The Return of the Exile by Mary Gelfand

A few years ago I encountered a Norwegian folktale titled “Prince Lindworm.” This tale was completely new to me and aspects of it have lingered as I contemplate the future of my country.  

In “Prince Lindworm,” a childless Queen wants an heir and follows the advice of the Wise Woman she meets in her garden.  The Wise Woman tells the Queen where to find two magical roses, instructs her to eat only one, and warns that she “will be sorry” if she eats both.  The Queen, of course, eats both and gives birth to twin boys.  The elder child emerges as a serpent or lindworm and immediately disappears into the forest.  Only the Queen witnesses this birth and, as this is not the child she wants to parent, she remains silent.  The second boy is beautiful and healthy and grows into a fine young man.  When he is of age to seek a wife, his path is blocked by his unknown exiled brother, Prince Lindworm, who has grown into a massive, repulsive serpent and claims his right to have a bride first.  The Queen admits her failure to follow the Wise Woman’s advice and the kingdom must cope with the knowledge that the heir to the throne is an exile.

Continue reading “The Return of the Exile by Mary Gelfand”

#SharetheMicNow: Social Justice and Christianity by Laurel E. Brown and Anjeanette LeBoeuf

In the midst of recent events and protests, a social media campaign entitled #sharethemicnow has emerged.  The campaign asked white people and people of influence to use their platforms, quiet their voices, and highlight, heighten, and listen to their Black counterparts. I have been honored and privileged to be a monthly contributor here at FAR for 5 years. This month’s post will be in participation with the #sharethemicnow campaign. This campaign seeks to keep the momentum for the realization and implementation of equality and just treatment for all peoples – regardless of race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation. I asked a dear friend of mine, whom I had the pleasure of working with at Whittier College, to write this post. Dr. Laurel Brown, whose discipline is in Social Work, shares with us some thoughts on Christianity and Social Justice in midst of our current issues.

Continue reading “#SharetheMicNow: Social Justice and Christianity by Laurel E. Brown and Anjeanette LeBoeuf”

Stand Your Ground: An Interview with Kelly Brown Douglas by Gina Messina

Following the murders of Trayvon Martin and Tamir Rice, Kelly Brown Douglas released her book, Stand Your Ground: Black Bodies and the Justice of God. In this critical work, she details the embedding of structural violence within the doctrine of American Exceptionalism and the deep rooted racial injustice that our nation was founded upon.

Over the last several months, our world has changed. We’ve witnessed great tragedy and there is so much to grieve. COVID-19 intruded upon our lives abruptly forcing the realization of our misplaced priorities. However, systemic racism has always been here, tightly woven into the fabric of our society; yet privileged voices have failed to answer the call for justice. 

As so many risk their health and safety to march for racial justice; to exclaim that Black Lives Matter and that George Floyd’s life was indeed sacred (as was Raychard Brooks, Breonna Taylor, Freddie Gray, Sandra Bland, Philandro Castile, Alton Sterling, Eric Garner…#SayTheirNames), we must consider our own responsibility in perpetuating oppressive structures that condone the trend of public lynchings. 

Following the murders of Trayvon Martin and Tamir Rice, Kelly Brown Douglas released her book, Stand Your Ground: Black Bodies and the Justice of God. In this critical work, she details the embedding of structural violence within the doctrine of American Exceptionalism and the deep rooted racial injustice that our nation was founded upon. She explains it was not a book that she wanted to write; rather, as a mother of an African American son, it is a book she was compelled to write. In doing so, Kelly has laid bare the sin of our nation. Five years later, her witness continues to demand our attention.

I reached out to Kelly and asked if she would be willing to talk with me about her book and she graciously agreed. Thus, for this post, I am sharing the wisdom of Kelly Brown Douglas, vlog style, knowing that, in this moment, it is her words that we all need to hear.  


