My son asked me to discuss with him the theological problem of the dual natures, i.e., the divine and human natures, coexisting in the person of Jesus. He asked me to begin by assuming the premises that 1) Jesus was a real, historical person and 2) that Jesus was both human and divine. The question then became, “Did Jesus know he was God?”
Of course, as a theologian, I was delighted to have this conversation with my son. It was fascinating to see how his mind worked, to hear him evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of high and low Christologies, to hear how he resolved the question himself, and to have an opportunity to share my own thoughts with a genuinely engaged, truly curious, and attentively listening dialogue partner in the person of my teenage son. Not too shabby a victory for any parent!
As we talked, he continued to provide context for the question, which began as a classroom debate in his high school theology seminar. Apparently, the students were tasked with taking some element from their in-class discussion, evaluating it, and then applying it practically by a twofold retrospective reflection in which the students were 1) to identify a specific situation in their life that could have gone better and 2) to share how their insight drawn from class would have made all the difference. Now, my son expressed a bit of frustration with this assignment because he would have preferred to discuss how today’s insights might help him in the future, rather than to dwell in the past. As his wheels turned, I left him alone to puzzle out his assignment, with the promise that I eagerly would return in an hour to see what he produced, accompanied by my own essay on the same task.
When it comes to my family, I’ve always felt different. One of my earliest memories from when I was really young was being told that I felt things too passionately—that I felt too much. What was never said but was implied was that I felt dissent too much, too often, too vocally. It made people uncomfortable. It made my family uncomfortable. When it came to understanding my faith/religious path, my family and I started diverging early on, never really meeting again—at least not for now.
When I was about five, I remember asking why women could not be priests. My mother brushed it aside and said we could be nuns. She was blind to the inherent misogyny behind the same Church that so many of her female family members had built (we come from a long line of nuns and Jesuits). I thought maybe someday I could be a woman priest. I would change it all. I would be Pope Joan.
When I was thirteen, I started noticing the wealth involved in the Roman Catholic Church, the opulence of the lived Catholic life. When I asked my parents why the Church did not lead in example and live in poverty using its wealth to actively live the gospel, I was told, “ This wealth is a gift to humanity. It is there for all of us, a patrimony to those who open their hearts.” I wasn’t talking about art, I was talking about the RCC’s gold assets—valued in the billions —but it didn’t matter. I’ve seen my family donate to Church building funds my entire life—buildings that were then sold off to pay for the Church’s offenses later on. Still, I thought if I became more involved, with the “right kind of Catholics”, I would be able to change the Church from within. Continue reading “You Are What You Read by Martha Cecilia Ovadia”
Regardless of political identity in America there seems to be an almost religious reverence for the Declaration of Independence (DI). By far the most quoted sentence from it is the one that begins “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.” Though it is hardly ‘self-evident,’ the history behind the words in these two clauses betrays the fact that they constitute a misogynistic mash-up of Greek philosophy and Roman law.
First, the Greek philosophy in the first clause. Precisely because of how often this portion of the DI is quoted (perhaps most memorably by Martin Luther King), the idea that there are ‘truths’ that are ‘self-evident’ may seem–self-evident. From the perspective of the history of Greek philosophy, however, such an idea is as problematic as it is peculiar and for that very reason can reliably be traced back to one source: Plato. The most likely direct source is the introductory section of an ancient Platonic commentary on Greek mathematical methodology.
Though relatively obscure today, it was a much admired work in the Renaissance and for a few centuries thereafter, influencing a wide range of disciplines, including law. As a consequence of that influence law was conceptualized more geometrico (in a geometric manner), with legal documents drafted (as they often still are today) with a list of ‘defined’ terms first followed by the propositions to which they relate. Similarly, judicial decisions still slavishly follow a quasi-mathematical methodology, ‘applying’ law to the ‘facts’ of the case, as if plugging numbers into an equation, with everything set out in a sequence of paragraphs identified by a combination of Roman numerals and arabic letters (‘as applied’ in Hobby Lobby (see the majority’s penultimate paragraph)). Continue reading “The Declaration of Independence: A Misogynistic Mash-up of Greek Philosophy and Roman Law”
Throughout my “bible-thumping, smitten with God” years, I scribbled countless thoughts and prayers in four devotional journals. Recently I came across these journals, wiping away the years of dust accumulated. As I have been detaching from the Pentecostal god, it was a painful, downright mortifying experience to read through my past communication with god. This god seemed so foreign now given my liberated, enlightened, evolved self. I remember writing to and about Him, but I couldn’t help thinking how dysfunctional and convoluted the language I used really was.
