January 28, 2010

Thoughts on being a Non-Initiate

Posted in Christianity, faith and doubt, God, interfaith experiences, Mormonism, Relationships, religion, school and academics, Spirituality tagged , , , , , at 6:09 am by Eostre

I am taking a class this semester on the Literature of Mormon Women. It is a great topic, and I am really excited about it. There is one thing that has me a little apprehensive, though. I am the only non-Mormon in the class. I know, this shouldn’t be a big deal, but it is really a strange situation, for multiple reasons.

First, the obvious, it is weird being the only one in the class who isn’t an initiate. I don’t know the lingo, I don’t recognize most of the names, and I didn’t know before last week that the Temple and the Tabernacle were two different buildings. I am on the outside looking in. I have studied Mormonism, but that is very different from actually being a Mormon. Sure, I can name the four canonical texts, but I don’t use them for my devotions. All the knowledge in the world isn’t enough to bridge that gap.

The second, and less obvious reason, is that I have not been in a really religious environment for almost two years. My faith since coming to Claremont has been largely a private thing, I haven’t participated in any faith-based communion for a while, mostly on purpose. Going to this class I have been struck by how far I have gone from when I was comfortable in an insular religious environment. It doesn’t matter that this doesn’t happen to be my religion, the attitudes are strikingly similar even though the trappings aren’t. There is a certain way that religious people speak, think, and act, that I have been away from for a long time. If you are (or have been) religious in America I am sure you know what I mean. There is an insularity, an us and them mentality, that I had forgotten about.

This is challenging me in completely unexpected ways. I expected the discomfort of being the only non-Mormon in a class, but I did not expect the vertigo that I experience when I walk through that door and into a world that I don’t think I belong in any more. That religious life and mindset just doesn’t fit comfortably anymore. It’s like trying to jam my feet into shoes I outgrew a year ago.

The semester has only just started, but I can tell that this is going to be a huge personal challenge. Can I re-enter that world? Do I want to?

January 14, 2010

Pat Robertson Strikes Again

Posted in Anti-Christian Message, Christianity, God, Jesus, religion, Suffering, Theodicy, Victim Blaming tagged , , , at 11:11 pm by Gina Messina

Like the rest of the world, I have been stunned and deeply saddened by this incredible tragedy that has struck Haiti.  In the wake of such devastation, I have wondered why such awful tragedies occur, why so many had to lose their lives in such a tragic manner.  That being said, I refuse to think that God had any role in creating such suffering.  Why is it that when such terrible things occur some feel it necessary to justify the devastation by blaming the victim?  This is exactly what Pat Robertson has done.  In wake of such tragedy, he felt it necessary to go on national television and claim that the people of Haiti are “cursed,” made a “pact to the devil,” and that they must “make a great turning towards God.”   What he succeeded in doing with such hateful statements is further perpetuate intolerance and the myth of superiority while slandering the Christian message.

Pat Robertson calls himself a Christian.  He preaches to millions and many hang on his every word with the belief that Robertson will lead them directly to a life of eternity with their Lord.  However, Robertson’s message of hate clearly demonstrates that what he preaches is not a Christian message.  In fact, Pat Robertson has completely missed the boat and is teaching a message that utterly conflicts with that of Jesus. 

Robertson is not calling for his parishioners to love their neighbors.  Instead he focuses on labeling those he finds fault with and claims them responsible for tragedy in the world.  He warned his 700 Club viewers that “Many of those people involved with Adolf Hitler were Satanists. Many of them were homosexuals. The two seem to go together.”[1]  Robertson also called for the assassination of Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez, stated that 9/11 occurred as a punishment from God because of legalized abortion in America, and that Hurricane Katrina was a direct result of New Orleans being a sinful city.  Now with his message about the earthquake in Haiti, Robertson has linked every Haitian to devil worship and deserving of their suffering.  How is this a Christian message?

Although Robertson represents himself as a Christian he apparently is unfamiliar with Jesus’ message of love your neighbor.  Evidently he has not read Jesus’ call to not judge others.  It seems that the Beatitudes are unknown to him, yet Pat Robertson has made himself the face of Christianity in America.  What I wonder is why is anyone standing for this? Why do so many listen to his non-Christian message?  Why do we continue to allow him to preach, air his television show, and act as commentator? At what point will Pat Robertson be held accountable for spreading such hate?

See video of Robertson on Haiti as well as the Haitian ambassador’s response at the following link: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/01/13/pat-robertson-haiti-curse_n_422099.html


[1] Bob Moser. Anti-gay religious crusaders claim homosexuals helped mastermind the Holocaust.”

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

October 17, 2009

Between Mother Mary and Mother God: It’s a Mystery!

