A Time for Reflection by Gina Messina

We are experiencing much grief and fear in this moment. Many of our loved ones have become ill, or passed on. We struggle with theodicy questions; why would God allow such devastation to occur? However, instead of asking why, as our eyes are being opened to the realities of our world, this is a moment that calls for deep reflection.

This Easter was a challenging time for many of us. I could never have imagined that my daughter Sarah and I would end up spending the holiday at home alone — or that we would have hot dogs and tater tots for Easter dinner  (I let Sarah pick – I should have seen that coming!). Although we were physically separated from family, we connected in other ways. I am grateful for the many suggestions on opportunities to remain engaged with each other even though we are not sharing the same physical space. 

Easter is a celebration of Resurrection; it is a time of new beginnings and I can’t think of a more relevant theme for this moment. We’ve been told to stay home, to rethink the ways we live our daily lives, and to do so knowing that our individual actions have life and death consequences. We’ve found that much of what we thought we couldn’t live without is actually insignificant and that our choices do matter beyond our own purview. 

Continue reading “A Time for Reflection by Gina Messina”

Adoring God in Labor by K Kriesel

The day before the 2019 Nevertheless She Preached conference at First Baptist Church of Austin, TX my own Catholic church’s young adult ministry hosted Eucharistic Adoration. Although I’ve enjoyed Adoration dozens of times, several factors made this evening different. I was preparing for cervical surgery for one. My Hebrew Bible class at Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary was grappling with Rebekah, Rachel, Leah, and the voiceless Dinah. The call to write the history of 20th century Catholic women theologians had been at my ear all day. The catalyst was when two men at the Adoration began leading a song about God the Father.

Maybe it was just the incense but I swear I saw something. An image of the baby crowning from the womb, God gasping in labor, as the Eucharist wore the gold of the monstrance as a crown before the tabernacle. God was pushing the Body of Christ into creation while I prayed for my own sick body. God was crying out with the voices of these thousands of unheard women. We were all there. I snuck out my phone and took a picture, determined to put the scene to paper.

Continue reading “Adoring God in Labor by K Kriesel”

Finding God in Music by Gina Messina

We cannot force a connection with God through a faulty conduit. What is important is that we affirm ourselves when we find it — when we feel it. Embrace those experiences, name them for what they are and recognize that you are sacred and the divine – whatever that means to you – is present.

When I’m in a funk, I generally feed into it and make it worse. Once we are in a rut it is easy to continue the spiral downward. I’m good at admonishing myself for lacking gratitude when I feel this way. It might be a Catholic guilt thing.

A few days ago, I was in a dark place; but this time I tried to own my sadness, acknowledge it, and let it go. The only thing I could think to do in hopes of shifting my emotions was to put on music – something up beat that would allow me to transcend the moment.  

I listened to a live version of “Stay” by The Dave Matthews Band, a song about embracing the beauty of our lives and the idea that those moments where it feels like we are just wasting time are often our most precious; the ones that allow us to connect with each other and ourselves. It was the sermon I needed — and an important lesson my uncle taught me — but more on that shortly.

I often say that I think music is the sound of my spirit — our spirits. As I started writing this, I struggled with finding the words to articulate the feeling music provokes within me. There is little else that creates such an indescribable experience and that is why I think that music is where I find my connection to the divine. 

Traditional religious services have always felt challenging to me.  I don’t connect to much of anything and generally find myself feeling angry and rejected by the Church and the community where I am supposed to find God. My grappling with Catholicism aside, we are told that our spiritual lives must take place within particular dimensions, and for many of us God is not there. Continue reading “Finding God in Music by Gina Messina”

Who is God? by Gina Messina

I often say I am a theologian who is uncomfortable with prayer and does not have a relationship with God. What I mean is that I am still trying to figure out how I understand the divine; conventional prayers feel exclusionary and that is not something I want to participate in. Instead, I believe there is so much more to these concepts than traditional theology offers.

I find comfort in Mary, mother of Jesus, Mary of Magdala, Maria Goretti, my grandmothers, and my own mother — in communing with the saints. I feel connected to them. I know what it means to be a woman, a mother, a daughter, and to live in a misogynistic world. Growing up with patriarchal imagery of God continues to influence my perceptions about the divine and I have not yet found a way to develop a sacred relationship with a being I have struggled to view as anything other than oppressive. I am on a journey, and one that often gets pushed to the side in favor of teaching, grading, parenting, writing, cooking, cleaning, laundry…and when I can get it, sleep.

