January 5, 2010

Mary Daly: Radical Elemental Feminist and Sinner

Posted in Christianity, feminist theology, Patriarchy, Women in Religion tagged , , , , at 11:16 pm by Gina Messina

I was greatly saddened Sunday evening, January 3, 2010 when I received an email stating that Feminist Theologian Mary Daly had passed away that morning at the age of 81.  As a doctoral student in Women Studies in Religion, I have been greatly influenced by the work of Daly.  I can still remember the first time I read a piece of her work.  It was during my undergraduate career at Cleveland State University in a course entitled Women and Religion.  I was immediately impacted and wanted to know more about this bold, strong and courageous woman.  Shortly thereafter I applied to a graduate program in Religious Studies and became better acquainted with Daly’s work. 

While I must admit that I am troubled by some of Daly’s claims and disagree with some of her contentions, I have also been significantly influenced by her foundational work in feminist theology, her demand for women’s liberation and Spinning of new tales and new ideas.  Daly called for women to have the courage to be, to experience a new fall out of patriarchal systems and into a new being that allows women to discover their capabilities, the dynamic power women possess within themselves. 

According to Mary E. Hunt, co-founder and co-director of the Women’s Alliance for Theology, Ethics and Ritual (WATER), “Her contributions to feminist theology, philosophy, and theory were many, unique, and if I may say so, world-changing. She created intellectual space; she set the bar high. Even those who disagreed with her are in her debt for the challenges she offered…She always advised women to throw our lives as far as they would go. I can say without fear of exaggeration that she lived that way herself.”[1]

While I never had the opportunity to meet Mary Daly, I have no doubt been inspired by her brilliance, courage, wit, and spirit.  My feminist and theological views have been shaped through her influence. I have been able to spiral into freedom and rename and reclaim my own experiences; I have found my own creative power.  Thank you for having the courage to sin big Mary Daly. 

“There are and will be those who think I have gone overboard. Let them rest assured that this assessment is correct, probably beyond their wildest imagination, and that I will continue to do so.” – Mary Daly

 


[1] Feminist Studies in Religion Bulletin January 3, 2010.

December 19, 2009

Female Language and Imagery of the Divine

Posted in feminist theology, God, God Language, Goddess, images of God, images of the Goddess, Mother God, names of God, Thealogy tagged , , , at 4:20 am by Gina Messina

According to Carol Christ, “If we do not mean that God is male when we use masculine pronouns and imagery, then why should there be any objections to using female imagery and pronouns as well?” What an important question. I was raised using only male language when talking about God and spent my childhood through my early college years (which I am embarrassed to admit!) believing that God was a man. As studying religion and theology has shaped my life, I decided that gender neutral language when talking about God was the right way to approach this issue. For quite some time I used the term“divine” to talk about God. It made sense to me. But then I began reading Carol Christ and some of her work has greatly affected my views. In particular, she argues that we must use female language to talk about the divine in order to have positive female imagery of the divine. Right now we are inundated with male language, we must balance that out. And so I decided that I must use female language to talk about the divine. To be honest, I feel comforted by talking about the divine as woman, as mother. In order to further develop my own imagery of the divine as woman I wrote a prayer that I wanted to share. It was a great exercise for me to describe the qualities I feel the divine possesses and it allowed me to feel a closer connection to Goddess Mother.

Prayer to Goddess Mother

Great Goddess Mother
Who is Immanent in All Things
Spiraling Life into Being
And Communicating through Nature
She Who is Compassionate and Merciful
Nurturing our Spirit
Her Benevolence felt Strongly
And Encountered through Humanity
She Who is Guardian
Cradling us with Affection
Her Protection Sensed
And Her Love a Source of Haven
She Who is Sustainer
Nourishing our Lives
She Who is Vivifier
Cultivating our Hearts
Great Goddess Mother
Guide Me to Have Faith in Your Wisdom
To Share Your Gentle Compassion
And to be Sincere in Spirit and Heart

December 4, 2009

A Recovering Catholic?

