Remembering “The Burning Times,” Part 2: Healing by Beth Bartlett

You can read part 1 here.

The effects of “the burning times” are still with us. I can feel this in my own body. As Starhawk put it so vividly, “the smoke of the burned witches still hangs in our nostrils, . . . remind[ing] us to see ourselves as separated. . . in competition with each other, alienated, powerless and alone.”[i] However, she continues, “the struggle also continues.” That struggle is the impulse toward wholeness, healing. That journey toward healing begins with remembering and acknowledging past harms, so that we may better understand who we are and the ways these continue to live in our bodies, psyches, and culture in order to address them.

In South American indigenous cultures, trauma is recognized as susto, or “soul wound,” and it is on that level that healing needs to happen.[ii]  To quote Shirley Turcotte, “Healing from trauma is a spiritual matter, a relationship matter, and there are places in recovery that require a precious spiritual response.”[iii] The women’s spirituality movement continues to be one such precious response. The work of Starhawk and others to reclaim the word “witch” and to revive and reimagine a tradition of valuing immanence, the sacredness of the earth, and the ability to change the world for the good has been invaluable in this.[iv] In her examination of the reasons for the persecution of witches, Starhawk names the “war on immanence” as one of three factors.[v] If the spirit was not present in the earth itself, then people had to rely on priests and the Church for access to a transcendent god. 

Continue reading “Remembering “The Burning Times,” Part 2: Healing by Beth Bartlett”

Remembering Rosemary Part 1 by Janice L. Poss and Theresa A. Yugar

Editor’s Note: A more formal memorial to Catholic Feminist Theologian Rosemary Radford Ruether was posted here at Feminism and Religion at the time of her passing. Now we are delighted to share these memories of her by two scholars, Theresa A Yugar and Janice L. Poss, who knew her well, especially in her last months. Therese’s reflection was posted yesterday and Janice’s is below. As Janice notes in her post, “More than any deep theological concept, doctrinal exegesis, or other hyper-scholarly thought, she taught me simply by being who she was – a woman – and she gave me the ultimate gift, the gift of herself.” Through these posts, Theresa and Janice pass on some of Rosemary’s wise and caring gifts to our FAR readers.

Janice L. Poss, Rosemary and Theresa A. Yuger

She’s gone, but not forgotten. She is there, presence felt. The Spirit, as they say, works in mysterious ways. I knew about Rosemary for several years after attending two presentations  on feminist topics that she gave at Loyola Marymount University in 2005 and 2008. In 2006, I also recall hearing about her while organizing the first Roman Catholic Women Priests (RCWP) Mass in Los Angeles. Once I entered Claremont Graduate University as a Ph.D. student I heard quite a bit about her because my colleague and friend, Theresa Yugar, mentored me through orientation until she graduated. Occasionally I would see Theresa and Rosemary at Pilgrim Place when I attended Women Church Services. Although Rosemary was still teaching one class a semester, I could never attend because I was working full-time.

Continue reading “Remembering Rosemary Part 1 by Janice L. Poss and Theresa A. Yugar”

In Memoriam: Rosemary Radford Ruether by Elizabeth Ann Bartlett

Yet another of my great feminist and spiritual teachers has died.  Rosemary Radford Ruether, ecofeminist Catholic theologian, died on May 21st.  Her work challenged my thinking and gave me new understandings and perspectives. She was a prolific writer, authoring hundreds of articles and 36 books, and was the quintessential scholar and historian of world religions and ecofeminist thought and theologies. A scholar of the scholastics, she examined the three strains of Western thought: the Hebraic tradition; Platonic-Gnostic; and Pauline-Augustinian in all their complexities to develop an understanding of the nature of Western thought and its implications for the domination of women, nature, and colonized others. As she described her own approach, she drew out the contradictions and complexities in these theologies, careful “to see both negative and positive aspects . . . and to be skeptical of exclusivist views on either side.”[i] Her thought and writing was ever-expanding, and always striving “to see the dominant system of patriarchy, including its racism, classism, and colonialism, in critical perspective,” and to put herself “in places where in solidarity with its victims, I can see it from its underside.”[ii]To this end, she brought together the ecofeminist theologies of women from around the globe, particularly the global south.[iii] Her thought also grew to include critiques of militarism and corporate globalization.  Needless to say, I cannot begin to encompass all of her contributions here. So I will focus on the ways her thought has most deeply influenced and inspired my own, as well as my students’.

Continue reading “In Memoriam: Rosemary Radford Ruether by Elizabeth Ann Bartlett”

Rosemary Radford Ruether, 1936-2022

Rosemary Radford Ruether, 1936-2022
Catholic Feminist Theologian

Pioneering Catholic feminist theologian Rosemary Radford Ruether,  accompanied by her daughters Mimi and Becky, died peacefully on Saturday, May 21, 2022 at 3 PM PDT in Pomona, California after a long illness. Arrangements are pending with more information to follow.