It seems that my nine-year old daughter is also on a journey and having her first crisis of faith. She has come to me with many questions about God lately. Initially she asked if God is real and how we can know. Then she moved on to other questions…and then assumptions. Last week, Sarah came home from school and told me that God is a white man. My heart broke a little. I asked her why she thought that and she responded, “Haven’t you seen all the pictures of God? Duh.”  Continue reading “Who is God? by Gina Messina”

Is God Breathing? by Karen Leslie Hernandez

Another mass shooting. Syria. #MeToo. Hunger. Animal extinction. Iraq. Climate change. Deportation. Slavery. Central African Republic. Hate crimes. Rape. Animal cruelty. Oppression. Accidental nuclear war alerts. Homeless encampments. “Illegal immigrants.” Afghanistan. More mass shootings. Sex robots. Trafficking. Russian bots. Racism. Police brutality. Myanmar. Child abuse. Prostitution. Torture. Poverty. The war in Chicago. The privatization of water. Patriarchy. Prison industry. Islamophobia. Migrants.

This is our world. And I can’t breathe.

I often wonder – is God breathing? Does God care anymore? Does She wonder why we can’t stop harming each other? Has She given up on us? I certainly wouldn’t blame her.

As I sit writing this, the world outside continues. As we awake to more news that numbs us to the every day atrocities we commit upon each other, I believe, inside each and every one of us, we are screaming. We want out. We want this to stop. We are scared. We can’t breathe.

But, we don’t know how to stop. So we keep moving. We keep going. Because that’s what humans do. We keep hoping. We wonder how much time the universe will give us. Will we get a break? Will something or someone finally stop us? Are we even deserving of the chance after chance we continually receive – to get it right?

Are we worthy of saving?

Continue reading “Is God Breathing? by Karen Leslie Hernandez”

A Test of Faith – Did I pass? by Karen Leslie Hernandez

karen hernandezMore often than not, I think our faith is tested in ways that we can’t understand, personally, professionally, on a large and on a small scale. I’m realizing, as the years pass, that there’s no perfect way to handle challenges, yet, lately I’ve felt pressured to handle my stuff the way society tells me to.

In the last month, I made a huge career change, started a Doctor of Ministry program, and because of some serious doo-doo, I have to move out of my current housing by October 1. Now, mind you, I currently live in the most expensive city in the nation, where I can rent a 300 square foot studio apartment for the average whopping bargain of $3200. What a steal, eh?

Here’s the lesson – In all tears, fear, frustration, anger, uncertainty, and stress, that literally had me at my doctor’s office a couple of times, I found housing, in the city, at a remarkable rental price, because my soon-to-be new landlord, simply believes in looking at and seeing people, not money.  I had two interviews this week and I believe I will get at least one of those jobs. My daughter, who is also affected by the move-out date of October 1, has also found housing here in the city. I was considering delaying beginning my degree program because it felt like too much with everything else, but I didn’t. I love my class and am happy to be back in a learning environment again.

As daunting as it all felt, I followed that feeling that said that everything would work out. And it did. And it is. Yet, it’s not been easy, with the lump in my stomach and the emotional uncertainty of it all.

Let’s put it out there – who chooses vocation, over a money-making career? A lot of us. This is calling. This is faith at work. Yet in all of that, it feels so overwhelming, but, so right. Continue reading “A Test of Faith – Did I pass? by Karen Leslie Hernandez”

Elie Wiesel’s Stories: Still the Dialogue by Carol P. Christ

Elie Weisel is interviewed by Bob Edwards in New York, Wednesday, June 20, 2007. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
Elie Weisel is interviewed by Bob Edwards in New York, Wednesday, June 20, 2007. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)

This blog is dedicated to Elie Wiesel, September 30, 1928-July 2, 2016

During the summer following my second year [as a graduate student] at Yale, I read Elie Wiesel’s The Gates of the Forest[1], which someone had recommended as a book in theology and literature. Elie Wiesel was not well-known, and I had not heard of him. I was totally unprepared to enter into his world. I had heard about the concentration camps and had read Anne Frank’s The Diary of a Young Girl, but I had not faced the reality that was the Holocaust, nor had I connected what happened to the Jews to my belief in the God of the Old Testament.

