April 27, 2009

Welcome! Updates!

Welcome to the Women & Religion site. To see the most recent information on any page, be sure to hit the refresh key.

What's New?

- Due dates: Week #14 Reading Response (grace period): April 30. Week #14 Discussion Café: May 3. Final Project - attach paper to e-mail: May 3.

Extra credit opportunities: please see postings below.

I've enjoyed conversations and correspondence with all of you! I hope this course was eye-opening and will change how you view American women's religious history, contributions, roles, and ongoing challenges.

Final Words: Summary of Fascinating Projects

For extra credit, write a paragraph or two sharing with other class members the highlights of your final project assignment. What was particularly interesting in what you read? How did it connect in helpful ways to course reading you have done?

Responses to Religious Imagination of American Women

For extra credit, add some comments here on what you found valuable about Mary Bednarowski's book, The Religious Imagination of American Women. I'm planning to write her a letter about my own responses reading this book again, and would like to include any thoughtful reflections that you would be willing to share with her.

Week #14 Discussion Café

For this final Discussion Café, respond to class members' Reading Reflection postings for week #14. Due: by Sunday, May 3 (midnight).

April 26, 2009

Final Project Assignment: Due May 3

Women and Religion Major Project

UPDATED: Due May 3 (by midnight; paper attachment to e-mail).

You have a choice for this final project: (1) analyze a spiritual memoir/autobiography written by a woman, OR (2) do a research paper. Either choice will require both research and reflection. Pick a topic that deepens your inquiry in an area of interest related to the course, or allows you to explore something new that connects to the themes of the course. Some possible research topics are suggested below. There is also a list of possible memoir/autobiographies for you to consider. In both cases, alternatives will need to be approved. Your topic should be one that can be done in a 7-8 page essay form, and one where there are ample resources available.

RESEARCH PAPER OPTION: You will need to spend some time on the internet and at the library. Some topics may also lend themselves to doing primary research (interviews) for part of your information. I will help you find sources for topics where I have some expertise. Use resources listed on the course website, including a bibliography that I will post. End product: 7-8 page essay. 5-6 sources. (Note: if one of your major sources is a significant single book, such as the memoir/autobiography, consult with me on the extent of appropriate supporting sources.)

Sample Topics for Research Paper (don’t be constrained by this list):

• Women and the Problem of Evil / Theology of Sin / in Christianity
• Reclaiming Foremothers in Hebrew & Christian Scripture (Elizabeth Fiorenza is good on New Testament; Elizabeth Watson has written imaginative stories on Bible women)
• Women’s Emerging Ritual (in Wicca or Christian/Jewish/other tradition)
• Women and the Goddess
• Lesbian Voices in the Church Today
• Feminist Scholarship about Mary Magdalene, or Mary (Jesus’s mother)
• Women and Islam (or any other major world religion)
• American Indian Women and Feminism (good source is Paula Gunn Allen)
• Alice Walker’s Theology (including some fiction), or more broadly, Womanist theology
• Feminist theology and career of Ruether – McFague – Christ – or other major theologian
• Exploring Non-Sexist Language in Talking to God
• Spiritually based Peace and Justice work (WAMM, McDonald Sisters)
• Ecofeminism and Earth-based Theologies (Sallie McFague is a good source)
• Dealing with Patriarchy in Non-Western Religions (pick one)
• African American Buddhists (Jan Willlis, bell hooks, Tina Turner)
• African American Women’s Spirituality – writings, community leadership (including 19th Century recovered texts) – see My Soul Is A Witness: African-American Women’s Spirituality, Gloria Wade-Gayles, Ed.
• Re-Imagining Movement
• Woman Church
• Rosh Hodesh Groups
• Theology and Women’s roles in Gnostic Christianity (first three centuries C.E.)
• ______________: An American Religious Thinker, (primary texts by the woman, with at least a couple of short additional secondary sources for background)
• __________________: A Significant Female Religious Leader (can be based primarily on a major book-length biography, with at least a couple of additional secondary sources for background)

MEMOIR/AUTOBIOGRAPHY OPTION - **RECOMMENDED**: Once you pick your book, you will need to find at least two secondary sources about the author or about the book (good scholarly book reviews are especially helpful). End product: 7-8 page essay.

