Saturday, July 26, 2014


Hey, everybody, a great new book: Tempest-Tossed: The Spirit of Isabella Beecher Hooker by Susan Campbell, published this year by Wesleyan University Press.

Because I heard Susan speak in St. Louis, I can almost hear her speaking as I read Tempest-Tossed.  She jokes, embraces, and waxes eloquent at times.

I'm loving the book and Susan's voice and the historical person Isabella Beecher, who married John Hooker.  

It reminds me of The Accursed by Joyce Carol Oates, which I read last summer. That book is historical fiction set in Princeton around 1903-4.  It's a Gothic romance, actually--lots of murders and scary houses but with a happy ending for the lovers. 

The time frame overlaps a little with the life of Isabella, born in 1822 and dying in 1907. 

Another similarity is the mixture of famous and nonfamous pre-modern characters, some of which feel modern.

Susan has chosen to stick to the facts, unlike Joyce, who romps through the historical people's lives with a free imagination.

But both authors have chosen a fascinating set of women and men to bring to our attention.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Change for Christian Women 1974-2014

Three big things happened in 1974 for Christian women:  Pictured here are some of the first women ordained in the Episcopal Church. First row, from left, Alison Palmer and Lee McGee. Middle row, Nancy Wittig, Alison Cheek and Merrill Bittner. Back row, Emily Hewitt, Carter Heyward and Marie Moorefield Fleischer. (Alison Palmer and Lee McGee were ordained in Washington in 1975.) The picture was taken at Episcopal Divinity School in May 2004 during a celebration of the life and courage of the Rt. Rev. Robert DeWitt.

  • 11 Episcopal women were ordained in Philadelphia outside the rules of the Church (irregularly).

  • The Leadership Conference of Women Religious in 1973-74 began "extensive programs related to transforming the perceptions of and about women. We have promoted the recognition of sexism as destructive of both women and men" --in the Roman Catholic Church.  

  • Evangelical women in Chicago formed an organization to promote women's rights among theologically conservative Protestant women.


In 2014 all three groups are marking 40 years of work for women's equality within Christian churches.


Laudate Dominum! (or Dominam--why refer to God as male?)

Praise the Lord!  (or Lady Wisdom--Sophia in Greek, Hochmah in Hebrew)

40 Years of Biblical Feminism

Evangelical & Ecumenical Women's Caucus--Christian Feminism Today celebrates 40 years since its founding in 1974.
Letha Dawson Scanzoni with (left to right) McKenzie Brown, Ashley Cason, Jennifer Newman, and Jacinda Thomas.

Here's a link to the press release on the Religious News Service website:

Here's a press release to print out and mail to a friend or pastor or church or seminary near you:

For more about EEWC-Christian Feminism Today, see:

Lost Woman Rabbi

Thank you to RNS for posting this commentary by A. James Rudin about the world's first woman rabbi, Regina Jonas (1902-1944).

Does the year of her death--1944--worry you?

Yes, she was murdered at Auschwitz after interment in Theresienstadt, another Nazi concentration camp.

Extreme circumstances made it permissible for a woman to serve as rabbi.  Jews were being rounded up and killed.  Rabbis were becoming scarce, and the work was dangerous.

Sounds like women's work--no one else is available to do it.

Her early death and hidden work obscured her name from history for many years.

Thank you also to Katharina von Kellenbach, the scholar who unearthed records in East Berlin regarding this rabbi's life.  

Monday, July 21, 2014

Peace Demonstration for Gaza

There was no "business as usual" on Wilshire Boulevard near the Federal Building in West Los Angeles this afternoon.  
Women demonstrating for peace: "Keep calm and pray for Gaza."

Instead traffic was stopped and cars could not exit the 405 freeway as over a thousand people protested Israeli bombings of civilians in Gaza.  I was glad that many lives were interrupted; people had to think about Israel and Palestine.

Tell me why, tell me why,
Gaza children have to die.

Palestine will be free
From the river to the sea.

Gaza, Gaza, don't you cry.
No more children have to die.

Being there, listening to these chants, I was often moved to tears.  This event did not have a party atmosphere.

I marched in protest against the bombing of the four little boys playing on the Gaza beach last Wednesday.
The violence began with three Israeli teens killed in June.