Reading The Gates of the Forest challenged my theology to the core. I believed God was powerful, loving, and good, and I believed that He had a special relationship with the Jews. Continue reading “Elie Wiesel’s Stories: Still the Dialogue by Carol P. Christ”

You Can’t Save Everyone by Oxana Poberejnaia

oxanaIn my previous post here on Feminism and Religion, “Emerging Energy Wisdom” I suggested we should develop new feminist wisdom for young women of the world, which will hopefully allow them to avoid some of the mistakes we have made (some irreparable). The gist of that wisdom would be “conserve your energy!”

Some of these mistakes originated in our being unaware of the limitations in a patriarchal society. I for instance thought that since I knew I was intelligent powerful and energetic I could affect any positive change I wanted. I also believed I could help anyone. I disregarded my own needs, including energy needs, as well as being blind to the objective conditions of patriarchy.

Today I would like to give an example, from fiction, of how this energy wisdom might work. In its application, I believe, this wisdom is related both to the Buddhist teaching of self-reliance and to the idea that each person must find their own connection to Goddess and God from modern paganism.

Continue reading “You Can’t Save Everyone by Oxana Poberejnaia”

From Evangelical Christianity to Feminist Evangelism by Andreea Nica

AndreeaI always knew I was a feminist, despite my lack of knowledge in the movement and philosophy growing up. I did, however, have the religious support of my family and community to be an Evangelical Christian. I knew all the right words, mannerisms, and behaviors to represent myself as the proper Christian woman. I went on mission trips abroad, wore purity rings, attended sexual purity retreats and church camps, prayed fervently, spoke in tongues (glossolalia), contributed 10 percent of my meager earnings, and above all, fell in love with God.

As a first-generation college student, I was thirsty for knowledge and ready to take on the world. Some of my favorite courses during my undergraduate career included: “Psychology of Women,” “Women, Gender, and Ethnicity,” and “Psychology of Sexuality.” My coursework in gender, sexuality, and the social sciences compelled me to pursue graduate studies in gender, culture, and media at a university abroad. My studies in gender theory and feminist philosophy, and how it intersects with religion and social institutions ignited my spirit.

As a result, my relationship with god suffered. My newfound feminist beliefs were not solely to blame, however. Rather, a variety of reasons contributed to my detachment from god and the Evangelical church which I explain in my post, “Leaving Behind My First Love.” My new feminist identity was the main driver for questioning my relationship with god. Everything from the male-dominated language and rhetoric used in the church, to the discrimination and prohibition of female pastors, to the stringent gender roles expected of congregants. Continue reading “From Evangelical Christianity to Feminist Evangelism by Andreea Nica”

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.

The Mosaic Language of God by Andreea Nica

Andreea Nica, pentecostalismThroughout my “bible-thumping, smitten with God” years, I scribbled countless thoughts and prayers in four devotional journals. Recently I came across these journals, wiping away the years of dust accumulated. As I have been detaching from the Pentecostal god, it was a painful, downright mortifying experience to read through my past communication with god. This god seemed so foreign now given my liberated, enlightened, evolved self. I remember writing to and about Him, but I couldn’t help thinking how dysfunctional and convoluted the language I used really was.

I love you Father. Take me…surrender me to your will…your ways. Let me not lean on my own understanding and foolishness.

Mary Daly in Beyond God the Father advocates, “Time to go beyond God the Father. Don’t you see? If God is male, then the male is God. Reclaim the right to name your self, your world, your God. The liberation of language is rooted in the liberation of ourselves. Be a wild woman…God is not A Being. God is Be-ing.”

Many social scientists contend that language is the foundation of our socially constructed realities. We use language as a creative tool and guide to frame our perceptions of the world around us. We also use language to create our own unique creative expressions. That even though we share and appropriate from the accessible pool of creative expressions, each individual designs and discovers their own true form. Continue reading “The Mosaic Language of God by Andreea Nica”

Watching “Noah” Brought Me Closer to Humanity by Andreea Nica

Andreea Nica, pentecostalismAs a child, I enjoyed the story of Noah’s Ark. I would often imagine pairs of animals running for safety in Noah’s architecturally majestic haven. Practical questions didn’t enter my mind during this blissful period of naivety. I ignored the part where God expressed regret in creating humanity, or when Noah gets drunk and lies bare naked for his children to cover his shame. My bible study teacher would explain to us that the point of the story was that Noah, a holy man, trusted God and carried out his will.

