Birch in Spring  2022 by Sara Wright

Black eyes

 smooth white

   supple body,

budded branches


 cobalt sky

in pink;

hidden roots

    are fed by

March waters.

Continue reading “Birch in Spring  2022 by Sara Wright”

Queering the American Dream by Angela Yarber

As Florida politicians try to ban teachers from including LGBTQ+ issues in the curriculum, admonishing them, “Don’t Say Gay” at school, I’m shouting “GAY!” from the rooftops. Because I’m celebrating the release of my eighth book and first memoir, Queering the American Dream. It’s my queer family’s story of leaving it all and the revolutionary women who taught us how.

Our story began the day the Supreme Court ruled our marriage legal and ended the moment my younger brother’s addiction spiraled into a deadly overdose. In-between were eighteen months of full-time travel with a toddler in tow. Criss-crossing the American landscape, my wife and I came face to face with jaw dropping natural beauty on the one hand, which contrasted with the politics, policies, and people who continued to discriminate against marginalized families like ours on the other. At each stop along the way, a different revolutionary woman from history or mythology guided our footsteps, reminding us that it’s not simply our family who dared to queer the American dream, but a subversive sisterhood of saints who have upended the status quo for centuries. From Vermont to Hawai’i, and everywhere in between, the beauty of the American landscape bore witness to a queer clergywoman whose faith tradition was not enough to sustain her. But the revolutionary women were.

Continue reading “Queering the American Dream by Angela Yarber”

Hope Lives in the Twinkling of the Stars by Carolyn Lee Boyd

Diwali candles

For millennia, we humans have found hope in the dark of winter through holidays featuring lights or the sun such as the Winter Solstice, Diwali, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Soyal, Christmas, and others. As the people of our beautiful, fragile planet celebrate these traditions in these perilous and momentous times, I have been wondering what fresh perspectives on hope our global goddess myths and stories can offer.

Let’s start with the Greek goddess of hope, Elpis. In the Greek Pandora’s story as usually told, Elpis/hope is all that is left for humanity after Pandora lets misery escape into the world by opening her box, However, according to Patricia Monaghan in her New Book of Goddesses and Heroines, originally Pandora was the ever-abundant Earth goddess and her box was a pithos, a clay jar used to store food, but also remains of the dead awaiting rebirth. In her Roman incarnation as Spes, the goddess of hope also served Fortuna, the goddess of destiny who brings people together to create life. Finally, She is associated with Salus, the goddess of health. 

Continue reading “Hope Lives in the Twinkling of the Stars by Carolyn Lee Boyd”

On Mikeitz: How Joseph Brings Meaning to My Hanukah Observance during This Pandemic by Ivy Helman

It is Hanukah.  I have discussed the reasons I have found observing it difficult in a past blog.  Namely, as an ecofeminist, I will not celebrate the violence of war or the slaughter of animals at the temple.  This year presents a new challenge: how to celebrate the miracle of the oil in the midst of a global pandemic.  For inspiration, I have looked at this week’s Torah portion: Mikeitz.  Its Joseph tale has helped me find a meaningful practice for my Hanukah observance this year: the power of a human community’s action to preserve life.

The parshah begins with pharaoh having bad dreams.  He has called on every interpreter he can think of and no one could interpret them for him.  That is until he hears tale of Joseph and summons him.  After hearing his dreams, Joseph satisfactorily explains the dreams’ meaning.  Joseph says that there will be seven years of abundant crops followed by seven years of famine.  The pharaoh believes Joseph and begins to make preparations.  He appoints Joseph to oversee them.  

Continue reading “On Mikeitz: How Joseph Brings Meaning to My Hanukah Observance during This Pandemic by Ivy Helman”

Moments of Beauty by Sara Frykenberg

Last week a friend of mine started a post asking people to share something that they’ve enjoyed or appreciated since shelter-at-home orders began across the country and globe. This friend was in no way trying to minimize the very difficult situations that so many of us find ourselves facing during this pandemic. Rather, the list she elicited and generated helped to create, at least for me, a moment of hope or peace—a moment that I suspect many of us need right now.