Dr. Ruether was a scholar activist par excellence. She was respected and beloved by students, colleagues, and collaborators around the world for her work on ecofeminist and liberation theologies, anti-racism, Middle East complexities, women-church, and many other topics.

Continue reading “Rosemary Radford Ruether, 1936-2022”

Embodying Gaia by Christy Sim

Rosemary Radford Ruether wrote a classic text: “Gaia and God: An Ecofeminist Theology of Earth Healing.” Ever since I laid eyes on this amazing book and was convinced of the genius Ruether offered within these pages, I adored images of Gaia.

The great goddess is usually pictured holding the world as her womb, a loving representation of compassionately pulling all the hurt and agony to her abdomen for healing.

Ruether says in “Classical Western cultural traditions” of which “Christianity is a major expression,” we “have justified and sacralized” notions of God and domination (3). Such ideas teach us that domination is “the ‘natural order'” and “the will of God” for the “male monotheistic God” and his followers (3).

But Gaia is so much more and challenges these patriarchical messages in today’s culture. To imagine the divine with this motherly image helps with “ecological healing” (as Ruether says), and, being able to picture a “personified being” in the feminine (4). Gaia is truly special.

Continue reading “Embodying Gaia by Christy Sim”

Contemplative Resistance by Esther Nelson

I recently arrived in Las Cruces, New Mexico, after driving across much of the country from Richmond, Virginia. It’s the second summer I’ve driven this distance (2,000 miles) so I varied my route a bit from last year, stopping at the Abbey of Gethsemani in Trappist, Kentucky, for a short visit. This is the place the popular and prolific monk, Thomas Merton, also known as Brother Louis, called home for twenty-seven years (1941-1968) . (Merton was accidentally electrocuted by an electric fan in Bangkok while attending a conference—December 1968.)

The grounds are verdant, well-kept, and peaceful. Visitors are free to wend their way along various paths on the property, attend any (and all) of the services held in the church, and watch a film on (male) monastic life (running continuously) in the visitors’ center. The gift shop sells books (many authored by Merton), fruit cake and fudge made by the monks at the Abbey, and an array of “stuff.” Accommodations for retreat are available by reservation.

Some time ago, I audited a class that included readings by Thomas Merton. During the semester, the professor mentioned a book titled, At Home in the World The Letters of Thomas Merton & Rosemary Radford Ruether, Edited by Mary Tardiff, OP (1995). Ruether (b. 1936) is a feminist scholar and Catholic theologian. She is also a prolific author and popular speaker. Continue reading “Contemplative Resistance by Esther Nelson”

It Takes a Village: Responding to the Needs of Rosemary Radford Ruether by Cynthia Garrity-Bond

Rosemary Radford RuetherAs many of you may already know, on August 24, 2016, feminist theologian and scholar Rosemary Radford Ruether suffered a significant stroke. There has been some speculation from those who know or have known Rosemary about her current condition.  Here is the short of it.  While Rosemary has made progress, her doctors and therefore Medicare feel it is insufficient to warrant continued physical and speech therapies. Those who interact with Rosemary on a daily or weekly basis disagree with this medical prognosis.  The stroke damaged the part of Rosemary’s brain that allows for communication, therefore she, at this time, is not able to speak.  That said, Rosemary recognizes individuals, is able to respond to some commands and engage in therapeutic exercises.  The more attention and care she receives the greater her capacity grows for a more meaningful life that includes a level of agency.  

The first year of a stroke demands ongoing therapies in order to truly assess a clear diagnosis.  To what degree Rosemary will recover from her stroke is uncertain, but at the minimum ongoing therapies will prove beneficial towards her overall quality of life.  Unfortunately, Rosemary does not have secondary health insurance that will cover the cost of these badly needed therapies.   For example, one month of Physical Therapy at 3x/week and Speech Therapy 2x/week amounts to $3,289.00.  Put another way, 15 minutes of physical or speech therapy costs $41.00.  To be effective, Rosemary should have, at the minimum, five hours of combined therapy per week.   Continue reading “It Takes a Village: Responding to the Needs of Rosemary Radford Ruether by Cynthia Garrity-Bond”

Feminism and Faith by Judith Plaskow, Rosemary Radford Ruether, and amina wadud

Foreword Image.001 (1)“Feminism saved my faith” is the concluding phrase of one of the writers in Faithfully Feminist, and though not everyone would say it that way, most of these women have found feminism and faith vibrantly interrelated. The contributors to this anthology articulate a range of reasons that feminists might choose to remain within a patriarchal religious tradition. They also remind us that women reconcile their faith and feminist identities in diverse ways. This volume testifies to the dynamism within the religious communities of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam in the United States, and to their internal diversity. This diversity allows for the contributors to engage in a process of their own development as feminists of faith that interacts with similar processes of development going on in their religious communities.

