Christmas Gift of Inclusive Carols

For many years I longed to hear and sing Christmas carols that included biblical female images of God. Then Sophia Wisdom called me to write new inclusive lyrics for the Christmas songs I so love. Sophia Wisdom works within us and throughout our world. She Lives!

Here is my Christmas gift to you of some of my inclusive carols.

Midwife Divine Now Calls Us

Rev. Larry E. Schultz conducts the choir and congregation of Pullen Memorial Baptist Church, Raleigh, North Carolina, in singing “Midwife Divine Now Calls Us” to a familiar carol tune.

One of the female divine names and images in the Bible is that of Midwife. “Yet it was you who took me from the womb; you kept me safe on my mother’s breast. On you I was cast from my birth, and since my mother bore me, you have been my God” (Psalm 22:9-10). In this psalm, the poet expresses feelings of being forsaken and persecuted, and finds reassurance in this picture of God’s tender care beginning at birth. Another image of the Divine Midwife comes in Isaiah 66:9: “’Shall I open the womb and not deliver?’ says God; ‘shall I, the one who delivers, shut the womb?’ says your God.” The image of the Divine Midwife joins with the image of the Divine Mother to strengthen the biblical picture of God’s intimate involvement with us.

This song invites us to join with the Divine Midwife in bringing new life to birth within ourselves and throughout the world.

Words  © Jann Aldredge-Clanton, from Inclusive Hymns for Liberating Christians (Eakin Press, 2006). Contact for permissions.

Performed by: Chancel Choir of Pullen Memorial Baptist Church, Raleigh, North Carolina . Conductor: Rev. Larry E. Schultz

Visual Artists:

Stacy Boorn: “Her-Galaxy” © Stacy Boorn. Used with permission.

Mary Plaster: “Sophia, Divine Wisdom” © 2003 Mary Plaster. Used with permission.

Alice Heimsoth: photo of drummers and dancers, Ebenezer/herchurch Lutheran, San Francisco © Alice Heimsoth. Used with permission.

David Clanton: photo of Pullen Memorial Baptist Church Choir, Orchestra, & Congregation © David M. Clanton. Used with permission.

Recorded by: Ward Productions, Pinehurst, North Carolina

Sound Forth the News That Wisdom Comes

Recording artist Shannon Kincaid sings “Sound Forth the News That Wisdom Comes,” with pictures from various artists, to the tune of “Joy to the World.”

The book of Proverbs depicts Wisdom as a female image of the Divine: “She is more precious than jewels, and nothing you desire can compare with Her. Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all Her paths are peace. She is a tree of life to those who lay hold of Her; those who hold Her fast are called happy” (Proverbs 3: 15, 17-18). “Sound Forth the News That Wisdom Comes” calls us to co-create with Wisdom a world of peace, justice, equality, love, freedom, and joy.

This video gift comes with the hope that Wisdom will guide us to change our violent culture and to co-create with Her a peaceful world.

Sound forth the news that Wisdom comes
to bring new life to birth.
Arise with hope, Her labor join,
and peace shall fill the earth,
and peace shall fill the earth,
and peace, and peace shall fill the earth.
 
No more let fear and custom hide
the path of Wisdom fair.
She leads the way to life and joy,
with gifts for all to share,
with gifts for all to share,
with gifts, with gifts for all to share.
 
Joyful are we who heed the call
of Wisdom in our souls.
With Her we break oppression’s wall,
so love may freely flow,
so love may freely flow,
so love, so love may freely flow.
 
Crown Wisdom Queen of heaven and earth.
Her reign will set us free.
Fling wide the gates that all may come
join hands and dance with glee,
join hands and dance with glee,
join hands, join hands and dance with glee.
 

Words  © Jann Aldredge-Clanton, from Inclusive Hymns for Liberating Christians (Eakin Press, 2006).

Vocal Artist: Shannon Kincaid

Visual Artists:

David Clanton: “Tree of Life” and two dancing children photos © David M. Clanton. Used with permission.

Lucy A. Synk: “Ruach” © Lucy A. Synk. Used with permission.