Inspired by my friend (who has quite a talent for pointing out the potential for joy or happiness), I would like to add to her list here by sharing a couple of my “moments of beauty” in the hopes I can share this hope or peace. Continue reading “Moments of Beauty by Sara Frykenberg”

Stopping to Smell the Flowers by Marie Cartier

Photo by: Kimberly Esslinger

There is a saying, “Take time to smell the flowers.” Attributed to many different sources, it means among other things–  take time and be grateful. Take time and relax. Take time.


Photo by: Kimberly Esslinger

In that spirit I am sending along pictures from the amazing “super bloom” California is experiencing this spring. It is the most magnificent we have ever had, I think. It happens once a decade, but we are lucky to have had a super bloom in 2017 and now this year as well.  California had an extreme drought last year and then extreme rain this past winter. And now we have flowers…and flowers. Poppies are the state flower of California and they are being celebrated—all over. And people dropping in by helicopter and influencers ruining some of the poppy beds by laying in them for Instagram pics. Yes, it’s been crazy. But, when we were there (my wife and I) on a past Sunday, it felt so magical that so much of Los Angeles it seemed was out to smell the flowers. You can see a picture of folks lined up (my wife at the end in the picture below) photographing the flowers. Flowers suddenly are the new super star!

Continue reading “Stopping to Smell the Flowers by Marie Cartier”

Marianne Williamson. . . I’m Sacredly Smitten by Elisabeth Schilling

I caution myself to be critical and nuanced. I’m sorry, folks. I just haven’t had such dazzling hope or remote interest in politics since. . . well, since I was a puppet junior high evangelist for an independent candidate my Dad liked, and I don’t want to try to remember who it was. But I was 13. And I’m 38 now. What hath made this cold, indifferent, anxious millennial’s soul to warm?

I am into mindfulness, contemplative studies, Eckhart Tolle, Don Miguel Ruiz, Nhat Thich Hanh, the kind of comparative religious studies scholar who has eastern spirituality leanings, so when I heard Marianne Williamson was a presidential candidate, I got curious. I’ve not read A Course in Miracles (although I think I’ve avoided it for the same assumptions Williamson says she initially made) or actually any of her books. Williamson is Jewish and has a pluralistic perspective when it comes to noting the basic underlying wisdom of all religious and spiritual beliefs (I realize we have discussed this before when I called them “wisdom traditions” – is any tradition actually wise/can you separate the violence, oppressions, and misogynies of them?).

She speaks in cool, rushing waters and has a platform that still sounds “political”/political (she breaks down what this word actually means in her latest CNN Town Hall) and is spiritual and based in a rhetoric of love. After the complete loss of hope in what [T . .] represents, and the not-yet healed wounds from [B. . .], she sounds like a reasonable adult, much like Obama did during his years. I wonder if they are friends? They should be.

Continue reading “Marianne Williamson. . . I’m Sacredly Smitten by Elisabeth Schilling”

No Hope, No Problem: Reflections on Pesach, Time and Paradox. by Ivy Helman

29662350_10155723099993089_8391051315166448776_oIn “Time Telling in Feminist Theory,” Rita Felski suggests that there are four main ways feminists discuss and use time: redemption, regression, repetition and rupture.  They are aptly named as they behave similar to their labels.  Redemption is the linear march of time, hopefully progressing step by step towards a redeemed, or at least better, future even if sometimes things get momentarily worse.  Regression is the want to go back in time or at least return to idyllic and/or imagined pasts: to matriarchy or to a time before patriarchy’s violent arrival.  Repetition is a focus on the cyclical nature of time in bodies, in daily chores, in seasons and so on. Rupture posits a break in time in a way what was before no longer makes sense or doesn’t exist.   Think utopia or dystopia.

