I watched the Oscar nominated documentary How To Survive a Plague a few weeks ago. It’s been haunting me ever since.
Mixing archival video with present day recollections, Plague tells the story of the AIDS advocacy group ACTUP (AIDS Coalition To Unleash Power) and their decade long struggle to force the federal government to find an affordable and effective treatment for HIV/AIDS. Comprised mostly of gay men and their lesbian allies, ACTUP fought for survival in an age in which many of their compatriots believed they deserved death.
Many also wished they would disappear. Nearly 20,000 U.S.-Americans died of AIDS before President Reagan publicly mentioned its existence, nearly seven years after its virulent emergence.
In the nineteen eighties, many of the United States’ AIDS dead were gay men. Evicted from families and forced to flee hometowns, they sought refuge in the anonymity of big cities. Their arrival constituted a type of re-birth; there, they re-incorporated themselves into families and friend groups. Some lived lives of open flamboyance, valiantly defying mainstream desire that they blend in invisibly. Others remained in the closet until disease or indignity pushed them out. Their deaths were a whisper.
The dead bodies of AIDS victims were treated much like the living bodies of gay people: perpetually contaminating and hideously grotesque, they should be neither seen nor touched. If possible, they should be erased altogether.
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Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged ACTUP, baptism, HIV/AIDS, How To Survive A Plague, Jesus, John Chrysostom, lgbt, suffering, the body of Christ, the Eucharist | 8 Comments »
The Color Purple traces the life of the protagonist Celie through her own words via her correspondence first with God and then with her sister Nettie. Alice Walker narrates Celie’s journey towards self-actualization despite and in the midst of profound suffering—rape by her father (who turns out to not be her actual biological father), marriage to an abusive and unkind man, the assumed abandonment of her sister, etcetera. At one point in the novel, as Celie reaches a point where she leaves her husband, emboldened in large part by the relationships with the other black women in her life, including her relationship with Shug, the sultry blues singer who is her husband’s mistress, Celie exclaims:
“I’m pore, I’m black, I may be ugly and can’t cook, a voice say to everything listening. But I’m here. Amen, say Shug, Amen, amen.”
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Over the last twenty years women have spoken out with ever increasing strength and entered into a new dialogue. They have discovered themselves and each other; they have also developed an amazing ability to envisage alternatives. 
(Ursula King, 1985)
Three months ago I arrived in the South Pacific, preparing to join the faculty of a regional theological college. I had wondered about the status of women in the pacific churches, and was not surprised to learn that 95% of the student body were men. I was also aware before coming that the faculty were entirely male, and significantly older than I am. I thought I was prepared.
Like many Christian colleges, each morning commences with chapel. As most students live on campus with the partners and families, the worshipping community is quite large. The round chapel accommodates three seating sections; one for the women, one for the men (referred to as ‘the students’) and one for the faculty (the place where white bodies are found). On Friday’s Eucharistic service, it is the men who come to the table first, who all present themselves before the women stand. This is unannounced and I am told not ‘a rule’, nor the segregated seating arrangement, and yet it happens day after day, week after week. One day I sat with the ‘men’ and was well aware that a rule had been transgressed.
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Icon of Catherine of Siena by Robert Lentz, OFM
(I think she looks a little too wry for someone being crushed by an unimaginable weight, but, hey—who can resist a snarky-looking saint?)
This is a long post—about twice the length of the papers my students recently wrote, in fact. But it’s about what sustains me through the difficulties of being a critical Catholic woman, and I hope it’s helpful to some of you.
Last week, April 29, was the feast of Catherine of Siena, one of the four women included in the list of theologian-saints whom the Catholic Church recognizes as Doctors of the Church. (If you haven’t already, be sure to check out these brief and inspiring words from M. Catherine Hilkert, Professor of Theology at the University Notre Dame, with whom several WITs have studied). I’ve been thinking recently of her last reported mystical vision. Here’s how Paul VI relayed it in a general audience on April 30, 1969: Continue Reading »
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged Catherine of Siena, Catholic Church, Delores Williams, hope, Pope Francis, Rahner, women who are awesome | 6 Comments »
This is a reflection I offered for “Storm Sunday,” from the Season of Creation, on Job 28:20-27, 1 Corinthians 1:21-31, and Luke 8:22-25.
For the past 4 weeks of this series on creation we have spoken of many beautiful and awe-inspiring aspects of the natural world—flowers, animals, woods, water—and today’s topic, storms, is no different. Storms—rainstorms, thunderstorms, snowstorms, tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes: these all have a certain beauty to them and can often be awe-inspiring, but their beauty often stands at our expense. They threaten us—our homes, Continue Reading »
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged liturgical reflection, storm, suffering | Leave a Comment »
Finally, dear readers, the time has come: the women of WIT are pleased to announce the addition of five new members, whom we are excited to introduce below.
We’d like to say first that when we put out a call for new bloggers back in February, we actually weren’t sure that we would get any applications, so it felt like a risk. But we were pleasantly surprised to receive upwards of twenty-five applications from smart, interesting women dedicated to the task of doing Christian theology well and with women’s voices at the forefront.
We wish that we could take everybody right now, but we do hope that WIT will expand over the years, and we would love to have those women reapply at those expansion points. In any case, we ourselves have now seen proof of the need for women in theology to have spaces online to dialogue critically and creatively, with and for each other.
So without further ado, we’d like to announce that we are adding the following women: Continue Reading »
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…And not like a girl who is unsure of herself and her ideas, as Julia so clearly put it recently.
(By the way, for those who are curious about the above image: when I first started looking for photos to put in this post, I wryly google-imaged “confident women” and was inundated with close-ups of thin women in business suits on their cell phones or with their arms crossed. So I had to switch to a different tactic and actually google-image a particular woman whose work and poise has inspired me: Toni Morrison. And in such a fascinating shot. –Apropos of Sonja’s last post.)
As I am wont to do, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the academy, the growth from graduate student to scholar proper, and the act of gradually coming to claim one’s authority, especially if one is a woman. Continue Reading »
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged sexism, Toni Morrison, women who are awesome | 8 Comments »