne’s midrash on the great teaching often because, sadly, too many women—and some men too–have been taught to love their neighbors at the expense of themselves, to care for others, but not to care as much for themselves.  Continue reading “The Great Commandment for Women: Love and Care for Yourself as You Love and Care for Others by Carol P. Christ”

Let Us Give Thanks for Feminism and Religion Dot Com by Carol P. Christ

carol-christFeminism and Religion was founded in the late spring of 2011. Throughout the summer Gina Messina-Dysert hounded me about submitting a blog while I ignored her emails because I didn’t think I wanted to take on a new project.  Gina was persistent nonetheless. Finally I decided that it would be easier to take an excerpt from a book review I had recently written than to explain why I didn’t want to write something for the blog, and so “Exciting New Research on Matriarchal Societies” became my first contribution.

I must have enjoyed writing the blog or reading the responses to it, because my FAR archives show that I was soon contributing a blog every other week and not long after that, every week.  Continue reading “Let Us Give Thanks for Feminism and Religion Dot Com by Carol P. Christ”

“THE DIVINE MYSTERY”? by Carol P. Christ

carol-christ“The mystery of God in feminist theological discourse” is the subtitle of Elizabeth Johnson’s widely read She Who Is. The notion that God is “a mystery” is rarely questioned in feminist theologies. But maybe it should be.

Although it is true that the finite cannot encompass the infinite, and that all knowledge is rooted in particular standpoints, I do not agree that the first and last thing to be said about the divine power is that it is “a mystery.” Indeed as I will argue here, speaking about God as “a mystery” obscures more than it “reveals.”

christina's loveThe notion that Goddess or God is “a mystery” is rooted in notions of “a God out there” that most spiritual feminists reject. Goddess or God “in” the world is, I suggest, not unknown, but known, not hidden, but revealed–in the beauty of the world and in ordinary acts of love and generosity.

The notion that God is “a mystery” is a well-worn trope in Roman Catholic theology. Protestants make similar claims when they speak of  the hiddenness of God Continue reading ““THE DIVINE MYSTERY”? by Carol P. Christ”


carol-christLast week I wrote about Protestant Neo-Orthodoxy’s deification of male power as power over.  This week I want to ask why the relational Goddess or God* of process philosophy has not been more widely embraced, both generally and in feminist theologies.

Could it be that a relational God just isn’t powerful enough? Are some of us still hoping that an omnipotent God can and will intervene in history to set things right?  Do we believe an omnipotent God can save us from death?

Process philosophy provides an attractive alternative to the concept of divine power modeled on male power as domination.  According to leading process philosopher Charles Hartshorne, the power to coerce, power as power over and domination, is not the kind of power God has.

The concept of divine power as omnipotent (having all the power) leads to what Hartshorne called “the zero fallacy.”  If God has all the power and can dominate in all situations, then the power of individuals* other than God is reduced to zero.  In effect, this means that individuals other than God do not really exist, but at most are puppets whose strings are pulled by the divine power.

Moreover, as Hartshorne argued, the power to coerce is not the kind of power Goddess “should” have.  Although many have been forced to submit to them, tyrants and bullies do not empower others.  Should we not understand the “highest power in the universe” as empowering of others?

For process philosophy Goddess is understood to be the most sympathetic or empathetic of all relational beings.  Continue reading “GODDESS WITH US: IS A RELATIONAL GOD POWERFUL ENOUGH? by Carol P. Christ”

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


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

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

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”

