Author’s note: This post was originally published on April 19, 2019.
In “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.
Author’s note: This post originally published on this website on March 11, 2018. How prescient it is. I live in Prague, about an 8 hour car-ride to the Ukrainian border. Over 300,000 Ukrainian refugees have arrived here, with more arriving daily. They need homes, and this need is overwhelming our small country. Yet, we are doing all we can each and everyday to help those fleeing the war. Yet, this housing is not home, not when war still rages and when families are still separated. We need peace. Everyone deserves a home.
In ancient times, Pesach was one of three pilgrimage holidays, the others being Sukkot and Shavuot. According to the the Torah, Israelite men were required to travel to Jerusalem to bring offerings to the temple. Supposedly, this reconnected these Israelites to their religion, to each other and to the deity. Participating in these pilgrimages brought about a deeper sense of community. In short, three times a year, Jerusalem became a home away from home.
Last week I had a vivid and visceral dream. I woke from it feeling body sensations as if I had just had the experience I dreamt about.
In my dream I am pregnant—or I am supposed to be pregnant. But I look down at my belly and there is no movement. Nothing. And my belly isn’t very big. I think the baby must have died. Then I feel movement—the feelings of a baby turning over and moving inside me. And I can see right through my skin, like an ultrasound image.
I can see the baby positioning herself to engage the birth canal. She actually uses her hands to click her head into engagement. I realize she is face up and that this will be a painful delivery. I know that she is a girl. Then I see a reflection of myself in the mirror and see that my belly is still high and that the baby has decided to wait. She is not ready to be born.
This week’s Torah portion, or parshah, is Shemot (Exodus 1:1-6:1). This parshah sets the scene for the liberation of the Israelites from slavery both by introducing main characters and elaborating on just how difficult life was for the Isrealites under Pharoah’s rule. The parshah contains many noteworthy aspects: the death of Joseph and the multiplication of the Isrealites in Egypt; the increasing wrath of the Egptians; the birth and adoption of Moses; Moses’ encounter with the Divine in the form of a burning, yet unconsumed, bush; the revelation of the divine name, G-d’s plan for Moses’ role in the liberation of the Israelites from slavery; Moses’ attempts to get out of his assigned role; and Moses’ first confrontation with Pharoah.
In addition, there are many women, who are integral to the salvation of the Israelites, in this parshah. For the most part, Jewish tradition has acknowledged their part when it comes to discussions of this parshah, especially Shifra and Puah. Yet, their role is often overshadowed by Moses’ varied miracles, the mighty power of the divine, the revelation of the Torah, the wanderings in the desert, and so on. However, the Israelites’ liberation from slavery would have looked quite different without women. Continue reading “Shemot: Women’s Misbehaving and Disobeying as the Key to Liberation by Ivy Helman.”
In a recent post I wrote about finding God in music. I confess, I cannot remember the last time I set foot in a church. As a woman, I continually grapple with the foundational messages of Jesus and Catholic Social Teaching and the disconnect with the power structures that seek to control the ways we love and find justice. I long to participate in the culture I grew up in, but cannot support the weaponization of the tradition.
Lately, I’ve come to realize that the messages I connect to I find in music. There are particular songs that offer me the guidance, philosophy, and ideas around meaning and purpose that I resonate with. One of those is “Where’s the Love?” by the Black Eyed Peas.
I’ve been listening to it on repeat lately because it is the sermon I need to hear; it speaks to me and even though it was recorded quite a while ago, it is still relevant. I think it is fair to say that in our current socio-political culture, people are “acting like they got no mamas.”And by the way, I include myself in that statement. Like anyone, I sometimes get so caught up in believing that my way is the only way, I forget to listen to what others have to say.
