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Fall, 2010 by Letha Dawson Scanzoni

Letha Dawson ScanzoniWeb Explorations for Christian Feminists is a quarterly digest of annotated links, leading to websites and webpages where you can read articles, listen to audio podcasts, watch videos, or preview movie trailers.

Philosophy behind the link selections

I believe that we who describe ourselves as Christian feminists have a responsibility before God to continually expand our knowledge of the world and the times in which we live, including relating to (and working with) our sisters and brothers of other faiths or no faith, while together seeking justice, practicing compassion, and demonstrating neighbor-love to all people. Availing ourselves of the rich resources on the Internet can help us do that.


I try to bring together many links around a particular theme to show various aspects of a subject. Most of the links will take you to recent articles, but some lead to older materials and were chosen because of something special they bring to a specific topic.

For this Fall, 2010 edition, I have clustered the links into five categories:

I hope you’ll take some time to scroll through the list of links below and read the short descriptions I’ve provided. Click on any links that immediately grab your attention and skip the ones that don’t. I hope you’ll come back and click on other links at another time. (But please remember that EEWC-CFT can’t be responsible for any content in links outside our website.)

Our Understandings of God

Male Terminology for God Removed in Scottish Episcopal Church Alternative Service 
In September, 2010, Episcopal bishops in Scotland approved a new liturgy that may be substituted for the traditional liturgy, which is heavy with masculine imagery. Churches can use either the traditional one or the new one; it is a choice. (From the Telegraph, U.K.). Most media reports spoke of the innovation in terms of conflict and controversy. Some writers saw it as an opportunity for ridicule, as illustrated in this opening sentence from the Scotland on Sunday website associated with The Scotsman newspaper: ‘It’s not quite got to the stage where congregations are praising the parent, the progeny and the holy ghost or worshipping the offspring of God who saved personkind,” said reporter Tom Peterkin. Many of the comments from readers indicated similar attitudes.

Why are Female Terms for God so Controversial? 
Roman Catholic theologian Rosemary Radford Ruether provides some answers in her article, “Divine Wisdom and Christian Fear: The Controversy over Female God-Images in the Churches Today. (Transcript of Program 3813, 30 Good Minutes: Good for the Soul, January 1, 1995))

Methodist Hymns and God Imagery Controversy
Many members of the United Methodist Church expressed disapproval when an inclusive-language hymnal supplement was introduced in 2007. (From Voice of America news)

“Why Language for God Matters” 
This article by Naomi Walters is from New Wineskins online magazine for a special issue devoted to the theme of “What Really Matters: Conversations with Twenty-Somethings.” Each article presents a different young writer’s opinion about what matters with regard to a specific topic. (From New Wineskins)

A Still More Excellent Way in Worship 
In this sermon, Jann Aldredge-Clanton emphasizes how both women and men benefit from incorporating fully gender-inclusive language for God and humankind in worship services.

How Important Is Women’s Leadership in the Church? 
Mimi Haddad, president of Christians for Biblical Equality, asserts that “one’s biblical position on gender clearly advances or diminishes the good news of the gospel.” (from the Sojourner’s blog, “God’s Politics.”)

Online video: God in America—PBS series 
If you missed any or all of this PBS three-part series (six hours total) on the role religion has played throughout American history, you can watch it online. Note especially the life and trial of Anne Hutchinson, who was banished for having dared to interpret and teach Scripture, thereby challenging the authority of the Puritan church leaders.

The PBS series, God in America, partnered with USA Today to compile a “faithbook” to present the faith journeys of today’s religious leaders and any others who are willing to talk personally about their faith – Jewish, Christian, Islam, Buddhist, and more. Among those featured on Faithbook are names familiar to EEWC-CFT readers, including Diana Butler Bass, Randall Balmer, and Barbara Brown Taylor. They discuss how they imagine God, their past and present beliefs, their greatest moments of doubt, their personal faith practices, and their opinions about faith in the public square.You’ll appreciate their honest sharing.

