From the Archives: Resistance and the Religious Left by Gina Messina

This was originally posted on June 21, 2017, you can read the original comments here.

For the last forty years, the Christian Right has influenced the conversation in American politics. Where is the Religious Left and how are they impacting our nation’s moral agenda? It is an important question, and now, more than ever, we need a progressive religious viewpoint in the conversation.

We are living in an era where the morality of our society is at stake and the soul of our nation is being bought by billionaires who have an insatiable appetite for money, power, and control. With an alt-right movement growing and nationalism becoming the Trump Administration theme, we are in danger of losing our humanity.

It is time for a serious response to the Christian Right. Why must we associate Christianity with bigoted policies? This ongoing movement has dominated our nation’s political agenda and led to the idea that you are either religious and conservative or liberal and atheist. Don’t get me wrong, every person’s belief system is their own and should not be judged.  However, studies well demonstrate that many Americans are walking away from religion all together because of the Christian Right’s political influence. It is time that Christianity be recognized as more than a conservative movement seeking to highjack policies and victimize the disenfranchised.

The true message of Jesus is founded on love, inclusion, liberation, and social justice. No Christian Right position resembles this. In fact, they are in direct conflict. Rather than focusing on condemning those who are deemed “the other,” why not focus on caring for the poor, welcoming the stranger, and healing the sick?

Likewise, conservative Christian stances have been historically anti-feminist and anti-woman. Those clinging to such beliefs would rather elect a president that has openly discussed grabbing women by the “pussy” than risk giving up privilege.

As the Women’s March has challenged Trump and his policies on gender, an anti-feminist backlash has strengthened with Evangelical women arguing that feminists have created their own oppression by whining rather than taking responsibilities for themselves.

The Christian Right would be surprised to find out that Jesus’ politics and teachings mirror the values of feminism – calling for an end to all oppression and creating a society that is just and fair for every person regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, age, religion, etc. Jesus welcomed women to his community and women played a critical role in his ministry.  Jesus not only had women disciplines; but also selected women as prominent recipients of his revelation. Most notably, Jesus chose women as the first witnesses of his resurrection. And while the apostles did not believe Mary Magdalene’s testimony, nevertheless, she persisted.

It is time not only for a resistance but a religious resistance where those who try to abide by the message of Jesus stand up to the Christian Right.  I acknowledge that no one is a perfect Christian; we all fail. But what is important is that we recognize the message of the Gospels and keep trying. Thus, we must reject the oppressive regime of the Trump Administration and the bigoted claims of the Christian Right. We must reclaim the Christian faith in its true form and live out its message the way it was intended.

We are living in a difficult time, but let us claim this moment to energize and unify the Religious Left. In the name of the Lord, let us challenge those who manipulate the Christian message as means to claim power and privilege while oppressing everyone else. It is time to make humanity great again.

In Search of Insight by Gina Messina

A conversation I often have with students is focused on the ways mission and purpose are inextricably linked with our roles as human beings. Understanding what it means to say that human beings have a specific purpose can feel overwhelming and spiral us into an existential crisis; a hallmark of a “Messina class,” according to one of my students. 

Regardless of religious or spiritual beliefs, we must know that we are called to a particular mission within our lives. We are gifted with knowledge and abilities that contribute to a greater whole. And when we are willing to see our own missions through, we become part of a collective effort that honors the humanity of all. 

For many of us, we have a mission; an understanding of our purpose and how we can engage our communities to work toward positive social change. But as time passes, we grow, our circumstances shift, and we gain insight; as a result, our missions need to reshape.

For women, and particularly women of color, our ability to understand and engage our missions have been bogged down with oppressive structures that devalue our contributions. Dualism has forced women into roles of passive care takers who always put themselves last. Acknowledging the critique of white feminism, women of color experience such roles in a far more damaging way, expected to not only care for their own families; but also serve those who society has claimed to have a higher status based on race and wealth. Although we too are made in the image of God, our full humanity is often denied, with intersecting identities determining our level of worthiness in this broken world.  Continue reading “In Search of Insight by Gina Messina”

Spirituality and Happiness by Gina Messina

A course on happiness at Harvard University is the most popular class in the nation right now. It is taught by Tal Ben-Shahar who also wrote the book Happier based on his curriculum. “What does it mean to be happy?” seems to be the question that many are asking these days as we are accumulating more with less fulfillment. Perhaps the question we should be asking is, “what does it mean to have what we need?”

We wake up each morning thinking that we do not have enough — not enough sleep, not enough time, not enough money, etc. We have fed into the media messaging that we need more and that a gluttonous life is a good life. We want the bigger house, the new car, the walk in closet filled with the latest fashion, and high dollar skin care products so we can escape aging.  