We are in the midst of a political civil war and are so busy yelling past each other, we’ve forgotten how critical unity is to shaping a healthy government that serves its purpose – caring for the people. Continue reading “Where’s the Love by Gina Messina”
When I was in my late teens, I discovered midrash: the Jewish exegetical process by which commentators weave creative and additive interpretations into the sacred text. Midrash comes from the word “to ask,” “to seek,” or “to divine.” For example, the tale in which a well follows the prophetess Miriam through the wilderness is an ancient midrash. The story in which God stops the angels from singing as the Egyptians drown in the Sea of Reeds is a midrash. Each of these stories derives from a particular close reading of text, whether a Torah text or a verse elsewhere in the Bible. Each of them allows a new generation to add its own perspectives to the tradition.
Contemporary feminists, and many other contemporary artists, writers, and exegetes, have used a modern form of midrash to add liberatory perspectives to Jewish tradition and to biblical lore. From Miriam to Vashti, female biblical characters shine in the creative interpretations of feminist midrashists. Judith Plaskow’s “The Coming of Lilith” made a huge impact on the reading of the story of Eve and the legend of Lilith. Anita Diamant’s The Red Tent changed the conversation on Dinah forever. Alicia Ostriker, Norma Rosen, Veronica Golos, and many others have joined in this creative play which highlights marginalized voices within the text. Wilda Gafney has made contributions to a Christian and womanist form of midrash. Voices like Andrew Ramer and Joy Ladin have invited us to see queer and trans themes in the text. And of course many others, from poet Yehuda Amichai to bibliodramatist Peter Pitzele, have added to this rich tapestry.
Last week I participated in a panel discussion hosted by the Center for American Progress (CAP) on the intersections of faith and reproductive justice. These conversations are critically important, particularly in these political times when threats to our bodily autonomy and right of conscience are sanctioned by our current administration, Congress, and many state legislatures.
The framing of these public discussions is always interesting and somewhat troubling to me. Often progressive spaces like these do recognize that many people of faith support reproductive health care, but with that understanding is the assumption that supporting the full spectrum of reproductive healthcare, including access to safe abortion care, necessitates some kind of moral reckoning for religious people.
“I stand firmly between the worlds of who I am and who I shall become, celebrating my wholeness. I celebrate my Sovereignty and I do not fear my Shadow, for together they hold the seeds of wisdom: as they grow, I earn my freedom.”
~Affirmation for the Moon of Liberation from The Avalonian Oracle by Jhenah Telyndru & Emily Brunner~
“What gives us courage in the face of potential loss? What makes the changes worth it? Is the pattern we are weaving one that pictures liberation?”
~from T. Thorn Coyle’s Crafting A Daily Practice~
The Red Clover beside my house is blooming just in time for tonight’s Moon of Liberation. This is the full moon where my fellow Sisters of Avalon and I hope experience the liberation of celebrating the renewed wholeness that comes with the early days of Resolution in the Avalonian Cycle of Healing. Red Cover is the herb we honor at this time.
At this particular point in our Cycle, I seek to celebrate just that much more manifestation of my true essence, continuing to break free from old patterns, bring about further change in my life, be it immense or infinitesimal. This is the celebration that comes before the hard look forward to the next quest in Cycle to come.
And yet, in working with the Principle of Polarity and living in opposite hemispheres of the globe, I’ve gained some personal experience in coming to understand that the All always contains the extremes of a polarity and everything in between. So while I exist in the Liberation of Resolution as the Light Half waxes, others still exist in the Dark. In my practice, I strive to remember that the opposite aspects of Cycle are always co-existent on this earth. The whole of the planet is always in two places, operating from polarize perspectives, at the same time. And still we keep spinning. For now.
This seems particularly relevant as I look around at my country and my culture, as well as, at my world. As the manifestations of Sovereignty & Shadow ripen all around us, the challenge becomes finding ways to acknowledge that harvesting the seeds of wisdom from both Light & Dark is probably necessary for true liberation. Perhaps this is why walkers between worlds make for such powerful peaceweavers — if they manage not to be rendered complete madwomen. Continue reading “Moon of Liberation by Kate Brunner”
It is, I think, quite common knowledge that most Jewish holidays relate to the seasonal cycles of the Earth. Sukkot celebrates the fall harvest. Chanukah sheds light on the winter darkness. Tu B’Shevat marks the end of the dry season and so begin the prayers for rain in Israel. For Purim, we throw off our winter doldrums and let off a little steam to settle our cabin fever. Pesach is no exception: welcome spring: birth, renewal and even creation. The leaves return to the trees, baby animals are born, flowers bloom, warmer weather arrives and somehow the possibilities of the coming summer are endless.
