I often say I am a theologian who is uncomfortable with prayer and does not have a relationship with God. What I mean is that I am still trying to figure out how I understand the divine; conventional prayers feel exclusionary and that is not something I want to participate in. Instead, I believe there is so much more to these concepts than traditional theology offers.
I find comfort in Mary, mother of Jesus, Mary of Magdala, Maria Goretti, my grandmothers, and my own mother — in communing with the saints. I feel connected to them. I know what it means to be a woman, a mother, a daughter, and to live in a misogynistic world. Growing up with patriarchal imagery of God continues to influence my perceptions about the divine and I have not yet found a way to develop a sacred relationship with a being I have struggled to view as anything other than oppressive. I am on a journey, and one that often gets pushed to the side in favor of teaching, grading, parenting, writing, cooking, cleaning, laundry…and when I can get it, sleep.
It seems that my nine-year old daughter is also on a journey and having her first crisis of faith. She has come to me with many questions about God lately. Initially she asked if God is real and how we can know. Then she moved on to other questions…and then assumptions. Last week, Sarah came home from school and told me that God is a white man. My heart broke a little. I asked her why she thought that and she responded, “Haven’t you seen all the pictures of God? Duh.” Continue reading “Who is God? by Gina Messina”
The altar was not for particular spirits, but honored all the ‘spirits’ we brought with us to share: the spirits of the women and men in our stories, the memories imbedded in the items we gathered together and the spirit of every person present in the class that day.
Last week my students and I created a non-religious altar to conclude our class, Women, Religion and Spirituality. We read about different feminist spiritual traditions in which women created altars to honor their ancestors, spirits or deities; and I thought it might be fun to practice our own form of literal physical creation. I asked students to bring in inspiring items, pictures of people who’d helped them to grow or anything that honored what they considered sacred in their lives. I also asked them to bring food to share, as no altar seems complete without food of some kind. However, asking my students to participate in a course ritual, I also felt it was important to respect their very different beliefs… which resultantly, left me wondering how we would create an altar without God.
My religious experience taught me that altars were a place to surrender gifts in return for a greater gift of God’s blessing or love. The church I attended as a child did have a literal, physical altar; but this raised table was only used monthly to present the communion bread and grape juice before it was passed through the pews. Otherwise, I came to understand, one’s heart was the altar and we needed to present our sacrifices there. Financial gifts needed to come from the heart, then put into the offering plate. Gifts of time or action had to start in the heart, even when required by the youth group or spiritual authority; and resistance to giving these gifts also required sacrifice. My resistance or lack of desire to sacrifice required that I leave my unwillingness at the altar so that I might become appropriately grateful.
At some point I started leaving too much at the altar; and like Abraham’s Daughter I said enough is enough. I recognized myself in the sisters and brothers lying under the sacrificial sword, and I took back my heart. My heart, I realized, hadn’t been the altar; it had been the offering and sacrifice. Continue reading “AN ALTAR WITHOUT GOD? A “PLACE” FOR THE SACRED by Sara Frykenberg”
Queer. Sacred. Profane. Bar Culture.
One might not easily associate all four of those words in the same category, but Dr. Marie Cartier, a Professor at California State University Northridge, has crossed numerous boundaries in her search for the sacred in the pre-Stonewall Butch-Femme/Gay Women’s bar culture in twentieth century America.
A radical queer pioneer in the fields of both Women’s and Queer Studies in Religion, Marie has become a hero of mine during my time at Claremont Graduate University and in my personal journey as a male queer scholar in these fields.
As an activist, Marie has concentrated a majority of her work on activism and its involvement in shaping one’s identity as well as the world in which we occupy. Although the majority of Marie’s work concentrated on her personal interactions with butch, femme, and gay women, her interactions are transcending from being strictly personal to digital. Continue reading “New and Old Queer Frontiers – Redefining Sacred Space by John Erickson”