Gina Messina, Ph.D. is an American feminist scholar, Catholic theologian, activist, and mom. She serves as Associate Professor and Department Chair of Religious Studies at Ursuline College and is co-founder of She has written for the Huffington Post and is author or editor of five books including Women Religion Revolution. Messina is a widely sought after speaker and has presented across the US at universities, organizations, conferences and on national platforms including appearances on MSNBC, Tavis Smiley, NPR and the TEDx stage. She has also spoken at the Commission on the Status of Women at the United Nations to discuss matters impacting the lives of women around the globe. Messina is active in movements to end violence against women and explores opportunities for spiritual healing. Connect with her on Twitter @GMessinaPhD, Instagram: @GinaMessinaPhD, Facebook, and her website

This is a Wake Up Call by Mary Sharratt

George Floyd Memorial, Minneapolis


This month I had originally intended to blog on the injustice of UK landowners using Covid19 as a ruse to illegally block public footpaths during lockdown when country walks are one of the few pleasures remaining to many people. However, recent events have completely blown that essay out of the water. In my hometown of Minneapolis, police officer Derek Chauvin suffocated beneath his knee George Floyd, an unarmed black man accused of a minor offense, while three other Minneapolis police officers stood by and did nothing. Outrage for this brutal and senseless killing literally ignited protests across the Twin Cities and across the globe. Thus, it would seem a travesty not to devote my monthly blog to George Floyd and the protesters around the world who are calling for an end to systemic police brutality against black communities. Continue reading “This is a Wake Up Call by Mary Sharratt”

Where’s the Love by Gina Messina

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”

Photo Essay–Long Beach, California by Marie Cartier

Long Beach Pride 2019
**All photos by: Marie Cartier**
See the photo essay from last year’s Pride week-end here.
And the photo essay from Pride 2017 here.

Continue reading “Photo Essay–Long Beach, California by Marie Cartier”

Pleasure, Touch, and Spirituality by Chris Ash

Sitting in front of the computer, I slowly and intentionally insert earbuds, click to start my favorite writing playlist, and open up Microsoft Word. I feel the tips of my fingers resting lightly on the keys, and notice the slight give of each printed square, glossy in the middle from months of 80 words per minute. I lightly tap my fingers on the keys, not pressing enough to type a letter, body motionless except my fingers, watching the absolute stillness of the screen, exploring the edge between pressure and performance with slow, shallow breaths, finally noticing the moment when the edge is breached, the key catches, and a letter appears on my screen, taking it in with satisfaction.

This is how all my writing starts, with a ritual of simple pleasure and partial attempt at channeling. My partner recognizes this move when he sees it. It’s one I repeat throughout the writing process, as I’m waiting (hoping) for the next words to come to me. I’ll stop, lift my head and close my eyes, and allow my fingers to wiggle lightly over the keyboard as if inviting the unseen to move through me and write my piece. If that still doesn’t produce words, I might run my hands from thigh to knee, fingers pressing with increasing depth into denim-covered flesh. Or I might bring my hands up to my face, fingers resting on my hairline, palms lightly covering my eyes, as I experience the instant soothing of darkness and warming effect over closed eyelids, connecting to the me-within so she can help me bring forth missing concepts. Continue reading “Pleasure, Touch, and Spirituality by Chris Ash”

You Can Make Your Own Rose BOOK REVIEW by Lila Moore

You Can Make Your Own Rose by Andrea Nicki is a collection of poems infused with the spirit of feminist sensibility, social justice and activism. The poems offer more than mere therapeutic comfort while depicting shamanic-inspired healing rituals and magical encounters. They are trauma-free in the sense that Nicki doesn’t ask for our sympathy nor does Nicki simply wish to share traumatic memories. On the contrary, she utilizes somewhat analytical and educational language, interlaced with subtle picturesque and lyrical details alongside a severe social critique, to depict the emotional, intellectual, and social landscape of her reflections on incest and other gender-related forms of abuse.

Continue reading “You Can Make Your Own Rose BOOK REVIEW by Lila Moore”

Will Donald Trump Go to Heaven? by Gina Messina

Having seen the image of a toddler crying while law enforcement questioned her mother, my daughter was filled with fear, anxiety, and confusion. After tearfully asking if she would be taken away from me, my nine year old followed up with the question, “Will Donald Trump go to heaven?”

It is true that the young girl was not a child who was being separated from her mother. Nonetheless, she has become the face of this time in history where American values no longer include “family values,” protecting children, or respecting human dignity. 

