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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?