One of the things I love most about being an educator is introducing my students to the thinkers who have inspired me. I am especially delighted when I can share things I’ve learned from meeting and hearing these scholars speak. One of the joys of “coming of age” as a religious scholar in the early 21st century is that I have been able to meet some of my heroes. I’ve conversed with scholars whose writings about justice, liberation, hope, love, and religion’s potential to be a moral force in a hurting world inspire me. I’ve been able to hear them speak at conferences and workshops where I’ve felt the truth and power of their words in my body. One of the most inspiring women I’ve met in my academic journey was Dr. Katie Geneva Cannon. She passed away on August 8, and although I was not one of her students, I grieve and mourn this recent loss. I remember her and honor her for her spirit, her scholarship, and her soul’s work.
Katie Cannon was a pioneer. Her scholarly work was integral for defining the womanism in religion and theology. She took black women’s lives, their writings, and their struggles seriously. She challenged the presumed universality of the dominant ethical systems to identify moral resources and Christian teachings that could address the challenges of people oppressed by their race, sex, and class. Dr. Cannon’s vocational journey demonstrated her willingness to transgress racial, gender, and class boundaries. She was the first African-American woman to be ordained in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A). She grew up in a North Carolina town she described as “a modern-day plantation,” but excelled in elite academic spaces, earning her Ph.D. and then leading many others in their academic pursuits. Continue reading ““Do the Work Your Soul Must Have”: In Remembrance of Rev. Dr. Katie Geneva Cannon by Elise M. Edwards”
Last week, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was in the news again, but not for reasons you would expect. She, along with Rabbi Lauren Holtzblatt, penned a feminist essay about the Exodus title “The Heroic and Visionary Women of Passover.” Finding this story was exciting, especially because I am so drawn to the Exodus story (the intrigue and curiosity of which caused me to return to school and study, as one of my main areas of focus, Hebrew Scriptures – along with Archaeology and Ancient Near Eastern History). Now women’s roles in this story are being elevated thanks to Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Rabbi Holtzblatt.
Before I discuss the message and the importance this message brings, I think it is important to know an important fact about Justice Ginsburg. Ginsburg is not observant, but does embrace her Jewish identity. When her mother died, she was excluded from the mourner’s minyan because she was a woman; an event in Judaism that is meant to comfort the mourner, brings a sense of community, and is considered obligatory – a means of honoring our mother/father. This important event left an impression and sent a loud message that inspired and influenced her career path – she did not count – she had no voice – she had no authority to speak. No wonder her life and career focuses so much on women’s rights and equality.
As many of us know, the story of Exodus is focused on two things 1) Moses and 2) liberation from the bonds of servitude and enslavement; women are rarely discussed. In the essay co-authored by Ginsberg, women are described as playing a crucial role in defying the orders of Pharaoh and helping to bring light to a world in darkness. In the Exodus event, God had partners – five brave women are the first among them, according to Ginsburg and Holtzblatt. These women are: Continue reading “Passover and the Exodus: A Feminist Reflection on Action, Hope, and Legacy by Michele Stopera Freyhauf”