Posted in Catholic, faith and doubt, Faith Transformations, Family, feminist theology, Spirituality tagged , , , at 7:08 am by Gina Messina

At the end of September my grandfather passed away.  It was a very difficult time for my family.  My grandfather was an amazing person who gave us all so much love and I miss him dearly.  I traveled home to Ohio to celebrate his life and I was honored when my uncle asked if I would participate in the mass by reading a passage from the Book of Wisdom.  In all the years I was a practicing Catholic, I had never participated in a mass in any way.  This would be my very first time, and even though I no longer considered myself a member of the Church, it felt very special to me to have a role in the mass celebrating my grandfather’s life.

It was a beautiful service and I felt a strong connection to my family and to God/dess as I participated in the rituals.  The mass was a great comfort to me.  Although I have claimed to be a “Recovering Catholic,” on that day I had to wonder if this was really true, am I no longer Catholic?  What does it mean to be Catholic?  Do I have to conform to the Vatican rules, or is it true as Rosemary Radford Ruether says that the “Vatican does not equal Catholicism?” 

So many things about my life as a Catholic has been troubling to me and so much of what the Catholic Church claims to be the way of God/dess I believe to be absolutely false.  I am angry at the Catholic Church. I am bitter towards the Catholic Church.  I believe the Catholic Church is abusive.  But can I still be a Catholic?  Can I hold on to that identity?  Can I remain in the Church and struggle against what I believe to be wrong?  Can I fight the fight or will I simply be perpetuating the victimization of women by continuing to participate in what I view as a violent institution that demands the suffering of women? 

While I believed my struggle with these questions had ended and thought my connection to Catholicism was permanently severed, participating in the celebration of my grandfather’s life through a reading at mass propelled me back to my place of questioning.    Am I Catholic?  Was I ever not a Catholic?  Can I make a clean break or will my upbringing and family heritage always keep me in a place of struggle and questioning?  It seems that every time I think I have the answer, I could not be further from it.  I wonder if perhaps living in the question is the answer.  So for now, although I am not sure that I want to call myself a Catholic or a non Catholic, I want to give myself permission to continue to struggle.  Right now living in the question seems to make far more sense than thinking I will ever have the answer.

October 9, 2009

Coming to Know Goddess Mother

Posted in Catholic, feminism, feminist theology, God, Goddess, Relationships, religion, Spirituality, Thealogy, Theology at 6:07 am by Gina Messina

Goddess Mother

Goddess Mother

Growing up in the Catholic Church I always believed God was a man.  God was always spoken of as male, and although Catholic teaching states that God is genderless, as a child growing up in the Church I never knew this.  No one ever told me that God was genderless; I only heard over and over again God referred to as Father, him, he, himself, etc.  There was never gender neutral language, there certainly was never female language.  Why would I have thought any different? 

I was also very confused by God’s attributes.  Although I heard that God was benevolent, I also heard that God punished.  I found it very distressing that God had stricken Moses dead one step outside of the Promised Land.  I was also troubled by God allowing Satan to torment Job.  However, what garnered my attention most was the crucifixion of Jesus.  Why was such a violent and horrific death of the Son of God the only acceptable sacrifice, the only way to redeem humanity? These actions seemed cruel and led me to question God’s benevolence; I feared God.

I was in college the first time I was told that God could be imaged as a woman; it was a shocking revelation.  I had always pictured God as a man, looking perhaps a lot like what I had been told Jesus looked like (what I term the “Hollywood Jesus;” blond hair, blue eyes, nothing what the historical Jesus looked like).  What would a female God look like?  If God could be imaged female, would God’s attributes be different?  Since that time I have spent a great deal of time wondering who God is.  How should God be imaged?  What is an appropriate name for God?  What are God’s characteristics? Would a female God have demanded a blood sacrifice?

While it has taken quite a bit of time and while I am certain my thoughts will continue to evolve, I have come to know God in a very different way.  For me, God is no longer male and no longer vengeful.   Instead I have re-imaged God as Goddess Mother and Goddess Mother possesses attributes that allow me to have a loving relationship with her, a relationship I had not been able to develop in the past.   