In fact, the associations between Pesach and spring are many. Arthur Waskow in Seasons of Our Joy explains the origins of the connections (pages 133-139). There were probably two different seasonal celebrations – one of shepherds and one of farmers – that came together around the time of the Babylonian exile into one festival which we can see in Exodus 12 – 13: Pesach. Farmers in preparation for the harvest of spring wheat cleared out the old crumbs and fermentations of the last year to make room for the new. Shepherds celebrated the arrival of baby sheep and their flock’s fertility in general by slaughtering a sheep, putting its blood on their tents and dancing around a fire. Continue reading “The Coming of Spring: Reflections on Pesach and Judaism by Ivy Helman”
I’ve written a few posts recently referencing biblical themes or stories. I’m not a biblical studies scholar; I’m an ethicist and theologian. So I know that ways I use the texts disturb some people who study them from a historical or biblical studies perspective. To say I don’t use the Bible as those scholars do, though, doesn’t mean I don’t have a disciplined approach. I aim to apply a consistent approach to scripture and to encourage my students to do the same.
I get really annoyed when someone proclaims a variation of “The Bible says it; I believe it; that settles it!” in moral debates. Obviously, people within a religious tradition are going to believe there is truth in the scriptures of their tradition. That’s simply how scripture functions. So I’m okay with “I believe it.” I have a problem with the two other parts of the statement – the Bible says it, and that settles it. The assertion that “the Bible says it” masks the task of interpretation that anyone encountering a text takes on. The statement “that settles it,” when adopted in moral debate, rejects the accountability and humility in sharing our interpretations with others. Continue reading “Feminist Interpretations by Elise Edwards”
Each year we read the story of our exodus from Egypt during the Pesach seder. The story is one of human liberation from oppression. Yet, most of the imagery we encounter, the drama of the story so to speak, involves nature: a river that saves a baby, a burning bush, the plagues, the re(e)d sea, the wilderness, lack of food and water and the promised land itself. What does this mean?
In general, it means that human liberation is intimately connected to the liberation of all of creation. In particular, the exodus story can teach us many lessons about environmental justice. I’m going to explore five of them here: do not manipulate nature, use water wisely, form a connection to the land, imagine G-d differently and treat humans, animals and the land well.
Pesach, or Passover, begins tomorrow at sunset. It has always seemed strange to me that a festival centered on liberation begins with a focus on housework and cleanliness to the point where one is almost a slave to the process of chametz (leavened food) removal. Not only that, but the spiritual interpretation of what the chametz represents adds to this conundrum.
The Rabbis of the Talmud teach us that chametz represents egotism and arrogance. The divine instruction to eat only unleavened bread for the festival of Pesach is a call to cultivate humility because they believe that our inflated sense of self-worth causes harm to other human beings as we value ourselves and our lives more than them. As we remove the chametz from our homes, we are also supposed to be removing the self-centeredness, arrogance and egotism within ourselves. Cultivating humility redirects our attention to all those parts of our lives that have suffered by being too self-centered, including our relationship with the Holy One. Continue reading “Pesach, Patriachy and the Unfinished Work of Liberation.”
The story of Exodus, through a liberation lens, has different meanings depending on the person’s experience in life. I recently experienced my own kind of liberation, a freedom from decades old enslavement. Through this realization, I celebrated with many other women with the reminder – you are not alone!
The story of the Exodus is a familiar one. It is a text of oppression, journey, and freedom – a freedom that finds us in new surroundings, a place of revelation and transformation. Many have written about the Exodus text found in the Hebrew Scriptures from different ideological lenses and social locations. For me, I propose to apply this to menopause (also known as the “change”).