Some Women’s Spiritual Memoir/Autobiography Books
(read quick reviews on Amazon.com to get a sense of these books)

Adler, Margot: Heretic's Heart: A Journey through Spirit & Revolution
Armstrong, Karen The Spiral Staircase: My Climb Out of Darkness
Armstrong, Karen Through the Narrow Gate (much earlier - do both?)
Bolen, Jean Shinoda Crossing to Avalon: A Woman's Midlife Crisis
Christ, Carol Oddyssey with the Goddess and/or the earlier one below
Christ, Carol Laughter of Aphrodite: Reflections on a Journey to the Goddess
Day, Dorothy The Long Loneliness
Downing, Christine Journey through Menopause: A Personal Rite of Passage
Ehrlich, Gretel Questions of Heaven: Chinese Journeys of an American Buddhist
Feld, Merle A Spiritual Life: A Jewish Feminist
Flinders, Carol Lee At the Root of this Longing: Reconciling a Spiritual Hunger and a Feminist Thirst
Galland, China Longing for Darkness: Tara and the Black Madonna
Goodall, Jane A Reason for Hope: A Spiritual Journey
Halifax, Joan The Fruitful Darkness: Reconnecting with the Body of the Earth
Hampl, Patricia Virgin Time
Houston, Jean A Mythic Life: Learning to Live Our Greater Story
Hurston, Zora Neale Dust Tracks on a Road
Kelly, Lorna The Camel Knows the Way
Kidd, Sue Monk The Dance of the Dissident Daughter: A Woman's Journey from Christian Tradition to the Sacred Feminine
Lamott, Annie Traveling Mercies (wonderful and funny!)
Linnea, Ann Deep Water Passage: A Spiritual Journey at Midlife
Lorde, Audre Zami: A New Spelling of My Name
Luke, Helen Such Stuff as Dreams Are Made On: The Autobiography and Journals of Helen M. Luke
Mackenzi, Vickie Cave in the Snow
Mankiller, Wilma Mankiller : A Chief and Her People (more political than spiritual)
Norris, Kathleen Dakota: A Spiritual Geography (could also do
The Cloister Walk)
O'Reilley, Mary Rose The Barn At the End of the World: A Year in the Life of a Quaker, Buddhist Shepherd
Teish, Luisah Jambalaya (early 1990’s Black woman’s spiritual journey)
Tickle, Phylllis The Shaping of a Life: A Spiritual Landscape
Williams, Terry Tempest Refuge (also a later book, Leap)
Willis, Jan Dreaming Me: Baptist to Buddhist,
Woodman, Marion Bone: Dying Into Life – or a project on Woodman’s work and other writings.


Expectations for Final Research Project – Women and Religion

Now that you have an idea about the topic you want to write about (either a research paper or memoir/autobiography topic), you will want to know how to approach this assignment to get a good grade. Keep in mind that this project is not primarily a summary of information, but an opportunity for you to do analysis by digging deeper into issues connected with women and religion as we have encountered them in reading and discussion.

For the purpose of this project, your writing should be primarily academic rather than personal. Discuss in a well-reasoned way how the topic or the primary text you are writing about connects to course themes. Of course, not all topics connect with all course themes, but you should identify at a minimum at least three or four significant course themes that you can relate your topic/text to and comment on these.

Your discussion should also make connections where appropriate to the reading we have done together in the course, showing connections between your materials and the arguments and issues that the article and book authors have presented. Use citations when referring to specific readings from the texts.

Here is a list of some of the course themes from the syllabus and reading/discussions:
• Reclaiming women’s (sometimes hidden) history in historical religions and the Bible
• Reforming religious traditions
• Creating new religious traditions
• Religious language: naming the sacred in new ways
• Self in relation (community, relationships)
• Transforming the world
• Special insights from women converting to Buddhism
• Women as religious thinkers and creators
• The ordinary and the sacred.
• Women’s strategies for acceptance, healing, and hope.
• Spiritual Seeking, pilgrimage, teachers
• Questions of inner empowerment, authority
• Women's community building, relationships with other women
• Women’s experience of and power to define “feminine” values
• Women’s use of ritual (including physical journeys/pilgrimages);
• The spiral through life stages
• The both-and nature of spiritual experience (transcendent AND immanent)
• Women's leadership roles in different religions – or limited access to leadership roles in different religious communities
• Women’s self-empowerment through study of or reinterpretation of sacred texts
• Feminine images of the divine (both inside traditional religions and in the creation of new Goddess-centered religions)
• The authority of experience rather than institutional doctrine, etc.
• Issues of backlash: religious conservatism and anti-feminist actions

April 10, 2009

Week #13 Reading Reflection Assignment

Reading Reflection Assignment for Week #13: Religious Imagination of American Women, p. 86-149. Please use the discussion questions below AS YOU READ to focus your critical attention and to prepare for this assignment.