Alice Heimsoth: seven photos inside Ebenezer/herchurch Lutheran, San Francisco and two photos from “Sisters Stepp’in Pride” events © Alice Heimsoth. Used with permission.

Mirta Toledo: “Sophia” © 2003 Mirta Toledo. Used with permission.

Shannon Kincaid: “Oprah & Child” and “Queen Maeve” paintings © Shannon Kincaid. Used with permission.

Mary Plaster: “Sophia, Divine Wisdom” © 2003 Mary Plaster. Used with permission.

Elizabeth Zedaran: “Flow” © Elizabeth Zedaran. Used with permission.

Instrumentalists:

Keyboard: Ron DiIulio

Guitar: Danny Hubbard

Bass & Percussion: Jerry Hancock

Music Producer/Arranger: Ron DiIulio

Come to Our World, O Christ-Sophia

Vocal Divine sings stanzas 2 & 3 of “Come to Our World, O Christ-Sophia” at Ebenezer/herchurch Lutheran in San Francisco. Vocal Divine (left to right): Lana Dalberg, Dionne Kohler, Alison Newvine, and Kathleen Neville Fritz.

“Christ-Sophia” is a biblical symbol of the Divine, making equal connections between male and female, black and white, Jewish and Christian traditions, thus providing a foundation for communities based on partnership instead of domination. Sophia, the Greek word for Wisdom, is a biblical female divine image that opens new possibilities for justice, liberation, and new life. New Testament writers link Christ to Wisdom, a feminine symbol of God in the Hebrew Scriptures. Wisdom (Hokmah in Hebrew) symbolizes creative, redemptive, and healing power. In their efforts to describe this same power in Christ, the apostle Paul and other New Testament writers draw from the picture of Wisdom. The apostle Paul refers to Christ as the “power of God and the Wisdom (Sophia) of God” (1 Corinthians 1:24), and states that Christ “became for us Wisdom (Sophia) from God” (1 Corinthians 1:30). The book of Proverbs describes Wisdom as the “way,” the “life,” and the “path” (4:11,22,26).  The Gospel of John refers to Christ as “the way, and the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). Bringing this biblical connection of Christ and Sophia to our worship can inspire partnerships that contribute to peace and justice in our world. Christ-Sophia inspires continual new birth.  Christ-Sophia empowers us to make the vision of the new creation a reality. Celebrate the birth of Christ-Sophia!

Come to our world, O Christ-Sophia, Wisdom;
our hearts are longing for Your peaceful way.
Lead us from fear and bondage into freedom;
with You we labor to bring Your new day.
 
Transform our world, O Christ-Sophia, Wisdom;
the poor and wounded await healing days.
Give us the power to sound Your call to freedom;
as equal partners, we show Your new way.
 
Led by Your Truth and Life within us growing,
we follow You on Your pathways of peace.
Filled with Your grace, Your loving kindness showing,
we share our gifts and our visions release.
 
REFRAIN:
 
Our weary world still longs for new creation,
for peace and justice coming to the earth.
Hope springs anew; we sing in celebration;
O Christ-Sophia, blessed be Your birth;
O Christ-Sophia, blessed be Your birth.
 
Words  © Jann Aldredge-Clanton, from Inclusive Hymns for Liberation, Peace, and Justice (Eakin Press, 2011).

Our Mother Within Us

Vocal Divine sings “Our Mother Within Us” to a familiar carol tune.

Although many churches limit God to male names and images, Scripture does not limit God to maleness. The Bible gives a multiplicity of divine names and images, including female divine names and images. Maternal divine names and imagery occur throughout the Bible. The prophet Isaiah pictures God as a comforting Mother: “As a Mother comforts Her children, so I will comfort you” (Isaiah 66:13). Biblical mothering images also include a “Nursing Woman” (Isaiah 49:15), “Mother Eagle” (Deuteronomy 32:11-12), and “Mother Hen” (Matthew 23:37).