When Feminists Disagree by Linn Marie Tonstad

Linn Marie TonstadA while back I gave a talk on feminist trinitarian theology to an audience of mostly progressive academics, including feminist and womanist scholars of religion. In the course of analyzing what I called the ‘trinitarian imaginary’ in Christianity and its often-patriarchal and masculinist forms, I suggested that transforming that imaginary might require recognizing the hypothetical character of theological statements until the eschaton, a theme that has been developed in depth by a German theologian named Wolfhart Pannenberg. Now, Pannenberg is decidedly neither a feminist nor a progressive theologian. To name just one example: in his three-volume Systematic Theology, his few explicit references to feminist or female theologians include a brief mention of Mary Daly (volume 1, p. 262) in connection with a critique of feminist theologians for projecting (!) masculinity into God in their readings of divine fatherhood, and a critique of Valerie Saiving and Susan Nelson Dunfee’s positions on the traditional Christian doctrine of sin as pride (volume 2, p. 243). So when I mentioned Pannenberg as a resource in my talk, one of the feminist scholars in the audience audibly gasped and flinched – it became clear in the Q&A that she had significant concerns about whether I could count as a feminist at all. After all, to mine someone like Pannenberg for constructive feminist theological work might imply an endorsement of his other positions, or might entail taking over aspects of his system that would taint my own project in anti-feminist directions – all legitimate concerns.  Continue reading “When Feminists Disagree by Linn Marie Tonstad”

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

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

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

Connection to Ancestors in Earth-based Theology by Carol P. Christ

carol p. christ 2002 color“I am Carol Patrice Christ, daughter of Jane Claire Bergman, daughter of Lena Marie Searing, daughter of Dora Sofia Bahlke, daughter of Mary Hundt who came to Michigan from Mecklenburg, Germany in 1854.  I come from a long line of women, known and unknown, stretching back to Africa.”

Like many Americans, my ancestral history was lost and fragmented due to emigration, religious and ethnic intermarriage, and movement within the United States.  Though one of my grandmothers spoke proudly of her Irish Catholic heritage and one of my grandfathers acknowledged his Swedish ancestry, I was raised to think of myself simply as “American,” “Christian” and “middle class.”  Ethnic and religious differences were erased, and few stories were told. 

Over the past two years, I have begun to discover details of my ancestral journey, which began in Africa, continued in the clan of Tara, and was marked by the Indo-European invasions.  In more recent times, my roots are in France, Holland, England, Germany, Ireland, Scotland, and Sweden.  In the United States, my family has lived in tenements in New York City and Brooklyn, in poverty in Kansas City, and on farms in Long Island, Connecticut, upstate New York, Michigan, and Pennsylvania.  My parents and grandparents settled in northern and southern California during the 1930s.  I have lived in southern and northern California, Italy, Connecticut, New York, Boston, and now Greece.

Learning details about family journeys has created a shift in my sense of who I am.  Continue reading “Connection to Ancestors in Earth-based Theology by Carol P. Christ”

The David Syndrome? By Marcia Mount Shoop

Is it just me, or does anyone else feel like we’re all in Junior High or High School again with the Petraeus scandal?  There is drama at every turn with boundaries crossed and accusations slung across every lunch table there is.

When I was a teenager we didn’t have emails, Facebook , and Twitter (thanks be to God).  We passed notes.  I remember getting a really mean one scrawled in deliberately messy handwriting to maintain anonymity about how annoying I was to the “populace” (yes I remember that word was in there) because I didn’t wear make up and I thought I was “so smart.”

Just like today’s cyber detectives who figured out Paula Broadwell’s identity from the fingerprints we all leave behind in the online lives we lead, I traced this note back to its source.  I did it the old fashioned way—I asked around.  Unfortunately I found out it was from a “friend” and teammate of mine.  When I went to her house and confronted her she admitted it.  Turns out she was envious about a boy.  Little did she know at the time that the boy she wished for was abusive and I was living in my own secret hell.  I remember thinking to myself “you can have him.”   The stakes seemed so high back then—friendships, acceptance, one’s whole sense of self were hopelessly tangled up in tenuous, even dangerous, relationships. Continue reading “The David Syndrome? By Marcia Mount Shoop”

“The Language of the Goddess” In Minoan Crete by Carol P. Christ

While the “war against Marija Gimbutas,” rooted in what my friend Mara Keller calls “theaphobia,” is being waged in the academy, her theories continue to unlock the meaning of hundreds of thousands of artifacts from the culture she named “Old Europe.”

