cosmic Catholicism, embodied conversation, justice, theology
Publication of Carol Christ and Judith Plaskow's Goddess and God in the World: Conversations in Embodied Theology marks a new phase of feminist work in religion.1 Carol and Judith are pioneering scholars whose foundational writing helped create feminist theology. Now they have authored a book that takes feminist insights as the baseline for theological reflection on which they build a constructive conversation. They model a collaborative way of disagreeing respectfully, laying out compatible but very different theological perspectives that make for thought-provoking reflection.
Judith and Carol became friends in the trenches doing doctorates at Yale University, which offered no feminist studies in religion during their student years. Feminist theology simply did not exist before their generation. Both authors have written signal texts in the field. Judith's Jewish feminist studies in religion and Carol's Goddess thealogy are creations, if not ex nihilo, then at least from precious little!
Both have been engaged in distinguished writing and teaching careers, though not necessarily in institutions that would have seemed best suited to their talents. Judith taught at Manhattan College, a Catholic school, and Carol taught in the California State system before turning to more specialized work [End Page 93] in Greece. Their careers continue to flourish. Judith is a founding editor of this journal and actively involved in resistance with Jews for Racial and Economic Justice in New York City. Carol blogs regularly for Feminism and Religion; leads Goddess tours through the Ariadne Institute in Greece, which she founded; and is involved with Greece's Green Party.
Goddess and God in the World is a many-splendored thing. It is a shared theological autobiography of two feminist friends who experienced many of the obstacles that necessitated feminist studies in religion in the first place. They provide a rich overview of those studies, including process theology, and explain their own embodied methodology.
They respect one another enough to disagree profoundly on the nature of the divine. Judith is a panentheist who sees the presence of God in all things good and bad, while Carol believes in the Goddess as embodied love. Their differences are not trivial. They coincide in their rejection of transcendence, their sense that all religious knowledge is interpreted, their embrace of this world as all we have, and their unwavering commitment to social justice.
The book is a bracing read, a theological page-turner, and a text to be used as a fine example of contemporary theological method. It is carefully structured, well researched, thoroughly footnoted, and written with care. Early reviews have been excellent, and it is understandably the talk of many seminars.
Celebration of this volume with critical conversation and appreciative remarks took place in San Antonio, Texas, November 19, 2016, at the American Academy of Religion Annual Meeting thanks to the sponsorship of the Women and Religion Section and the Women's Caucus.
This roundtable is the fruit of that event, beginning with Judith and Carol's overview remarks about the book and including the presentations made by three of the speakers. The authors requested my piece to add a Catholic view to the mix. Another speaker declined to have her remarks published.
Speakers were asked to address their own embodied theologies in all of their specificity. They were invited to locate their own theological reflection in relation to or in contradistinction to Judith and Carol's work. And they were asked to reflect on the matter of theological adequacy following Judith and Carol's observations on good and bad theologies as they have an impact on daily life.
Monica Coleman, professor of constructive theology and African American religions at Claremont Graduate School of Theology, distinguishes her view from the authors' on the basis of "generational and racial differences" (106). She too relies on process insights. Monica leans more toward Carol's view of the divine but affirms that it does not mean that she thinks Judith is wrong. Such is embodied theology that defies purely linear logic for a more realistic holding together of many seemingly disparate insights simultaneously.
Miranda Shaw, associate professor of religious studies at the University of...