I no longer feel disconnected and fearful of God.  Rather, I encounter Mother Goddess daily through my interactions with others and my experiences with nature.  I encounter her through the support and friendship I share with the women of this blog and through my husband’s loving embrace.  I experience the Goddess in the sun that warms me and in the water that quenches my thirst.  She is loving, nurturing, sustaining and continually present.  Although there were times that I felt lost and did not know who Goddess Mother was, I know now that I was never a stranger to her.

September 17, 2009

Bonhoeffer is a Secret Feminist

Posted in Faith Transformations, feminist theology tagged , , , at 7:27 am by Eostre

It’s true. Or at least, I believe he is, though he probably wouldn’t agree. And he was my first exposure to ecofeminism. Unlikely, I know, but true. Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a German theologian who was executed on April 9, 1945 in a German concentration camp, and I have a hard time deciding how I feel about him. I absolutely love most of his writings and his theology. He foresaw the post-Christian era, and he wrote a lot about the importance of community and pacifism and lots of other things that I really like and agree with. However…he also participated in a plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler. This is where the problem comes in. I am a firm pacifist, but I have a really hard time condemning him, he felt that he was saving lives, and if it meant sinning to do it, he valued the lives (and souls) of others above his own. I can’t ever fully condone or condemn him. But that is beside the point.

The point is that he is a very interesting historical figure and theologian, but he definitely had his biases, and would hardly have considered himself a feminist. But I do. You see, I was reading his book Creation and Fall for a theology class in undergrad, and, even though I was enjoying it, I didn’t really expect the spiritual awakening that it brought on.

It is really a stunning book, and I can’t recommend it highly enough. But I was reading and making notes, preparing for an argument I had to present on it, when I came across this passage (please forgive the gender exclusive language, it’s his, not mine):

Man’s origin is in a piece of earth. His bond with the earth belongs to his essential being. The ‘earth is his mother’; he comes out of her womb…from it he has his body. His body belongs to his essential being. Man’s body is not his prison, his shell, his exterior, but man himself. Man does not ‘have’ a body; he does not ‘have’ a soul; rather, he ‘is’ body and soul. Man in the beginning is really his body. He is one, he is his body…the man who renounces his body renounces his existence before God the Creator. The essential point of human existence is its bond with mother earth, its being as a body…He does not come to the earthly world from above, driven and enslaved by a cruel fate. He is…in himself a piece of earth, but earth called into human being by God.

When I read that I felt like my eyes had been opened, that something my soul had been yearning to express was suddenly on the page in front of me. he says it so plainly, we are inextricably tied to the earth, She is in us. The beauty of his language carried me away and I began to type furiously. I suddenly had new passageways open to my mind, and I felt alive and excited in the way that only comes when you read something and say “Yes, that is it, that is what I feel, but didn’t know how to say”, when you connect with an author on a level so intimate that it feels like falling in love. I could never fall in love with Bonhoeffer, of course, he was far too stuffy for me in real life, but his writing is another matter entirely. He had awoken me.

The next day (for I am the constant procrastinator, and had been working on my argument the night before it was due) I walked into class and felt that everyone surely must see the difference. I felt like a goddess, with vines twined in my hair and a gown of leaves and petals. And this is what I presented (abridged, this is just the intro and the conclusion, but it gives you the basic idea):

Introduction: It is essential to humanities created being that we are  creatures of both spirit and Earth. This is a counter to Platonic thought, which would have man’s spirit to be disconnected with his flesh. Common Christian doctrine has taught of the evil of flesh, following Platonic lines of thinking that make the spirit the ultimate thing, which is in some way punished by being linked to a body. The creation story of Genesis does not in any way reflect that. In the Creation myth of Genesis, spirit and flesh do not exist independently, but instead are co-dependent. No where in the creation story, even after the fall, does God elevate the spirit into a position of superiority to the body. Both are essential for the human, made together and for each other.

