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Goddess and God in the World, by Carol Christ and Judith Plaskow.

October 31, 2016

Goddess and God in the World: Conversations in Embodied Theology, by Carol Christ and Judith Plaskow.

4 stars

An important autobiographical and theological conversation by two women who were in the forefront of the challenges which feminism brought to religion in the 1970’s.

Carol Christ and Judith Plaskow have both devoted their lives to the development of a theology which includes women’s experiences and addresses their needs.  Christ was raised in Jewish traditions, and Plaskow is Jewish.  They met as graduate students in Yale’s religious studies department around 1970, but found themselves isolated as women and distant from the theology being taught.  Feminism was emerging around them and provided them a conceptual language to analyze and understand what they were encountering.  They quickly became part of a small group of American women asking similar questions.  In 1979? they edited Womanspirit Rising, one of the first collections of significant articles about issues which feminists were raising.  I remember my initial excitement over that book and I used it successfully with my students when I taught Women’s Studies.In the years since then, each has gone on to research and write about theological questions from an “embodied” women’s perspective.  While they have remained friends and shared their ideas with each other, each differs with the other on key points.  In their new book, each tells something of her autobiography and how it has affected her understanding of theology.  They also explore some of the issues on which they agree and disagree.  This book is a record of their ongoing conversation.

Both Christ and Plaskow believe that there is no one path or theology.  Their tolerance allows them to have the conversations in this book and to recommend that the rest of us engage in similar conversations.  They also believe that divinity is present on earth, not totally transcendent.  Taking seriously the existence of evil, they claim that the divine is not all-powerful.  Here they draw on other women and men who describe themselves as process theologians.  Sharing these positions, they continue to disagree on others. Carol Christ has left established religion and her faith centers on a personal relationship with a divine source she sees as the Goddess. Judith Plaskow has remained with traditional Judaism and finds its worship meaningful.  She advocates using god language that not only includes male and female imagery, but other variations as well.  For her, the divine is a ground of being rather than a force of personal relationship.  In their new book, Christ and Plaskow debate the merits of their respective conclusions.   At times, I found their debates somewhat repetitive, but I liked seeing the details of what the authors viewed as important.  I really did have a sense of being in the middle of vibrant minds are work.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book both because it took me back to my theological quests of the 1970’s and because I found the issues debated still very relevant and alive today.  I recommend it to all who care how and why it matters what we believe about religion.

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