-- Please note extension of deadline to post this assignment for full points:
-- Due for full points by Sunday, April 19; due for "grace period" reduction of points (no change), Thursday, April 23.

• What were some of the examples in this chapter about “Revelatory Power of the Ordinary” that particularly struck you, that made you think about what is sacred and what is “mundane” (originally “of the world”) in new ways?
• After reading these articles on the revelatory power of the ordinary, what examples from the reading caused you to rethink features of your own experience?
• How do these articles build on the understanding of the divine as “immanent,” which was discussed in earlier for last week?
• If people took these ideas seriously, how might these ideas change their lives or their actions?
• In responding to the chapter on “The Challenges of Relationality,” how can these ideas change how we think of “sin” or make decisions about ethical behavior?
• What are some ways that women can find connections across different communities?

Week #13 Discussion Questions

Use these questions to guide your critical reading of the assignments for Week #13, and to prepare for your Reading Reflection assignment (posted above).

Religious Imagination of American. Women, p. 86-149 for April 16

Chapter 4- Revelatory Power of the Ordinary
** Why/How could the church (fathers) deny intellectual pursuits to ‘the most learned woman in Mexico?’ How does Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz respond to her situation and how does Bednarowski tie this in to a theological reflection on the ordinary? (In real life the learned lady never returned to her books & writing).
** Is the ordinary (the kitchen, the spinning, the gardening, the feeding & caring for people) the stuff of women’s religion?
** Barbara Myerhoff calls it ‘domestic religion’ -- women’s adaptation. What did the boys get in their religious training that the girls did not? And how was this advantageous for the women?
** Why do women find it easy to extend ‘home’ to the political arena and the planet?
** Have you thought of your ordinary life as sacred and that the immanence of holy is within the world? Why is it difficult for us to hold this thought or to bring this awareness into our actions?

Disability and Ordinary Life

** What special problems do people with disabilities have when dealing with able bodied people and people with biblical perspectives? How does Nancy L. Eisland refute the stigmatization?

Sickness, Limitations, Aging & Death: Thinking about the Body

** In what ways does Melanie May give witness that her body is her first thinking, especially in theological matters?
** How does she put transcendence, immanence, salvation, rapture into the paradox of the betraying/decaying body? (p. 93)
** What did Valarie Saiving notice about feminist theologies? (p. 94)
** What are some of the ambivalent feelings that you’ve had about being an embodied body?

Native American Women

** Bednarowski says besides grief, sickness, aging & dying, Native American women have to cope with the ‘demands of conflicting religious and cultural worldviews’ on a daily basis (bottom 95-top 96).
** What are the two worlds that Iris Heavy Runner lives in? Where do her spirits reside? (She moved back to Montana.) Who helps Iris in her spiritual & healing work?
** How does the miraculous emerge from the mundane in Native women’s poetry, according to Janice Gould, even when there is rage and anger?
** Are the Native women poets trying to maintain continuity, tradition in their words about ordinary everyday life -- or do they have another intention?

African American Women
** What primary way of knowing do Native and African American women have in common? And what was Katie Cannon’s experience with this way of knowing when she entered seminary and the academy?
** What value are African American spirituals for theodicy? (p. 99)

Preserving Tradition in Ordinary Jewish Life
** Had you heard about the Midrash of Miriam’s Way before? What is the conflict about keeping the ancient Halakha in the modern world? What does Frymer-Kensky say is the rationale of Halakha?
** What happens when you add children to the sacredness of ordinary life?
** How is it ‘God is in the details?’
** What are some the ways women manifest ordinariness of the sacred? (ritual, women’s circles, developing liturgies, bringing spiritual symbols into the home, following the medicine path, ‘chop wood, carry water,’ taking care of ordinary life, prayer).
** How does the sacred touch your own ordinary life?
** If women were in charge, how might women administer the Eucharist differently? Interpret its meaning differently? (p. 110) Bring back the early Methodist love feasts?
** What changes in Buddhism does Rita Gross envision for post-patriarchal Buddhism?