I am guilty of succumbing to the predatory marketing practices. I’ve openly admitted to having an unhealthy obsession with handbags. I had assembled quite the collection over the years. Each had its own dust bag and I kept them stuffed with tissue paper to maintain their form. They lined my closet and occasionally I would stop to admire them. Sometimes I switched bags based on what would work best with my outfit, or hold my laptop, or what would put the least weight on my shoulder. For a while, they were a source of pride.

As I had found myself swept up in the happiness question, I realized that the beautiful, well constructed bags that I had collected did not increase my quality of life; in fact, they did little more than add clutter to my closet. Thus, it begs the question, why did I want them in the first place? Continue reading “Spirituality and Happiness by Gina Messina”

Grief and Rebirth by Gina Messina

Rebirth is challenging. It demands that we be accountable, acknowledge failures and fears, recognize the ramifications of our actions, and the ways we impact those who share our journey. We often don’t realize that denying self-love and care in favor of sacrifice for others results in a double negative. If we don’t care or ourselves, we cannot care for anyone else. 

Warning…TMI ahead. I’ve thought a lot about writing this piece. I believe in the spirit of sharing experience; learning from one another—recognizing our own stories and finding we are not alone—when someone is willing to speak her truth. My gratitude to Carol Christ whose courage to share experience has empowered me to brave (I feel an overwhelming urge to insert emojis to express my emotion and gratitude; and although I am desperately trying to restrain myself… 🤗❤️🙏).

Being vulnerable is scary. It is uncomfortable. It requires us to share our deepest fears, that for which we feel shame. It can be embarrassing. We don’t want to be judged. And yet, our vulnerability can also promote our own healing and offer a sense of comfort to those who share in our struggle. And so, I feel like I should shout out Geronimo…

This month marks eleven years since losing my mother to violence. It also marks fours year since I chose to leave my seventeen year marriage. I hadn’t before made the connection about these two events occurring the same month until this very moment of my writing – but it occurs to me that there is a significance in finding strength during a time when I was grieving the anniversary of my mother’s passing. Perhaps a reflection for another post…

I remember the moment I knew that my marriage was likely going to end; I felt like I was dying. I begged my husband to stay. I recited prayers that have never brought me comfort. I went to a church that offered me no community. I sought counseling from a priest who devalues me because I am a woman. I turned to the traditional interpretation of my religion to keep me firmly placed in an unhealthy marriage. Power structure enforcing power structure.    Continue reading “Grief and Rebirth by Gina Messina”

Dear Mary by Sara Wright

This piece was written in response to Gina Messina’s recent Feminism and Religion piece “Who is God?”

Dear Mary,

When I responded to a post on feminism and religion this morning I wrote that you were my first goddess. As a child I knew little beyond that you were the “Mother of God,” and I found your presence immensely comforting, even seeking you out in secret, entering your rose garden in a local monastery. I needed you so.

Early in adolescence I learned that your life was one of purity, sacrifice, and loss. Your purity left me bereft. How could a young Victorian girl be “good enough” to serve such a figure? I was fierce and passionate – a thorny red rose – with an empty hole in my heart.

Sadly, I released you and chose your sister the whore, the Black Goddess in disguise… but I didn’t know that then; I only knew that the “black” woman succumbed to her flesh as I did, covered herself in shame…What lies Patriarchy tells…

Continue reading “Dear Mary by Sara Wright”

Dissent by Gina Messina

71517_10200316462096891_2039548303_nI often share that what I’ve learned about strength, perseverance, and responsibility, I learned from my grandmother and namesake, Gina. In November we celebrated her life and said goodbye to the pioneering woman who overcame the greatest of obstacles to lead a life of dissent.   

Gina Sr. was born in Camaiore, Italy in 1926. She lived through WWII, was captured and escaped from Nazi soldiers three times, and walked 200 miles to find safety. Following the war she found herself on a boat filled with war brides headed to the U.S. and never saw her family again. She divorced in the early 60’s becoming a single mother and social pariah, and survived the loss of three of her children. Continue reading “Dissent by Gina Messina”

Identity Politics by Gina Messina

Version 2This past week my daughter, Sarah and I had a conversation about God:

Sarah: Dad says God is a myth. He doesn’t exist.
Me: Well none of us really know who God is because we’re humans. And besides, God is definitely not a man.
Sarah: I really think that God is a monkey.

Me (trying to keep a straight face): Why do you think God is a monkey?
Sarah: Because all people came from monkeys and God created us so that makes a lot of sense. It also explains why God is doing such a bad job.
Me: Why do you think God is doing a bad job?
Sarah: Well, Donald Trump is president…

At nine years old, my daughter is quite the critical thinker and very invested in knowing what is happening in our country. She has strong feelings about Trump — especially his treatment of women and policy to separate families at the border. She asks why someone gets to be president if s/he does not care about everyone in the nation. It is a good question. I’d like to take credit here, but Sarah is simply paying attention to our world and making her own conclusions — logical ones at that. 