While she speaks of them individually, she also acknowledges that no one is bound to one manner of speaking of time and that, in many ways, they overlap and intertwine.  Most feminist theorists use more than one although she asserts that feminism as a whole, “Unlike Marxism or liberalism… does not fold a temporal vision into its very core” (22).  What she means exactly by this is unclear.  Yet, if she means that feminism doesn’t share one unified vision of time or of the future, then I would agree with her.  If she is suggesting that feminism isn’t really all that concerned with time, then I disagree.  Feminism is all about creating a better world for us and for future generations. Continue reading “No Hope, No Problem: Reflections on Pesach, Time and Paradox. by Ivy Helman”

On Chronic Illness and Justice by Ivy Helman

29662350_10155723099993089_8391051315166448776_oFor almost four years, I’ve been living with the long-term effects of an inner ear lesion.  The lesion is long gone but its side effects are not.  Throughout the day, I feel a combination of unsteadiness and sudden, unpredictable sensations of movement.  On better days, the unsteadiness is almost non-existent and the feelings of movement are minimal.  On worse days, I’m troubled with a type of brain fog that makes it hard to concentrate as well as disrupting unpredictable sensations of being on a boat that can’t pick one direction in which to move.  It’s frustrating, tiring and demoralizing.

Summer is the season of worse days.  There is really nothing I can do to feel better.  Even staying well-hydrated and taking it easy often doesn’t steady the boat.  So, instead, I often continue my life as normal.  Then, I lay in bed at night and hope sleep comes soon. Continue reading “On Chronic Illness and Justice by Ivy Helman”

Implausible, Impossible Hope by Natalie Weaver

With the single exception of a weak moment in my oldest son’s kindergarten year, during which time the grade school manipulated parents into fundraising schemes by dangling socially advantageous perks (such as a reward trip to a water park) for only those children whose parents participated at a high level in the initiatives, I have never subscribed to any magazines.  Nevertheless, I continue to believe, on some core level, that Ed McMahon is even now driving down the street toward me in the white Publisher’s Clearing House van with a check for one million dollars.  The fact that Ed is long deceased seems to have no bearing on my conviction that the great Miracle, complete with balloons and a camera crew, is blazing toward me and just around the corner.  I never play the lottery, and I actually managed to go to Las Vegas once without gambling a single dollar, yet I feel almost daily that some Jackpot Jeep Bonanza Giveaway has my name all over it.

Continue reading “Implausible, Impossible Hope by Natalie Weaver”

Painting Breast Cancer Goddess by Rev. Dr. Angela Yarber

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, though I imagine most of us are already relatively aware. One in eight women will have breast cancer. Pink is everywhere. It’s difficult to find a person who hasn’t been impacted by breast cancer on a personal level. In 2003, my mom was diagnosed. Radiation, a lumpectomy, and ten years later she was dubbed cancer free. When I finished my Ph.D. in 2009, I did a stint as a Research Assistant for a fabulous liturgical studies scholar working on a book that examined and created rituals for women with breast cancer. My task was researching everything written on breast cancer that intersected with feminism, womanism, religion, spirituality, and ritual.


Audre Lorde’s Cancer Journals struck me profoundly. The critiques weighed heavy as a movement that began with destigmatizing breast cancer and offering solidarity to patients has transformed into a pinkified commodity. Whether it’s the lack of transparency in major breast cancer foundations, pinkification, the essentializing conversations that equate breasts with womanhood, lack of access to comprehensive health coverage, the role of the meat and dairy industry in increased risks of breast cancer, the talk of “surviving” and “fighting” as though those who don’t survive aren’t fighters, or the complete lack of representation of women of color in any pink marketing (seriously, do a google image search of “breast cancer headwraps” and feast your eyes upon an endless array of young, white women), breast cancer awareness has been commodified so that helping cancer patients is second to profit. Amidst these pink teddy bears delicately embroidered with the word “fighter,” one can only wonder what we can actually do and offer and create to be supportive of those with breast cancer. What rituals might we offer? What sacred spaces might we create? What is a feminist response? A spiritual response?