The business mogul who claims a Christian identity with a room full of bibles to prove it, has made oppression, injustice, and the general devaluing of life the core of his administration. While Jesus calls us to embrace the stranger, walk with the least of these, to be a loving neighbor, and work for the liberation of every person, Trump’s actions and policies violate every teaching. And so, my daughter’s question was not out of line. Continue reading “Will Donald Trump Go to Heaven? by Gina Messina”

Long Beach, California – 2018 Pride! by Marie Cartier

Photos by the author unless otherwise indicated

Last year I published a photo essay with pictures of Long Beach, CA’s Pride week-end. You can see last year’s photo essay here. I also published a photo essay of the Los Angeles Resist March from last year here.

It feels more important than ever to re-member/ re-attach ourselves to the normality of resistance, freedom, solidarity, courage and joy. I hope the pictures here help you FAR family to re-member your activist selves and re-invigorate them if they are in need of it. I know mine was before the past week-end. Here are photos from the Long Beach Dyke March on Friday night, and the Long Beach Gay Pride parade on Sunday morning.

Continue reading “Long Beach, California – 2018 Pride! by Marie Cartier”

Is God Breathing? by Karen Leslie Hernandez

Another mass shooting. Syria. #MeToo. Hunger. Animal extinction. Iraq. Climate change. Deportation. Slavery. Central African Republic. Hate crimes. Rape. Animal cruelty. Oppression. Accidental nuclear war alerts. Homeless encampments. “Illegal immigrants.” Afghanistan. More mass shootings. Sex robots. Trafficking. Russian bots. Racism. Police brutality. Myanmar. Child abuse. Prostitution. Torture. Poverty. The war in Chicago. The privatization of water. Patriarchy. Prison industry. Islamophobia. Migrants.

This is our world. And I can’t breathe.

I often wonder – is God breathing? Does God care anymore? Does She wonder why we can’t stop harming each other? Has She given up on us? I certainly wouldn’t blame her.

As I sit writing this, the world outside continues. As we awake to more news that numbs us to the every day atrocities we commit upon each other, I believe, inside each and every one of us, we are screaming. We want out. We want this to stop. We are scared. We can’t breathe.

But, we don’t know how to stop. So we keep moving. We keep going. Because that’s what humans do. We keep hoping. We wonder how much time the universe will give us. Will we get a break? Will something or someone finally stop us? Are we even deserving of the chance after chance we continually receive – to get it right?

Are we worthy of saving?

Continue reading “Is God Breathing? by Karen Leslie Hernandez”

Just How Rotten Are Things in Denmark? by Marcia Mount Shoop

The Shakespearean quote, “something is rotten in the state of Denmark,” comes from a palace guard. After watching Prince Hamlet walk away with the ghost of Hamlet’s murdered father, the former King, the guard has a sinking feeling about how screwed up things are in his country.

And if you remember the play at all, things were pretty rotten. By the end of the story just about everybody dies. Revenge, misunderstandings, accidents, and lust for power are just a few of the causes of death. The guard was right. Something was rotting away at his country—something that was vacating people’s integrity and trust, something that was not afraid to use violence and lies to get its way, something that was blind with a hunger for more and more power no matter the cost.

Continue reading “Just How Rotten Are Things in Denmark? by Marcia Mount Shoop”

Faith in Action by Lisa Kloskin

Nearly a month ago, American voters showed up at the polls and delivered some big wins: the first openly transgender person was elected to a statehouse—Danica Roem in Virginia. Roem defeated an incumbent candidate who authored an anti-trans bathroom bill. Also in Virginia: the boyfriend of a reporter shot and killed on live TV, Chris Hurst, won a seat to the statehouse on a gun-control platform, defeating the three-term NRA-backed incumbent. And Hoboken, New Jersey, got its first Sikh mayor: Ravi Bhalla. These and others are encouraging signs that love and tolerance are gaining ground in the public sphere. But there’s still so much work to do. White Supremacists and Nazis still walk boldly in the streets, LGBTQIA teens still face bullying and higher rates of self-harm, women are still paid less for equal work and harassed in every arena, sea levels are rising at faster rates than we previously thought, people of color are still being killed by police, mass shootings are still a regular part of our news cycle, refugees are still waiting in camps around the world for a chance at a better, safer life.