Thoughtful essay on “Are We ‘Cramming Religion Down Children’s Throats’?” 
Karl Giberson’s nuanced and upbeat conclusions may surprise many readers. (From the Huffington Post)

How Franklin Graham’s Statement on Obama’s Faith Contradicts an Evangelical Belief 
Columbia University professor Randall Balmer points out that when Franklin Graham falsely claimed that President Obama was “born a Muslim” because religious faith is automatically passed on through one’s “father’s seed,” Graham was contradicting an often-emphasized evangelical teaching about the necessity of personal choice, not inheritance, in matters of faith. (Franklin Graham would never have claimed that he was automatically and genetically made a Christian because Billy Graham is his father.) Writes Balmer: “One of the mottos of evangelical Christianity (the faith that Graham espouses) is that ‘God has no grandchildren.’ I heard that refrain many, many times as I was growing up within evangelicalism in the 1950s and 1960s.” (Randall Balmer, writing in Religion Dispatches)

Roger Olsen asks, “Is There One Evangelicalism?” 
After reading about Anne Rice’s recent decision to stop calling herself a Christian because of negative connotations often now associated with the word, Olsen wondered if he should do as many of his friends and steer clear of yet another word that has become troubling to many – the word evangelical. He writes, “I can’t do it. I’ve been an evangelical all my life and I can’t think of any better label to describe my particular ‘brand’ of Christianity. I do grieve, however, over the many misconceptions of it spread by the media.” (We Christian feminists here in EEWC-CFT have had similar discussions.) Read what theological seminary professor Olsen concluded and why. (From Patheos)

The Wandering Evangelical 
Philip Majorins comments on Roger Olsen’s article (previous link) and shares his own wanderings and “wonderings” about evangelicalism. (From Religion Dispatches)

Vision: From the Life of Hildegard von Bingen. (Movie to watch for) 
Visit this official site for a new movie (German with English subtitles) scheduled for October-November, 2010 theater openings in various cities. In addition to watching the trailer, you might also want to click on Hildegard von Bingen’s name on the right-side menu of the Vision website, where you’ll see a timeline of the life and accomplishments of this great medieval Christian mystic.

Caring about Our Sisters and Brothers around the World

Video: Bridge over the Wadi 
This documentary spotlights an Arab-Israeli bilingual school in the Wadi Ari area of Israel. Even here, in spite of sincere efforts and intentions, there is evidence of suspicion, fears, misunderstandings and difficulties in feeling empathy. It is interesting (and moving) to compare the children’s attitudes with those of some of the adults. (from PBS).

Video and Text: Eve Ensler on Congo violence, Comparing It to Her Cancer Experience 
Playwright Eve Ensler, known especially for The Vagina Monologues, was diagnosed with uterine cancer in 2010. In this segment of a Democracy Now program, you can see and hear her read an essay titled, “My Cancer is Arbitrary. Congo’s Atrocities Are Very Deliberate,” that she had originally written for the Guardian. She said that hearing daily reports of mass rapes of women, girls, and even babies in the Democratic Republic of Congo caused her far more pain than cancer or chemo’s side effects ever could. (Note: If you’d like to see and hear more of this interview with Eve Ensler, start at the 18:00 marker on the video, after the August 26 news segment, and listen to excerpts from a performance of her latest work on the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans. You can also slide the video marker to the 34:55 point and hear her tell how she and other women activists began the V-Day movement to end violence against girls and women throughout the world.

Women in Global Development 
This website emphasizes that “a growing number of organizations are cultivating connections between religion and development and are using those links to empower women, who are key to promoting economic and social advancement in less-developed societies. “ (from Religion Link)

Some Afghan Families Disguise Daughters as Sons 
In Afghanistan, social pressures drive some families who have several daughters to dress and treat one of them as a son and present the child to others as male. The article about these pretend sons is accompanied by both a slide show and a video about the practice. (from the New York Times.)

Toddler Beaten to Death for “Acting Like a Girl” 
This incident on New York’s Long Island prompted writer Michael Rowe to call it “a tragic example of the [gender normative] paradigm taken to deadly lengths.” He points out some ways that “society’s discomfort with gender variance permeates nearly every part of the national dialogue and runs through every part of the culture.” (from The Huffington Post)

Summer of Feminista: Finding My Latina Feminism 
(From the Viva la Feminista blog). This guest article is written by Ileana Jiménez, founder of the Feminist Teacher, which she describes as a blog for “educators in the K-12 sector who consider their teaching practices to be feminist in design and implementation.”

Video: “Saudi Women Photograph Their World” 
One interesting observation in this brief news film is the way that women’s study of new interpretations of Islamic texts has empowered them to express themselves and their abilities in other ways. (From BBC World News)

Ruth Bader Ginsburg: An Example of a Strong Woman 
In my July 2010 post for our 72-27 blog, I wrote about the egalitarian marriage of Justice Ginsburg and her husband Martin, who died this past summer. This article from Slate highlights both the strength of their marriage and the strength of Ruth Bader Ginsburg herself, especially in her efforts to show how gender discriminatory practices violate basic principles of the Constitution.