While Trump supporters chant the political slogan “Make America Great Again,” women are wondering when there was ever a time where our human rights were acknowledged, and especially those of women of color. Women have been consistently disenfranchised throughout history and have had to fight for the most basic rights granted to white men.  Continue reading “Identity Politics by Gina Messina”

EcoJustice and Our Relationship with God by Gina Messina

Version 2This semester I am teaching the course EcoJustice and chose Sallie McFague’s A New Climate for Theology as our foundational text. Something I greatly appreciate about McFague is that she continually calls us to radically redefine our understanding of the Divine and of our roles as human beings — fundamental questions that could easily lead to an existential crisis as one student reminded me. 

My class and I ponder these questions, discussing our own interpretations of God, why we exist, what it means to pray, and understandings of salvation. Not surprisingly, many of us have an anthropocentric theology — one that puts ourselves at the center. We are so focused on what we need from God, we forget to ask what God needs from us.  Continue reading “EcoJustice and Our Relationship with God by Gina Messina”

Will Donald Trump Go to Heaven? by Gina Messina

Having seen the image of a toddler crying while law enforcement questioned her mother, my daughter was filled with fear, anxiety, and confusion. After tearfully asking if she would be taken away from me, my nine year old followed up with the question, “Will Donald Trump go to heaven?”

It is true that the young girl was not a child who was being separated from her mother. Nonetheless, she has become the face of this time in history where American values no longer include “family values,” protecting children, or respecting human dignity. 

The business mogul who claims a Christian identity with a room full of bibles to prove it, has made oppression, injustice, and the general devaluing of life the core of his administration. While Jesus calls us to embrace the stranger, walk with the least of these, to be a loving neighbor, and work for the liberation of every person, Trump’s actions and policies violate every teaching. And so, my daughter’s question was not out of line. Continue reading “Will Donald Trump Go to Heaven? by Gina Messina”

Remembering MLK’s Life, not Death by Gina Messina

Gina-MD-5-UrsulineYesterday marked the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. Thousands gathered at his memorial and many more rallied across the U.S. to honor King’s commitment to civil rights and non-violent action. His message continues to resonate in a nation that has never ceased to struggle with complex issues related to race, gender, sexuality, religion, and so on. 

While the Land of the Free is invested in honoring King’s death, we could instead be focused on how he lived. As Rev. Jesse Jackson explains, 

He mobilized mass action to win a public accommodations bill and the right to vote. He led the Montgomery bus boycott and navigated police terror in Birmingham. He got us over the bloodstained bridge in Selma and survived the rocks and bottles and hatred in Chicago. He globalized our struggle to end the war in Vietnam.  How he lived is why he died. Continue reading “Remembering MLK’s Life, not Death by Gina Messina”

Women Religion Revolution and its Political Theological Orientation by Xochitl Alvizo

I introduced the volume  Women Religion Revolution,  the collected works that Gina Messina and I co-edited, in a previous post. I now write about the political theological orientation with which we entered the project of the book.

The very first thing to note is that this work was, from beginning to end, a collaborative effort at multiple levels. First is the personal, relational. The idea for the book was Gina’s, but she invited me to join her in the project very early on. We brainstormed contributors and hit the ground running. Next, with the help of Kate Ott, we partnered with Feminist Studies in Religion, Inc. and its newly launched FSR Book Series. We were excited for the opportunity to have our book be among the first ones published. Organizationally, FSR Inc. partners with the Carter Center and its Mobilizing Action for Women and Girls Initiative. The Carter Center helped support the launch of the FSR Books series out of its concern to support works that make a difference to women and girls. And so, by way of FSR, this project was also made possible by the Carter Center (more on that in a bit). Continue reading “Women Religion Revolution and its Political Theological Orientation by Xochitl Alvizo”

The Making of Women Religion Revolution by Xochitl Alvizo

Last month in Boston during the American Academy of Religion (AAR) Annual Meeting I presented on Women Religion Revolution, a volume of collaborative work with fifteen other women that Gina Messina and I co-edited. The book is the third one published with FRS Books, the new book series of Feminist Studies in Religion, Inc. (FSR, Inc.) – a project with which we are very proud to partner.

FSR Books organized a panel featuring these first books. Serving as a backdrop of the whole panel was Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza’s own book, Congress of Wo/men: Religion, Gender, and Kyriarchal Power, which was FSR Books’ first publication. In this book, Schüssler Fiorenza introduces the concept and vision of the ekklēsia of wo/men as kosmopolis. Defining the ekklēsia of wo/men as “the decision-making assembly of the kosmopolis,[1] she explains the kosmopolis as the polis/city-state “governed by the egalitarian values and visions of justice and well-bring for everyone without exception” (106). She calls feminists in religion to “build a global, transcultural, cosmopolitan organizations for articulating a wisdom spirituality of cosmic world citizenship and for securing the welfare of everyone in the kosmos/world and of the kosmos itself” (111-112). In other words, Schüssler Fiorenza’s volume is a renewed call for feminists to think big and think together beyond the binary of secular/religious so as to more effectively counter the neoliberal domination of our current global context. Continue reading “The Making of Women Religion Revolution by Xochitl Alvizo”

God Says No Moore by Gina Messina

Doug Jones victory in the Alabama Senate election last Tuesday is certainly something to celebrate. Although many claimed God supported Roy Moore for Senate, his defeat says otherwise.