Conclusion: It is dangerous to try and separate God’s creation. We are tied indelibly to the Earth, and we must conclude that we are meant to be a part of the Earth. This has great implications for how we view our “flesh”, and how we view the world in which we live. If we are truly a part of the Earth than we have a certain responsibility to it. Bonhoeffer aptly states that we are a creation of both Father God and Mother Earth.

I can read it now and see the earnestness and naivete that colored every aspect of my life then, and even now I can remember the triumphant feeling I had, that I had used their own language and arguments against them. But the lasting implications are very different. Bonhoeffer opened my mind to a million possibilities and responsibilities, and it was like plunging head first into the ocean. He gave me the first push, and I am still swimming.

September 12, 2009

How I Became a Feminist

Posted in feminism, feminist theology tagged at 7:50 pm by Cynthia Garrity-Bond

At a surprisingly early age, perhaps nine or ten, I became the author of my own spiritual narrative, meaning, I took it upon myself to initiate and pursue the deep mystery of my faith.  Weekly Mass was an event, not an obligation, and something to which I attended without my family. The singleness of my worship at such a young age drew stares and whispers from those families who had arrived in tact. And while I was not unaware of their curiosity, I found it easier to lose myself in the absolute wonder of my environment. This was the world to which I belonged.  I was at once home and alive in a devotion filled with sacramentals, those objects of religious piety that created a force field of God’s protection around me. 

     While the mystery of God’s love enveloped and graced my adolescence, a slow and creeping suspicion began to take hold of my faith. Because of my “girlishness,” I was barred as an alter server, and I began to absorb my otherness. I worried about my difference, and began to question the fairness of God. Telegraphic messages of inferiority caused me great confusion. The implicit reality that as female I was ontologically challenged, slowly sifted its way into my psyche and I would argue, my soul as well.   

     As a budding young feminist, what I found within the teachings of the church, either implicit or explicitly, did not coincide with what I felt to be the inner me.  On the cusp of adulthood, the collision between self and Church [read as God] was inevitable. The catechetical formation of my youth, of coming forth equally male and female in the image and likeness of God seemed like a childish myth and certainly not the reality of the andocentric church to which I was now departing.

     Fast forward twenty years, and I cautiously found myself back in the Catholic Church, only this time in the arms of feminist theologians. I was hooked.  Their writings informed my life choices, directing me towards my current doctoral pursuit.  Yet I have found the academic arena is able to shield and protect me from the pain I continue to feel within the institutional church. To demonstrate the interweaving of the challenges and nourishment I experience as a Catholic I addressed above, I would like to share with you the following story. 

     Recently I was able to share this sense of exclusion by virtue of my femaleness with a group of foreign priest working in U.S. parishes. Participating in a cultural awareness program specifically designed for priests, I was invited to share my personal experience as a woman “doing” theology within the Catholic Church.  The main concern, as expressed by the leaders of the program, themselves priests, is the inability of foreign priests to work collaboratively with women within the parish setting.  Currently women are functioning as pastoral associates, directors of religious education, chaplains, parish administrators and more.  It is within these ecclesial settings that the tension can be most pronounced between the ordained and the theological trained women that interact with them.

   Encircled by sixty priests, and armed with a large number of diverse texts written by feminist theologians as examples of this discipline, I began detailing the trajectory of the development of feminist theology both in the United States, and later, in Third World settings. I shared a feminist critique of the Christian tradition that has privileged men’s experience over women’s, has imaged God in predominantly masculine metaphors and language,  or used the Christian message to craft an ecclesial structure of exclusionary hierarchy. Yet, I discovered, it was the image of God as Father, followed by the use of exclusive language that generated the most curiosity and dialogue. While for the most part the use of inclusive language coupled with female images of God is foundational to feminist theology, this was completely new news to my audience.  While I had been prepared to discuss women and ecclesiology from an anthropological perspective, I had failed to anticipate the core of the matter. The fact is, the inability to image God in the feminine, or to have exposure to inclusive language, particularly within liturgy, speaks on one level to their seminary training, but on a deeper, theological level, it demonstrates the continue mind-set of the Catholic Church with regards to women.  While papal encyclicals attempt to affirm feminism in the modern world, these continue to be, in my estimation, smoke screens that view women’s contributions based on their reproductive capacity.