Gail Collins on the History of Women’s Suffrage 
New York Times columnist Gail Collins colorfully tells the story once again, reminding us of how long and difficult the struggle was before women finally won the right to vote.

Julie Ingersoll Critiques the “Dads against Daughters Dating” Philosophy 
Religious studies professor Julie Ingersoll, author of Evangelical Christian Women: War Stories in the Gender Battles, is currently researching and writing about the influence of Christian Reconstructionism within certain segments of the conservative Christian subculture. She shows how Reconstructionism’s extremely rigid gender norm teachings (girls and women should be under male authority both before and after marriage) are symbolized in the shocking t-shirt designed for “Dads against Daughters Dating” (D.A.D.D.).

DVD: Off and Running: An American Coming of Age Story 
This documentary shows that it is love, not composition, that defines what the word family means. The parents are a white Jewish lesbian couple who have raised three adopted children: an African-American girl, a black or biracial boy of Puerto Rican parentage, and a Korean boy much younger than the other two. The story centers around the daughter, Avery, a high school track star who writes a letter to her birth mother in a quest to understand herself, including her relationship to African American culture, and how her adoptive family patiently surrounds her with love in spite of the difficulties that arise. It’s a moving story you won’t want to miss. And the documentary is so well done, you’ll feel you get to know each person involved. You can rent or buy the DVD or you can watch it free online until December 7, 2010. (from PBS’s POV program)

Video: Interview about The Warmth of Other Suns 
This is a video interview with Isabel Wilkerson, author of the new book, The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration. The book tells the personal stories behind the mass migration of millions of African Americans to northern and western cities between 1910 and the 1970s, as they left the Jim Crow policies of the South in search of a better life.

Life Stories

Text and Audio. Amy-Jill Levine Biographical Interview
Dr. Levine is much appreciated by those of us in EEWC-CFT. She has written for our quarterly publicationChristian Feminism Today, and we published a review of one of her books, too. But have you ever wondered how a woman who describes herself as a “Yankee Jewish feminist who teaches in a predominantly Christian divinity school in the buckle of the Bible Belt” chose to become a professor of New Testament? Learn the answer by reading this transcript or listening to this podcast. (from the Australian Broadcasting Corporation)

Karen Jo Torjesen Interview (June 30, 2010) 
Dr. Torjesen is the Margo L. Goldsmith Professor of Women’s Studies at the Claremont Graduate School, former dean of the School of Religion, and author of When Women Were Priests: Women’s Leadership in the Early Church and the Scandal of their Subordination in the Rise of Christianity. (It was under Torjesen’s leadership that the Women’s Studies in Religion Program at Claremont cosponsored our 2004 EEWC Conference in Claremont, California.) As we women tell our stories, it is fascinating to hear how any one of us came to be in the place we are now – both figuratively and literally. But Karen Torjesen’s story is especially remarkable. She told it as part of an interview with the Berkeley Center of Georgetown University as part of its Women, Religion, and Peace initiative.

Dr. Frances Oldham Kelsey 
Dr. Kelsey, now 96, was recently awarded the first Kelsey award, which will be given annually to a staff member of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Dr Kelsey was a new medical officer at the FDA fifty years ago when a pharmaceutical company applied for approval of a drug being used in Europe to ease morning sickness in pregnant women. She was not convinced that it was scientifically determined to be safe so refused to grant approval. She thereby spared the U.S. what later became known as the thalidomide tragedy that caused so many children in Europe and elsewhere to be born with no limbs or severely deformed limbs. One fascinating aspect of her story is that she got her job at the FDA only because the man who hired her sight unseen did not notice the female spelling of her first name on the paperwork. (from the New York Times)

Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) Concerns

Roger Ebert’s Thoughts on Gay Marriage 
“The first time I heard gay marriage mentioned, I was incredulous,” writes film critic Roger Ebert. “I wasn’t objecting to their homosexuality,” he explains, “I was objecting to the disturbance caused to my mental categories.” (From Roger Ebert’s Journal, The Chicago Sun-Times)

How Hatred and Bullying of LGBT People is Learned 
“Where do kids ever get the idea that it’s all right to harass and bully homosexuals?” asks newspaper columnist Connie Schultz. “Let us count the ways.” She enumerates various laws, religious teachings, and societal attitudes that play a part in creating and sustaining a climate of discrimination and bigotry.