Posted in Catholic, God, Mother God, Virgin Mary at 5:22 am by Cynthia Garrity-Bond

img022“It’s a mystery!” was the repeated response my mother gave to me whenever I asked her theological questions that fell outside the realm of the Catholic Baltimore Catechism.  To be fair, my questions were usually a bit precocious for a young child, but whom are we kidding, I was a rather strange and overly religious kid.  My idea of a good time was kneeling before our three-foot statue of the Virgin Mary as our family recited our Lenten rosary.  And while my brothers were contorting themselves into positions that would qualify for Cirque de Soleil, I was piously straight and focused.  Mary was my pathway to the big three, The Father, The Son and The Holy Ghost.  And while I knew I was suppose to desire the Three-in-One, they did not hold the same sway over me as the Mary who stood atop the world while crushing Satan in the form of a snake. My love for Jesus was more a sense of obligation for the unfair rap he had to endure while on earth, the Great Sacrifice for the sin of Adam and Eve.  My image of God as a not-so-nice-Father-to-his-only-Son sealed itself into my consciousness early on.  “Why,” I would ask my mother, “if God is love would he insist on such a bloody and painful sacrifice for a sin that honestly does not seem so bad.” You guessed it, “It’s a mystery!”  was her response.

 But I have since come to learn that it’s not a mystery, but rather a matter of shifting the theological lens from an abusive Father to a God who has been totally misrepresented.  A God who is both unnameable and pronounceable.  Who offers us the mystery of God’s self in every single seen and unseen element of the earth and cosmos.  But still, that does not always work for me.  I need more.  In times of heartache or sorrow I need an image with skin and bones and a heart that is larger than my pain. I need a Creator God that will rock me back and forth, soothing my fears and yes, even caressing my face with cool breaths that remind me I will survive this latest insult to life.  In these times I know what God is not. I know God is not a rock, or a wispy tuft of air.  God is not the mighty King on high able to judge my enemies.  Nor is God a warrior who kicks ass over the unrighteous.  God is my Mother.  Maybe this is why Mary has always worked for me.  Maybe she never really was the mediator between Them and me, she is Them.  Theologically I may be on shaky ground, but the mystery between Mary as Mother and Mother God is one I know, not one I can defend. And it is one that continues to sustain and let me know that I am never too old to be held in the Mother’s embrace.

October 15, 2009

Jesus was not white, and other reflections

Posted in God, Goddess, Jesus, religion, Soul, Spirituality at 4:29 am by Eostre

Growing up in the Evangelical Church, we knew who Jesus was, we had pictures of him! Jesus was white, quasi-attractive, and full of good ol’ Amerijesus playing keep awaycan pride (our Church had an American flag right next to cross, behind the pulpit).  And since, as we all know (and out Sunday School teachers showed us on felt boards every week) Jesus was more than just a man, he was GOD, the implications were clear. Jesus was just like us! And more than that, he might have lived in Ancient Israel, but apart from that small point, he was American!

Unfortunately, this Jesus was created out of whole cloth by the American Church and fed to little minds every week by well meaning (but maliciously misinformed) adults. I don’t know which would be worse, a concerted effort to do away with the Jesus of the Bible and replace him with this permissive, smiling, white man, or blinding ignorance. Either way, irreparable damage has been done to generations of Christian children, who grew up to be Christian adults who then went on to perpetuate the lie.

As I became aware of the glaring inconsistencies in what the Bible actually said and what was presented in Christian media, I was appalled. The lie is so widespread and so ingrained in Christian (and Western) culture, that there seems to be no way to counter it.  Suddenly, White Jesus was everywhere I looked. I couldn’t escape his bland, permissive gaze. Christian bookstore’s send me spiraling into depression.

So what do I do with this? How do I deal with this tangled, snarled knot of misconceptions and angst? I tried declaiming to anyone who would listen that Jesus probably looked more like Osama Bin Laden than Brad Pitt, but I soon discovered that it was a fruitless exercise. The lie was too prevalent, too ingrained in our collective consciousness.

So I gave up. Not completely, of course, I’ll still pull out the soap-box given the opportunity, but I can’t let it consume me anymore. I can’t fight the White Jesus, but he has ruined God personifications for me. I can’t try to imagine a human God without spiraling back down into the angst, so I have had to find a different way of imagining God. It wasn’t easy, and it still isn’t well defined, but now, when I care to, I imagine God as a sort of amorphous cloud that can envelope me in warmth, like laying on the grass in the sunshine when it’s not too hot, but just right, and you can see the patterns of the shadows of the leaves on your eyelids when you close your eyes. And all I want to do is curl up and rest. God, for me, now, is a feeling. God is safety and comfort and warmth, all encompassing and incorporeal, no gender, no race, God is both the sunlight that warms my face, the grass that cushions me, and the clean scent of rain that lulls me to rest. Simple? Yes. Uncomplicated? No.

October 13, 2009

Tales from real life

Posted in God, images of God, names of God at 7:21 am by LadySophie

I cannot count the images of God in my life. Since the time I became a Christian at age 7, God has been personal and real. Images have changed depending on what has happened along the way.

God was my hope when…

I broke off my engagement

I thought my life was over

I saw no way out of a horrible work environment

Someone I love died

I gave up on hope

This I know…no matter what the image, God was there…

Present  Loving   Compassionate   Provider   Sustainer    Light    Peace  Hope    Comfort    Grace    Friend   Refuge   Savior   Spirit   Intimate   Transformer    Faithful   Creator   Life-giver

As I come to know this God more intimately, I learn about who I am. I learn about how much of God there is to know. God is not male or female for me. For all the names of God in the Bible, why should I only pray to “Father” God? What about “Keeper of the Stars” or “Creator of Light”?  I know that this God is the source of my life and the hope for my future.

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.