       My own level of anxiety began to rise as the question and answer format began to become more pronounced with objections to any shift in language or Christology.  So I shifted gears and began to do exactly what is foundational to feminist theology: I spoke from my own experience.  I began by focusing on the diversity of my memories as an Irish-American Catholic. I shared my deep Catholic identity and love for the Church that sustained me as a child; how the nuns reflected and transmitted their care for us through their vocation of teaching. I shared the richness of being raised by an Irish-American mother who instilled in me the Celtic infusion of the Incarnation into daily life. I shared my love for the Eucharist and the aspect of community and ties to the dead through the Communion of Saints, and of course, Mary, whose motherly attention, strength and love continues to call me out of the darkness.  But I also shared the pain of exclusive that I spoke of earlier, how I feel estranged from my church as a woman. The tension I and others have experienced in parish ministry with tremendous responsibility but no authority to make lasting change are striking examples, I surmised, of the issues women in ministry continue to face.  I asked the men to imagine what it must feel like for the young girls in their parishes, who on Vocational Sunday, the time when young men are asked to consider the priesthood, are not represented or prayed for?  While I myself do not feel personally called to the priesthood, the pain of exclusion for my sisters who do feel this vocational deeply saddens me. As I continued to speak from my own experience, surrounded by priest of varying generations, I began to witness an ever so slight shift in attitude in some, and in others a wonderful delight at the theological possibilities for themselves and those they work with.  Eager to assimilate this new theology, they asked how to begin, and how to convey these expanded images of God to those they serve and work with.  Here is what I suggested.  Begin with the most intimate and personal—themselves.  Start by reading suggested feminist theologians, pay particular attention to what disturbs you, makes you uncomfortable or uneasy.  Then reflect on those feelings through pray and journaling because, I reminded them, you cannot give what you do not possess.   And in conclusion I asked that each of them reevaluate how they perceive the women they work with professionally, as well as the countless women who volunteer their time and resources.  How might they operate from an inclusive, collaborative model?  Feeling affirmed and well, empowered with the change of attitudes, I suggested they take this to a new level; that in preparing their Sunday homilies, they cite feminist theologians as sources of theological authority.  And finally, because paradigm shifts of the psyche can be painful excavations of the self, I asked they proceed with patience and self care, but proceed they must.  The responsibility rested on them to continue the task of waking up to inclusive, collaborative models of being church.  The structure will continue to work against such theology I warned, it always has. And then, in the quiet weight of consideration of my words, something remarkable occurred. A young priest who had remained reserved and cautious asked me the question, “Why, exactly, do I remain Catholic?”  The simplicity of the question caught me off guard.  My vision, I explained, has felt impossible.  The inability to feel welcomed and accepted in what seems to be an oxymoronic state, a feminist woman in the Catholic Church, has left me ragged and scarred.  The inability to find a home within the Church is both vexing and sad.  But I also know this is not the complete picture.  I shared how I also carry within me the memory of Church as home, sustaining me in ways when others could not.  Just as it is impossible not to be in the love of God, I find it equally impossible not to be Catholic.  The Church needs the voices of women like me and others, who as feminist theologian Mary Jo Weaver argues, “Long for something they cannot name, while desiring a community of belief and celebration they cannot describe.”[1] He seemed immensely satisfied with my response and I could see, if ever so slightly, the shift beginning to take shape.   