The overriding common bond for these women of faith is the shared conviction that the conflict between religion and feminism is real— even when it is generated by other people’s expectations that those two identities are separate and irreconcilable. Once each woman arrived at a place where she no longer felt an imperative to abide by an either/or dichotomy, she was able to define the terms of her religion and feminism for herself and to own both identities as significant.

Multiply the individual accounts in this volume by tens of thousands, and the effect of these women’s decisions and the concerted actions for change that have flowed from them has been enormous. For example, feminism has profoundly altered American Judaism in the last forty-plus years. Women are ordained in all branches of liberal Judaism and, in all but name, in modern Orthodoxy. New denominational prayer books written in English use inclusive language and incorporate writings by women. Feminists have written Torah commentaries, designed rituals for important turning points in women’s lives, and created new scholarship on women that contributes to a fuller history of the Jewish people.

Likewise, Christianity has been significantly impacted by the work of feminist theology. While some branches continue to refuse leadership roles to women, many others have acknowledged that every person embodies the spirit of Christ and have embraced the ordination of women. In 2006 the Episcopalian Church ordained its first woman bishop, the highest office in the church. Inclusive language has found its way into the prayers and rituals of many churches and feminist commentaries have shifted thinking on scriptural interpretations. Dialogue within and across branches of Christianity are expanding borders, and movements like Woman Church and online feminist spaces have created opportunities for women to claim agency and participate in roles that have been traditionally withheld.

In the long road to Islamic feminism, women have sometimes lacked agency to define either Islam or feminism. Traditional definitions of these words which operate as a constraint on work within Islam towards justice, equality and dignity; feminism was connected to Western imperialism and invasion into Muslim-majority nation states, and centuries of patriarchal control and interpretation stifled women’s efforts to claim Islam for themselves. This is changing, aided by campaigns such as the 2009 launching of the Musawah movement for equality and justice in Muslim family law. A new freedom is emerging that allows Muslim women the dignity and honor of defining Islam and feminism for themselves—no matter how little they might know of global discourses and historical traditions. All that was necessary was to, identify as a believer and expect a life of justice within that belief. Islam has also witnessed women-led prayers and a move toward inclusive prayer spaces.

The profound changes feminists have inspired and worked for do not mean that all problems have been solved and that women’s subordination is a thing of the past; there is plenty of work for a new generation. The difficulties with overcoming the glass ceiling and balancing work and life that women within the larger society face also bedevil women in all three religious communities. Panels, boards, and publications often exclude women’s voices completely or have only token female participation. Ordained women in Judaism are paid less than their male counterparts and rarely become senior rabbis in large or prestigious congregations. If women “choose” to serve smaller synagogues —the explanation often tendered to explain these gaps—that is partly because the expectations surrounding the rabbinate have not kept pace with its changing demographic, and women who want to combine rabbinic work with raising a family face considerable obstacles. Christian ordained women face similar obstacles within the priesthood and continue to be denied leadership roles in some branches, including Catholicism and Mormonism. Similarly, Muslim women are often excluded from panels at religious conferences and are underrepresented on the boards of religious institutions. The idea of women leading Muslim prayers remains controversial. And too often, discussions about women’s role in Islam still revolve around the issue of hijab, or covering.

The challenge for feminists today is passing on feminist insights and gains to the next generation. Is women’s history being incorporated into elementary and high school texts, or are students being taught the same parade of male names and faces? More particularly for Jews, Christians, and Muslims, when a girl or woman wants to mark some nontraditional ritual occasion, is it clear where to turn for resources? Do most Jews, Christians, and Muslims even know that it is possible to create new rituals that feel deeply meaningful and religiously authentic?

Finally, when teachers—and parents—talk about God, how is God imagined? Are children still growing up thinking about God as a distant male figure, or are they offered a range of images, and emboldened to create their own? Are children being encouraged to talk about and challenge passages in and interpretations of the Torah, Bible, and Qur’an that are misogynist or otherwise unethical? Are they developing critical tools that will allow them to engage with and transform difficult parts of tradition?

The next generation of feminists should consider a move beyond rhetoric and terminology towards substance and personal affirmation. Identifying as feminists of faith helps forge global alliances towards meaningful dialogue across difference—even the differences within. It is only when these deeper levels of change are addressed that the question, “Why stay?” will cease to be relevant.

FF_front-cover_FINALThis essay is the Foreword for Faithfully Feminist: Jewish, Christian, and Muslim Feminists on Why We Stay edited by Gina Messina-Dysert, Jennifer Zobair, and Amy Levin.  