Activists and advocates have been working for justice in these and other areas for decades. In the last year, spurred on by events like the Women’s March, a growing group of would-be activists has emerged. These allies are a welcome addition to the justice movement, but many worry they won’t do or say the right things, and want to have their perspectives deepened on important issues. They need guides and resources to give them the knowledge, tools, and confidence to make a real impact.

Continue reading “Faith in Action by Lisa Kloskin”

Small Business Saturday: Feminist Gift Guide for the Holidays by Angela Yarber

Wondering what to give the revolutionaries in your life for the holidays? Want to support feminist small businesses as you shop? Need some creative ideas with powerful feminist history and theory embedded in each purchase? Would it help if the gifts fused together feminism and religion? The Holy Women Icons ProjectLagusta Luscious,  and Bloodroot Feminist Vegetarian Restaurant has plenty of ways for you to celebrate the holidays with empowering gifts to please feminist in your life.

The feminist non-profit Holy Women Icons Project seeks to empower marginalized women by telling the stories of revolutionary holy women through art, writing, and special events. For over five years, a different holy woman has been featured each month on Feminism and Religion; we became an official non-profit earlier this year; and we have some beautiful, creative, and empowering offerings suitable for the holidays.

Continue reading “Small Business Saturday: Feminist Gift Guide for the Holidays by Angela Yarber”

Gratitude – A Salve to Heal Our Wounds by Judith Shaw

judith shaw photoTomorrow being Thanksgiving in the United States offers an opportunity to reflect on gratitude. With so much anger bubbling up on all fronts is it possible that gratitude could be the salve to heal our wounds?

Continue reading “Gratitude – A Salve to Heal Our Wounds by Judith Shaw”

Opting In, Opting Out: Navigating Political Divisions “for the Sake of the World” by Katey Zeh


Over a year ago I made the decision not to watch–not to consume the vitriol of this political disaster we in the U.S. have created for ourselves. It was a conscious choice in favor of my own self-preservation which I stand by. I had no idea at the time how important that decision would be for my own mental and spiritual health in the coming months.

Since then I’ve done a lot of opting out: not watching the Presidential debates (not in full anyway), not reading much political analysis (the article titles alone cause me rage), not discussing the election before bed. Late one night my husband mentioned some egregious thing that Donald Trump had said earlier that week, and I got so riled up over it that afterward I couldn’t sleep for hours. After that we had to establish a rule that no one could bring up politics after sitting down for dinner.

My way of coping this election cycle has been similar to how another person might react to a violent image on TV: I’ve kept my eyes shut, peeking every few moments to see if the worst has passed. This avoidance behavior has begun to feel uncomfortable, even unethical. As a person of faith, is it not my responsibility to call out abuses of power for what they are? If I do not offer my voice to the cacophony of political discourse, am I complicit in the hatred being spewed? I’ve thought often of Audre Lorde’s famous line, “Your silence will not protect you.” Continue reading “Opting In, Opting Out: Navigating Political Divisions “for the Sake of the World” by Katey Zeh”

Get Compassion: Reflections on Childbirth and Privilege by Katey Zeh


Jessi Klein wrote an Op-Ed in last Sunday’s New York Times entitled “Get the Epidural” in which she takes on the arguments for “natural” childbirth and makes an astute point about its premise: “It’s interesting that no one cares very much about women doing anything ‘naturally’ until it involves their being in excruciating pain.”

Thinking back to the months leading up to my daughter’s birth, I remember occasions similar to the one Klein describes in this article in which I was asked about my pre-natal care and plans for the birth, though admittedly they did not often come from strangers in the grocery store line. While Klein’s response was different from mine (I birthed without pain medication, and as you might have guessed from the title, she planned for an epidural), we each experienced feeling judged by others when they heard about our intended plans for birthing.

Klein alludes to this childbirth debate as symptomatic of our increasingly competitive culture around motherhood. I agree with her. But I worry about what happens when we talk about birth as primarily a parenting event rather than a physical one. When we divorce our intentions for our babies from what we desire for our bodies.

As with any piece having to do with childbirth, this article made the rounds on my Facebook feed and incited the usual divisiveness that all social media posts seem to do, splitting my friends and acquaintances into those who felt affirmed by Klein’s words and those who felt silenced by them. My reaction was to applaud that we have the ability to make different decisions about our health care, and that no matter how we plan our births—or how they turn out in the end—that is something to celebrate.