Continue reading “Painting Breast Cancer Goddess by Rev. Dr. Angela Yarber”

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”

Divine Physics: A Poetic Reflection on Ecclesiastes 3:14 by Lori Stewart


Ecclesiastes 3:14 – I know that whatever God does endures forever; nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it; God has done this, so that all that should stand in awe before him. 

Nothing can be added or
taken away…
… then why does it feel like everything is lost?

You haul away the bodies while
we watch
— linking arms
— standing fast
against the tide of
grief that churns until
we can find
a distraction that makes us believe
life will return to

Nothing can be added or
taken away, you say…
You take away innocence at
the marketplace
— the prices vary by age
— virgins to the highest bidder
Surely, El-roi, you see
— the pain
— the suffering Continue reading “Divine Physics: A Poetic Reflection on Ecclesiastes 3:14 by Lori Stewart”

The Reason for Hope Is the Creative Process of Life by Carol P. Christ

carol p. christ photo michael bakasIn these these days when many of us are gripped by paralyzing despair as we come to terms with the election as President of a racist, sexist bigot who has created a climate of fear and promises to undo much of the progressive legislation of the past fifty years, I find it appropriate to reiterate an insight that has sustained me through many years of sadness and disappointment about the state of our world.

“Hope is not to be found in optimism so much as in a primal understanding of what matters most.” In other words, the reason for hope is not to be found in the knowledge or rational calculation that our efforts will succeed in saving life on earth but rather in the conviction or inner knowing that it is right to try. Continue reading “The Reason for Hope Is the Creative Process of Life by Carol P. Christ”

Dystopian Fiction Inspiration and Religious Lessons by Ivy Helman

me-hugging-treeWe live in a dystopia.  This world is filled to the brim in dichotomies: poverty and extreme excess, hunger and mountains of food, disease and cutting-edge medicine, materialism and an immense environmental crisis, and hour-long walks for water and hour-long luxurious baths.  There are so many parts of our world that are not just unfair, unequal, broken and undesirable, but violent, traumatic and deadly.  And, sometimes it feels like it is only getting worse, or at least, again teetering on the edge of yet another catastrophe.

Most of the world’s religious traditions agree that this is not the way the world should be.  My own religious tradition, Judaism, traces this separation between the Creator’s utopia, the Garden of Eden, and our current situation all the way back to the beginning of humankind.  The actions of the first two humans resulted in exile from the Garden: enter the world diametrically opposed: dystopia.  Nonetheless, the Jewish religious tradition’s call for tikkun olam (repairing the world) suggests that it is possible to lift the veil between the Divine and us and consequently recreate the utopian Eden once again.  One could say it is why we are here.

That being said, while the dystopian genre has been around for many decades, I have noticed a recent rise in the popularity of dystopian fiction.  While I have always had a keen interest in science fiction, from Star Trek to FireFly and beyond, I myself have, as of late, become an avid reader of dystopian novels.  I blasted through the Divergent series by Veronica Roth, have reread The Fifth Sacred Thing by Starhawk more times than I can count and just began my dip (25 pages) into The Mandibles by Lionel Shriver – not so action-packed as the others.  I’ve also been, one could say, addicted to dystopian films (yes many were books first) like The Hunger Games, Maze Runner, Gattaca, The Fifth Element and Serenity to name just a few.

Continue reading “Dystopian Fiction Inspiration and Religious Lessons by Ivy Helman”

On Planning: Reflections on Control and Hope by Ivy Helman

20151004_161012We plan so many areas of our lives. We make big complex plans, like family get-togethers, vacations, business trips, conferences, large events, etc. We also plan weekly, daily and monthly smaller tasks. Some examples are doctors appoints, day trips, sports schedules, weekly dinner menus and perhaps even the clothes we are want to wear for a job interview or the first day of school.