For more on Faithfully Feministclick here.

Join the conversation on Twitter using the hashtags #FaithfullyFeminist and #WhyIStay.

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Mayim Bialik Endorses Faithfully Feminist

Why We Stay

Judith Plaskow is Professor Emerita of Religious Studies at Manhattan College and a Jewish feminist theologian. Co-founder and co-editor of the Journal of Feminist Studies in Religionshe is co-editor of Womanspirit Rising and Weaving the Visions and author of Standing Again at Sinai: Judaism from a Feminist Perspective and The Coming of Lilith: Essays on Feminism, Judaism, and Sexual Ethics 1972-2003.

Rosemary Radford Ruether, Ph.D. is Professor of Feminist Theology at Claremont Graduate University and Claremont School of Theology.  She is also the Carpenter Emerita Professor of Feminist Theology at Pacific School of Religion and the GTU, as well as the Georgia Harkness Emerita Professor of Applied Theology at Garrett Evangelical Theological Seminary. Rosemary has enjoyed a long and distinguished career as a scholar, teacher, and activist in the Roman Catholic Church, and is well known as a groundbreaking figure in Christian feminist theology.  Ruether is the author of multiple articles and books including Sexism and God-TalkGaia and GodWomen Healing Earth and The Wrath of Jonah: The Crisis of Religious Nationalism in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict. Her most recent books include Catholic Does Not Equal the Vatican: A Vision for Progressive Catholicism(2008), Many Forms of Madness: A Family’s Struggle with Mental Illness(2010), and Women and Redemption: A Theological History, 2nd ed.(2011).

amina wadud is Professor Emerita of Islamic Studies, now traveling the world over seeking answers to the questions that move many of us through our lives.  Author of Qur’an and Woman: Rereading the Sacred Text from a Woman’s Perspective and Inside the Gender Jihad, she will blog on her life journey and anything that moves her about Islam, gender, and justice, especially as these intersect with the rest of the universe.

My Take On “Feminist Theology: Four Perspectives” by Grace Yia-Hei Kao

I recently had the honor of serving on a panel entitled “Feminist Theology: Four Perspectives” with three of my faculty colleagues: Rosemary Radford Ruether, Monica A. Coleman, and Najeeba Syeed. It had been organized by the Claremont School of Theology Alumni/ae Association in partnership with the La Plaza United Methodist Church and the Los Angeles United Methodist Museum of Social Justice (where the event had taken place).

We had an incredible time. La Plaza UMC, led by CST alum Rev. Vilma Cruz-Baez (’07), graciously hosted a reception before our panel discussion. As we feasted on hearty Mexican food (my favorite was the watermelon agua fresca), we perused the Exodus exhibition in the Museum of Social Justice, which featured dramatic black and white photographs of migrants and others who had made their lives in Los Angeles (n.b., the Museum is located in the basement of the Church, which is itself located on historic Olvera Street). I was grateful for the warm welcome and short history of the Museum that Director Leonara Barron provided.

Continue reading “My Take On “Feminist Theology: Four Perspectives” by Grace Yia-Hei Kao”

Supporting Gender Equality in the Church Results in Excommunication by Gina Messina-Dysert

Gina Messina-Dysert profileIt is unnerving to think that excommunication is still a real threat in the 21st century. Within both the Catholic and Mormon Churches members continue to be bullied into submission with such threats. Today, speaking out against gender injustice seems to be a sure way for one to end up expelled from her or his community. Kate Kelly, a human rights attorney and Mormon feminist, has become the most recent in a long line to be rebuked for speaking out about gender discrimination and is waiting to learn her fate following a trial by LDS Church leaders. Continue reading “Supporting Gender Equality in the Church Results in Excommunication by Gina Messina-Dysert”

Rosemary Radford Ruether’s Quests for Hope and Meaning by Gina Messina-Dysert

Gina Messina-Dysert profileRosemary Radford Ruether is one of the most brilliant theologians of our time and her newly released autobiography, My Quest for Hope and Meaning, is a gift to those of us who have been so touched by her work.  In this intimate and beautiful piece, Ruether shares her personal journey in feminist scholarship and activism.  The autobiography opens with a profound forward by Renny Golden (that is also shared here on Feminism and Religion) and continues with an introduction and six chapters where Ruether guides us through an exploration of the influence of the matriarchs in her life, her interactions with Catholicism, her continued exploration of interfaith relations, her family’s struggle with mental illness, and her commitment to ecofeminist responses to the ecological crisis.