“Our Mother Within Us” also refers to the biblical call to sing to God a “new song” (Psalm 96:1; 144:9). This new song to a familiar tune is my response with the hope that singing new songs that include female names and images of the Divine will contribute to a new story of love, peace, and justice in the world. 

Our Mother within us so holy and blessed,
You nurture our spirits with comfort and rest.
O give us your wisdom and strength for each day,
and fill us with love for all people we pray.
 
Our Mother within us, so many your names,
revealing our power, you help us to claim
our voices of courage to speak against wrong,
and joy overflowing to sing a new song.
 
O Mother within us, forever abide,
with blessings unfolding and arms open wide;
You give us new visions of life full and fair;
Your angels surround us with tenderest care.
 
Words  © Jann Aldredge-Clanton, from Inclusive Hymns for Liberating Christians (Eakin Press, 2006).
 

Vocal Divine creates music for Ebenezer/herchurch Lutheran, San Francisco  and other venues. Vocal Divine, recorded “HER Sacred Songs,”  along with Katie Ketchum, Gary Floyd, and Steve Rausch. The CD is available through herchurch.

 

 

 

 

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Revolution Through Rituals

A revolution is happening through Divine Feminine rituals! More and more faith communities are reclaiming the power of the Divine Feminine in sacred rituals.

Rituals move feminist theory and theology/thealogy from the head to the heart. Words and visual symbols in rituals shape our deepest beliefs and values, which drive our actions. Multicultural female divine images in our sacred rituals affirm the sacred value of females throughout the world who continue to suffer from violence, abuse, and discrimination. For feminism to transform our culture, we need Divine Feminine rituals in faith communities. In Women-Church: Theology and Practice, Rosemary Radford Ruether writes: “One needs communities of nurture to guide one through death to the old symbolic order of patriarchy to rebirth into a new community of being and living. One needs not only to engage in rational theoretical discourse about this journey; one also needs deep symbols and symbolic actions to guide and interpret the actual experience of the journey from sexism to liberated humanity” (p. 3).

As I was growing up in the Baptist tradition, hymns were my favorite part of our rituals. One of the hymns I loved singing was “He Lives,” increasing in volume along with the congregation as we came to the refrain which repeated over and over the words “He lives.” Not until many years later could I even imagine singing or saying, “She lives.” I had learned to worship a God who was named and imaged as male. But while studying in a conservative seminary, I was surprised to find Her. I discovered female names and images of Deity in scripture and in Christian history. As an ordained minister, my call has included writing, preaching, and teaching to persuade people that we need multicultural female divine names and images in rituals if we are to have social justice, peace, and equality. My call expanded to writing Divine Feminine rituals, including lyrics to familiar hymn tunes.

My discovery of Her continued as I found clergy and laypeople who are transforming their faith communities through rituals that include multicultural female divine images.  My latest book, She Lives! Sophia Wisdom Works in the World, celebrates these people who are engaged in transformative ministry within the church and the wider culture. Their stories reveal the connection between the Divine Feminine in rituals and justice in human relationships, illustrating Sophia Wisdom’s works such as gender equality, racial equality, marriage equality, economic justice, care of creation, nonviolence, interfaith collaboration, expanding spiritual experience, and changing hierarchies into circles.

She Lives! includes prayers, hymns, litanies, and other resources for Divine Feminine rituals. Also, there is a section that provides information on feminist faith communities I have discovered.

One of my hymns in She Lives! is “O Holy Darkness, Loving Womb.” This hymn connects darkness to the Sacred Feminine, empowering us to end injustice and heal the wounds of Earth. The hymn contributes to racial justice by changing the traditional symbolism of darkness as evil or ominous to darkness as creative bounty and beauty, affirming the sacred value of people of color through these positive images. In this video, recording artist Shannon Kincaid sings “O Holy Darkness, Loving Womb,” with pictures from various artists, to the tune of “O Little Town of Bethlehem.”

 

This post is an excerpt from “Revolution Through Rituals,” published in Feminism and Religion. Read the full essay.