Many plans happen without a hitch and then there are those plans that don’t. Usually we attribute a plan falling through to something unexpected like an illness leading to cancelling vacation or because of some mistake on our part like when we burnt dinner because we forgot we had food in the oven (which has never happened to me!). All of this is assuming we have some level of control over our plans, our lives and, even, our destiny. But how much control do we really have, and likewise, how much control do others have over our lives?

I’m not so sure there is any sort of easy answer to this question. However, if I were to offer my view, I would say it’s a mixed bag. There are so many parts of our lives we have no control over even if we’d like to think we do. We can’t control where and when we were born. It is debatable if we have some control or not over the ways in which our lives are affected by patriarchy, capitalism, racism, classism and the like. We can’t control whether others drive drunk. We can’t control thunderstorms, tornados or earthquakes. Continue reading “On Planning: Reflections on Control and Hope by Ivy Helman”

“Justice, Justice You Shall Pursue:” Finding Hope in Justice-Seeking Movements. by Ivy Helman

20140903_180423For the past few weeks, there has been a lot of discussion about racism in the United States and rightly so. It is clear from the lack of charges and the repetition of similar crimes across the United States by different members of various law force communities that some people because of the color of their skin are immune to the consequences of their actions and others, also because of the color of their skin, are often the victims of such actions. Criticism, here, in the forms of protests, federal inquiries and outrage are essential.

I am reminded of oft-quoted part of the Torah: Devarim (Deuteronomy) 16:20, one that I saw on some of the signs Rabbis carried with them in the protests. “Justice, justice shall you pursue, that you may thrive and occupy the land that the Lord your God is giving you,” (from the JPS translation). G-d tells those early Israelites that justice is a requirement not just for their survival in the Promised Land, but also if they want to have good, long lives. Later tradition, from the Talmud to Rashi and beyond, interpret this passage as a call for a just court system within Jewish society.  Likewise, all who use the system should have the principle of justice in mind.  There is also a lot of conjecture as to why justice is said twice. Many modern scholars call attention to the way in which religion and state were considered one in same for this time period and much of human history. Continue reading ““Justice, Justice You Shall Pursue:” Finding Hope in Justice-Seeking Movements. by Ivy Helman”

Halfway… by Sara Frykenberg

Sara FrykenbergThe title of this post is meant to reflect where I am in the semester, temporally speaking: halfway. Actually, the idea that I am halfway is a bit of a shock to me, considering I feel like I just started! I have a goddess oracle card sitting on my desk that reads: “Blossoming: You are just getting started,” reminding me to be patient with myself as my work takes shape this semester. But seven of fifteen weeks in, I think its time to pull a new card.Aeracura

When the word “halfway” popped into my head, though, I realized this is also a struggle I am having right now. I feel halfway—I answer “yes and no” to every emotional question. I sleep halfway, working even in my dreams. I am halfway okay: one week I am very down and the next, I feel just fine. And sitting on my patio this weekend, unable to sleep, I thought to myself: you are less than halfway full; and realized I that didn’t know what to do to fill myself up.

Continue reading “Halfway… by Sara Frykenberg”

The Burden of Change by Natalie Kertes Weaver

Natalie WeaverAs we embark on a New Year, I find myself customarily cautious.  The New Year, of course, is hugely emblematic of hopeful beginnings, revised behaviors, fresh outlooks, and personal commitments.   Yet, because renewal is so difficult to achieve, I find myself always a bit wary of the New Year talk of resolutions, whose results, like fad diets, tend to be neither sustainable nor genuinely transformative.   I have the same feeling, incidentally, after I get my teeth cleaned or get a car wash in the winter in Cleveland.

I live with hope and the possibility of change in my heart, but I am concerned about the effect of boundless messaging about insufficiency and inadequacy that pervades the culture. We learn over and again that we weigh too much; don’t use our time well enough; invest or use our money unwisely; need a better job; don’t cook healthfully enough; visit the gym too infrequently; aren’t nice enough; spend too little time with our kids; need better things and clearer skin; do too little; do too much; and on and on.  At least for me, socially ritualized self-critique of this sort reflects a profound narcissistic spirituality of self-help and (often failed attempts at) self-improvement.  Such spirituality reinforces the self-absorption and lack of true community that lead us into individualism and over-consumption in the first place.