Ruether states that “Humans are hope and meaning creators” (xii), and her autobiography details her own quests for hope and meaning.  She reflects on the incredible impact made by the female-centered patterns in family and community in her life.  According to Ruether, these “matricentric enclaves” grounded and shaped her interest in feminist theory and women’s history.  She also describes the spiritually and intellectually serious Catholicism that she received from her mother and articulates her continued frustration with Vatican leadership that has undermined the efforts of Vatican II.   For Ruether, her ongoing affiliation with feminist theological circles is crucial as she continues to work toward shaping an ecumenical and interfaith Catholicism.

Continue reading “Rosemary Radford Ruether’s Quests for Hope and Meaning by Gina Messina-Dysert”

For the Love of Gaia by Jassy Watson

For the Love of Gaia Jassy WatsonOn January 26, 2013 a rare, devastating tornado hit our community in Queensland, Australia, a coastal town on this sub-tropical coast. My family experienced nature’s elemental force firsthand and hopefully will never again. The tornado viciously shattered houses, peeled away roofs, uplifted cars and trees, and took down power lines, tearing apart everything in its path. With absolutely no warning, literally out of the blue, it formed over the churning sea, rapidly intensifying before striking land, awakening the vulnerability and fragility of all life in its midst.

When it struck, our four kids and I were waiting in our car while my husband ducked into a mate’s house to borrow a tool. We heard the sound of a roaring jet plane overhead, as my husband came running, screaming at us to get out of the car. Turning to my left, in a vision imprinted forever, a spiral of debris flew toward us. Scrambling, we got the kids out of their harnesses and safely indoors. I lagged behind, taking care of the children first, and fell out of the side door of the van with the wind’s impact. As I got up to run, a large piece of roofing tin flew straight for my head. I dove, seeking safety under the front of our running car. My life flashed before my eyes. All of us in a state of shock, the tornado was gone as quickly as it had come, we were unscathed except for a few minor cuts and bruises. It was only a few moments before the immediate danger passed. We ventured outside to inspect the damage, destruction surrounded us. Continue reading “For the Love of Gaia by Jassy Watson”

On Pronouns and Liberation in the Classroom by Ivy Helman

photoIn 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”

The Joy of Honoring Rosemary Radford Ruether by Dirk von der Horst

DirkA cutting-edge voice in many theological conversations, Rosemary Radford Ruether has been an inspiration to many of us over the last few decades.  The tremendous joy of my last couple of years was co-editing a volume of essays in her honor.  Even discovering just how dreary indexing is was a labor of love for a true pioneer in feminist theology.  The result: Voices of Feminist Liberation: Writings in Celebration of Rosemary Radford Ruether, a collection of fourteen essays by Ruether’s doctoral students, put together by Emily Leah Silverman and Whitney Bauman, along with myself.

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”

We Are All Earthings: Speciesism and Feminist Responsibility Toward Animals by Amy Levin

Amy2“earth’ling: n. One who inhabits the earth.” – Earthlings, 2006

“We need another and a wiser and perhaps a more mystical concept of animals. Remote from universal nature, and living by complicated artifice, man in civilization surveys the creatures through the glass of his knowledge and sees thereby a feather magnified and the whole image in distortion.” -Henry Beston, The Outermost House

I was passing out leaflets at Columbia University a couple weeks back, when a passerby who took a pamphlet on veganism and the cruel uses of animals turned back around to approach me. He said, “I am a vegetarian, so I understand not eating meat. But what is wrong with some of the uses of these animals? What is wrong with seeing eye dogs?”  A valid question indeed, and one I had to pause for a moment to answer. I mustered up something along the lines of the ways that many of the seeing eye dogs in the industry are unfairly treated or neglected. “Oh, he said.” He seemed content with an answer he could relate to – suffering. In my experience leafleting and participating in animal rights advocacy, I receive a number of questions, many of them wanting to know the same thing, what is WRONG with the horse-drawn carriages at Central Park? And each time I (and I presume many other activists) offer similar answers, the suffering answer. But there is another layer, beyond the quick, violent spark of imagination that connects physical pain with empathy. And it has to do with power and structural inequality, and the use of one group for the benefit of another. And it has everything to do with feminism. Continue reading “We Are All Earthings: Speciesism and Feminist Responsibility Toward Animals by Amy Levin”

SPECIAL AAR SERIES Part I: Re-envisioning the Academy as ‘Open Source’ Community by Kate Ott with introduction and response by Mary Hunt

Kate OttMary HuntIntroduction:

This is one of four papers presented in Chicago at the Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Religion, November 17, 2012, in a session entitled  “Feminism, Religion and Social Media: Expanding Borders in the Twenty-First Century,” organized by Gina Messina-Dysert and chaired by Rosemary Radford Ruether with Mary E. Hunt as the respondent. What follows is the general response followed by, after each of the contributions, Hunt’s appreciative analysis. Two of the papers will be posted here on Feminism and Religion and two will be posted on the Feminism in Religion Forum

General Remarks by Mary Hunt:

The stated purpose of the panel is to discuss “how digital projects are remapping the feminist theological terrain and creating opportunities for a wide range of voices to participate in ongoing and new conversations related to feminist issues in religion.” These writers have done that and more. Continue reading “SPECIAL AAR SERIES Part I: Re-envisioning the Academy as ‘Open Source’ Community by Kate Ott with introduction and response by Mary Hunt”

Social Engagement as Feminist Praxis in the lives of Patricia A. Reif & Rita Nakashima Brock By Teresa A. Yugar

Today our country and global community need religious leaders to utilize their theological education and feminist principles to model the formation of ally ships across ecumenical and interfaith perspectives, laying the foundation for a more just and peaceful society. While Reif and Nakashima Brock did not know each other, their feminist stance of commitment to social justice and praxis should give us pause.

In 2002, Claremont Graduate University and the Immaculate Heart Community collaborated and created an endowment to sponsor a Lectureship in honor of the memory of feminist teacher, scholar and activist, Dr. Patricia A. Reif. Each year the Dr. Patricia A. Reif committee invites cutting edge feminist scholars in religion to discuss the intersection of their research interests and its influence on their scholarship, activist work and teaching in the broader sense of the term, both inside and outside of the classroom. This year the Reverend Dr. Nakashima Brock is the select guest Lecturer to honor Reif’s life, memory, and legacy. Tammi Schneider, committee member and Dean of the School of Religion stated Nakashima Brock’s visit is timely because in three weeks the national U.S. presidential elections will define the trajectory of our country for, minimally, the next four years. Nakashima Brock’s involvement in the Occupy Movement on a local and national level extends from her feminist commitment and advocacy for the rights of the 99% of our country who are being squelched by U.S. policies that favor the elite 1% of our nation. For Nakashima Brock it is a moral imperative for persons of faith and goodwill to educate individuals and take a stand on policies, on a state and nation-wide level that safeguard the livelihoods of the majority poor of our country. For Nakashima Brock this means quality health care for all, living wages and decent jobs, free high quality public education through college, and an end to the prison-military-industrial complex. Continue reading “Social Engagement as Feminist Praxis in the lives of Patricia A. Reif & Rita Nakashima Brock By Teresa A. Yugar”

Catholic Feminists Meet, Strategize by Rosemary Radford Ruether and Theresa Yugar

During July 8-11, 2012 twenty Catholic feminist leaders met in a retreat center near Baltimore to discuss their concerns and hopes in the light of the recent and ongoing attacks of Catholic bishops on women and especially on feminist work in the church. The group consisted of representatives from many sectors of Catholic institutions and movements.  There were the founders of a peace and justice movement of the Sisters of Charity and the Institute for Communal Contemplation and Action. There was a pastor and leadership trainer from an alternative parish and a writer for the National Catholic Reporter.

Many in the group were professors of theology or ethics at Catholic, Protestant or state schools. Among them were teachers at Whittier College, Claremont School of Theology, Santa Clara University and San Jose University in California, Loyola University in Chicago, St. Catherine in Minnesota, Drew University in New Jersey and Boston College. Catholic reform movements were well represented, with leaders from Dignity, the Women’s Ordination Conference, Call to Action and RomanCatholicWomenPriests. There was a teacher at Marymount School in New York City, the President of Marymount School in Los Angeles and a doctoral student in theology. Continue reading “Catholic Feminists Meet, Strategize by Rosemary Radford Ruether and Theresa Yugar”

Feminist Music By Gina Messina-Dysert

Last week Caroline Kline shared the article “Feminist Films” and discussed the Bechdel Test as a way to identify whether or not a film is feminist.  It left me wondering – can we identify music as feminist in the same way?  Music generally does not offer dialogue between two women.  But there are instances where we find two women singing together about feminist issues like the 80’s classic “Sisters are Doin’ it for Themselves.”   There are also women singing about or to women, like Juliana Hatfield’s “My Sister.” And there is music that acknowledges women’s struggles as women like Ani Difranco’s “I’m No Heroine,” No Doubt’s “I’m Just a Girl,” and Pink’s “Stupid Girls”.    But is this the only way to identify feminist music?   Continue reading “Feminist Music By Gina Messina-Dysert”

Rosemary Radford Ruether’s Women and Redemption: A Theological History By Gina Messina-Dysert


Women and Redemption : A Theological History. 2nd ed. By Rosemary Radford Ruether.Minneapolis: Fortress Press. 2011.

Women and Redemption: A Theological History

Having been critically impacted by the work of Rosemary Radford Ruether, I was anxious for the release of the second edition of her crucial book, Women and Redemption: A Theological HistoryRedesigned with illustrative material, research questions, and suggested reading for further research, as well as the addition of a new chapter exploring recent developments in feminist theology, this text does not disappoint.