Disclaimer: I understand that the film is not meant to be an exact representation of the story in the bible, but loosely based around it. Also, if you plan on watching the film, read at your discretion.

In the film, Noah’s character is played by leading actor Russell Crowe, who appears strong, confident, and zealous in his trust in God – all necessary qualities to fulfill God’s demand of killing off the rest of humanity because of their wickedness. Later in the film, Noah realizes that he and his family are also wicked leading to his revelation, ahem, God’s revelation, that humanity must cease with Noah’s family. This doesn’t pan out too well with his children and wife. It was also bad news for Emma Watson, the orphan girl Noah’s family saves and raises as their own, who after accepting that she is barren is miraculously healed and gives birth to two girls. Noah decides that the female infants must die according to God’s will to end humanity. Continue reading “Watching “Noah” Brought Me Closer to Humanity by Andreea Nica”

God is Too Big by amina wadud

amina 2014 - cropped

In my current casual reading, a novel, the answer to the question “and where is God for you?” was expressed this way:

“Definitely in the car with us as we talk and exchange things, and change each other in the process…People have things they want to give away, or they want things they don’t know where to look for, and they need containers to pool their information. This night is far too large for us to rattle around in on our own. It’s a perfect fit for God, but we need our container. We need one another for God to work through us: that’s something I experience every day. The concept of God is way too big for me to get my mind around, but despite that, maybe even because of it, the relationship keeps growing and changing.  Sometimes it grows so slowly it seems it’s stopped. Or gone in reverse. Then when I least expect it, it takes a big leap forward.”

I was struck by this first because of the concept of God being “way too big.”  I struggle with this and yet would have it no other way. I have gone out my way to kill off the childhood concepts of God, referred to in that book Your God is Too Small. It explains that for many people, their concept of God has not advanced far from the one they had as a child – from the Big Bad Punisher to the tooth fairy God of requisition. As a strict monotheist, I constantly fight to smash the idols of my own imagination or preoccupation. To get God out of any box.

Continue reading “God is Too Big by amina wadud”

Religion: Trapped in Love Through Shame by Andreea Nica

Andreea Nica, pentecostalismI was first introduced to shame in the church. Shame paradoxically drew me closer to God, prevented me from committing sins, and helped me repress certain natural urges. The church I grew up in indoctrinated its congregation to believe that shame would transform us into true and wholehearted believers – that as carnal beings, we needed to feel both guilt and shame in order to be saved and transformed into spiritual entities.

One question that permeated my mind growing up, but I’d never dare to publicly ask:

Why would Jesus die for me when I never asked Him to? Continue reading “Religion: Trapped in Love Through Shame by Andreea Nica”

God Doesn’t Live Here Anymore: Gay Bars and the Growing Divide Between Sexuality and Spirituality by John Erickson

oes God exist within the LGBTQ community anymore or has the community itself abandoned God for all-night raves, dance clubs, alcohol, and hypersexualized and over commoditized fetishized forms of femininity and masculinity? Oftentimes, I find myself answering yes to the above questions. After surviving hate crime after hate crime and endless batches of newly elected conservative politicians hell bent on ignoring medical and social epidemic plaguing the very country they were elected to serve and protect, why would a community, oftentimes linked to sin itself, believe in a holy entity?

John Erickson, sports, coming out.My good friend and fellow Feminism and Religion Contributor Marie Cartier’s forthcoming book, Baby You Are My Religion: Women, Gay Bars, and Theology Before Stonewall argues that American butch-femme bar culture of the mid-20th Century should be interpreted as a sacred space.  Specifically, gay bars served as both communal and spiritual gathering spaces where butch-femme women were able to discover and explore not only their sexuality but also their spirituality.  An opus of an academic accomplishment based off of the amount of in-depth interviews she conducted, Professor Cartier explores lived religion in an area that has become all too common within the LGBTQ community: the bar

The Palms, the last local and only lesbian bar to be found in city of West Hollywood, CA is closing its doors and I can’t help but wonder where its patrons or parishioners will now go? Continue reading “God Doesn’t Live Here Anymore: Gay Bars and the Growing Divide Between Sexuality and Spirituality by John Erickson”

Incarnating the Mystery with Psychological Awareness by Jean Benedict Raffa

image010As a college professor I taught Children’s Literature. Mythology, stories about humanity’s relationship with the gods, always raised a few eyebrows. Students tended to feel uncomfortable when this term was applied to their own faith traditions since it generally connotes “untrue.” So I found it helpful to note up front that myths are not necessarily literally or historically true, but they’re always psychologically and spiritually true.