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Children’s Play Matters

My sons grew up in the days of feminist consciousness raising and Marlo Thomas’ “Free to Be, You and Me” songs and stories. My consciousness was being raised about gender discrimination, and I rallied for the Equal Rights Amendment. The messages about gender roles my boys got from the culture were a little better than those messages boys and girls got when I was growing up about who we should be, what toys we should like, what we should wear, what school subjects we could do well in, what sports we could play or not play, even what musical instruments we should play or not play—all according to our gender.

Now as I shop for birthday and Christmas gifts for my grandsons, I’m dismayed to find that many toys are even more gender-stereotyped than when I shopped for my boys or even than when I was growing up. The aisles of the toy section at Target are not only marked girls and boys, but in case someone doesn’t read the signs, they are color-coded pink and blue. Even the Lego building sets, which used to be gender-neutral, are now pink and blue, with the pink being princess castles and domestic scenes and the blue being super heroes and warrior scenes. Toys R Us also labels “boys’ toys” and “girls’ toys.” In the online store, at the top of the “girls’ toys” list are dolls, arts & crafts, bath, beauty & accessories, and pretend play. At the top of the “boys’ toys” list are action figures, video games, electronics, and building sets. People would be outraged if toys were created and marketed according to racial or ethnic stereotypes, and rightfully so. But gender-stereotyped toys are tolerated and even encouraged.

Why does all this matter? Play helps to form the way children see themselves, other people, and their world. Toys then are an important part of children’s educational and social development. Dr. Laura Nelson, a neuroscientist who led the campaign to change gender stereotyping of toys at Hamleys in London states: “Gender-specific color-coding influences the activities children choose, the skills they build, and ultimately the roles they take in society. Girls’ toys are often about beauty and the home, while toys for boys are mostly about being active, building things, and having adventures.”

 Gendered toys reinforce traditional male and female stereotypes. It’s easy to see the connection between girls playing with dolls and boys playing with action figures and the segregation of labor markets into “female” and “male” professions. Nurses, primary school teachers, and caregivers of all kinds are overwhelmingly female. Engineers, scientists, and mechanics tend to be male. In a New York Times article, Katrin Bennhold writes about the influence of gender-segregated toys: “This segregation matters: It helps explain a stubborn pay gap between men and women, as the caregiving professions generally pay less than technical jobs. Women earn on average 16 percent less than men in the member countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.”

Rev. Dr. Angela Yarber, author of The Gendered Pulpit and featured in She Lives! Sophia Wisdom Works in the World, says, “If you can’t see it, you can’t be it.” I would add, “If you can’t play it, you can’t be it.” For the record, when I was growing up, I played being a minister, with the encouragement of my parents. I not only played with dolls, but also baptized all my dolls and even performed a wedding ceremony between my dog, Flossie, and our neighbor’s dog. Most of the time in our “pretend” church services my older sister, Anne, got to be the preacher while I played the piano, but I was still playing with a girl preacher!

As they play, boys also learn what they can and cannot be. Gender-stereotyped toys have a negative influence on boys as well as girls. If stores steer boys away from dolls and play houses, then boys don’t have as much opportunity as girls to develop domestic and nurturing skills. Our culture especially stigmatizes boys for crossing gender aisles in toy stores, reflecting an underlying misogyny, homophobia, and transphobia. There is a fear that boys may become too “feminine.” So boys may have trouble engaging in creative play that has been traditionally labeled and demeaned as feminine.

The Good News

Playing with a full range of toys helps boys as well as girls to develop a variety of skills and to imagine themselves growing up to be whatever they desire according to their talents, not their gender. Boys playing with arts & crafts and dolls get messages that it’s fine for them to go into artistic and caregiving professions. Girls playing with electronics and building sets get messages that it’s fine for them to go into engineering and construction. Boys and girls playing with toys, reading books, and seeing movies with females and males of all races occupying an equal amount of space and engaged in equally adventurous activities are more likely to become adults who respect females and males of all races and see them as equals.