It is not too far fetched to look at menopause as a transformative event in a woman’s life. For a woman like me, who struggled with the disease Endometriosis since my teen years, menopause it is not only transformative, but liberative. The only effective treatment for this disease (for me) was the injections of Lupron Depot that put my body in “medical menopause.” Because of that experience, I felt like my body was being liberated from disease – this disease that debilitated me monthly or, at the very least, caused me tremendous pain.
A few weeks ago, I had the experience of attending a musical with a group of friends. I am not in the habit of blogging about my personal life, but I cannot help but wonder if my story and experience might help another. The problem about “the change” is that we joke about it and usually face it with unbelievable dread. I propose to look at the “change” as a positive – a new beginning, with a reminder to all women out there – you are not alone!
I received this revelation several months after my surgery at a musical named – you guessed it – Menopause! What started out as a much needed get together of friends turned into an awakening and celebration. Something that has me celebrating the change – even as I fan myself through the hot flashes (I prefer “personal summers”), tear-up during emotional commercials for no reason (something I haven’t experienced since pregnancy), clinching my teeth due to a quick-igniting temper that causes me to exercise remarkable restrain (and you thought patience was a gift to children and teens), to searching every cabinet for that holy grail of comfort food – chocolate. As I reflected on that evening, it occurred to me that I was living my own exodus story and the very thing that enslaved me can no longer hurt me – I am now free – renewed and emerged, but still in a strange wilderness that holds different challenges. Continue reading “Encountering “the Change” as a Personal Exodus and Liberation by Michele Stopera Freyhauf”
From the Buddhist point of view, all phenomena are conditioned, i.e. they arise, carry on, and come to an end because of other phenomena. Buddhism does not look at anything we experience as “things”, but rather as processes.
Confusion arises due to various factors, chief among them : 1) vague sense of “ego”, and 2) language. The vague sense of ego is portrayed in Khemaka Sutta as the last delusion that a monk drops before getting Enlightened, so we won’t worry about it now. Where language is concerned, Buddhism stands on similar positions to those of postmodernism and feminism, i.e. our social world is defined by how we speak about it. One can say that we actually create society by the act of speaking.
I was flattered when I received a call from The Tavis Smiley Show onPBS and was asked to appear on the show to discuss the Pope’s resignation and the future of the Catholic Church. It was an amazing opportunity and wonderful gift to be able to share my voice on such a large platform. In addition, I was thrilled to know that I was approached because the show was interested in a feminist progressive voice. While most of the coverage to date has focused on the historicity of this event and a glorified presentation of Pope Benedict XVI, Tavis Smiley and PBSsaw value in hearing a different perspective. Continue reading “The Papal Resignation and Future of the Catholic Church by Gina Messina-Dysert”
In my introduction to Christianity class, almost every one of my students (who come from diverse religious backgrounds – primarily Roman Catholic, Protestant and Muslim), continues to believe that the best image if not the only appropriate image for G-d is male. When probed they may speak generically about G-d as genderless, an entity or spiritual presence of some kind, yet conclude by affirming their belief that G-d is male often by adding something along the lines that G-d is best described as Father. Some go so far in these affirmations that they articulate G-d’s maleness as fact. It never fails that every semester I struggle with how to address this basic feminist issue within the classroom.