In my attempt to be diplomatic, I also quickly overlooked the assumptions of privilege at play in Klein’s piece and in my own response. Let’s start with the concept of a birth plan. A plan assumes that different options are available and acquirable. I’ve often written about how my pregnancy was one of the times when I felt my white, educated, middle-class privilege most acutely. I was able to have an intervention-free birth in large part because my family could afford to pay a doula on top of covering the costly medical fees related to the pregnancy and birth.

I wonder among my circles of privileged parents, why do we occupy so much of our time and expend so much of our energy arguing over which school of medically-sound thought regarding childbirth is best when there are so many people who bring life into world with inadequate or no health care at all?

Years before I got pregnant I began working with faith communities as an advocate for the full range of reproductive health care needs that people have throughout their lives, including safe and respectful childbirth. I’ve spent a lot of time reading and retelling the biblical stories of women giving birth and comparing them to the stories of global women today who face enormous challenges in their labor and deliveries. Tragically each year hundreds of thousands of women lose their lives as they bring new life into the world.

Pieces like Klein’s remind me of how easily people like me get caught up in our own spheres of experience and become blinded by the privilege that affords us the ability to fixate on details of our own lives rather than turning our gaze toward the world’s immense suffering.

As a faith-based advocate for gender justice, I’m currently working on a book with the FAR Press called Women Rising in which I look at the lives of ten biblical women through the lens of our current struggles for women and girl’s freedom and well being around the globe. One of my chapters focuses on the story from the book of Genesis in which Rachel dies in childbirth, and another looks at Mary’s delivery of Jesus as the miracle of maternal survival. My hope is that those of us who identify with the sacred stories of the Jewish and Christian scriptures will re-encounter them in a way that leads us back to a place of compassion for one another rather than judgment.

Katey Zeh, M.Div is a strategist, writer, and educator who inspires intentionalKatey Headshot communities to create a more just, compassionate world through building connection, sacred truth telling, and striving for the common good.  She has written for outlets including Huffington Post, Sojourners, Religion Dispatches, Response magazine, the Good Mother Project, the Journal for Feminist Studies in Religion, and the United Methodist News Service.  Find her on Twitter at @kateyzeh or on her website www.kateyzeh

A Choir for Reproductive Freedom by Katey Zeh


I was home watching the live stream of those gathered in front of the Supreme Court building to show their opposition to this law that has prevented so many women from accessing the abortion services they need. The speakers, many of them leaders in reproductive justice organizations, powerfully called out the many ways that this unjust law has targeted women of color, immigrant women, and poor women.

During one of the speeches, those gathered in support of this law began singing “Spirit of the Living God.” It was audible over even the most powerful voices speaking out against it. I began to get irritated. But as the song continued, I got angry–and then I got inspired. Continue reading “A Choir for Reproductive Freedom by Katey Zeh”

Pope Francis, Complementarity, and US Politics by Gina Messina-Dysert

Gina Messina-Dysert profileA theology of complementarity, referred to by Pope Francis as an “anthropological fact,” has had  a strong influence on American politics.  According to the Vatican teaching, women and men have distinct but complementary roles, meaning that women’s value is found in the home as wife and mother and men are responsible for providing for the family.  Such a teaching is highly problematic in that it demeans women’s value and places women on the underside of dualism.

As a woman with an ongoing struggle with infertility, I find it troubling that my church sees my value as less because my womb is barren. Likewise, do women have less value if they choose a career over motherhood?  What if they choose not to marry?  There are also clear implications for single parents, LGBTQ parents, and so on.  In addition, societal norms make clear that women’s work in the home is not valued as the work of men in society.  Likewise, it is damaging to men in that it refuses to acknowledge the critical role men play in the household, in the lives of their children, and their responsibilities to be partners and co-parents.