I love you Father. Take me…surrender me to your will…your ways. Let me not lean on my own understanding and foolishness.
Mary Daly in Beyond God the Father advocates, “Time to go beyond God the Father. Don’t you see? If God is male, then the male is God. Reclaim the right to name your self, your world, your God. The liberation of language is rooted in the liberation of ourselves. Be a wild woman…God is not A Being. God is Be-ing.”
Many social scientists contend that language is the foundation of our socially constructed realities. We use language as a creative tool and guide to frame our perceptions of the world around us. We also use language to create our own unique creative expressions. That even though we share and appropriate from the accessible pool of creative expressions, each individual designs and discovers their own true form. Continue reading “The Mosaic Language of God by Andreea Nica”
I was asked recently what frustrates me most about theology. I am a theologian, and love doing theology. Nevertheless, I do have my moments of frustration with the theological enterprise. I am most frustrated when theology loses its dynamic edge and focus. Too much of theological reflection has become “navel gazing” falling prey to the infamous accusation of Medieval theology, that is, wondering “how many angels can dance at the end of a pin.” It seems to me, that we must not lose sight of the fact that the foundation of theological reflection is the revelation of god, which is nothing less than god’s movement that is god’s dance, in human history. All that we know about the transcendent reality is made known to us by that reality making itself known by entering into our world. The best of theological reflection, then, is a response to that revelation, wrestling with the meanings and challenges of god’s revelation to us. Again, far too often our theology is consumed by intellectual strivings as opposed to struggling with god. We, as theologians and religious thinkers, find ourselves debating the essence of god—who god is in god-self, what we call the godhead—as opposed to who god is in relationship to us and our world. Too often we focus our attention on the appropriate pronouns and nouns that we should use to define god as opposed to the verbs that describe the very movement of god in our world. And so, despite the fact that we do not know god in “god-self” or in the god head, theological reflection is spent debating it, and has a long history of debating it. In the meantime, the world stays just as it is—which is anything but a reflection of the gods/goddesses we claim to follow. Even as we can assume that who god reveals god-self to be is a reflection of the very essence of god, theological reflection is best served not by this upward, inward turn to god, but by following god outward into our world. As god moves toward us and into our world, so too are we to move toward one another and into the world, for this is where we will find god. Theological reflection must not be about who god is in god-self, but rather about who god is for us and who we are to be for god. Theology, as it is essentially grounded in the notion that god acts first, is at best an attempt to discern how god is acting so that we can act back in a responsive and responsible way. So what does this mean? Continue reading “Theological Reflection: Outward, Not Inward by Kelly Brown Douglas”
It may come as a surprise to those who identify as both feminists and religious practitioners that I don’t believe women should be pastors of any dominant religious congregation. This includes most religions which, I assert, are rooted in and structured by the tenets of patriarchy. Does that mean I think women should be congregants of a patriarchal-originated religious system? You guessed it – no. While this may seem like a radical notion to some, it took me quite some time to come to terms with my own conflict in being both feminist and a believer.
My transition from the Pentecostal sect was a long, intricate process that involved life-altering decisions. The notion of leaving the church was driven by my immersion in women’s studies during my undergraduate degree. There were many difficult questions I simply didn’t have an answer for, as the church didn’t provide me with them.
One of them being: Can women instruct an entire congregation of believers?
Feminist theologian Sallie McFague argues that we must give the earth the attention it is due and recognize its subjectivity rather than having an arrogant viewpoint that assumes we have the right to control the planet. She states that by refusing to accept our place on earth we are sinning. I think it is fair to say that the Dave Matthews Band has a perspective that is similar to McFague’s. Song after song offers lyrics that acknowledge the earth as our holy Mother and demands that we recognize our place in the ecosystem and our personal responsibility for its continuation. For instance, “One Sweet World” calls us to be cognizant of the fact that without the wonders of nature we would be unable to sustain ourselves. We have taken the earth for granted and yet our very survival is dependent on the wellbeing of our planet. In this song, DMB ponders the question “if the green should slip to gray, would our hearts still bloody beat?”