However, it must be noted that this narrow victory ended with 48% of the vote in Roy Moore’s favor. In addition, 80% of white evangelicals cast their votes for Moore. This begs the question, what should our votes be based on, particularly if we are claiming the Christian faith as the foundation of our values? While we should all value the separation of church and state, and it is true that government needs to be protected from religion, sometimes religion also needs protecting from government. Continue reading “God Says No Moore by Gina Messina”

Why We Don’t Tell by Gina Messina

Roy Moore is the next in line to be exposed as a sexual predator in a long list that has unfolded since the Harvey Weinstein scandal. I find it both comical and distressing that Moore has attempted to justify his behavior by saying “I’ve never dated a girl without her mother’s permission.” In addition, he argued that such claims against him could not be true; it was so long ago; who would wait forty years to tell?

Apparently Moore has not heard the term rape culture – one he is clearly a product of – and how it leaves victims feeling silenced and ashamed. Perhaps he has not listened to the woman he assaulted sob on television as she spoke of her fear, embarrassment, and pain? Recounting her victimization, Beverly Young Nelson said she didn’t speak out because Moore told her no one would believe her. At only sixteen, Nelson knew that reporting the assault would lead to more trouble for her and no consequences for Moore. Continue reading “Why We Don’t Tell by Gina Messina”

In Memory of Joseph R. LaGuardia: The Good and Faithful Servant by Gina Messina

There are so many massive tragedies in the world that need to be addressed at the moment. However, for me, there is only one that I want to write about today and it is the passing of my dear friend, Joseph LaGuardia. Although he often referred to himself as a “nobody,” Joe is a person who touched countless lives and made our world a more loving place.

Joe was the first person to welcome me to Ursuline College more than four years ago. Before I began my position as dean, Joe, who was serving as interim dean, met with me every week for about 2 months. As we both transitioned to new roles, we exchanged gifts without knowing the other had purchased one. We laughed that we both bought each other books. Joe shared with me his book of poetry Life Seasons, which of course is brilliant. And I gave Joe the book The Presidents’ Club and joked with him that as only those who had served as presidents knew what it was like in the oval office, he and I were in the Dean’s Club, and we were among the few who knew what it was like to serve in the dean’s office.

I was so fortunate that Joe agreed to continue to mentor me and we met weekly for breakfast, lunch, etc. to discuss how to manage the many things that would pop up in the world of academic administration. It was not long before Joe and I became very close friends. Continue reading “In Memory of Joseph R. LaGuardia: The Good and Faithful Servant by Gina Messina”

Resistance and the Religious Left by Gina Messina

Gina Messina-Dysert CGUFor the last forty years, the Christian Right has influenced the conversation in American politics. Where is the Religious Left and how are they impacting our nation’s moral agenda? It is an important question, and now, more than ever, we need a progressive religious viewpoint in the conversation.

We are living in an era where the morality of our society is at stake and the soul of our nation is being bought by billionaires who have an insatiable appetite for money, power, and control. With an alt-right movement growing and nationalism becoming the Trump Administration theme, we are in danger of losing our humanity. Continue reading “Resistance and the Religious Left by Gina Messina”

Make Humanity Great Again by Gina Messina

Gina-MD-5-UrsulineThe Handmaid’s Tale on Hulu has become my latest guilty pleasure.  I rarely watch television and when I do my channel is set to MSNBC. But the news has been almost too much to handle.  I still find myself living in disbelief that we are a nation under the Trump Administration.  And it seems that if you miss one day of the news cycle, you’ve missed a year with all the Trumptastic failures that continue to arise.

I decided one night to switch over to this series I had heard so much about. I was instantly gripped by the plot and the eerie reminder of what our nation could become with a growing alt right population. And with social policy continually being utilized as a weapon against women’s rights, there are many parallels to draw with The Handmaid’s Tale and our supposed “Christian” Nation. Even escapism landed me back in the frightening reality of our world.

81% of Evangelicals and 65% of Catholics voted Trump into the White House. While some argue faith has no place in politics, the real issue is that most do not vote with their faith in mind. Or perhaps they do, but the foundation of the Christian tradition is lost on them. Like the characters in The Handmaid’s Tale, many God-fearing Christians live “under His eye” and see progressive attitudes as a threat to natural order. The response is to overlook hatred in favor of calming fears. We fear what we do not know, we fear those who think differently than we do, and that fear has taken a hold of our nation with encouragement from our POTUS 45. Continue reading “Make Humanity Great Again by Gina Messina”

Out of the Darkness by Gina Messina

Gina and SarahToday is Spring Equinox in the Northern Hemisphere, a time to celebrate moving into light and abundance after the darker cold winter. While many of us are lucky enough to have shelter and access to food out of season, this is a time that continues to be a resurrection in countless ways. Not only is it a literal shift from darker days to increasing light, but a symbolic time that allows us to reflect on changes, that while seeming to be hopeless can blossom into new life.