This year, as I embark on the New Year, I am especially aware of many things I cannot change.  For one, I am watching a good friend die, and there is no longer anything that anyone can do about it.   I am watching my mother’s mobility decrease from a knee injury year’s ago.  I am watching my children get older, and I hear surprising things that come from them from the environments they inhabit beyond the walls of my home.  I learn more acutely what I already know, namely, that they will and must live in a world much larger than my own invention.  I am watching my own self deepen into the reality of multi-generational familial responsibilities, as I grapple with what it takes to run a home, care for children, and meet others’ basic needs.   I know I am not alone.  I read student papers in my adult education class over the break, and the weight of their realities is tremendous.  How tyrannical it seems to insist that we add to these realities of ours some kind of burden of change between 11:59 and 12:01!

I have come to believe that much, probably all, of the spiritual life that leads to redemption (or liberation or salvation… whatever we wish to call it), is about reconciliation with that which one cannot change, with what is imperfect, with what we would have as otherwise.  There is an enormous need for us to release control over life itself and to forgive ourselves the relative impotence we experience in the face of it all.  In an even greater leap, somewhere along the way we must also forgive or reconcile with God for the gaping distances between that which is and that for which we hope.

I eschew welcoming the New Year as a series of televised media extravaganzas that make me feel somehow bad-about-myself-yet-wildly-energized-about- how-much-better-I-can-be (especially if I use the right products).  Rather, the New Year might more helpfully be greeted as a gentle continuation, one next persistent push in the sequence of the tide’s rush against the shore.  It is just another moment in a larger history that carries on independently of us.  We cannot change the seascape; we cannot outrun it; the tide will bring in all sorts of beautiful things that we did not make and also dangerous things that we cannot sidestep.  It will be what it will be.

What we can do is notice it better.  For my part, I can quietly adjust my perspective near and far, and then perhaps I might also quietly find my values realigning with my more intentional vision.  I might thereby experience the beginnings of a soft metanoia toward more mindful creatureliness.  And, here, I might also begin to become the proverbial change, within my limited spheres of influence, that I wish to see in the world.

Constructive agency must begin in the prayerful appreciation of limited creaturely life.  It is only then, I suspect, that one might have a chance at sustainable, transformational being in oneself, in relationship to others, and in the world.  It begins, however, with letting go of Luciferian ambitions for a more prefect world of our own design.  My New Year’s meditation, then, is this:  I will try to accept being a human creature: a finite, earth-dependent, truly human animal.  I will try to understand the balance between what I can and should do as a responsible, moral being on the one hand and where aspiration becomes an idolatry of dominion on the other.  I will try to understand limitation as its own sort of revealing grace and eject constructions of fall and punishment that badly theologize what is mere creaturely disappointment at not being God.  I will try in earnest to understand and to live in these words:

“Do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink, about your body; or what you will wear… Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.  And why do you worry about clothes?  See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin.  Yet… not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. Who…by worrying can add a single hour to his life?… Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.  Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.  Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matt. 6: 25-34)

Natalie Kertes Weaver, Ph.D., is Chair and Associate Professor of Religious Studies at Ursuline College in Pepper Pike, Ohio. Natalie’s academic books include: Marriage and Family: A Christian Theological Foundation (Anselm, 2009); Christian Thought and Practice: A Primer (Anselm, 2012); and The Theology of Suffering and Death: An Introduction for Caregivers (Routledge, 2013). Natalie is currently writing Made in the Image of God: Intersex and the Revisioning of Theological Anthropology (Wipf & Stock, 2014).  Natalie has also authored two art books: Interior Design: Rooms of a Half-Life and Baby’s First Latin.  Natalie’s areas of interest and expertise include: feminist theology; theology of suffering; theology of the family; religion and violence; and (inter)sex and theology.  Natalie is a married mother of two sons, Valentine and Nathan.  For pleasure, Natalie studies classical Hebrew, poetry, piano, and voice.