When I asked my son for gift suggestions for my four-year-old grandson, he replied, “anything with Dora the Explorer.” Dora the Explorer began more than 16 years ago as an educational animated TV series. In addition to this TV series, there is now a whole line of Dora toys, games, books, and videos. Dora, a young Latina girl, relishes adventures. On her quests she overcomes obstacles, meets challenges, solves puzzles, and emerges victorious. My grandson loves all things Dora.

The popularity of the Disney film Frozen also dispels the myth that girls will watch movies and read books that feature boys but that boys won’t watch movies and read books that feature girls. Boys and girls alike love Frozen, starring Elsa and Anna. The story ends not with the typical rescue of a woman by a man, but with Anna saving her sister, Elsa. Now there are Frozen toys, games, books, and even Halloween costumes. And the theme song of Frozen, “Let It Go,” has become a hit. My six-year-old and nine-year-old grandsons delight in Frozen, and they know all the words to “Let It Go,” which they sing to the top of their voices.

Good for Disney also for hosting Doc McStuffins, an animated TV series featuring an African American girl named Dottie “Doc” McStuffins, who wants to become a doctor like her mother. She pretends to be a doctor by curing toys, dolls, and stuffed animals. Girls and boys love Doc McStuffins toys, games, books, crafts, and videos; some are even listed under “boys’ toys” in the online Toys R Us store.

Lakeshore Learning Store, recommended by my daughter-in-law, also gives me hope that there are toys, books, games, and videos out there that give children messages of gender equality and respect for all people. When I went to the Dallas store, I found wonderful creative, educational toys, games, and books arranged according to age and grade level, not gender. The online store also uses this arrangement; there is no labeling and segregation of “girls’ toys” and “boys’ toys.”

Gender equality begins with children’s play. It’s encouraging to see Wisdom’s works of gender equality at Lakeshore Learning Store and in Frozen, Doc McStuffins, and Dora the Explorer.  Wisdom is alive and working in the world! She lives! Wisdom guides us to toys that give girls and boys messages of gender equality and respect for themselves and all people so that they can be free to be all they are created to be.

 

http://www.amazon.com/She-Lives-Sophia-Wisdom-Works/dp/1594735735/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1408453981&sr=1-1&keywords=She+Lives%21+Jann+Aldredge-Clanton

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She Lives! (description of blog)

Growing up in the Baptist tradition, I learned from memory the hymn “He Lives.” I loved singing this hymn to a lilting tune, increasing in volume along with everyone in the congregation as we came to the refrain after each stanza: “He lives, He lives, Christ Jesus lives today! You ask me how I know He lives: He lives within my heart.”

It would not be until many years later that I could even imagine singing or saying, “She lives.” I had learned to worship a God who was named and imaged as male. But while studying in a conservative Baptist seminary, I was surprised to find Her. I discovered female names and images for the Divine in the Bible and in Christian history. After graduating from seminary and being ordained as a minister, I began researching, writing, preaching, and teaching to persuade people that we need to include female divine names and images in worship if we are to have social justice, peace, and equality.

The title of my latest book comes from my continual discoveries of Her, living and working in all creation. She Lives! Wisdom Works in the World features one of my favorite female names for the Divine, found in the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures and in many spiritual traditions. I continually see Wisdom working in our world and the great need for more of Her works. “Wisdom Works” then plays on the word “works” as both noun and verb. Wisdom works within, around, and among all creation to bring abundant life, new creation, justice, peace, liberation, love, hope, and joy.

This blog will continue to highlight the works of Wisdom in our world. It will include stories of people who join Wisdom in working for gender equality, racial equality, marriage equality, care of creation, economic justice, nonviolence, interfaith collaboration, and other works of justice and peace. In this blog you will also find Her works highlighted through worship resources, articles, videos, and information about feminist faith communities.