I have been consumed in a time of shifting ground and deep darkness as my sixteen year marriage has come to an end.  Choosing to divorce rather than remain committed to good times and bad is a frightening and soul crushing event. To walk away from what seems to be stability in favor of a questionable future and to defy one’s foundational understanding of family as dictated by society and religion is beyond terrifying.  Continue reading “Out of the Darkness by Gina Messina”

Confronting the White Christian Vote for Trump by Gina Messina

Gina Messina-Dysert profileThis week a politician from Connecticut reached between a woman’s legs and pinched her genitals saying that he loves this new world where he doesn’t have to be politically correct. Sadly, this is just another act of violence among many perpetrated based on the example of our President Elect, Donald Trump.

While many have been very troubled by Trump’s candidacy and ultimate election to the highest office in the nation – and the world – more than 80% of Evangelicals and 60% of Catholics gave their vote to Trump. Continue reading “Confronting the White Christian Vote for Trump by Gina Messina”

FAR Press Publishes A Serpentine Path: Mysteries of the Goddess by Carol P. Christ

carol-p-christ-photo-michael-bakasThis is a great day for me as I announce the publication of A Serpentine Path: Mysteries of the Goddess. It is the first —but certainly not the last—book from the new FAR Press, directed by Gina Messina and Xochitl Alvizo, two of the founders of The release of my book is the fruit of friendship and collaboration that has been nourished in the blog community. I hope you will join with us in celebrating our joint venture by ordering the book, telling your friends about it, sharing it Facebook and Twitter (links below), reviewing it on Amazon, and letting Gina and Xochitl know if you can review in a magazine, journal, or blog.

Here is an excerpt from the preface to whet your appetite.


A Serpentine Path is a story that begins in despair and ends in rebirth and regeneration. It depicts a turning point in my life, a psychological and spiritual breakthrough that opened me to living the rest of my life in grace and joy. Though I am tempted to say it was a journey from darkness to light, that would be inaccurate, for mine was a journey into the darkness and out again. The path of life is never straight or narrow, and the circle of light and darkness is never-ending.

When I began the journey described in A Serpentine Path, I did not feel loved, I did not want to live, I could not write, and I believed the Goddess had betrayed my faith. As I completed the book, I knew I was loved, I wanted to live, I was writing, and I understood that the Goddess had never abandoned me. Though my life has had its ups and downs since then—as all lives do—I have never forgotten that I am loved, I have wanted to live, I have not stopped writing, and I feel the Goddess ever-present in my body, in my breath, and in my connections with the living and the dead. Though my story is deeply personal, my struggles with love and death, trust and control, are widely shared.

A story of finding the Goddess, A Serpentine Path is part of a growing genre that is developing as women explain to themselves and others why they left the patriarchal religions of their origins for a more nourishing spiritual vision that affirms both women and the earth. A Serpentine Path documents the first of the Goddess Pilgrimages to Crete I have been leading twice a year since then. For the women who have traveled with me, it will evoke many memories. For those who have dreamed of a pilgrimage to the Goddess, it offers an opportunity to imagine the journey. I now know a great deal more about ancient Crete, the folklore and customs of traditional Crete, and the rocks, trees and plants of Crete, than I did when I began. But I learned the mystery on my first pilgrimage. Because we are all deeply connected to each other, I know that the path to the mystery I discovered is not mine alone.


a-serpentine-path-amazon-coverBe among the first to order A Serpentine Path, Carol P. Christ’s moving memoir of transformation. Carol’s other new book written with Judith Plaskow is Goddess and God in the World: Conversations in Embodied Theology. Carol also wrote the first Goddess feminist theology, Rebirth of the Goddess.

Join Carol on a Goddess Pilgrimage to Crete in 2017. Save $200.

Read two of the chapters in the book: Mysteries and Dionysian Rites.

Thanks to Judith Shaw for the cover art “Downward Serpent”

Don’t Treat Religious Women Like Second Class Feminists by Gina Messina, Jennifer Zobair, and Amy Levin

ff-editors-001It seems like every few weeks another young, female celebrity proudly and publicly declares she is not a feminist: Shailene Woodley. Katy Perry. Kelly Clarkson. Kendall Jenner. These women often justify their refusal to claim feminism by explaining they do not hate men—speaking to the most intractable and yawn-worthy of the mischaracterizations of feminism—or by insisting they do not personally face inequality.