Someone in an Israeli ship off the coast had noticed movement and fired the missiles.  That's not war; it's murder.

The little guys weren't supposed to be outside, but after nine days indoors, they had managed to slip out of the house.

There were many mothers and children at the rally, including some veiled women.  Some men wore Palestinian headgear.  

Double-decker red tour buses were among those caught in the traffic.  Tourists in the open-air top deck looked out at the demonstration.   They had expected to see just beaches, Beverly Hills, Hollywood, and maybe a few movie stars. 

"Welcome to LA," commented one woman.  

I'm grateful to be in a metropolitan area with lots of Israelis and Palestinians and others who care deeply about the war happening there these past ten days.  I want my life to pause over these deaths.

Then the marchers went to the Consulate General of Israel in LA, on Wilshire near Barrington.

Meanwhile in another part of Los Angeles, a family was mourning loss of their son, Max Steinberg, who had moved to Israel and joined the Army there.

All this waste of human life in Palestine and Israel, and then the downing of the airliner over the Ukraine on Thursday, is enough to turn anyone into a pacifist.

What can any one person do?  

I got some ideas today:
1) Contact my representatives in Congress and ask them to stop giving weapons and money to Israel.
2) Join an organization of women for peace, such as
3) Start identifying as a transnational feminist.
4) Attend more antiwar demonstrations.
5) Get more practice in speaking other languages.  Learn Arabic???
6) Do more international travel and stay in touch with friends around the world.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Ukrainian Horror

This week's news couldn't get worse.

The world witnessed the bombing of four young boys on a Gaza beach on yesterday, and then today some ignorant Ukrainian rebels shot down a Malaysian passenger jet with 298 people aboard.

Six billion people on this planet are bombarded daily with news horrors like this.

We grieve with all the families and friends of those who fell from the sky.

We mourn the little boys on the Gaza beach, who didn't even get one day of headlines before their deaths were obscured by a larger tragedy.

We pray "Thy kingdom come"-- "May God's reign be completed, God's will be done on earth as it is in the heavens."

But horror and evil continue to abound.

Many of those on the downed jet were AIDS researchers headed for a conference in Australia, working to save lives and combat an epidemic.  Therein lies the only note of hope.

O let me ne'er forget
that though the wrong
is oft so strong
God is the ruler yet.

These words to the hymn of faith become harder and harder to sing.

Part of the problem is the patriarchal message of the hymn, "This Is My Father's World."

We worship a male god, and the ethic of vengeance goes largely unchallenged.

Thank you to the UN, which tries to halt warfare, and to Jann Aldrege-Clanton, who wrote new lyrics for that hymn and envisions a world without a male warrior god.

Mothers of Gaza

What a horrible summer it has been.  

Four little boys playing soccer on a beach in Gaza, killed.  This photo in Wednesday's New York Times.

Their mothers wailing:
At the Bakr family house on Wednesday afternoon, women wept and wailed. One cursed both Israel and Hamas. Another, Nasreen al-Bakr, noted quietly that Hamas had killed 10 of her family members in factional fighting.
Relatives identified the boys as Mohammad, 11 or 12, Ismail, 9, Zakariya, 10, and Ahed, 7 or 9, an only son with seven sisters. In the chaos of an extended family milling about in mourning, there was some confusion about the ages.

NYT reporter Anne Barnard describes how the kids were confined for nine days because of Israeli bombing of Gaza but late on Tuesday afternoon sneaked out to play on the beach where their family earned a living by fishing.

To Israel, it was just an accident.  A mistake of war.  Sometimes you hit Hamas militants, sometimes you hit kids.

Even from a distance of 8,000 miles, I'm drawn into the heart of this horror.  The scene plays on my television screen. 

As a mother, I grieve with these mothers in Gaza.

I grieved with the Orthodox women in Israel whose three sons were found murdered in the West Bank on June 30 after being missing since June 12.

I mourned Palestinian teen kidnapped from his home and killed in revenge on July 2. 

There's a daily toll in Gaza and Israel being kept by the New York Times.

Meanwhile, the thousands of women and children are apprehended on the US border and bused to various retention centers.  How can Congress refuse to act on President Obama's humanitarian relief plan?

Mahatma Gandhi said, "An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind."

This summer's vengeance killings are scarring human life on this earth.