Five years ago today I buried my mother. Violence took her life; however because of this patriarchal culture we live in, there was no prosecution in her death. Violence against women is of little consequence in our society.
She died at the very young age of 56 on June 29, 2008, the same day I was moving to California. I was just about to get into our moving truck when I got the call. I will never forget the moment I heard the words, “your mom passed away last night.” It was as if I felt her dying in that moment, as if my heart was falling from my body. I cried out so violently and fell to the floor. How could this be real? How could my mom be gone? The day before we had stood in my kitchen, danced, sang, laughed, embraced. She was so alive, but in a moment, she was gone. I begged and pleaded with God, I thought it was a mistake, Continue reading “Losing my Mother and Realizing her Resurrection by Gina Messina-Dysert”
Last fall, I was asked to sit in on the women’s pre-doctoral colloquium at the divinity school where I teach. In the course of a wide-ranging lunchtime conversation, the central question to which the students wanted an answer was: “what is it like to be a woman in the academy?” The question took me by surprise at the time – mostly because I’d expected to be asked more nitty-gritty questions about applying to graduate school, writing samples, and personal statements – but it has stayed with me in the weeks since the lunch as I’ve found myself trying out answers from different directions.
A girl treats the Twilight series as a holy book, emulates the behavior of the vampire family at its center, and makes a pilgrimage to Forks, WA, the setting of the books. This could just be a run-of-the-mill Twilight fan. After all, Twilight, a young adult romance between the exceptionally clumsy 16-year old human Bella Swan, and a vampire named Edward Cullen who has been seventeen since 1918, is beloved by millions of women and girls. Thirteen million copies of the books have been sold in the United States; 116 million copies, worldwide, with translations into thirty-seven languages. The film adaptations are some of the highest-grossing movies of all time. Continue reading “Fanpire by Tanya Erzen”
As a Catholic feminist theologian, activist, teacher, and writer Mary Hunt has made a massive impact in the field of feminism and religion. Following the completion of her graduate education (MA, Harvard Divinity School, M.Div., Jesuit School of Theology, Ph.D., Graduate Theological Union), Mary recognized a strong need for theological, liturgical, and ethical development by and for women and responded by co-founding WATER (The Women’s Alliance for Theology, Ethics, and Water) in 1983. Over the last 3+ decades, she has been instrumental in addressing social injustice and creating change in religion and community. Continue reading “Monthly Highlight: Mary E. Hunt”
Sometimes I think it happened gradually. Other times it feels like sudden change. Either way I find myself in an in-between space that is my life.
With apologies to Victor Turner and his cultural anthropological appropriation of liminality as a threshold space, I have come to view my liminal living as a more permanent dwelling place these days. Turner’s category of liminality locates subjects in the betwixt and between as they move from one manifestation of identity in community to a new kind of integration or role in community. I am starting to wonder, however, if the thresholds are actually dwelling places for some of us in this world.
I don’t know if that means I am actually more marginal than I am liminal. The margins are margins because they remain on the outskirts and they help define the boundaries. Margins are permanent. Am I marginalized if I live at the edges of the communities and identities I use to occupy, perhaps never to return to the bosom of the center? I hesitate to make such a claim mostly because I still occupy privileged spaces not the least of which are those constructed from how whiteness grants access and authority in this world. Continue reading “Living Liminality: Of Thresholds and Dwelling Places by Marcia W. Mount Shoop”
I knew that I was going to be attending a totally different type of conference than I had ever been to before when I received the following instructions on additional items to pack: (1) my own mug with which to drink coffee or tea (“we will go green in this conference as much as possible”), (2) 3 oz. of water “from a source of nature near your home” to be offered during “opening worship,” and (3) a small, modest, pre-owned, homemade, or inexpensive “earth-honoring gift for exchange.”