Nevermind that compelling movie roles for women dry up decades before those for men, or that recently 37-year-old Maggie Gyllenhaal was deemed “too old” to play the love interest of a 55-year-old man. (Thank you, Amy Schumer, for the Last F**kable Day Skit!). Even if we accept these young stars’ claims that they don’t face any discrimination, feminists wonder where the concern is for other, less privileged women.

This question is both frustrating and justifiable. On the one hand, who cares what a reality television star thinks of feminism? On the other, these women tremendous power to influence young women. For them to dismissively say, “I have rights, so who needs feminism,” both dishonors the sacrifices of our foremothers and ignores the reality that women’s rights are still in play.

They are still in play for women seeking equal pay for equal work, for those who want paid maternity leave, and for those who seek access to reproductive health. They are still in play for women of color and for LGBT women.

And they are still in play for women of faith.

Gender continues to be a serious issue in patriarchal religious traditions, and women continue to be denied particular roles because of their genitalia and/or gender expression. However, while mainstream feminists practically beg young celebrities to adopt the “feminist” label, women of faith are mocked for actually claiming a feminist identity and working within our traditions to combat sexism. While mainstream feminism seems desperate to have in its fold a 19-year-old reality television star who is famous in no small part because her older sister’s sex tape went viral, mainstream feminism rejects empowered women of faith.

So why have we become second-class feminists?

We understand the appearance of a disconnect between our faith and our feminism. We acknowledge that our religious traditions suffer from sexist interpretations. We understand why some feminists leave our faiths, and we have been tempted to do the same. But even if every Jewish, Christian and Muslim feminist abandoned her tradition, there would still be many women who stay, women for whom that decision has religious jurisprudential consequences. They will still be subject to Halakhah, Canon law and fatwas. They will still face exclusion from leadership roles. They will still endure pressure from community members who accept women’s lesser status based on the teachings of unenlightened rabbis, priests, and imams.

We acknowledge and concern ourselves with these real world impacts of our faiths. But we also recognize our faiths’ foundational messages for what they are and the ways they’ve been misconstrued. In other words, we refuse to let our traditions be defined by sexist interpretations.

This refusal takes many forms. Jewish, Christian, and Muslim feminist scholars are working within the framework of existing translations of the Torah, Bible, and Qur’an, producing new translations of those texts, and, in some cases, questioning the authenticity and divinity of verses that appear irredeemably sexist. At the same time, female activists are committing radical acts of worship that address longstanding sexism. Anat Hoffman was arrested and strip searched for her activism seeking legal recognition for Jewish women to pray out loud with traditionally male religious garb at the Western Wall in Jerusalem. Kate Kelly was excommunicated after founding the movement Ordain Women and calling for women to take on leadership roles within the Mormon Church. Amina Wadud endured international condemnations and threats of violence when she became the first woman to lead a mixed-gender Muslim prayer in the U.S.

These are dedicated, tenacious women who refuse to abdicate their religions to sexist interpretations. This is what courage looks like. This is what feminism looks like.

And yet, while mainstream feminists pine for young stars to pay lip service to feminism, women of faith who are actually doing brave and difficult work are routinely told they cannot be “true” feminists.

We recognize that many people think it is only a feminist act to leave patriarchal traditions. We contend that it can also be a feminist act to stay, and we look forward to the day when doing so puts neither our faith nor our feminism in question.

final-cover-faithfully-feministThis piece was co-authored by Jennifer Zobair, Gina-Messina-Dysert, and Amy Levin, the co-editors of Faithfully Feminist: Jewish, Christian, and Muslim Feminists on Why We Stay.

Hate Trumps Love? by Gina Messina

Gina Messina-Dysert profileThis election cycle has left many of us in a serious state of mourning.  The idea that Donald Trump could be elected president following the many bigoted, xenophobic, and sexist statements he has made seemed impossible, and yet it has happened.  Our nation has been left divided with various reactions to our President Elect.  Likewise, I have been wondering if hell has frozen over, because for the first time ever, Glenn Beck and liberals agree.  

On the Trump side we have seen racist acts of violence across the nation.  Signs that say “white power” or “make America white again” have been showing up on church lawns, schools, and more.  And let’s not forget how many women have been told they are going to be grabbed by the pussy. If President Elect Trump can do it, why can’t they? Continue reading “Hate Trumps Love? by Gina Messina”

The Trump (Non)Contrition by Gina Messina

Gina Messina-Dysert profileRegardless of bigotry and hate spewed by the Republican candidate for President of the United States, the American Christian Right has been among his strongest supporters. Following the disturbing video of Donald Trump discussing sexually assaulting women, many Republicans have jumped from the Trump Train and openly condemned his comments.  While some supporters continue to cling to the derailing campaign, particularly Evangelicals including Vice Presidential candidate Michael Pence, one must question, what would lead them to disavow this candidate?  Many thought a Trump Contrition was coming during the October 9th debate; and it was a true repentance that would allow Christians to overlook his bad behavior.  Continue reading “The Trump (Non)Contrition by Gina Messina”

Honoring St. Mary of Magdala by Gina Messina

Gina Messina-Dysert profileWhile I am joining the conversation a bit late, I find it necessary to comment on the significance of the “upgrading” of the celebration of  St. Mary of Magdala to a feast – on par with the male apostles.  While such a day that honors her is quite overdue, I am grateful to Pope Francis for acknowledging this incredible woman and her leadership in the Christian movement.