Clothes for spiritual purposes
** To wear or not to wear (as Susan Nelson’s dilemma over wearing robes)?
** Theology of dress -- hijab (Muslim headdress) and sacred garments? (113)
** Should sacred gear be washed with the rest of the laundry?

Ethics of Ordinary Life
** To eat or not to eat? To participate or not to participate in corporate greed and the manipulation of living things for profit and convenience (from chickens to DNA engineered corn to farm fed fish)? Where to draw the line?
** How does one live ethically in the midst of so much human created misery?
** How does Isasi-Diaz’s ‘Lo Cotidiano’ (all the multiple elements that make up the daily lives of Latino women) sum it up for Bednarowski?
** Moral agents, capable of reflection on their own lives, conscious of what oppresses them and what liberates them. Organic intellect connected with action ‘praxis’ mujerista theology. Those familiar with Paulo Friere’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed and liberation theology will recognize the terms and struggle for personal, social and spiritual liberation -- organic intellectuals have knowledge from education, tradition, and non-verbal understanding.
** What do you make of all of this? Can we create ethics out of seeing the sacred in the ordinary? Can we act as moral agents for each other’s liberation from social oppression and ignorance?

Chapter 5 -- Relationship and Its Complexities
** look at the quotes starting on 121 for a flavor of women’s understanding of the centrality of relationships. How do these tie in with an image of the universe as a cosmic web?

Relationality and Theological Creativity
** What are some of the key ways relationships are discussed in the writings of Buddhist women? (125-128)
** What is Plaskow’s understanding of Judaism as ‘community,’ and how does she see women’s role within the Jewish community? (129-130)
** What does Patrick see as the role of conscience in Roman Catholicism? How is this view empowering to women? (131-132)
** How has LaCugna reinterpreted the idea of the Trinity? What do you think of this? (132-3)
** How has Suchocki reinterpreted the notion of original sin? How is sin ‘communal’? (133-134) Can you think of some examples of communal sin?
** How have Goddess theologians made relationality central in their thinking? What kind of morality would be fostered by this understanding of sacred reality? (135-136)
** How have women in the clergy expressed the centrality of relationships in their lives and work? (136-138)

The Challenges of Relationality
** Bednarowski summarizes the shift from writing about all women as a category to recognizing particularity and difference between women’s communities. What are some of the complexities that arose in this process of change in feminist thought? What are some of the many particularities women account for? (138-141)
** For religious thinking, how is the use of the category of ‘body’ a way of finding commonality among differences and also some common moral norms? (141-145)
** How can relationships between women of different communities work to foster common understanding?

April 9, 2009

Week #14 Reading Reflection Assignment

Due date for full credit: April 23; Due date for "grace period" (one point down): April 30.

Week #14 Reading Reflection Assignment Prompts

Use the reading discussion questions in the posting below this assignment to look at as you do your reading, to guide your critical engagement with the text. Then, use these prompts to write your reading reflection assignment:

** Why do the women religious thinkers referenced in this final section put "healing" at the center of their understanding of the purpose of religion?
** Why do these thinkers believe that women can benefit from religious involvement, rather than abandoning their involvement - and how (and in what ways) does this involvement improve their lives?
** In reading over the conclusion of this book, and in thinking back over the earlier material in the course, what are some of the most important ways that women have contributed to contemporary American religious understanding and practices?
** What are some of the ongoing challenges and difficulties that women will continue to face in contemporary American religion?
** As you wrap up this course, what are the most important "take away" understandings or insights that you will carry with you into your ongoing studies and/or personal religious practice?

Week #14 Reading Discussion Questions

Religious Imagination of American Women, p. 150-188 for April 23

This is the last reading for the course. Use these questions to dig deep into the final section of Religious Imagination of American Women in preparing for your final Reading Reflection assignment (above). You can also use the material in this book and the earlier books for the course as sources to use in your final paper project. The analytical categories that Bednarowski has presented in this final course book may be useful for you in presenting your arguments or analysis in your final paper project.