Review of “Fall from Grace” Documentary 
Perhaps there is no more extreme example of teaching children to hate homosexual persons than the deliberate indoctrination of the children of the Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kansas, most of whom are members of the Fred Phelps family. Barbara DeGrande’s review summarizes the K. Ryan Jones documentary, Fall from Grace, and provides related links. The film is available on DVD and its trailer can be watched here. The group is notorious for picketing against the rights of LGBT people at every opportunity. Currently, there is a case before the Supreme Court about the Phelps family’s practice of picketing funerals for military personnel, regardless of sexual orientation, who were killed in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Westboro Church members claim that deaths in these wars are part of God’s judgment on the U.S. for tolerating homosexuality.

“It Gets Better” Message by Fort Worth City Councilman 
Fort Worth city councilman Joel Burns surprised those in attendance at what seemed to be a routine city council meeting in October 2010 when, during the announcement period, he spoke about the recent spate of suicides committed by young people because of anti-gay bullying. Burns tearfully told his own story of the remembered pain of being bullied and “roughed up” when he was 13 years old. He said he wanted to speak directly to middle school and high school students who were becoming aware of their homosexual orientation. “I know that life can seem unbearable. I know that people in your household or in your school might not understand you and that they may even physically harm you. But I want you to know that it gets better,” he promised, using his own life to illustrate. He told anyone contemplating suicide who might hear his message to “give yourself a chance to see how just how much better life gets.” Among the increasing numbers of videos that are part of the “It Gets Better” project are some from companies (such as this one by Google employees), some from celebrities, (such as this one by financial adviser and television personality Suze Orman), and countless videos sent in by everyday people from all walks of life, professions, and backgrounds, including videos by students at Gallaudet University and others who provide their messages in American Sign language. (If you want to see the captions on sites that provide them, click on the cc at the bottom right.) Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and President Barack Obama are among allies of the LGBT community who have also made videos for the project.

Video: The Union Theological Seminary Responds to Bullying and Harassment of LGBTQ People
This outstanding video was made by Union Theological seminarians, post-doctoral students, faculty, and the seminary president, to share God’s love and offer hope to LGBTQ young people who are being bullied and harassed. (My thanks to Nancy Hardesty for pointing me to this video.)

Why Anti-Gay Bullying Is a Theological Issue 
Baptist minister Cody J. Sanders provides an answer to that question. (from Religion Dispatches)

Jim Wallis Tells why Christians Must Stand with Gays and Lesbians and against Bullying 
Jim Wallis of Sojourners Magazine and the “God’s Politics” blog tells why he joined with others at an evangelical university and wore a purple ribbon on Spirit Day, an event sponsored by the Gay and Lesbian Alliance against Defamation (GLAAD).

Our Bodies and Body-Image Concerns

Video: Sexualization of Girls in the Media 
This film was produced for the Spark Summit, held at Hunter College in October, 2010, with the intention of sparking a movement. SPARK is an acronym for Sexualization Protest: Action Resistance,Knowledge. The summit was planned by the Women’s Media Center, the Ms. Foundation for Women, and many other likeminded organizations concerned about the early sexualization of girls and the media portrayals of girls and women in which the female body is objectified and commodified.

APA Report on the Sexualization of Girls and Its Effects 
“The proliferation of sexualized images of girls and young women in advertising, merchandising, and media is harming girls’ self-image and healthy development,” says the American Psychological Association. You can download each part of their report through the above link.

Audio: NPR’s On Point Program Discusses “Selling Youth Sexuality.” 
Listen in on this discussion of the commercialization of young women’s sexuality. The guests talk about the recent controversy over GQ magazine’s feature of actors from the popular Glee TV program in poses that some critics are calling “soft porn.” (On Point, NPR, broadcast, October 26, 2010)

Touched-up Photos and What These Unattainable Images Are Doing to Girls 
Seeing is believing all too often when young girls see manipulated photo images of models and celebrities and believe that the image reflects reality. Connie Schultz writes about an effort to expose how thoroughly photos are touched-up and what they do to young women who see them.