As we know from the Gospels, it was Mary Magdalene who stood at the foot of the cross with Mary the mother of Jesus, during his crucifixion.  When the male apostles ran in fear – and rightfully so – Mary of Magdala stood with Jesus refusing to disavow him and was a face of love for him to see during his darkest moment.

It was Mary of Magdala who was the first witness of Christ’s resurrection.  The very first Easter began with her and she was commissioned by Jesus to go and share the good news – to tell the other apostles – and that is why she is known as the apostle to the apostles. Continue reading “Honoring St. Mary of Magdala by Gina Messina”

Misogyny in the Republican Party by Gina Messina

Gina Messina-Dysert profileIn my home city of Cleveland, Ohio, yesterday Donald Trump received the nomination to run as the Republican presidential candidate in the 2016 election.  While we were on an upswing following the Cavaliers NBA championship and have been highlighted as “Believeland,” the nomination of Trump is another disappointing and health hazardous event that can be added to the reasons Cleveland is sometimes called “the mistake on the lake.”

There are so many reasons to be angered by the nomination of Trump; his blatant racism and bigotry, incitement of violence, ignorance of domestic or foreign policy, his insistence on discussing his penis size, and the list goes on.  With the recent tragic murders of Alton Sterling, Philandro Castile, and eight police officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge, Sterling’s 15 year old son has called for us to come together as “one united family” and end the violence.  Trump on the other hand, capitalized on their deaths as a way to highlight his “law and order” campaign and argue that Obama and Hillary Clinton are weak.

We’ve seen time and time again that Trump is unable to articulate anything meaningful in relation to his ability to fulfill the role of POTUS and his hateful rhetoric is influencing the ongoing violence in our nation.  Critical points are being made about an anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim, anti-Latino, pro-white supremacy Trump; however, I am concerned that appropriate attention is not being given to the anti-woman sentiment of Trump and the GOP in general.

Oppressions are deeply intertwined and must be uprooted together. And so, the misogyny that exists within the Republican party must also be acknowledged as problematic.

Trump has certainly been condemned for his statements about women; however as a whole the Republican party is focused on a campaign that is anti-woman and ordained by God.  My question is why are many much more willing to acknowledge racist and bigoted statements, but often turn a blind eye to the repeated right wing attempts to over turn Roe vs. Wade, defund Planned Parenthood, and regulate women’s sexuality in the name of religion?

Despite the fact that we are a secular nation, the Republican Party has claimed Christianity as a weapon against women’s human rights and it has been accepted as fair game in the world of politics.  Trump’s argument, along with Gingrich’s and others that we should create tracking systems or ban Muslims from coming into the nation has been immediately recognized as racist, ethnocentric, and fear mongering (and rightfully so).  But attempting to control women’s bodies and send us back to biblical times, well, it is something that many shrug their shoulders at and call a reasonable political issue.

All forms of oppression need to be addressed; you cannot uproot one, you must uproot all.  And so, if we are to properly address the bigoted statements coming from the Republican nominee, and booming through Cleveland at the moment being, we must acknowledge the complexities of these issues, the ways they are intertwined, and why all are unacceptable.

Gina Messina, Ph.D. is an American feminist scholar, Catholic theologian, author, and activist. She is also Co-founder of Feminism and Religion. She writes for The Huffington Post, has authored multiple publications and is the co-editor of the highly acclaimed Faithfully Feminist: Jewish, Christian, and Muslim Feminists on Why We Stay. Messina is a widely sought after speaker and has presented across the US at universities, organizations, conferences and on national platforms including appearances on MSNBC, Tavis Smiley, NPR and the TEDx stage. She has also spoken at the Commission on the Status of Women at the United Nations to discuss matters impacting the lives women around the world. Messina is active in movements to end violence against women and explores opportunities for spiritual healing. Connect with her on Twitter @FemTheologian, Facebook, and her website

Religion and the #StateofWomen by Gina Messina

Pledge PhotoThe White House Summit on Women was held this week on Tuesday, June 14, 2016 and it was a great privilege to be among those invited to participate in this inaugural event.  There was an incredible line up of speakers and so much was shared. It proved to be an overwhelming day – in a very good way.  Topics addressed included violence against women, economic empowerment, and education.  In addition to the main event, there were breakout sessions on a myriad of topics presented by the most preeminent authorities in their fields.  I walked away from the day with a sense of urgency to find news ways to engage gender issues and social policy.  However, I also wondered how to bring religion into the dialogue and give greater attention to its impact on women’s issues in the US. Continue reading “Religion and the #StateofWomen by Gina Messina”