HINT: be sure to read the introductory pages and conclusion pages of each chapter, and read selectively through the material presented as examples and explication of the ideas.

Healing and Women’s Theological Creativity: Strategies for Resistance, Acceptance and Hope
** Why is healing essential to women’s theological creativity and contribution?
** What is healing about ambivalence, immanence of the divide, sacredness of the ordinary /ordinariness of the sacred, and relationality?
** Do you have other definitions to offer besides the ones Bednarowski came up with? (Pat’s list from last year: wholeness, reconciliation, awakening, restoration of balance, affirmation of life, having sufficient hope to proceed.)
** Did Achterberg’s ‘Women have always been healers’ ring true for you?

Women Healers -- Mary Baker Eddy and Char Madigan
** What was MBE’s fundamental insight that became the foundation of her new church, new theology and new method of healing?
** How did MBE’s work create outlets and opportunities for American women?
** Who are some of her lesser known heirs? What did you think of Marianne Williamson’s theology that ‘lovelessness manufactures disease’? (157)
** How does Char Madigan’s theology contain both ‘women are to believe the truth about themselves no matter how beautiful’ with social justice work of confronting evil in this world? What is her theological position on evil? (And does this match the teachings of her Catholic faith?)
** What are the issues around Mormon women’s healing authority? Does this struggle remind you of anything? How have women dealt with the limiting ordinances?
** What does Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb emphasize in her teachings on healing? Does this make sense to you, given the Jewish experience in the 20th Century? How do her core ideas relate to Judith Plaskow’s ‘repair of the world’? (163)
** Does it make sense that African American women need to heal ‘from surrogacy,’ to heal from physical and spiritual pain, and to cultivate self-love?
How does singing and affirmation help black women heal ancient wounds?
** What abut the ambivalence in the Muslim admonition for women to cover themselves for modesty while maintaining ideas that women’s bodies are the loci of sin? How does this match some Christian and Jewish ideas about women’s bodies?
** What do white women of privilege need to heal from?
** Why do we all need healing from apocalyptic, end of the world thinking? (Is life on earth a time line, or is it a cycle?)
** How is New Age healing different from the other healings Bednarowski summarizes? What are your thoughts on whether women are more psychic, more tactile, more holistic?
** Would you go so far to agree that ‘women are the healers of the universe and earth?’
** What about electric power versus magnetism?
** The underworld of the unconscious as the place of transformation and healing?
** Does the world need ‘yin activism’ -- the awakening of minds, atonement for errors, and arousal of our spirits -- to bring about metaphysical healing?
** How doe we tell the difference between suffering that is unjust and suffering that is natural and inevitable? What happens to evil when suffering is part of life and that we come here to ‘damage and be damaged by others?’ (Rita Nakashima Brock, 171) ** What was the recommendation for determining the kind of suffering? How does it help to get to know and name the evils (theodicy)?
** What was meant by ‘taking the cure’ and ‘resisting authority’? (172)
Have you ever broken your faith’s basic rules for living?
** What are some of the new creative images of God? Would any of these terms work for you? Do we need new definitions of sin?
Healing as resistance?
Healing as acceptance?
Accepting tragedy?
Accepting gender polarization?
Accepting suffering, disease, illness, old age, death?

What is Bednarowski’s conclusion about studying Women’s Religion? How does she balance her ambivalence of ‘separatism’ with knowing that women’s history and perspective has not always been told? What about the future of women’s theology?

Week #12 Discussion Café

In this Discussion Café, read over the Week #12 Reading Reflection postings by other class members responding to the first set of articles in Religious Imagination of American Women. Due dates for those unable to join the in-person discussion: EXTENDED to Sunday, April 19 for full points; partial credit by April 23.

April 4, 2009

Discussion Responses: Buddhist Women On The Border

From April 2 class: Here are some thoughtful observations on our recent reading from those who were able to attend class discussion. (We had Pat Darling come in to share her experiences over the past decades of Buddhism in America, then some reading discussion.)