From his extensive study of myths, psychologist Carl Jung concluded that we are all born with a “religious function,” an inherent sense of awe about, and longing to connect with the Sacred Mystery of life. He saw it as a faculty of our central archetype, the Self: our core and circumference, our god-image.  Myths, rituals and religious symbols are our attempts to incarnate the Self so that we can be infused with love, hope and holy wonder. Some myths are helpful in this endeavor. Others are dysfunctional; for example, myths which justify the dominance, exclusion or destruction of others considered less worthy or entitled.

When our primitive ancestors reflected on the miracle of life, the Self prompted the thought that because humanity is gendered, the Mystery must be as well.  Since Earth was the foundation of existence and had an inexhaustible fruitfulness, it felt like a Mother. This shaped our earliest images of God. Mircea Eliade noted: “In some cases, the sex of this earth divinity, this universal procreatrix—does not even have to be defined. A great many earth divinities…are bisexual. In such cases the divinity contains all the forces of creation—and this formula of polarity, of the coexistence of opposites, was to be taken up again in the loftiest of later speculation.” Continue reading “Incarnating the Mystery with Psychological Awareness by Jean Benedict Raffa”

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”

And Thus God made a Covenant with Hagar in the Wilderness by Michele Stopera Freyhauf

Freyhauf, Feminism, Religion, Durham, Old Testament, Blogger, BibleWe are familiar with the covenant God made with Abraham and Moses, but are you aware that God also made a covenant with Hagar?

In the wilderness Hagar encounters a deity at the well named Beer-lahai-roi (Genesis 16). Water and wells are important because they symbolize fertility and life. Wells for women are common places where they met their future spouses. Because wanderers in the desert need water to survive, water itself becomes a symbolic of life-giving or life.

In the seemingly barren dessert, the fertile Hagar finds out that she is pregnant and going to be the mother of many children. Hagar is promised progeny in a motherless state.  According to Pamela Tamarkin Reis, this is called the “after-me” descendants, which guarantees Hagar that her children will live for “immeasurable generations;” a pattern that fits within the scope of this promise. This same promise of progeny is also given to Eve in Genesis 3:20, providing and interesting parallelism between Eve and Hagar.

It is worth pointing out the irony exists in this promise.  Sarai uses Hagar to “build her up.” According to Nahum Sarna, to be built up in terms of the number of children that you have, implies that you are mother to a dynasty.  In this pericope, however, it is Hagar, not Sarai that is built up through this divine promise.

This patterns of promise exists within the birth narrative through the annunciation of Ishmael and the promise of progeny.  It is through this narrative that Hagar enters into a covenantal relationship with the deity.  According to J. H. Jarrell, birth narratives have six common elements that establish this relationship:  mother’s status, protest, offer, son’s future forecast, Yahweh naming, and acceptance of the contract. Hagar’s story contain these elements:

  1. Mother’s Status:  Hagar is without child because she is a virgin (16:1).
  2. Protest:  Hagar flees from her mistress (16:8).
  3. Offer:  Return to your mistress and submit to her authority (16:9).
  4. Son’s Future Forecast:  He will live at the east of all his brothers (16:12).
  5. Yahweh Naming:  You will bear a son Ishmael because the Lord has given heed to your affliction (16:11).
  6. Acceptance of the Contract:  She called the name of the Lord (16:13).

Continue reading “And Thus God made a Covenant with Hagar in the Wilderness by Michele Stopera Freyhauf”

Please Excuse Me for Having a Penis: Taking a Back Seat to Privilege and Power by John Erickson

Male feminists must be aware that we not only engage in an ongoing struggle against sexual and gender inequality, but more importantly an ongoing fight with ourselves.

I have often struggled with that little voice, call it my conscience if you will, that speaks to me during times of distress.  Although I consider myself a proud feminist, I still struggle with aspects of what I call, internalized misogyny, or more aptly defined as a male born characteristic trait that imparts the idea that men are not only dominant but also more powerful than the other 50% of the species.