I’d like for this to be an interactive blog. I’d love to hear from you about Wisdom’s works that you see in the world and about people who are engaged in them. Also, please send me locations and information about feminist emancipatory faith communities and worship rituals that include female divine names and images. I’m drawing from Marjorie Procter-Smith use of  “feminist emancipatory” in her book The Church in Her House: A Feminist Emancipatory Prayer Book for Christian Communities (http://www.amazon.com/Church-Her-House-Emancipatory-Communities/dp/0829817018/ref=sr_1_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1415132115&sr=1-2). Dr. Procter-Smith explains her use of this term: “By ‘feminist’ I mean to place women at the center, to make women visible, audible, and active. By ‘emancipatory’ I mean being oriented toward the freedom of all people, recognizing the intersection and interrelationship of multiple forms of oppression.”

My vision is that this blog will be a great resource to help people find feminist emancipatory faith communities and to provide worship rituals for creating more of these communities around the world. You can respond to this post and other blog posts on my website by clicking “leave a comment” at the end of posts and/or through clicking “Contact” under “Lectures” on my website.

I invite you to join the adventure of creating rituals that include the Female Divine and to join communities that celebrate Her, affirming the sacred value of all people and all creation. Together we can change our world through joining with Wisdom in Her works of justice, peace, life, and love!

 

 

 

 

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She Lives! is out! Excerpts from Review by Letha Dawson Scanzoni

 

She Lives! Sophia Wisdom Works in the World just came out! Here are excerpts from a review essay that Letha Dawson Scanzoni wrote for Christian Feminism Today.

“A few weeks ago, a taxi driver told me how much he had enjoyed watching astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson’s 2014 television series, “Cosmos.”  “But I can’t believe this universe just happened out of nothing!” he said. “There has to be a Creator!  And I’m starting to think it might be a woman.”

Listening to him, it occurred to me that thinking of God beyond the familiar male imagery was gradually seeping into the imaginations of everyday people.  Not long ago, serious discussions about God and gender took place almost entirely in feminist religious circles and theological seminaries. Maybe more people are becoming open to such ideas because of books like The Shack, or the writings and media appearances of popular writers like Anne Lamott who frequently speaks of God as “She,” or Bobby McFerrin’s use of female pronouns in singing the 23rd Psalm, or simply the wider social world the Internet has opened up.

Even so, such receptivity to inclusive language and female imagery for the Deity is still the exception, whether among the general public or in houses of worship. We’re far more likely to hear someone on TV talking about “the Man upstairs” than we are to hear a prayer that begins. “our Loving Mother God,” in a Sunday service.  In some circles, shock and a kind of emotional vertigo— or even anger and charges of heresy— arise at the thought that God could be referred to in female terms.

The Writings of Jann Aldredge-Clanton

This is where Dr. Jann Aldredge-Clanton steps in to calm fears, enlarge our vision, and show the richness of expanding the way we think, sing, and speak about the Divine. Her latest book, She Lives! (the exclamation point is part of the title), helps us move beyond the limited gender binary to see God as both male and female, yet strictly speaking, neither male nor female, and at the same time inclusive of all gender identities.

Jann’s ministries include enlarging our vision by writing new words to hymn tunes and by telling us stories of real people who are traveling a journey much like her own, one in which she has experienced “the sacredness of all and of the dynamic nature of this Divinity—ever living, ever moving, ever growing” (p. x).  To tell these stories, Jann has been interviewing a diverse group of people in recent years and writing profiles of them, first for her previous book, Changing Church, and others of them for her weekly blog. Forty profiles, drawn from all of these interviews, are included in this new book.

Among the profiled women and men are nine members of EEWC-Christian Feminism Today:  Kendra Weddle Irons, Mark Mattison, Melanie Springer Mock, Mary E. Hunt, Gail Anderson Ricciuti, Rebecca Kiser, Judith Liro, Marg Herder, and Virginia Ramey Mollenkott.  Poems and a sermon excerpt written by another member, Shawna R. B. Atteberry, are also included.  Jann Aldredge-Clanton herself is a member and serves on the EEWC-CFT Executive Council.

Twelve of the forty persons profiled here were also included in Changing Church.