Tikvah v’hashamayim (Hope and the Heavens): A Jewish Perspective on Redemption by Ivy Helman.

headshotThe Torah is bursting with hopes over-fulfilled.  Abraham and Sarah hoped for a child and gave birth to a nation.  The Israelites hoped for freedom from slavery and eventually received an entire Promised Land.  We understand hope and, in so many ways, we live on it, as hope has sustained us for thousands of years.  Today, our hopes inspire our actions and motivate us to work for peace, justice and equality.   In Jewish terms, we call this goal or vision of a better world in the here-and-now: redemption.

Yet, redemption does not just appear out of thin air or because we wish it.  Redemption and the hope of it requires work and cooperation with the Source of All Life.  As Deuteronomy 30:19 says, “I have put before you life and death… [therefore] choose life…”  This cooperation could be a simple commitment to tikkun olam, repairing the world (some times translated as social justice).  For others, choosing life could mean more observant religious practice.  It could also be a combination of the two.  In the end, though, I think both hope and redemption require choosing life in some form or another.

Just as how we choose life depends on who we are, how we achieve this redeemed world depends on how we understand G-d’s redemptive power.  Some of us think redemption will come through the moshiach (a savior), Continue reading “Tikvah v’hashamayim (Hope and the Heavens): A Jewish Perspective on Redemption by Ivy Helman.”

“Am I Crazy?” Loving Laura Dern by Carol P. Christ

carol p. christ 2002 color“Am I crazy?”

“No, just full of hope. You got more hope than most people do. It’s a beautiful thing to have a little hope for the world, you know.”

This question was posed by Amy Jellicoe, played by Laura Dern, at the end of the HBO television series Enlightened.  Unemployed, single, and in debt after she was fired for “whistle-blowing” on the corrupt activities of the corporation where she worked, Amy wondered if she had done the right thing.  The answer of her ex-husband Levi  brought tears to my eyes.

In many ways, I am Amy.

Let’s begin with the obvious.  When I was young, I was slender and pretty and exceedingly tall, with long blonde hair—I imagine I looked like Amy.  I couldn’t take my eyes off Laura Dern. There just aren’t many women in the world as tall as I am. Because of that I don’t know what I look like to others.  In the series, Laura Dern is taller than just about everyone else, including the men, and she seems not to care, because she often wears high heels.  Continue reading ““Am I Crazy?” Loving Laura Dern by Carol P. Christ”

On Love, Theodicy and Domestic Violence by Ivy Helman

ivyandminiLast week, I introduced my students to the theological concept theodicy.  Theodicy is a theological explanation of why suffering and evil occur that usually includes some kind of defense of divine attributes.  For example, if G-d is all-knowing (omniscient), ever-present (omnipresent), all-powerful (omnipotent) and all-loving then how do we explain hurricanes, illness, mass murder, airplane crashes and other forms of evil and suffering?  This is quite difficult because, as my students point out after a few minutes of discussion, most explanations are often unfulfilling or inadequate.  The discussion turns quite quickly to two reactions.  Either, G-d isn’t what we thought G-d was or science does a better job explaining these examples of evil and suffering.  Science explains that hurricanes happen because of various environmental factors or a plane crashes because of mechanical problems. Even the concept of humanity’s freewill as the cause of evil often circles back to G-d’s creation of humanity and leaves students unsettled.  If G-d created within humanity the possibility of evil, how, then G-d can be all-loving?

The love/evil dichotomy is often the real conundrum of theodicies in monotheism.  This has been pointed out by numerous theologians throughout the ages.  How do we account for evil when there is only one divine Being?  How can an all-good, all-loving Being clove-1345952464afLreate or even be responsible for evil?  Which leads to the next question, is evil the absence of love?  These are extremely difficult philosophical and theological questions.