For many reasons, I believe religion is one of the main culprits of this growing evil, one that we all witnessed throughout this last election cycle.  However, instead of placing blame solely on religion and images of the male Godhead we have to begin deconstructing the sociological consequences these subconscious social, sexual, religious, and gendered norms have on men but more importantly men who identify as feminists. Continue reading “Please Excuse Me for Having a Penis: Taking a Back Seat to Privilege and Power by John Erickson”

Visions of My Grandmother by John Erickson

“I never told my grandmother I was gay. I’ve often wanted to visit her grave, clench my hands together, and pray that she forgive me for betraying the trust she instilled upon me long ago. However, even today, I cannot bring myself to make that trek, up the hill into the countryside where her ashes lay below the ground.”

I haven’t dreamt of my grandmother since her passing one hot summer July evening.

The night, and the days that followed, continue to be a blur.  However, as my family members continue to see her in their nightly visions, I, go on unabatedly longing to see and hear the voice of a woman who made me feel the presence of the divine with each passing story.

My sister saw her in a dream when she was buying shoes, my mother has seen her multiple times when she would be undergoing a particularly stressful situation, and I, left alone and oftentimes wondering through an abyss of loneliness and disarray, wake up each morning wondering why, I am left all alone. Continue reading “Visions of My Grandmother by John Erickson”

The Crime of Being a Girl Scout: The Sin of Raising Strong Female Leaders by Michele Stopera Freyhauf

Cradle Catholic and Woman

Educated by the U. S. Vowed Religious

Support the U. S. Catholic Sisters

Support, Minister, and Live the Social Gospel

Theologian, Feminist, and Critical Thinker

Former Girl Scout Leader of Three Troops

Former Girl Scout

I am all of these things and more.  By the recent attacks by the hierarchy of the Catholic Church, I am beginning to think I am the problem.  I seem to stand for everything the Vatican and USCCB seek to silence.  Is it because of my organizational ties with the U. S. Vowed Religious and Girl Scouts, or my writings as a Feminist and Theologian?  Maybe the answer is simply – because I am a woman.

According to the criticisms launched by the USCCB and the Vatican, I seem to be part of the problem rather than the solution.  Why is this so?  It was not until I started my journey in ministry that my idealistic “Catholic” bubble popped – not so much by me, but by those in ministry and leadership, by those that did not like laity to pose questions and think critically about their faith beliefs, and by  those that do not like people who do not fit within the preconceived mold of what a “good Catholic” should be.  This ideological construct is difficult enough when you are part of a Church community, but when you begin to embrace leadership as a woman, question teachings, exercise your canonical rights, your peers and even people you thought were your friends, no longer talk or associate with you. The betrayal is vicious and runs deep – it is behavior not becoming of a minister or one who professes the Catholic faith.

If the attack on you is not enough, these same people victimize your children through their words and behavior.  It is a difficult position for anyone to survive spiritually.  For children of the Church who bear witness to this hypocritical behavior, a journey begins – they search for meaning within the spiritual realm and become disgruntled with anything that resembles organized religion.  A place where one seeks community and spiritual nourishment becomes a place of oppression and starvation.  If attacking family is not enough, let’s start attacking groups that promote community – groups like the Girl Scouts of America.

So, what is the USCCB’s problem with the Girl Scouts of America?  Basically, this organization is under fire for suspected deviant thinking and positions that stand opposed to Church teaching. Continue reading “The Crime of Being a Girl Scout: The Sin of Raising Strong Female Leaders by Michele Stopera Freyhauf”

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”


I attended a service at Congregation Shalom in Chelmsford, MA two Fridays ago.  During the service, Rabbi Shoshana Perry spent a few minutes addressing the last word of a Hebrew prayer found in the Reform siddur, Mishkan T’filah.  It was translated in the siddur as “God rested” but the Hebrew word used was vayinafash, which comes from the word nefesh, or soul.  The prayer emphasizes on the seventh day that God did not rest as much as God took time out to re-soul.  Rabbi Perry believes that our Shabbat should be spent doing things that help us also re-soul.

Initially, I spent quite a long time considering why God would need to re-soul and what exactly God would do to re-soul.  When I realized the futility of trying to sort that out, I moved a little closer to home: what do I do on Shabbat to re-soul?  I was quite overwhelmed trying to answer this question as well.

