Last weekend I was invited to take part in the 4th annual Faith and Feminism/Womanist/Mujerista conference at herchurch in San Francisco. The theme this year was “Reclaiming the Divine Feminine — pathways to a sustainable world.” Now, I consider myself a feminist in that I support equal rights and protection for women and believe that women have unique experiences that give them a different perspective on life and different needs than men, but I’m not the type to identify myself as a feminist first and foremost. And I’ve never been to a feminist conference. You could probably call me a mainstream feminist.
I went into the conference expecting to meet some nurturing-mother types, a few strict scholars, hippies with long flowing hair, and a lesbian separatist or two — stereotypes I realize, but this is what came to mind and I like to meet stereotypes head on. I did meet women fitting into many of these roles, but overall I was surprised by how mainstream the event was. Herchurch may be housed in an ostentatious purple building, but it is, afterall, a Lutheran church. In many ways it felt not so different from the progressive Protestant community I grew up in.
I was most caught off guard by Jann Aldredge-Canton, who led a workshop on gender inclusive hymns and liturgy. In a smart tailored jacket and with a charming Louisiana accent, she fits right in in Baptist communities in Texas, despite the fact that she writes or re-writes hymns to include feminine/Goddess language of liberation and equality. So much for my preconceived notions. She offered practical advice on how to “sneak” the Goddess into churches through song, noting that people are much more accepting of similes than metaphors when comparing God to something feminine, and that “guide us” sounds a lot like “goddess” when you sing it.
Regardless of whether or not Obama is making the right decision in regards to Afghanistan, isn’t it disconcerting that there are 30,000 extra military personnel who are available to be sent to Afghanistan? For those of us who do not support armed conflict and want to see an end to violence perpetrated by our government, we might want to start thinking about how to keep people out of the military in the first place. Starve the beast, so to speak.
I know a lot of good people who have been deployed, and I also know that very few if any of them enlisted because they supported a specific military cause or ideology. They put their lives at risk, because, for many of them, joining the armed forces is their best chance at receiving a college education, professional training, or a decent paycheck.
If we really supported the men and women who make up our troops, we would support alternative paths for them to pursue that do not involve shooting or being shot at. If the army can financially support a soldier during training, while on active duty, and put them through college, not to mention hefty signing bonuses, wouldn’t it be saving money (and lives) to just put that person through college?
About a month ago, Bill Moyers called for a reinstatement of the draft in order to curb the numbers of troops being deployed. He argued that Congress would be more hesitant to send men and women into battle if more of our military came from their own middle or upper class communities. Our politicians are largely out of touch with the undereducated or economically disadvantaged communities that are willing to risk their lives for an education.
I definitely don’t support a draft, but I agree with Moyers that we need to stop exploiting the underprivileged and their desire to better themselves. He wants to displace some of them with financial analysts and bankers. I say staunch the flow altogether by providing alternate means to a better future. Then maybe we’ll see a decrease in armed conflict. You can’t wage a war without soldiers.
We may look different, sound different, follow differing doctrines and dogmas, or none at all, but compassion is at the core of the major faiths and ethic systems of our world. The Golden Rule, or some form of it, is found in every major religion and in almost all if not every country on our planet. Karen Armstrong is counting on this unifying ideology to bring together individuals and communities this Friday for the launch of the Charter for Compassion. Here’s a short video about her campaign:
10 pm October 27: In the past twenty-four hours 5,185 connections were made between Palestinians and Israelis using Facebook. Oh. You thought Facebook was just a way to show off your spring break pictures? Think again.
Earlier tonight Peace Innovation, a project out of Stanford University led by Professor BJ Fogg and the Persuasive Technology Lab, launched Peace Dot – a project to promote world peace through persuasive technology. Peace Dot is encouraging companies and organizations around the world to create subdomains within their existing websites that will be devoted to the struggle for peace. Peace Innovation lists nineteen domains that have already been created. Facebook is already leading the way with peace.facebook.com.
Facebook’s page features statistics of social networking connections between historically conflicting groups, subdivided into geographic, religious, and political categories. In addition to the connections made between Israelis and Palestinians, 7,339 connections were made between Indians and Pakistanis, 8,431 between Albanians and Serbians, and 13,790 between Greeks and Turks. Connections are also listed between Christians, Muslims, Jews, and more specifically, between Sunnis and Shiites.
Admittedly, this site isn’t necessarily promoting specific actions to foster peace yet, but for me, it was uplifting just to see real numbers of those who are reaching out to their brothers and sisters on the other side of the struggle. It can be far too easy to slip into apathy or skepticism about the goal of peace in the Middle East or the larger goal of world peace. Just look at the other graph that shows the percentage per country of people who believe world peace is an attainable goal in the next fifty years. Only 7 percent of Americans agree with this statement. But knowing that these new connections are being made every minute reminds me, and will hopefully remind the other 93 percent of Americans, that we will not always be stuck in grid-locked negotiations. With every passing moment there is a growing movement of people, young and old, who are taking matters into their own hands, and making the effort to connect on a personal level with those they might otherwise be fighting.
As one of the newest interns at Tikkun I was pretty eager to prove my dedication to the magazine as we were nearing our print deadline, so I was a little more than irritated when my boyfriend asked me to take off to attend LovEvolution with him in San Francisco last Saturday. “I don’t think they’d appreciate it if I took off to go to a rave,” I said with just a tinge of impatience.
SF’s City Hall During LovEvolution
“Erin, it’s not just a rave. It’s LovEvolution!” He proceeded to explain how, for the nonreligious like himself, festivals like LovEvolution are the closest he ever gets to an opportunity for congregationalism. Now I’ll admit, I was skeptical, but come on. Techno music, drug use, and half-naked girls in furry boots are a far cry from the congregationalism I experienced in small, country Methodist churches in rural Maryland. “You just wanna party.” But trying to be open-minded and supportive, I agreed to go. Let me just say, I was not prepared.