 


[1] Mary Jo Weaver Springs of Water in a Dry Land: Spiritual Survival for Catholic Women Today. (Boston: Beacon Press, 1993) 21

September 11, 2009

Finding My Voice as a Feminist

Posted in feminism, feminist theology tagged , , , , , at 6:37 am by Gina Messina

Woman Power

Woman Power

I was introduced to feminism as a freshman high school student and have considered myself a feminist ever since.  Graduating with a BA in Sociology, I chose to focus my career in the social services field working with women.  Feminist Theology first became of interest to me during my decade long career as an advocate for survivors of rape and domestic violence.  Throughout that time I worked with many women who had images of the divine that I found very troubling.  Particularly many women believed that either they were being punished by the divine for some misdeed they had committed or believed that remaining in an abusive relationship was their “cross to bear.” 

After ten years I was experiencing burn out from the high stress of the field and was also very perplexed by the images and questions regarding the divine I had encountered.  I decided to change my career focus and applied to a graduate program in Religious Studies at John Carroll University.  It is a Jesuit University with a strong Catholic foundation.  I was able to explore Feminist Theology, but mainly in a Christian context.  That being said, I focused on feminist hermeneutics, women’s role in the Church, and the problem of suffering for women. 

Within the program I was introduced to many new concepts that I was greatly impacted by, in particular the idea that I could call God “Mother.” It seems ridiculous to me now that I did not challenge God language sooner; however my Catholic upbringing kept me from exploring anything outside God “Father.”  I found myself trying to image God as woman, God as mother, and comprehend what exactly that meant for my own faith. 

  Following the completion of my degree, just before I moved to California to begin the Ph.D. program, I lost my mother to domestic violence.  It was a shocking and devastating moment in my life, and one that informed my overall view of women and suffering and Feminist Theology.

Coming to CGU, I was able to move out of the Catholic box that I had been stuck in all my life.  I had never attended a church that was not Catholic, but here in Claremont I attended a Presbyterian church, and Episcopalian church, and of course Woman Church.   Attending these other types of worship helped to further my journey and once classes began I was exposed to an entire world of Feminist Theology that embraced other religious traditions.  For the first time in my life I began to feel that perhaps Christianity should be abandoned by women all together.  The tradition’s call for women to be passive, meek, and acceptant of suffering is incredibly damaging and lead many women to mistakenly believe that they must remain in abusive situations and suffer as Jesus did, a model that reinforces women being scapegoats.

Rejecting the culture that shapes the abuse for women and glorifies women’s suffering seems to make sense to me now.  It has been difficult for me to separate myself from my Catholic identity; however I feel more strongly than ever that women cannot be liberated by a tradition that perpetuates their abuse and suffering.  That being said, this is not simply a flaw of Christianity, but of all patriarchal traditions.  I find myself now looking towards the Goddess tradition as a source for redemption.  I have changed my God language and now utilize the term divine.  I have rejected the term “Father” as one representative of the divine, not because I do not think that a male can embody the divine, but because it was part of my vocabulary for long that I now feel I should give equal time to the term “Mother.”  In addition, when I think of my own mother and her nurturing ways I truly believe those are the characteristics that exemplify the divine.    

Feminist Theology has led me away from the traditional Western thought of classical dualisms and I now recognize that my personal faith in the divine is open to my interpretation.  I have no longer felt guilt over not connecting with tradition Catholic masses and have found that prayer for me is something very different than what I was raised with.  For me, Feminist Theology has allowed me to experience a relationship with the divine, a relationship that I have not had before in my life.  It is through that relationship that I remain connected to my mother.  In addition, Feminist Theology has given me the strength to move away from a tradition that I feel is inherently damaging to women.

September 9, 2009

How I Became a Feminist

Posted in feminism, feminist theology at 5:41 am by Lakshmi (LaChelle)

Feminism did not really cross my radar until the month before my junior year of college would end. My cute cherub blonde boyfriend had led me up to the balcony of the Bible building at Oklahoma Christian University and told me he had let Tracy Something pleasure him behind the school bleachers. So that was the end of that. Such news left me indignant about boys and their childish ways. I spent my summer of small-scale rebellion sitting out on the front lawn of my parents’ house reading all the books by women from the Oprah Book Club I could find instead of the male-authored “classics” of my previous reading lists. I studied myself through my first copy of Our Bodies, Our Selves and perused the women’s studies section at Borders to discover Gloria Steinem. I reveled in my womanhood by turning the mediocre task of shaving my legs into a goddess ritual and celebrating my singleness. This is what feminism, at first encounter, meant to me. As for feminist theology, I remember my excitement when I went home one weekend to do laundry after an enlightening week at college: “Mother,” I said, “Did you ever think that God could possibly be a woman?” to which my mother promptly replied education was doing me no good.