If Jesus Ran for President by Gina Messina

Gina Messina-Dysert profileIf Jesus ran for president, what would his campaign look like?  Where would he stand on social policy? Who would be his running mate? Who would (not) vote for him?  With our current political dialogue dominated by supposed Christian views and a nation that overwhelmingly claims the teachings of Jesus as the basis for its morality, what would the response be if we came face to face with the (unintentional) founder of the tradition?  How would we really respond to Jesus’ teachings in contemporary society? And maybe more frightening, how would Jesus respond to us?

Imagine that Jesus was in the US today and launched his bid for the Whitehouse. Don’t imagine him announcing on the deck of an Aircraft Carrier, he’s more of a Homeless Shelter guy. Would he be the conservative “Christian” he is often labeled by the right? Would he be a Democrat as so many book titles have claimed? A libertarian? Green party? How do his teachings measure up with the various political parties and would there be room for Jesus at any of their tables?

What would Jesus think of our current and past presidents, nearly all whom have invoked the Lord’s name during their time in office.  What would he think of both Jimmy Carter and George W. Bush claiming that God wanted them to run for POTUS?  What about Bush’s (and Ronald Reagan’s) claim that God guided all of his policy making decisions while in office? And what about Barack Obama’s statement that when it comes to his politics, at the end of the day, “God is in control”?

Although not bringing God into the conversation would be career suicide for any politician and a large population of voters in the US claim a Christian identity, few would actually vote for Jesus if he ran for president.  Many of the values and ideologies associated with Christian views are in direct contrast to the teachings of Jesus.  For one, Jesus was anti-materialistic and we are living in one of the most gluttonous nations in the world.  Let me say upfront, I am guilty.  I have an unhealthy obsession with handbags and little makes me happier than a good sale at Nordstrom. I own it. But that doesn’t change who Jesus was or his teachings. Even if he was alive today I don’t think Jesus would be swayed by Nordstrom—-although I have seen amazing sandals there.

We have adopted Jesus as an American Icon, and in doing so, have twisted his words and teachings to support our own ideas.  It’s enough to make one think those WWJD bumper stickers stand for “What Wouldn’t Jesus Do?” And so, if Jesus did run for President, it is impossible to imagine, in a country that has adopted him as its icon and claims a “Christian” identity, that Jesus would ever be elected. His understanding, loving  approach would probably bar him from even getting a reality show—which appears to be key for a presidential resume these days.

Jesus Tweet

That’s right.  Likely no Christian would vote for Jesus and most would attack him for his teachings and politics – yes, Jesus was highly political. Some might like his message, but the media would label him unelectable and the GOP would go after him for being a left-wing, pro-union, welfare supporting, Obamacare enthusiast and democrats would argue that Jesus is a nice guy but doesn’t know a thing about running a country. If it came down to it, and the country was under threat, Jesus would never push the red button. Both would rather him be a mascot for their campaigns – “Jesus the carpenter” – AKA the new “Joe the Plumber.”

While Jesus the American Icon might have a chance in a presidential election, Jesus the Jewish carpenter of the Gospels would be laughed off the ballot.

This article is an excerpt from  If Jesus Ran for President coming from the Far Press in Fall, 2016 and was co-written with Steven Mazan.comingspring 2016

Gina Messina, Ph.D. is Assistant Professor of Religion and Gender Studies at Ursuline College and Co-founder of Feminism and Religion. She writes for The Huffington Post, has authored multiple publications and is the co-editor of the highly acclaimed Faithfully Feminist: Jewish, Christian, and Muslim Feminists on Why We Stay. Messina is a widely sought after speaker and has presented across the US at universities, organizations, conferences and on national platforms including appearances on MSNBC, Tavis Smiley, NPR and the TEDx stage. She has also spoken at the Commission on the Status of Women at the United Nations to discuss matters impacting the lives women around the world. Messina is active in movements to end violence against women and explores opportunities for spiritual healing. Connect with her on Twitter @FemTheologian, Facebook, and her website

Pope Francis’ “The Joy of Love” Falls Short by Gina Messina

Gina Messina-Dysert profileIt seems that Pope Francis has finally read Margaret Farley’s Just Love; and while he is taking steps in a positive direction, he still needs to spend time processing Farley’s words. With his new statement, Amoris Laetitia (The Joy of Love), Francis has called for us to begin to change our attitudes towards “the other” but is still unwilling to change the man made rules of the Vatican.  He refuses to acknowledge that LGBTQ relationships are in fact just and maintains the idea of complementarity rejecting women’s roles and capabilities outside of the home. Continue reading “Pope Francis’ “The Joy of Love” Falls Short by Gina Messina”

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