• Pema Chodron: appreciated her teacher because he always made her upset. Why didn’t it bother her that her teacher was having affairs? Wouldn’t that create problems within the community?
• Also struck being a Buddhist – the teacher is supposed to be a role model for all students – not to do any behavior that would harm anyone. But Pema’s teacher wasn’t a monk – also, Jan Willis described her respect for her teacher who treated her as a daughter – that is more the way it should be.
• Enjoyed reading bell hooks – didn’t know until this class that she was a Buddhist – she doesn’t capitalize her name because she doesn’t want her ego to get too big – she says ‘hi’ to everybody no matter what their class – truly loves every living creature. Also likes how she has her Ph.D. but you don’t know that when you read her.
• Pema appreciating her teacher: can understand why she would appreciate getting her upset, because it forced her to learn to control – also, when Pat left, she mentioned some of the Buddhists in Tibet, in the midst of their adversity, stayed calm (also Jan Willis mentioned this). They learned to control their anger and reactions so that little stuff didn’t move them.
• In Jan Willis’s article talking about confidence – she talked about the impact on people’s self image from having a history of 300 years of slavery – this was striking and helpful.
• bell hooks ties into that – coming into a place where you can be defined by more than your pain – that you are impacted but not defined by your pain – you are more than it. Beyond being a victim – (quote from hooks:) “the sense of unworthiness is more life threatening than the structures of domination.”
• Also struck in bell hooks – because she’s a black woman writing about healing and moving beyond your pain to her own community, it has the potential to create a paradigm shift – if someone can say, I understand what you have gone through, but we have to move beyond – it’s not someone from outside the community, but someone within who can make a difference.
• Interested in how the nuns taking vows also are given a new name (one connected to the teacher’s lineage).
• Impressed by Jan Willis – it said that Buddhism didn’t open the door to African Americans – and there were so few of them that they tended to join together – also Buddhism seems to attract people who were seeking something, who were not at peace. This seems more intentional than just finding a church for social or ritual comfort – people attracted to Buddhism want more to concentrate on themselves individually.

April 2, 2009

Week #12 Reading Reflection Assignment

Due for full points April 9; "grace period" for one point down April 16.

When you do this week's reading, you really MUST use the discussion questions (posted below in Week #12 Assignments) to guide your reading, or you will find responding to these prompts difficult.

Benarowski organizes her chapters by themes. For this reading reflection assignment, please respond to each of the following three concerns addressed in the first three chapters.
-- Responding to the first chapter, and also reflecting over the articles you have read in the first two books of the course (anthologies by Christ and Plaskow), what have been some important reasons for women's distinctive contributions to American religious writing? What needs to happen for women's work to be seen as not "dissent" but as recognized as contributing in a vital way to the core of American religious thought?
-- In chapter two, Bednarowski states that the characteristic of "ambivalence" in American women's religious writing is a strength, not a weakness. Give some examples of what she means by "ambivalence." Why is this characteristic a virtue, not a weakness?
-- In chapter three, Bednarowski describes women's understanding of the divine as more immanent than transcendent in focus. (You will be familiar with this point of view from earlier reading as well.) In her view, why is this the case? What do you think about this understanding of the divine?

Discussion Questions: Religious Imagination of American Women

Religious Imagination of American Women, pp 1-85 for April 9

Overview: Read these three chapters with some care and take your time. Many of these examples of women religious writers will be names now familiar to you. This book will allow you to review many important points covered earlier in the course and place them into an analytic framework, which will be particularly useful to you in writing your paper.

A couple of key definitions for this chapter:

Ambivalence -- which means having mixed feelings (in the case of many of these writers, very strong positive AND very strong negative feelings bundled together about their religious heritages.

Immanence of the sacred -- that is, the sacred/divine/God located in us and in creation around us, rather than above and outside the world. However, you’ll find the writing makes it clear this preference for immanence isn’t simplistic or wholesale in women’s writing.

Chapter #1 -- American Women as Religious Thinkers: Dissenting Participants
** Discus (p. 2) Bednarowski’s perspective about what can be said broadly about women’s religious thinking, while recognizing the diversity and differences among women’s communities.
** In what ways are the ideas commonly found in women’s religious writing USEFUL to women? (3)
** Review the 15-point summary of the state of American feminism and of the feminist study of religion (3-7). Which of these points are familiar to you from earlier reading, and which are new? Any puzzles?
** Bednarowski traces the perception of women’s religious thinking as dangerous DISSENT (pp. 12-13), especially tracing the uproar over the first Re-Imagining Conference held in Minneapolis in 1993. What is accurate about seeing women as dissenters -- and how is this dissent revitalizing to the tradition rather than destructive?