The idea of complementarity upheld by Pope Francis greatly contributes to economic injustice for women.  The Vatican’s refusal to value women’s roles outside the home influences US social policy on women’s issues. The continued struggle to close the pay gap, implement paid parental leave, and create viable options for childcare and early childhood education are directly connected to complementarity. If women are supposed to remain in the home and be wives and mothers, then there is no need to address any of these issues. How can we possibly have women in leadership roles if they are supposed to be at home cooking dinner and caring for children? And so, when women do pursue careers the social attitude is that women do not belong. Such an idea is even more problematic for women of color who suffer a lower pay rate – $.64 on the dollar for African American women and $.54 for Latina women. Furthermore, many have have been forced to work outside of the home as a result of economic and racial injustice.  In this secular nation, Christian values dominate our political debates and perpetuate the idea that women are subordinate to men. And to be frank, these are community issues that impact men as well as women; yet they have been deemed women’s issues as a result of the manifestation of theological teachings.

As republicans focus on defunding Planned Parenthood, ending marriage equality, protecting religious freedom, and claiming issues like parental leave are not federal issues, women continue to be relegated to second class status. In a time of turmoil and multiple threats to the progression of our nation, there is greater concern for regulating women’s bodies than guns.

Pope Francis has been praised for his commitment to the poor; yet he has been unable to make the connection between poverty and the women’s issues that exist as a result of complementarity.   Likewise, the Church’s stance on reproductive justice continues to perpetuate the very issues that the pope seeks to address.  As Sr. Joan Chittister points out:

I do not believe that just because you’re opposed to abortion, that that makes you pro-life. In fact, I think in many cases, your morality is deeply lacking if all you want is a child born but not a child fed, not a child educated, not a child housed. And why would I think that you don’t? Because you don’t want any tax money to go there. That’s not pro-life. That’s pro-birth. We need a much broader conversation on what the morality of pro-life is.

No doubt, his lack of relationships with women is a major contributing factor to his ignorance when it comes to such issues – by the way, which could be easily fixed by embracing women’s ordination. And so, as Pope Francis has become an international figure deemed a savior to the people, these disconnects fuel ongoing US political debates that keep women in a marginalized position and continue a cycle of poverty and oppression.

Pope Francis has called for a “Year of Mercy” in which he has stated that if a woman confesses having an abortion, she will be forgiven.  Many have praised the pope for taking such a step towards healing; yet, I can’t help but think, “how judgmental and irresponsible.”  Without knowing a woman’s circumstance, her decision making process, her doctor’s concerns, etc., why should one be told to repent? To deny women the right to reproductive justice is to deny women the ability to make decisions about their physical, emotional, and financial health – and we see this play out in the US as a result of the influence of complementarity in our political system. So, in this “Year of Mercy,” I wonder will the Vatican confess its sins against women, LGBTQ persons, and others it has marginalized?

comingspring 2016Portions of this article are excerpts from If Jesus Ran for President coming from the Far Press in Spring, 2016.

Gina Messina-Dysert, Ph.D. is Assistant Professor of Religion and Gender Studies at Ursuline College and Co-founder of Feminism and Religion. She writes for The Huffington Post, has authored multiple publications and is the co-editor of the highly acclaimed Faithfully Feminist: Jewish, Christian, and Muslim Feminists on Why We Stay. Messina-Dysert is a widely sought after speaker and has presented across the US at universities, organizations, conferences and on national platforms including appearances on MSNBC, Tavis Smiley, NPR and the TEDx stage. She has also spoken at the Commission on the Status of Women at the United Nations to discuss matters impacting the lives women around the world. Messina-Dysert is active in movements to end violence against women and explores opportunities for spiritual healing. Connect with her on Twitter @FemTheologian, Facebook, and her website

From Her Lips by Barbara Ardinger

Barbara Ardinger

There was an old woman who lived in a shoe,
She had so many children she didn’t know what to do.
She gave them some broth without any bread;
She whipped them all soundly and put them to bed.

Look! Here she comes. Like most old women, she has a lot to say. Let’s listen in:

“Well, that’s what an old nursery rhyme says. But I’m that old woman, and I can tell you for sure that the only thing ‘true’ about that rhyme is that I’m old. I’m older than anyone I know. Oh, I see you there, eavesdropping. That’s okay. You’re welcome here.

Old woman...shoeYou know what? I’ve been called many names by the (mostly) men who make up those rhymes and stories. I’ve been the old witch in the candy house who serves pie to children and then serves the children in the pie. (But did that German guy who wrote that opera about me ever say who eats those pies?) I’ve been the thirteenth old woman at the christening who wasn’t invited and brings a curse that’s as big as the blessings from the first twelve. I’ve been the evil, wicked, mean stepmother.