According to Gimbutas, the Neolithic and Chalcolithic cultures of Old Europe c. 6500-3500 BCE were peaceful, sedentary, agricultural, matrifocal and probably matrilineal, egalitarian, and worshipped the Goddess as the power of birth, death, and regeneration in human and all forms of life.  The cultures of the Old Europe contrasted with the Bronze Age cultures of the Indo-Europeans who brought the Indo-European languages and value systems to Europe and India and to all of the European colonies.  The Indo-European cultures were patriarchal, patrilineal, nomadic, horse-riding, and warlike, and worshipped the shining Gods of the sky. 

“The language of the Goddess” includes a series of signs and symbols that the people of Old Europe could “read” as surely as you and I know that a cross on top of a building marks it as Christian or that a woman wearing a star of David pendant is Jewish.  Gimbutas identified the meaning of these symbols through a painstaking process that involved comparison of artifacts, attention to where they were found, and clues from the recurrence of similar symbols in later cultures.  In twenty years of leading Goddess Pilgrimages to Crete, I have found Gimbutas’ theories an indispensible “hermeneutical principle” which unlocks the meanings of the artifacts we encounter.

  Continue reading ““The Language of the Goddess” In Minoan Crete by Carol P. Christ”

Goddess as Love: From Experience To Thealogy by Carol P. Christ

If theology is rooted in experience, how do we move from experience to theology? In my life there have been a number of key moments of “revelation” that have shaped my thealogy. One of these was the moment of my mother’s death.

In 1991 my mother was diagnosed with cancer. While she was being treated, I realized that I had never loved anyone as much as I loved her. When I wrote that to her, she responded that “this was the nicest letter” she “had ever received” in her life and she invited me to come home to be with her and my Dad.

My mother died only a few weeks after I arrived, in her own bed as she wished. She was on an oxygen machine, and I heard her call out in the dark of early morning. When my Dad got to the room, he tried to turn up the oxygen, but it didn’t help. Then he called the doctor who reminded him that my mother did not want to go to the hospital under any circumstances.

My Dad then sat by my mother’s bed and held her hand.  As my mother died, I felt that the room was” filled with love.” I sensed that my mother was “going to love.” Continue reading “Goddess as Love: From Experience To Thealogy by Carol P. Christ”

Are Most of Us Abused Children? And is Child Abuse the Root of Evil? by Carol P. Christ

Child abuse does not have to be physical or sexual. The most widespread forms of child abuse are psychological, and therefore harder to see, acknowledge, and eradicate. As abused children, we unconsciously pass on patterns of abuse visited on us to children, and to others we have power over including students, employees, and even friends and lovers.

The recent visit of a friend who is suffering greatly in a “battle” with her own “demons” reminded me of the important work of Alice Miller. My friend’s “demons” take the form of a persistent self-criticism laced with the feeling that “if only” she did or didn’t do certain things, her world would fall into place. My “demons” generally take a different form, telling me that I am helpless and that there is nothing I can do to ease my suffering.

Such “demons” were not implanted in my friend and me by the devil. They took root in interactions with our own parents, who were not themselves any different from most of the parents of their time and place. Recognizing that our parents were not “bad” people should not blind us to the great harm they did to us. However, when abused children speak of their abuse, the statement that their parents did not intend to harm them usually functions to deflect attention away from child abuse that really did occur. Continue reading “Are Most of Us Abused Children? And is Child Abuse the Root of Evil? by Carol P. Christ”


 My relationship to God changed when I accused “Him” of everything I thought “He” had done or let be done to women—from allowing us to be beaten and raped and sold into slavery, to not sending us female prophets and saviors, to allowing “Himself” to be portrayed as a “man of war.”

In the silence that followed my outpouring of anger, I heard a still small voice within me say: In God is a woman like yourself. She too has been silenced and had her history stolen from her. Until that moment God had been an “Other” to me. “He” sometimes appeared as a dominating and judgmental Other, and at other times as a loving and supportive Other, but “He” was always an “Other.” I as a woman in my female mind-body definitely was not in “His” image. 