Through feminist theory classes at the University of Cincinnati, and through my own research and then preparation for the classes I taught once I returned to Oklahoma Christian, and now after discussions at CGU, I understand feminism and feminist theology to be necessary critical lenses through which the world becomes more complicated yet clearer, and by which libratory practices can begin.  And I am no longer so indignant about boys.

My assumptions are these. First, feminism encourages people to ask questions about themselves, their world, and their beliefs. For a feminist, nothing is a “given” and there is a sense of suspicion about whatever is deemed natural or obvious. Rather than explicitly subversive, feminism to me is simply one way of going more deeply into a complex world of grays, of not missing the nuances of people, situations, what one sees and hears. Feminism also reveals agency. In my own religious upbringing in the charismatic evangelistic Assembly of God movement, there was a salvific way and an immoral way. This extended to what I thought, what I felt, who I could love, who God was, and what He wanted. Yet, through a feminist lens, I see that the freedom to construct my own person is salvific. Feminism is a creative endeavor. Because I question the world around me, at times I conclude that I have not been given the full story or that the story has been distorted or is completely wrong. It is then that I become an agent by filling in the gaps, correcting, or re-imagining/re-constructing the stories so that they are more in line with a truth that is less oppressive and more inclusive.  Feminism is also communal, revealing the interconnectivity of animate and inanimate beings, the environment sustaining and becoming my body, and me needing to sustain it as well.

Lastly for now, feminism is honest. While traditional academic writing can often be arrogant and deceiving by claiming to be authoritative or knowing it all, feminist authors often use first person pronouns and lay out their own biases and assumptions in their works. Therefore, I too hope to admit/confess/lay bare my own prejudices in this class, allow my thoughts to be tentative, hoping they will become more nuanced or change completely.  Daily I realize how I perpetuate oppression for myself and others and how much of a responsibility I have to do something about it. Yet, it will not be done by myself, but with strangers and family and the earth, and all those groups that are a part of me but of whom I am unaware. May we be continually becoming and becoming conscious.

September 3, 2009

One day…

Posted in feminism, feminist theology, hurt, sexism in the church at 5:37 am by LadySophie

there was this one day in seminary…

i was in some class that had a lot of men, but some women

the topic was women in ministry and some idiot in my class was railing against women – i was the only one that spoke up

i responded with a lot of emotion, but got my points across

i remember going back to the dorm after class and going to the prayer room

i just fell on my face and wept for like an hour – breaks my heart over and over and over for women

thought about the countless women that were denied in the church, abused, put down over the years

their pain still felt real to me, that it was still happening

cried for all of those women

when will it stop?

when will i look around and not have to cry anymore because it is over?

August 16, 2009

The Christianities I’ve Lived

Posted in Faith Transformations, feminist theology, Relationships, religion, Soul tagged , , , , , at 9:54 pm by Lakshmi (LaChelle)