Continue reading “From Her Lips by Barbara Ardinger”


carol christBesides being advocates of social justice, the prophets of Israel were advocates of “exclusive monotheism,” exclusively “male monotheism,” “religious othering,” and “religious prejudice.” 

Many progressive Jews and Christians find inspiration in prophets because of their insistence that their God cares about the poor and “the widow at the gate.” For progressive Christians, Jesus stands in the prophetic tradition, and the core of his message is “concern for the poor.” For progressive Jews the prophetic tradition is the root of their concern for human rights.

Those who locate their spirituality and concern for social justice in the prophets can point proudly to Martin Luther King and the many priests, ministers, and rabbis, as well as ordinary Christians and Jews who marched with him as exemplars of the prophetic tradition.

But the prophetic tradition also has a nasty underside. Continue reading “JUSTICE AND PREJUDICE IN THE “PROPHETIC TRADITION” by Carol P. Christ”

Bringing African American Churches into Reproductive Justice by Mariam Williams

Mariam WilliamsI don’t expect to hear anything in church about the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade during the month of January,  the month marking 40 years since the U.S. Supreme Court made the decision to legalize abortion in this country. This is for a number of reasons: 1) it’s January, and at my church the pastor always starts off the year with a series of sermons that illustrate the church’s mission statement, and women’s choice may be off the subject; 2) Martin Luther King Jr. Day is this month, and if a black church is going to honor something or someone besides Jesus in the month of January, it should probably be MLK; and 3) I haven’t heard anything about abortion from the pulpit in a long time.

A local pro-choice movement leader asked me recently about how black churchgoers feel about abortion. I didn’t know what to say. The last time I heard it mentioned was in a Sunday School class in which a woman said that she almost aborted her daughter. It wasn’t a big confessional moment, just part of a longer testimony as to why she was happy her daughter was around, and it wasn’t received with any shock or fanfare. I can remember hearing once from the pulpit of my current church that while abortion might be wrong, the law shouldn’t interfere with what a woman chooses to do with her own body. Many years before that, in the church I grew up in, a preacher said that we would never find a cure for AIDS because the person who would have grown up to discover the cure was aborted. (What made him so sure of that? Who knows.) Continue reading “Bringing African American Churches into Reproductive Justice by Mariam Williams”

Textual Religion and the Marginalization of Two Huldas by Dirk von der Horst

DirkI am a Protestant in large part because I like to read.  Even after grappling with feminist critiques of patriarchal religions, a spirituality rooted in the Word (capital “W”) is very deep-seated in me.  One reason I think of my faith as biblical is that a scriptural religion engages me in my favorite activity.  At the same time, there are real connections between exclusive dependence on written records and the erasure of women’s history, as well as various ways in which women have been excluded from literary production.  The opposition between text and world often becomes a manifestation of the hierarchy of mind and body that many feminists have seen as damaging.  It’s like the question of “why are there no great women composers?”  The problem with this question is not only that it ignores great women composers such as Hildegard of Bingen, Barbara Strozzi, Louise Farrenc, or Thea Musgrave.  As feminist musicologists Marcia Citron and Suzanne Cusick have shown, the question reinforces a hierarchy in which composers, those who create musical texts, have precedence over those who perform and listen.  It also relegates places where women’s contribution has been essential to the production of music – educating children, for example – to irrelevance. Continue reading “Textual Religion and the Marginalization of Two Huldas by Dirk von der Horst”

Appealing to Values and Interests in Consumer Choices by Grace Yia-Hei Kao

“What the report also makes clear is that sweatshop labor is highly gendered. Between 71-85%…are women, the majority of whom are also under the age of 35.”

I was recently drawn into a facebook discussion about the ethics and efficacy of refusing to eat at Chick-Fil-A on account of its president’s public “we are inviting God’s judgment on our nation” opposition to same-sex marriage as well as the chain’s financial support of socially conservative groups.

I noted that consumers who boycott businesses generally do so because they believe that (1) continuing to patronize a place would be at odds with their core values, or that (2) their actions will “make a difference” by exerting financial pressure on the company to amend their ways. These two reasons could be related, though they often are not. People can act in accordance with their conscience without believing that they have accordingly instigated social change (n.b., just think of the earlier 2004 decision by the Presbyterian Church U.S.A. to selectively divest from certain companies in Israel), just as companies can be compelled to alter their policies by other means than by their clientele taking their business elsewhere.