Traditionally, Shabbat is about study, rest, prayer and family among other things.  In fact, many Jews avoid creative processes like writing, cooking, painting, driving and working because God rested from creative work on the seventh day.  (Incidentally, our creativity is also how we are considered to be made in the image of God).  Part of the reason this idea struck me so deeply is because I often find painting, cooking and writing rejuvenating. Continue reading “RE-SOULING ON SHABBAT BY IVY HELMAN”

Hagar: A Portrait of a Victim of Domestic Violence and Rape

This week Twitter has been a flurry with information for victims of   domestic violence and rape.  This ranges from the U.S. redefinition of rape to include men to Nigeria’s first anti-rape toll free hotline for women.  There is even a male movement to stand against rape.  This problem is an ongoing issue, one that shows no sign of diminishing or going away.  According to Amnesty International, one in three women worldwide have been beaten, coerced into sex, or otherwise abused and their abuser is normally someone they know.  As I contemplate this very difficult issue, I am reminded of the Biblical Hagar in Genesis 16. The story of Hagar and Sarai is abundant

Men Can Stop Rape (http://www.mencanstoprape.org/)

in ethical situations that draw in the reader and presents complex issues that can be very troublesome.  If you take the text hermeneutically, through an ideological examination in its English translation, we have an Egyptian woman, who is also referred to as slave or concubine, forced to engage into sex with her owner’s husband for producing an heir.  Here the abuser is a woman with a docile and obedient husband portrayed by Abram.  What can we  glean from such a story for today’s battered women?  Hope or horrific defeat? Continue reading “Hagar: A Portrait of a Victim of Domestic Violence and Rape”

Does Humor Have a Place in Religion? by Barbara Ardinger

Is there anything funny about the divine? Any joke-telling gods? From the days of Abraham until today, the gods and their preachers are a very earnest lot intent on saving us from our sins and building congregations.

Like it or not, we neopagans are still children of the society we’re endeavoring to change. Some of us seem to want to switch patriarchy to matriarchy, but that’s just swapping Big Daddy for Big Momma. It’s still a hierarchical arrangement with the deity at the top of the mountain. Immediately below the “arch” are angels, men, eagles, lions, and other superior beasts. At the bottom of the mountain are women, mud, and matter. (In case you don’t recognize it, this is the 18th-century Great Chain of Being.)

Any humor in spiritual and religious writing? The Hebrew Bible (which Christians refer to as the Old Testament) is a collection of laws, canonically approved versions of history, prophetical preachings, and poetry. The Christian Bible (aka New Testament) give us different approved versions of history, plus further preaching, plus myth and mysticism. The writings of the medieval Fathers of the Church are famously grim and misogynistic. The Qur’an offers ethical guidance and moral preaching. In the Far East, the Tao is also profound, as are the preachings of the Buddha. The writings of Confucius present instructions for maintaining the correct social order (another version of that Great Chain). The great stories of Hinduism are filled with wonder, adventures, and philosophy. But they’re not very funny. Continue reading “Does Humor Have a Place in Religion? by Barbara Ardinger”

How to Talk to a Deity* By Barbara Ardinger, Ph.D.

Originally, when ritual was still part of everyday life and everybody talked to gods and goddesses all the time, we spoke to them in everyday words. As time went on and priests assumed more power, however, exalted language and fulsome invocations arose, and pretty soon only the High Priest could speak to God Most High. We common folks were allowed to pray, of course, but the important prayers were uttered by the priests.

During the European Renaissance and all the way up to the 19th-century occult revival, it was thought that the gods spoke Hebrew and Latin. Ceremonial magicians wrote rituals in these languages or made up other highly esoteric languages like crypto-Egyptian, quasi-Sanskrit, and Enochian (the “angelic language” of the Elizabethan Dr. Dee). If you read books on high occultism, you’ll see scripts in these languages. Trying to pronounce the words can be like trying to unscrew the inscrutable.

Fortunately, we discovered that it can be dangerous to invoke an invisible power in a language we can neither understand nor enunciate properly nor improvise in. As anyone who has ever studied a foreign language knows, boners come easily and can be very embarrassing. Worse, some powers may become angry if we mispronounce their names … or we may not get who we intended to call. Like the modern Roman Catholic Church, occultists, ceremonial magicians, and witches have generally adopted the vernacular. Continue reading “How to Talk to a Deity* By Barbara Ardinger, Ph.D.”

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