Since 6th grade, I have grown up in the protestant evangelical charismatic movement. For all of you who don’t know, or need to be reminded of what that means, well, for me at least it included the following: mission trips, FIRE (which was a 6 month period of no television, no music or reading not Christian-focused, and weekly meetings), Bible Quiz, youth church on Wednesday nights, Sunday morning and night services (where the night service was more Holy Spirit filled and might go on until who knew when), raising hands and falling slain in the spirit, speaking in tongues, dancing and waving flags around or whatever you wanted to do during praise time in the church, sorrowful deep weeping confessions, loving Jesus more than anything, revivals, big televangelists coming as visiting preachers, MY preacher on television, prosperity preaching (preachers with big beautiful white houses and large Washington D.C sized gated lawns), the Left Behind books, Christian romance, praying and telling other people about Jesus, speaking about abstinence at Youth Leadership Conference, listening to on the radio and singing at school talent shows CCM (Christian Contemporary Music), buying clothing at Mardel Christian bookstore, knowing that it was creation and not evolution that caused the world that breathed God, understanding the devil was a real entity that wanted to bring you down and especially would be after you the more you belonged to Jesus, being awed and terrified of my literal reading of Revelation, and reading the Bible everyday and everywhere, and praying/talking to God as much as I could.

Christianity, in some ways, is a culture with language and dress and behavior, definitely a worldview, of its own. Like a person from any country will have adopted and understand the codes of her country’s culture/society, the Christian culture has been inside of me, and I have not and will not probably reject it. That said, where I am at now in my late 20s is a very different place than I was ages 12-18. How?

UNDERGRAD: I went to a private Christian church that allowed my evangelism to pause since everyone around me was already a Christian (scotch-taping the “footprints” poem to the inside of bathroom stalls would be “sweet” and not subversive). And the conservatism of the school (women were not really allowed a leadership role, Christian music was actually of the devil) allowed me to see myself not as self-righteously more conservative/pure/godly (I just couldn’t be!) than those around me, but rather as more liberal. Which in a way, pushed me to a certain freedom to explore that liberality. Also, (thank godde), my professors were progressive Christians. They challenged me to question the assumed male gender of “god” and asked me to respond to the parallels between the stories from the Bible I had known to be sacred and absolute and the stories from classical Greek and Roman and even earlier mythologies; they allowed me to see evolution and sexuality as something other than a threat to my faith. And just being in college in general helped me realize that there were so many ideas out there and so much knowledge I didn’t know, uncertainties that were real.

GRAD SCHOOL: I moved from the midwest to the east coast and came into contact with people very different than me. My Christian undergrad was a safe place to start wandering around in possibilities because I knew that my professors and the people around me were exploring and they were so strong in their faith. In graduate school, I did not have any Christians around me. I was forced to look at people of different religions and views or no religion at all and see them as okay people, even good (whatever that meant), even more moral than I. Which was a new idea, because I had been taught growing up that it was religion, the Christian religion specifically, which made people moral. I took an interest, via my feminist classes, in feminist theology (I hadn’t even known there was such a field), and started to let myself be critical of my faith tradition, understanding that the sacred text was also a historical text in the sense that it was created in a specific time and has been used for specific reasons not necessarily inclusive or liberating for everyone. Graduate school was a rich time of awakenings and explorations, and so it was also a gorgeous time of fear and depression too. But it was something I needed to go through.

MY RETURN TO UNDERGRAD: But this time as a professor. And as a professor, I was to integrate faith and learning, which I enjoyed doing, especially since Christianity had started to become so nuanced for me. I tried out serious theological issues with my students and encouraged them to consider alternatives to what they had thoughtlessly assumed previously. During my time there (about two years), I realized that I wanted to completely focus on religion, but this time, from a feminist standpoint.

NOW, NEW GRAD SCHOOL: So here I am, in a Women’s Studies and Religion program, with girls and professors who are all together considering the endless possibilities of what godde, spirituality, Jesus, and our relationship to other faiths and people mean. I love this exploration, and it feels good and safe and right. And I want to continue to see where it leads. My theology now is more defined by social justice and Jesus not as one who wants to be worshiped, but as one who gave up being God for a moment to show us that idolatrous worship was not what he wanted. He demonstrated the message of liberation for the impoverished, for women, for all who are oppressed. And my theology is also pluralistic, because I feel, even though Christianity is the right path for me, other faiths carry a similar message. Evangelism is no longer a part of my Christian faith. That is just how it is, and I’m sorry if you don’t agree with it or feel that it is wayward or something. But evangelism does not feel ethical for me personally.