Even though I was a late-comer to the Netflix series The Crown, when I did watch it, I was riveted. Lots of thoughts ran through my mind at this picture of royalty. The concept of royalty in human history is vast and multi-faceted, however in this blogpost I am only pulling on a few threads that tugged at me as I watched this show.
I laughed as people greeted the Queen and said, “your highness.” Does that make the rest of us lownesses? And where did all this pomp come from anyway? And why is the British monarch the head of the Church of England which is a bible-based Christian religion?
In our book Goddess and God in the World, Judith Plaskow and I discuss and debate our contrasting and conflicting views of the nature of divinity and the cause of evil. In the passage that follows, I respond to Judith’s questions.
This brings us to the major philosophical issue that divides us: the nature of divine power and the relation of divine power to the world. It is fair to say that our major difference in this regard is whether the divine power is personal, conscious, intelligent, loving, and good. You ask, “If all we know of that exists is a mixture of the good and the bad . . . , if our creativity and the creative power that births and sustains the world brings forth both good and evil, then how can the Goddess be less than ambiguous? How can the Goddess be ‘the ground of all being’ if she does not ‘form light and create darkness, make weal and create woe’ (Isa. 45:7)? This question lies at the heart of our differences.
In the first blog in this series, I argued that one of the hallmarks of a good theology is recognizing that the source of authority must be located in individuals and communities who interpret texts and traditions as they encounter divinity anew in the present. In our new book Goddess and God World, Judith Plaskow and I suggest that a second hallmark of good theology is the “turn to the world.” What we mean by this is not only that divinity is immanent in the world, but also that the purpose of human life is to be found in this world—not the next.
The God of traditional theologies is pictured as an old man with a long white beard who rules the world from heaven. It is commonly assumed by those familiar with this picture that the purpose and meaning of human life is not to be found in this world—but rather in heaven. This assumption is increasingly being challenged. Many people no longer believe in life after death. The purpose of morality is increasingly being understood as improving the conditions for the flourishing of human and other forms of life—not on gaining the approval of a God who has the power to assign individuals to heaven or hell in the next world. Continue reading “Can Good Theology Change the World? Part 2 by Carol P. Christ”
Theology is often viewed as abstract and removed from the problems of the real world. Yet many of the problems of the real world are caused by bad theologies. If bad theologies shape the world, might the same not be true of good theologies?
Opposition to a woman’s right to choose birth control and abortion is fueled by appeals to the command of God to protect life. Opposition to lgbtqi rights is couched in divine authorization of normative heterosexuality. Opposition to efforts to counter climate change are challenged by those who claim to believe in the Bible, not science.
All of these claims are rooted in a prior claim that God is and must be theonly source of authority for human beliefs and moral decision-making. This view can and often does lead its adherents to distrust scientific and other humanly created forms of knowledge. In America, supporters of Donald Trump routinely dismiss not only the claims of modern science, but also every attempt to disprove the assertions of their candidate by citing facts. Continue reading “Can Good Theology Change the World? Part 1 by Carol P. Christ”
People who reject the popular image of God as an old white man who rules the world from outside it often find themselves at a loss for words when they try to articulate new meanings and images of divinity. Speaking about God or Goddess is no as longer simple as it once was. Given the variety of spiritual paths and practices people follow today, theological discussions do not always begin with shared assumptions about the nature of ultimate reality. In the United States, the intrusion of religion into politics has led many people to avoid the subject of religion altogether. In families and among friends, discussions of religion often culminate in judgment, anger, or tears. Sometimes the conversation is halted before it even begins when someone voices the opinion that anyone who is interested in religion or spirituality is naïve, unthinking, or backward—or, alternatively, that religious views are a matter of personal preference and not worth discussing at all.
This blog is an excerpt from our new book Goddess and God in the Worldwhich will be published by Fortress Press in just one week — on August 1. As we look forward to its release, we remember the critical works that started us on a journey of discovery that continues to unfold. In a jointly written chapter, we describe the beginnings of feminist theology.
Feminism was welling up from under during [the late 1960s]. We became feminists early in graduate school but did not discover feminist theology until we were preparing for our comprehensive exams. As Judith was later to write, feminism placed a question mark over absolutely everything for us: the maleness of God, the male authorship of the Bible, and the male perspectives from which virtually all theologies had been written. Three key essays set the stage for future work in the field, including our own. We have already mentioned these essays, but it is important to address the challenges they posed to traditional theology, and our own responses to them, in more detail here. Continue reading “The Emergence of Feminist Theology: Remembering our Roots by Judith Plaskow and Carol P. Christ”
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, 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.
This week Judith Plaskow and I submitted the final version of our new book Goddess and God in the Worldto our publisher at Fortress Press. Just before completion, I added a shorter version of the following passage to my final chapter. In it I tried to describe the odd feeling of not being moved any longer by a religion that once moved me profoundly. Our book, which explores an embodied theological method, will be out in the summer of 2016.
I have never regretted my decision to leave Christianity. Although I have a sentimental attachment to Christmas trees, Christmas dinners, Christmas carols, and some hymns, I miss little else about Christianity. At a distance of several decades, I find that I quite simply have no feeling for the Christian edifice of doctrines and rituals based on the life and death of a single individual. Jesus was a visionary, but there have been many others like him—including Martin Luther King, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Gandhi, all of them flawed, as Jesus must have been as well.
A few years ago, I decided to participate in the Greek Orthodox Easter week services, because they are attended by so many of my neighbors. But while enjoying the company of the women who decorated the epitaphios (tomb for Jesus), the procession through the streets of our town on Friday night, and the lighting of candles at midnight on Saturday, I came to a clear understanding that the Easter drama is no longer my drama. During the Thursday night services, I realized that many of the women were openly grieving the death of Jesus. Though intellectually I could understand that the Easter drama allowed my friends to release pent-up and repressed feelings, I found their deeply emotional response to the re-enactment of the death of Jesus bizarre.
In leaving Christianity, I had gained the freedom to name the sacred in my own experience, confirmed my deep inner knowing about the human connection to nature, and found the power to create and participate in rituals that have meaning in my life. For me now, the rituals on the Goddess Pilgrimage to Crete are at the center of my spiritual life. To listen to Alice Walker’s words, “We have a beautiful/mother/Her green lap/immense/Her brown embrace/eternal/Her blue body/everything we know”* on a mountaintop or to repeat Ntozake Shange’s cry, “we need a god who bleeds now/whose wounds are not the end of anything”** at the mouth of a cave, moves me more than any passage from the Bible.
Singing “Light and Darkness” in the depths of caves is an embodied act of reclaiming the womb as a symbol of creation and the darkness as a place of transformation. I still enjoy singing the Doxology (Hymn of Praise)—and doing so connects me to my history. But I now sing it in front of altars laden with summer fruits or winter vegetables and with words that express my spirituality: “Praise Her from whom all blessings flow/Praise Her all creatures here below/Praise Her above in wings of flight/Praise Her in darkness and in light.”***
*Alice Walker, “We Have a Beautiful Mother,” Her Blue Body Everything We Know: Earthling Poems 1965-1990 (New York City and Orlando, FL: Harcourt Books, 1991), 459-460.
**Ntozake Shange, “we need a god who bleeds now,” A Daughter’s Geography (New York: St. Martin’s, 1983), 51.
***See Carol P. Christ, She Who Changes: Re-imagining God in the World (New York: Palgrave Macmillian, 2003), 238, for a discussion of the meaning of the new words.