At least as early as 1973, Mary Daly, in Beyond G-d the Father: Towards a Philosophy of Women’s Liberation,articulated the problematic basis of the relationship between gender and divine imagery. She argues that “If G-d in ‘his’ heaven is a father ruling ‘his’ people, then it is in the ‘nature’ of things and according to divine plan and the order of the universe that society be male-dominated.” In other words, if maleness is associated with divinity, then the power, domination and running of society by men seems to be divinely ordained. Continue reading “On Pronouns and Liberation in the Classroom by Ivy Helman”
Voices of Feminist Liberation documents the current state of her impact and legacy. The richness of her thought is manifest here in the variety of directions her students have taken her insights. While most of the essays are scholarly works that engage her ideas above all else, some essays have more personal recollections. Rosemary’s preface recounts her personal experiences of and with us, with descriptions of incidents from her relationships ranging from hearing a live-in student coming down the hall to slip a paper under the door, to seeing a student’s dissertation prospectus enrage a committee member, to switching from same-sex hand-holding in Palestine to male-female hand-holding in Israel as a small gesture of recognizing cultural difference. Continue reading “The Joy of Honoring Rosemary Radford Ruether by Dirk von der Horst”
The prophetess Miriam, Aaron’s sister, took a tambourine in her hand, while all the women went out after her with tambourines, dancing; and she led them in the refrain: Sing to the LORD, for he is gloriously triumphant; horse and chariot he has cast into the sea.”(NAB, Exodus 15:20-21)
The Song of Miriam is not a story of death and destruction, but rather liberation. It is a poetic celebration of God’s liberation of the Israelites from the oppressive Egyptians, which, according to Bernhard W. Anderson in “The Song of Miriam Poetically and Theologically Considered,” marks the beginning of the Israelite tradition (292). Phyllis Trible in “Bringing Miriam out of the Shadows” states that this act marks the end of the Exodus, which was started by Miriam, not Moses (169, 172). The act of liberation reveals God’s action in humanity. Gerald Janzen in Exodus believes this act also moved the Israelites “to fear the LORD and believe in the LORD and in his servant Moses” (109). The uniqueness of this passage is that the most unlikely person leads – this person is not a man but rather a woman.
This brief passage in the Hebrew Scriptures is revelatory – Miriam is revealed for the first time. She is a prophetess, Aaron’s sister, and the role of leader of the victory dance to honor the Divine Warrior.
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
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”
Ruth Marston is a third year Master of Divinity student at the Claremont School of Theology. She is currently seeking Elders Orders in the Pacific Northwest Conference of the United Methodist Church. A lifelong feminist, Ruth hopes to serve churches by helping construct communities of faith that educate, empower and value diversity as a divine gift. She enjoys Science Fiction, dry humor, and has been known to drive twenty miles for a quality cup of coffee.
A fellow student spontaneously invited me into her apartment in for tea. It was at the beginning of our Master of Divinity Degree. We were just discovering the physically and spiritually grueling nature of the three years in front of us, and I think we both sensed that friends would make this journey possible. Continue reading “The Crosshairs of Connotation By Ruth Marston”
Carol P. Christ earned her BA from Stanford University and her Ph.D. from Yale University. She is a founding mother in the study of women and religion, feminist theology, women’s spirituality, and the Goddess movement and work has revolutionized the field of feminism and religion. She has been active in anti-racist, anti-war, feminist, and anti-nuclear causes for many years. Since 2001 she has been working with Friends of Green Lesbos to save the wetlands of her home island. She drafted a massive complaint to the European Commission charging failure to protect Natura wetlands in Lesbos. In 2010 she ran for office in Lesbos and helped to elect the first Green Party representative to the Regional Council of the North Aegean. She helped to organize Lesbos Go Green, which is working on recycling in Lesbos.
My hope for the new blog on Feminism and Religion is that it can become a place for real discussion with mutual respect of feminist issues in religion and spirituality.
I agree with Rosemary Radford Ruether who argued in a recent blog “The Biblical Vision of Ecojustice” that the prophets viewed the covenant with Israel and Judah as inclusive of nature. Indeed in my senior thesis at Stanford University on “Nature Imagery in Hosea and Second Isaiah,” in which I worked with the Hebrew texts, I argued that too. I also agree that the dualism Rosemary has so accurately diagnosed as one of the main sources of sexism and other forms of domination comes from the Greeks not the Hebrews. I agree that Carolyn Merchant is right that nature was viewed as a living being in Christian thought up until the modern scientific revolution. I agree with Rosemary that it is a good thing for Christians to use sources within tradition to create an ecojustice ethic. I am happy that there are Christians like Rosemary who are working to transform Christianity. Finally, I am pleased to admit that I have learned a great deal from her.