The Many Ways Sophia Wisdom Works 

Jann explains that the subtitle of She Lives!, “Sophia Wisdom Works in the World,” refers to one of her favorite female names for the Deity—Wisdom. “Wisdom is Hokmah in the Hebrew Bible and Sophia in the Greek language of the Christian Scriptures,” she says. “I continually see Wisdom working in our world and the great need for more of Her works” (p.x).

She has organized the sections of her book around eleven of these “works of Wisdom,” with each person’s story placed in the category where Jann felt it would fit best.

With so many outstanding spiritual leaders profiled in the chapters that comprise each section, I found it difficult to choose just a few representative stories. They are all so interesting, and I don’t want to leave anyone out!  In some ways, this is many books in one. So I’ve decided to extract a central idea from each of the forty persons profiled to give you a tiny sample from each (and hopefully to entice you to read the book).

Think of each section of the book—each “work of Wisdom”—as a mini-conference where you are hearing several outstanding speakers talk about a specific theme.  Or imagine eleven tables set up in a large room, each with a group of wonderful people conversing about an interesting topic and inviting you to pull up a chair and join in. . . .

Some Concluding Thoughts of My Own

I realize that by providing such an extensive overview, I’m risking the possibility that some readers will conclude there’s now no need to read the book for themselves. But that would be like deciding to skip a movie because you’ve seen the trailer and thus assume you already know everything about it!  Each of the forty persons profiled here has so much to share through Jann’s telling of their lives, works, and words that the best I could do was offer a tiny glimpse or central idea from each one, hoping you’ll then want to read that person’s chapter in its entirety.

One thing I liked especially about this book is Jann’s awareness that although it’s important to expand our image of the Divine, there is no strict orthodoxy about exactly what that entails.  There is no insistence that our journeys be the same in how we come to embrace and express the vision of a “gender-full God”— no strict rules or imposed uniformity.

In the book’s introduction, Jann points out variations in the approaches represented among the persons she has profiled. Some like to use the word “Godde” as a combination of God and Goddess to show the Divine is beyond the gender binary; others might chose some other combination (an example would be Rosemary Ruether’s introduction of the word “God/ess” in some of her writings).  At least two of those Jann interviewed had no problem with simply using the word “Goddess” as another name for the Divine.  Jann points out that some people “favor abstract over anthropomorphic names for Deity and suggest genderless designations like ‘Friend,’ ‘Spirit,’ and ‘Force.’” For some, this may serve as a first step in moving away from exclusively male terminology for God, even if they don’t feel comfortable using female pronouns. Others believe such a gender neutral approach doesn’t go far enough.

Some, such as Virginia Ramey Mollenkott suggest that combining the word “God” (which in many people’s minds suggests male) with “She” (when a pronoun is necessary) can jolt people into seeing that God’s image embraces all genders and therefore includes transgender persons. Some people like to use the term “Divine Feminine,” whereas others, such as Mary E. Hunt, may say, “I do not use ‘feminine’ anything as it seems to play into the sexist trap of dividing people into masculine and feminine.”  Masculine and feminine are cultural constructs and can lead to thinking in terms of gender stereotypes.  Jann Aldredge-Clanton herself has begun using the term, “Female Divine,” although she has been conscientious in recording the preferred terminology of each individual whose story she tells, with many using “Divine Feminine” or “Feminine Divine.”

I am glad that Jann has included this discussion, because we humans can so easily convince ourselves there is only one right way to view or express something— and that “right way” can too often be defined as “the way I see it (or speak it),” thereby stifling others’ expressions of their views.  I’ve not seen such a succinct discussion on the variations in inclusive language for God in quite this way elsewhere, and I commend Jann for including it in this book. . . . ”

See Letha’s full review essay, originally published on Christian Feminism Today: http://www.eewc.com/BookReviews/sh-lives-book-jann-aldredge-clanton. Excerpts reposted with permission.

http://www.amazon.com/She-Lives-Sophia-Wisdom-Works/dp/1594735735/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1408453981&sr=1-1&keywords=She+Lives%21+Jann+Aldredge-Clanton

skylightpaths.com/page/product/9…

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/she-lives-jann-aldredge-clanton/1119640577?ean=9781594735738

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