To explore then, we should start where it is often suggested that we learn most about love: family, close friends and intimate relationships.  Take this for example.  Continue reading “On Love, Theodicy and Domestic Violence by Ivy Helman”

Remembering 9/11 and Doing What We Do by Marie Cartier

photo credit: Lenn Keller

I remember 9/11. I was having phone sex with a woman from Chicago that I was seeing and I had just come back from Chicago to Los Angeles the night before. I was on the phone with her…and we were doing what people do…we were doing what we do when we are in love long distance…and then she said to me, “Turn on the T.V…” and I did. And the towers were collapsing. Jesus.

Days later I remember all of us lighting candles all across the city and coming  together…it was such an incredible time of coming together and then it got ugly and full of war.

I remember all these images of people at first “being there” for us in the U.S.—even Native Islanders in Papua New Guinea singing and playing I think a conch shell and then it got ugly and full of war. Continue reading “Remembering 9/11 and Doing What We Do by Marie Cartier”

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

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

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

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

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

Preying on Victims: Radical Christianity and Exploitation of Tragedy in the Name of God By Michele Stopera Freyhauf

It is our moral responsibility, whether we identify as Christians or not, to pray for not prey on the victims of tragedies.

Over the last month, dare I say years, society has witnessed or been subjected to an all out war from radical Christians across America deploying the wrath of God and reveling in the tragedy of others to perpetuate their apocalyptic message of rhetoric and terror.   As I hear the news over the last few months, an old Billy Joel song starts to play in my head “We didn’t start the fire.”  Whether we started the fire or not, we should not feed the flames of hatred but figure out a way to extinguish it.

Here is a brief synopsis of current events that reflect this hatred and radicalism perpetuated in the name of God – examples of Christianity terrorizing or preying on victims through their actions.

The Westboro Southern Baptist Church: Preying on Victims at Funerals and Thanking God for their Tragic Deaths

Original Picture found at

Their web address says it all:  This group, which one cannot call Christian but rather “hate-mongers,” threatened to burn the Qur’an, was banned from Facebook for spreading hatred against homosexuals, and recently had the audacity to picket funerals of Americans killed in natural disasters, most recently, a teen-age shooting victim, Daniel Parmertor (age 16), from Chardon, Ohio.  Thankfully, volunteers across Ohio and a local group of bikers formed a human barricade to keep these people away from the funeral and grieving family and community.

This group preys on tragedy.  They “praise God for sending a shooter to a High School in Ohio.”  They “praise God for killing a coast guard member.’  They praise God for killing UK Singer Davy Jones.”  They also picketed the funerals of the Arizona shooting victims where Congresswomen Gabrielle Giffords was shot and six others, including federal Judge John M. Roll was killed stating, “God sent the shooter to shoot you!  And He’s sitting in Heaven laughing at you!”  The article goes on into quite graphic detail, which you can read for yourself  but concludes with the statement “Thank God for his Righteous Judgments!”  This group picketed over 47,500 funerals and events to date. One has to wonder what bible they are reading and what God they are praying to. Continue reading “Preying on Victims: Radical Christianity and Exploitation of Tragedy in the Name of God By Michele Stopera Freyhauf”

Robbed by Monica A. Coleman

“Life is robbery.”

I re-read this Alfred North Whiteheadquotation to my students in the last weeks as we read through Adventures of Ideas. We were taking a welcome break from the philosophically demanding Process and Reality.

I explained that this is one of Whitehead’s more frequently cited sentences because he succinctly and poetically describes his position that life entails loss, and you can’t go back and get what you lose.

I said the same thing to one of my girlfriends as we chatted in my kitchen a couple of weeks ago. I was cooking and catching up with a friend I had not seen in nearly twenty years. As we chronicled our lives from the intervening decades, my friend said: “I have a religious question.”

In moments like these, I curse the fact that even my closest friends think that I have some special kind of knowledge as a minister and professional theologian. I took a deep breath because that phrase usually precedes some difficult, heart-wrenching question that has no satisfying answer.

Continue reading “Robbed by Monica A. Coleman”

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