After I expressed my anger to God, God transformed from an Other into what Whitehead once described as “a fellow [or should I say female] sufferer who understands.”  Although I had already been searching for a “God in my image” or “in whose image I could be,” I had yet to find Her. In the quiet after the storm, I came to believe that I would.   Continue reading “WHY DON’T FEMINISTS EXPRESS ANGER AT GOD? by Carol P. Christ”

On Winning and Not Winning in the “Fight” for “Justice” in the Web of Life by Carol P. Christ

The reason for hope is not the rational calculation that we will be able to save the world. The reason for hope is that it is important for us to try.

A few days ago, the United States Supreme Court upheld the deeply flawed heath care law passed by Congress. (I will not call it “Obamacare” as I do not believe Obama “owns” the concept of universal health care any more than Lyndon Baines Johnson or even Martin Luther King “owned” the concept of civil rights.) As a progressive I view universal health care as the only truly just health care system.  Still, I consider the Supreme Court decision a “victory.”

The same day the Supreme Court decided, I received a copy of a letter from the Greek government accessing 81,950 Euros in fines against the road-building company that violated the highly protected Natura wetlands while constructing the 36th National Road in Lesbos. Another “victory.”

Two weeks ago the cause of “justice,” as I see it, was not served when the center-right party New Democracy Party gained the majority in the Greek elections and became the central player in a coalition government. With New Democracy in coalition with the center-left Pasok, it is unlikely that corrupt politicians and tax evaders will be made to repay the money they have stolen from the Greek people. At the same time, it is likely that the Greek people in the middle and lower classes will be made to pay even more than they already have for the failure of a corrupt system of government.  The Green Party missed gaining 8 seats in Parliament in the first election by 4000 votes. In the second election we lost ground, while the fascist Neo-Nazi party that calls itself The Golden Dawn, garnered 18 seats. Continue reading “On Winning and Not Winning in the “Fight” for “Justice” in the Web of Life by Carol P. Christ”

GOD AND WOMAN AT YALE* by Carol P. Christ

As a graduate student, I was told in every way possible that I could not be a woman and a theologian.

When I was studying for my Ph.D. at Yale in theology in the late 1960s and early 1970s, my skirts were short as was the fashion of the day.  The male faculty and students and their wives dressed in ways that would not call attention to themselves or their sexuality.  I was also over 6’ tall.  When I walked into a room, I was consciously and unconsciously perceived as a threat to a world which these men had simply assumed was “theirs.”  Their response was to categorize me as a sexual being (I was once introduced as “our department bunny”) and to erase my mind.  I was to discover that the male graduate students were making bets in the dining hall about “where she will sit today.”  One of my friends frequently fell down and feigned to “worship” me when I passed him in the hallways.  I had never received so much attention from men before and it was flattering.

At the same time, I was being told by these men that of course “no one expected me to finish my degree because I would marry and have children” and that “all of the jobs should go to men who have families to support.”  The “generic male,” as in “when a man finishes his PhD,” was the common language of both faculty and students.  If I protested, I was reminded that I probably would not finish my degree anyway.  I dated two of the other students in my first year, fell in love with one of them and lost my virginity to the other.  They both dumped me.  I was being told in every way possible that I could not be a woman and a theologian.  There was such a disconnect between the way I was perceived and the way I perceived myself that I came close to suffering a mental breakdown. Continue reading “GOD AND WOMAN AT YALE* by Carol P. Christ”

LOVING LIFE* by Carol P. Christ

My religious views have changed over time, but the spirituality I learned from my grandmothers has remained constant. I have been Protestant, Catholic, a lover of Judaism, an admirer of Christian Science, and a Goddess feminist.  I have always loved life.