Chapter #2 -- Ambivalence as a New Religious Virtue: The Creativity of Women’s Contradictory Experiences of Their Traditions

** Discuss the impact of Valerie Saiving’s article (which we read) (p. 16). Why did it make such a big impact with so many women?
** Discuss women as ‘simultaneous insiders and outsider’. (p. 17) How does this perception fit with prior reading we have done and your own experience?
** What can be positive and productive about women’s ‘cultivated ambivalence’? (19+)
** How does a consciousness of ‘otherness’ help women in their efforts to seek change within religious traditions? (21+)
** Discuss the specific examples that particularly stood out for you of how women described their experience of ‘otherness’. (pp. 22-25)
** What are some ways of seeing ‘otherness’ as positive? (25-28)
** Discuss the creative potential in experiences women have of ‘doubleness’ -- being both insider and outside at the same time. (Some of these voices will be familiar.) (29-32)
** In spite of their outsider status and experience of doubleness, what do women cherish about their faith communities, and why do they stay? (32-40)
** In the conclusion of this chapter, how does Bednarowski summarize the positive potential AND the risks of an attitude of ‘cultivated ambivalence’? (41-43)

Chapter 3 -- The Immanence of the Sacred: women’s Religious Thought Comes Down to Earth

** From the quotes and discussion at the beginning of this chapter, how might women find meaning in understanding the sacred as ‘immanent’?
** What are some theological risks in putting too much emphasis on immanence? (47-48)
** Where in American religion historically has there been an emphasis on immanence? (49-50)
** Historically, why have women been drawn to experiencing the divine as immanent? (50-52)
** What are some ways women in different traditions are bringing creative renewal to their theological understanding in a grounded way, not as an escape from reality as critics warned? (52-54)
** How are women’s views of the role of Mary in theology changing? (54-56)
** What impact does a grounded, embodied theology of immanence have on our understanding of sin and ethics? (59-62)
** How does women’s understanding of immanence make Buddhism more versatile and accessible? (62-64)
** How does a theology of immanence affect the language and imagery we use for God, opening it up in rich ways? (64-68)
** In specific, how does inclusion of feminine images for the Divine affect women’s sense of self and of possibilities as women? (69-72)
** What are some concerns about immanence and feminine language brought up by Christian evangelical writers? (73-75)
** On p. 76, Bednarowski looks at spiritual feminists who have moved out of established religions. How do these women characterize their theological understanding of the nature of the divine? (75-78)
** What are the stakes and priorities for women of color in defining and naming God? (78-80)
** Why do ‘metaphysical traditions’ appeal to women? What do these women have to contribute to the thinking about religion? (81-83)

Week #11 Discussion Café

Due for full credit by April 9; reduced credit by April 16.

In this Discussion Café, read over the Week #11 Reading Reflection postings by other class members responding to the second set of articles in Buddhist Women On The Edge. There are also some comments made by class members in the Class Community Posts from April 2 that you might have responses to.

March 26, 2009

Week #11 Reading Reflection Assignment

REMINDER: visit on April 2 by Pat Darling to talk about her experiences with contemporary Buddhist practice.

Due for full credit on April 2; due for "grace period" 1 point down on April 9.

These articles reflect a wide range of perspectives of American women who have embraced Buddhist practice. They move away from primary concerns of inclusion and battling sexism to more exploration of the value of Buddhist practice. Respond to the following prompts in your reading reflection:
-- What, on the whole, do these writers feel is the attraction of Buddhist practice to contemporary American women?
-- How can women be able to benefit from Buddhist practice in the face of ongoing social difficulties (sexism being one of them) that are part of the human dimension of any religious organization with thousands of years of tradition?
-- For you, what were some of the highlights or things you found interesting about Buddhism that you learned from these articles?
-- For the two African American women, bell hooks and Jan Willis, what do they articulate about how Buddhist practice is helpful to them in terms of their own traditions and their own situations as women of color in America? Do they have particular insights / concerns / unique experiences because of their situation as women of color?
-- What would you like to know more about regarding Buddhism? (If you get this posted before Pat Darling comes to talk to us on April 2, we can give her the questions you post.)