Continue reading “Appealing to Values and Interests in Consumer Choices by Grace Yia-Hei Kao”

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”

Breaking Up with Chick-fil-A by Gina Messina-Dysert

I haven’t eaten fast food in many years; however as a new mom Chick-fil-A offered something quite different than other fast food chains: healthy options, freshly made food, clean space, and a great spot for play dates; not to mention the organization’s commitment to the environment.  My daughter and I have made many trips to our local franchise in the last year.  It became a usual spot for play dates, the go to place for dinner when I was on a time crunch (grilled chicken nuggets, fresh fruit, and chocolate milk has saved the day many times over!), and let’s not forget the perfect option for Baby S to get some play time in while Mommy connected to the free Wifi to get some work done.  Yes, Chick-fil-A felt like a mommy’s dream come true.

I am embarrassed to say that I had heard rumors that Chick-fil-A was anti-same sex marriage; but I ignored all the warning signs trying to hold on to the many positives I thought the chicken chain brought to my life.  With the recent blow up of Dan Cathy’s response “guilty as charged,” when asked about Chick-fil-A’s support for families led by heterosexual couples, I can no longer turn a blind eye.     Continue reading “Breaking Up with Chick-fil-A by Gina Messina-Dysert”

What I Learned (and Found) Dumpster Diving, Part I, by Grace Yia-Hei Kao

“I get that consumers generally prefer to buy produce that looks a certain way, but can the routine act of trashing whole bags of clementines, apples, or tomatoes because of a few imperfections be justified in a world that is full of hungry and malnourished people?”


Renowned climate change activist and author Bill McKibben spoke at our graduation earlier this year. Among the charges he gave to all of us in attendance (i.e., not just the graduates) was for us older folks to be willing to bear more of the possible “costs” of political activism. His reasoning was that being a 20-something with an arrest record was not a particularly good thing for young job-seekers today.

I was inspired. I thought to myself, “I have tenure, I work with colleagues who champion prophetic civil disobedience, and my class privilege would allow me to post bail if arrested.”

When chatting with a graduate that afternoon, I told him that I’d like to make good on something we once discussed in class during a session on the ethics of consumption—I’d like to go dumpster diving with him.

Mind you, I don’t fit the stereotypical urban scavenger profile (although middle class dumpster diving is on the rise). I grew up in a gated community, once brought my portable curling iron on a junior high church group camping trip, and today am more bourgeois than Bohemian. So what interest did I have in electively digging through garbage?

Continue reading “What I Learned (and Found) Dumpster Diving, Part I, by Grace Yia-Hei Kao”

On Being in the Moment By Ivy Helman

Time.  We mark years, months, days, hours, minutes and seconds. We mark seasons.  We mark life events.  We live our lives in time: both circular and linear.  Time began before we did and time will continue after we cannot experience it any further.   Some say we repeat time with rebirth.  Others suggest that we only have one lifetime of which we should make the most.  Still others suggest there is existence outside of time with concepts like infinity and eternal life.  We sure do write, discuss and ponder time a lot, but do we ever really experience it?  Meaning: what would it be like to live in the moment, to be aware of and completely conscience within an instance of time, not thinking of the past, not worrying about the future, but being fully present in the here and now?

Sci-fi geek that I am, I often recall the Star Trek: The Next Generation movie entitled Insurrection when Captain Picard and Anij discuss experiencing a moment of time.  Anij explains to Captain Picard, “You stop reviewing what happened yesterday. Stop planning for tomorrow. Let me ask you a question. Have you ever experienced a perfect moment in time?”  A few lines of dialogue later, she picks up the topic again by describing what being present is like. ”We’ve discovered that a single moment in time can be a universe in itself. Full of powerful forces. Most people aren’t aware enough of the now to even notice.”  The visual effects show water stopping and a butterfly’s slow flight if I remember correctly.  Captain Picard is obviously caught up in these moments of time as well as being mesmerized by Anij herself.  The power of both the moments of time and Anij herself is palpable. Continue reading “On Being in the Moment By Ivy Helman”

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