With this newest edition, Ruether acknowledges the ongoing journey in the field of feminist theology and emerging issues faced by women in religion and society. Examining the Christian claim of an inclusive and universal redemption in Christ, she traces paradigm shifts in understandings of gender over the last two millennia.  Ruether offers an historical exploration of women and redemption in the first five chapters followed by a global survey of contemporary feminist theologies in the final four chapters, which includes a concluding section that gives attention to “Fourth World” feminisms and post-colonialism in an effort to “bring this volume up to date” (xvii). Continue reading “Rosemary Radford Ruether’s Women and Redemption: A Theological History By Gina Messina-Dysert”

Is the Prophetic Vision of Social and Ecojustice the Fruit of the Poisonous Tree? By Carol P. Christ

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.

Continue reading “Is the Prophetic Vision of Social and Ecojustice the Fruit of the Poisonous Tree? By Carol P. Christ”

The Biblical Vision of Ecojustice By Rosemary Radford Ruether

“The earth mourns and withers, the world languishes and withers, the heavens languish together with the earth. The earth lies polluted under its inhabitants, for   they have transgressed the laws, violated the statutes,  broken the everlasting covenants. Therefore a curse devours the earth and its inhabitants suffer for their guilt.” Isaiah 24: 4-6a.

“They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain for the earth shall be full of  knowledge of the Lord,” Isaiah 11: 9.

The 1970’s until today has been a time of an increasing recognition that the western industrial style of industrial development is unsustainable, although this has yet to be acknowledged by leaders of corporate growth. This system of development, based on an affluent minority using a disproportionate share of the world’s natural resources, is fast depleting the base upon which it rests. To expand this type of industrialization is accelerating the coming debacle. We need an entirely new way of organizing human production and consumption in relation to natural resources, one that both distributes the means of life more justly among all earth’s people and also uses resources in a way that renews them from generation to generation.  Continue reading “The Biblical Vision of Ecojustice By Rosemary Radford Ruether”

Catherina Halkes – In Memory and Appreciation By Mary Grey

The following is a guest post written by Mary Grey, Ph.D., Professor of Feminist Theology at St. Mary’s University College, in Twickenham, London, and author of thirteen books including A Cry for Dignity: Religion, Violence, and the Struggle of the Dalit Women in India.

On April 21, 2011  Catherina Halkes, the founding mother of Feminist Theology in Europe, inspiration to me and countless others,  prophet, mentor – and much else – died in her home city of Nijmegen, the Netherlands. She certainly changed my life: I arrived in Nijmegen desperately searching for books in Feminist Theology when writing my Ph.D. thesis. I had read everything that England had to offer, (not a lot in 1986!) I could not afford to go to America, so the Netherlands was my only option. Catherine Halkes, (or Tine, as we all called her), welcomed and encouraged me: later she would come to the public defence of my thesis in Louvain – after which I became her successor to the chair of Feminism and Christendom in Nijmegen, 1988. Life was never the same again!

Catherina Halkes

Tine blazed a trail  for women’s role in theology in the Roman Catholic Church, as well as for all women in Feminist Theology in Europe in its key developing stages. She embodied the hopes and dreams of countless women – and men- beyond the boundaries of her small country. She influenced the development of Women Studies as an academic subject in the Universities of the Netherlands and wider. Her influence cannot be restricted to a single category. Rooted in the progressive theology of the Second Vatican Council, she developed a wide-ranging pastoral theological influence on theology. It could be said  – although an evaluation is still too early-  that her legacy will be seen as opening up different areas of theology and related disciplines to the feminist lens, and being at the forefront of developments in many fields, always with a critical eyes of a Christian faith that has never wavered, despite continuing disappointment and personal suffering at the unflinchingly repressive attitudes of the Roman Catholic Church, to which she remained consistently loyal. Continue reading “Catherina Halkes – In Memory and Appreciation By Mary Grey”

The Vatican’s Spiritual Violence Against Women’s Ordination By Rosemary Radford Ruether

The Vatican has adopted what amounts to a “zero tolerance” policy against those Catholics who actively advocate for women’s ordination, particularly against anyone involved in the movement of Roman Catholic Womenpriests which, for the past three years, has ordained thirty-five women in the United States. This movement began in June, 2002, when seven women were ordained by some Catholic bishops in Austria. Later several of these women were ordained bishops by these same bishops. They, in turn, have ordained more women priests. From this has sprung an increasingly organized movement, which is developing the theological vision of church which they hope to generate and are laying down the formal rubrics for education and preparation for ministry of those aspiring to be ordained in their community.