I was born in Huntington Hospital just before Christmas in 1945 and brought to my grandmother’s home on Old Ranch Road in Arcadia, California.  Peacocks from the adjacent Los Angeles County Arboretum screeched on the roof. There was another baby in the house, my cousin Dee, born a few months earlier.  My mother and her sister were living with their mother. The war was over, and they were anticipating the return of their husbands from the Pacific Front.  My earliest memory, recovered during healing energy work, is visual and visceral. I am lying crossways in a crib next to the other baby. There is a soft breeze. The other baby is kicking its legs, and I am trying to do the same.  I look up and see three faces looking down at us.  Although the faces are blurry in the vision I see, I feel them as female and loving.  I got off to a good start. Continue reading “LOVING LIFE* by Carol P. Christ”

SHE WHO CHANGES* by Carol P. Christ

She changes everything She touches and everything She touches changes. The world is Her body. The world is in Her and She is in the world. She surrounds us like the air we breathe. She is as close to us as our own breath. She is energy, movement, life, and change. She is the ground of freedom, creativity, sympathy, understanding, and love. In Her we live, and move, and co-create our being. She is always there for each and every one of us, particles of atoms, cells, animals, and human animals. We are precious in Her sight. She understands and remembers us with unending sympathy. She inspires us to live creatively, joyfully, and in harmony with others in the web of life. Yet choice is ours. The world that is Her body is co-created. The choices of every individual particle of an atom, every individual cell, every individual animal, every individual human animal play a part. The adventure of life on planet earth and in the universe as a whole will be enhanced or diminished by the choices we make. She hears the cries of the world, sharing our sorrows with infinite compassion. In a still, small voice, She whispers the desire of Her heart: Life is meant to be enjoyed. She sets before us life and death. We can choose life. Change is. Touch is. Everything we touch can change. Continue reading “SHE WHO CHANGES* by Carol P. Christ”

To a Friend, on the Loss of her Daughter by Carol P. Christ

One test of a thealogy is whether it can help us “make sense” of our lives—even the senseless parts of them.

Recently a friend told me that the teen-aged daughter of a friend of hers had committed suicide. “What would your thealogy say to that?” she asked me. Here is what I might say to a friend who lost her daughter:

I am so sorry for your loss. This never should have happened.

I remember times when I wanted to commit suicide. My pain was intense and my mind was stuck. All I could think was: this hurts too much to go on, and it will never change, so I might as well die. I am so sorry if your daughter felt that way, because I know it is a horrible way to feel. I am sorry she was not able to understand that it could have–and probably would have–changed. Don’t blame her. Sometimes pain is so overwhelming you really cannot see beyond it. Don’t blame yourself either. I am certain you did everything you could think of to help her. I know that if you could have prevented her, you would have. It really was not your fault. I don’t blame you, and no one else should either.

I also want to tell you that what happened to your daughter was not the will of God. Goddess, like you, felt you daughter’s suffering and reached out to try to help her. Like you, She did not have a magic wand. All She could offer was love and understanding. Right now Goddess is feeling your feelings of anger and sorrow that Her love and compassion and yours were not enough to comfort your daughter. Please do not torture yourself further by asking how this could have been the will of God. It was not. It really was not. Continue reading “To a Friend, on the Loss of her Daughter by Carol P. Christ”


On Good Friday, Easter Saturday, Easter Sunday, and Easter Monday the blogs on celebrated mothers and God the Mother.*

 This is my body, given for you.

This is my blood, given for you.

While these words are the center of a Christian liturgy celebrating the sacrifice of Jesus as the Christ, they are more appropriately spoken of our own mothers. Your mother and my mother and all mothers, human and other than human, mammalian, avian, and reptilian, give their bodies and blood so their offspring might have life. True, mothers do not always make conscious choices to get pregnant, but almost all mothers affirm life in their willingness to nurture the young who emerge from their bodies and from their nests. Had mothers—human and other than human–not been giving their bodies and their blood from time immemorial, you and I would not be here.

The Easter liturgy fails to acknowledge that the original offering of body and blood is the mother’s offering. Christianity “stole” the imagery associated with birth and attributed it to a male savior. If that was all Christians had done, it would have been bad enough. In most countries today there are laws against theft. Christian theologians and liturgists should also be given an “F” for plagiarism–defined as presenting the ideas of others as if they are one’s own. Z Budapest was right when she famously famously opined, “Christianity didn’t have any original ideas.

Continue reading “EASTER OF THE GODDESS: A VIEW FROM GREECE by Carol P. Christ”

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