British Government Addresses Touched-up Photos Issue 
Should touched-up photos be labeled as such? Government officials in the UK are asking that question as they meet with advertisers, fashion editors, and health experts. The article points out that advertisers have long touched up photos to remove blemishes but now “more extensive trickery” is used, as “flabby stomachs are tightened, necks and legs are lengthened, and bosoms are reshaped. The result: a flawless body shape no amount of dieting or cosmetic surgery can achieve. (From CBS news.) But the online magazine, Jezebel, says legislation will not solve the problem, even though numerous countries are considering it. Attitudes must change. A protest took place in New York in December, 2009 after one model’s photograph for a Ralph Lauren advertisement was digitally sculpted so that her waist appeared smaller than her head! You can read about it and see the photo here.

Feministing Exposes the Cruelty of Outrageously “Fat-shaming” Remarks in Marie Claire Magazine 
Feministing, a popular blog by and for young feminists, recently called upon readers to write to the editors of Marie Claire magazine to protest an article that went beyond being insensitive to being downright cruel. It’s an extreme example of “sizeism.”

Video: Courtney E. Martin Speaking on Her Book, Perfect Girls, Starving Daughters 
This lecture was given at the University of California at San Francisco’s Center of Gender Equity as part of the Women’s Health Today series. It provides an excellent summary of what Courtney Martin means by her book’s subtitle: “How the Quest for Perfection Is Harming Young Women.”

Why the Sesame Street “I Love My Hair” Song Struck a Chord 
Angel Jordan, writing for the online magazine The Root, says that the “I Love My Hair” song has “struck a chord with an entire race of women. The message is one that black women of all ages can’t hear enough.” Read why, and watch and listen to the song. The video is embedded with the article. (This article is from The Root,”a daily online magazine that provides thought-provoking commentary on today’s news from a variety of black perspectives.” Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. is editor-in-chief. He will be familiar to many of our readers through his PBS genealogy series, including “African American Lives, “Oprah’s Roots,” and most recently, “Faces of America.”)

Video interview: The Story behind the “I Love My Hair “Song 
Five years ago, Joey Mazzarino, head writer and puppeteer for Sesame Street, and his wife adopted an Ethiopian girl as a year-old infant. Playing with Barbie dolls and aware of various images in American culture, she began admiring long blond hair and wishing her hair could be like that. Wanting her and other African American girls to appreciate their unique beauty, he came up with the idea of the “I Love My Hair” puppet and song. He talks about it in this interview. (From CNN).

Connection between Religion/Culture and Body Image 
Paul O’Donnell reports on a small study comparing the effects of media images on students at a Jordanian University with those at an American University. The original paper, by Dr. Teresa King and two of her Bridgewater State University students, was presented in October at a conference called, “Hidden in Plain Sight: Pleasures, Policy, and Politics of Muslim Women and Their Bodies.” ( Report by Paul O’Donnell in Huffingron Post)

NOW Foundation’s “Love Your Body” campaign 
The National Organization for Women Foundation presents excellent resources to help women and girls love, respect, and care for their bodies and not be misled by the images, messages,and false promises of advertisers. See examples of both positive and negative ads on the site, and especially take time to view the online slide presentation, “Sex Stereotypes and Beatuy: The ABCs and Ds of Commercial Images of Women.” Materials for students from elementary school through high school are included as part of the “Love Your Body” campaign, as well as materials for adult women and tips for teachers.

“Ableism and Body Image: Conceptualizing How Individuals Are Marginalized” 
A scholarly article by Justine Reel and Robert Bucciere from the March 22, 2010 issue of Women in Sport and Physical Activity, published by the National Association for Girls and Women in Sport.

Video: “China’s Got Talent” 2010 Winner and His Philosophy of Life: The Audition 
It’s not just his talent but his spirit and attitude toward life that accounts for the effect this young man is having on those who have heard him sing and play. After losing both arms in a tragic accident, he was determined to use his feet to do what hands usually do, including learning to play the piano. In addition to the audition link above, you can listen to Lui Wei play and sing at both the semi-finalsand the finals.

Beautifully Blind: I See with My Heart 
This blog and its associated website are devoted to bringing together the visual and visually impaired worlds. Two sisters, one sighted and one who lost her vision at age 18, maintain the site together. Seeing with the heart is possible even when seeing with the eyes is not. Computer technology makes possible listening to these blog posts as well as reading them.

Growing Up in a Home Where Both Parents Were Blind 
This loving daughter remembers her blind-from-childhood mother once saying, “I’d like to have seen you, but it’s not as important as people think.” (from The Guardian.)


That’s all for this edition of Web Explorations for Christian Feminists. Thanks for stopping by. I’ll be back again with more links and commentary in the winter issue (January-March), 2011.

Your Web Explorations Guide
Letha Dawson Scanzoni