The Vatican summarily excommunicated the initial seven women ordained in 2002. As more women were ordained it was at first silent and then decreed that anyone being ordained in this movement, as well as those supporting it, were automatically excommunicated. This saved them the trouble of addressing each of these women individually. However, they have escalated their campaign against women’s ordination in the last month in response to Maryknoll priest, Father Roy Bourgeois, who on August 9, 2008 in Lexington, Kentucky, concelebrated the mass where long-time friend, Sevre-Duszynska, was ordained. Father Bourgeois also preached the homily at this ordination mass, where he denounced the Church’s refusal to ordain women as a sin comparable to the sin of racism. “Sexism is a sin” he declared. Continue reading “The Vatican’s Spiritual Violence Against Women’s Ordination By Rosemary Radford Ruether”

The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pantsuits By Gina Messina-Dysert

Last week Cynthia Garrity-Bond shared a post about Michele Bachmann and the misuse of the word feminism to describe her.  Commenter Kate Barker noted that Bachmann does not self-identify as a feminist, a very important point I think.  It led me to wonder whether there are any women in politics who self-identify as feminist, and while there may certainly be some or even many, I cannot think of any who do so publicly.

During the Democratic National Convention in 2008, Hillary Clinton spoke of working towards women’s rights around the world, putting 18 million cracks in the glass ceiling, and being a member of the “sisterhood of the traveling pantsuits,” but did not directly identify herself as a feminist.  I found Clinton’s membership to this “sisterhood” an interesting method of feminist self-identifying without employing the label.

It seems to me, to call oneself a “feminist” in the world of politics today would be to commit career suicide.  This term has joined the likes of “communist” or “socialist” and is utilized to create fear.  “Feminism” has become the new “F-word” and to self-identify as such, in politics, in religion, and in other spheres, often leads to marginalization. Continue reading “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pantsuits By Gina Messina-Dysert”

The Chispa* Carrier: Rosemary Radford Ruether By Renny Golden

The following is a guest post written by Renny Golden, Professor Emerita, Northeastern Illinois University.

The Chispa* Carrier: Rosemary Radford Ruether by Renny Golden

What kind of voice is breaking silence, and what kind of silence is being broken? Adrienne Rich

She came to prison with hidden keys. The way forward,

she said, is behind us. With only a spoon of history she

gutted a tunnel that ran below the plazas of Prince after Prince.

We sat waiting behind bars: mouldy histories, slop theologies

in mush bowls shoved under cell doors. Eat this or starve.

We prayed for deliverance we could not name.

We imagined her walking through deserts, our prophet

searching the sand for bones, pouring through ancient scripts,

gospels, archeologies, the dank stacks of basement libraries,

reliquaries with their throb of real blood, archives.

We rattled the bars with questions: Can she pick locks? Continue reading “The Chispa* Carrier: Rosemary Radford Ruether By Renny Golden”

What is Feminism and Why Should We Do it? By Rosemary Radford Ruether

The following is a guest contribution by Rosemary Radford Ruether, Ph.D., Professor of Feminist Theology at Claremont Graduate University and Claremont School of Theology.  She is a founding mother of the feminist theology movement and author of multiple articles and books including Sexism and God-TalkGaia and God, and Women Healing Earth.

What is Feminism and why should we do it? Is it still relevant? Is it relevant cross culturally? Feminism basically means the affirmation of the full humanity of women.  This means that all the ways women have been defined as inferior, secondary and dependent on men since the rise of Patriarchy roughly six-to ten thousand years ago are rejected. It means that women are affirmed as fully human, not partly human or complementary to the male, but with all human attributes and capacities, in relationships of both autonomy and mutually with other humans, male and female, as well as the ecosystem.

Feminism is relevant cross culturally because all known cultures presently existing have been shaped in one way or another by patriarchy, although in different ways. Thus feminism must take a vast plurality of cultural contexts and forms. What it means will be different for working class African-American women than for middle class white women; different for Jewish or for Muslim women than for Christian women. These differences do not negate one another, unless some feminists make the mistake of thinking that their feminist context is normative. Rather this diversity is precisely the wonderful richness of feminism, its capacity and necessity of being articulated in many contexts and cultural locations.

Feminism has accomplished a lot in the last hundred years since it began to reform law, culture and social relations in the late nineteenth century, but it has still only barely begun. Patriarchy is very deeply entrenched and has endless ways of reasserting its patterns of male domination, covertly and overtly. In some areas it asserts itself aggressively and violently, as in Afghanistan when women are forced to wear all-encompassing burkas, acid thrown in their face when they have uncovered heads and schools for girls are burned. In other areas such as the West women are seduced by dress and appearance to play the roles of bodily mirroring of male power. Religious is evoked to shame and enforce patriarchy; but psychiatry and biological science can also been used to claim unquestionable authorization for women’s dependency. Continue reading “What is Feminism and Why Should We Do it? By Rosemary Radford Ruether”

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