At the time of this writing, many in the United States and around the globe are reeling from the attacks on Capitol Hill, incited by a leader intent on fomenting discord and holding on to white supremacist power. Several components of this issue address how to mobilize resources to address injustice and thus create a better path forward.
Leading off the Articles section, AnneMarie Mingo offers a womanist ethical confrontation of injustice exemplified in her response to the death of Sandra Bland while in police custody by bringing womanist theological ethics to bear on state-sanctioned violence against, and erasure of, Black women in the United States. Chammah Kaunda and Mutale Kaunda point to how Bemba women in Zambia draw upon the power of a foundational creation myth in an initiatory rite to establish an ontological relationship to the divine that undermines patriarchal hierarchy and power. Sarah Jacoby unmasks the paradox in Buddhist views of mothering, which valorize (masculinist) representations of motherhood as the model of compassion and love while simultaneously viewing actual mothering as embroiled in suffering and impeding liberation. Turning to Tibetan Buddhism, Jacoby explores the writings of Sera Khandro (d. 1940) to illustrate how actual motherhood can open up a spiritual path leading to enlightenment.
David Sperber takes us to Israel to examine how video artist Nurit Jacobs Yinon critiques the exclusionary Orthodox rabbinic court in a successful attempt to bring about inclusion for Orthodox feminists and thus effect positive social change while simultaneously undermining patriarchal structures. Rachel Adelman closely examines the narratives of devastation surrounding the biblical daughters Jerusalem (Bat Zion) and Tamar (the daughter of David) to contest the idea that a daughter is only an extension of her father. She argues, rather, that their stories posit a critique of their fathers, whether divine or human, and call for compassion and justice. In the final article, Jennifer Glancy exposes the injustice and exclusion implicit in both Paul’s “reproductive logic of slavery” in his depiction of Hagar, and Giorgio Agamben’s “bare life” for its failure to reckon with gender and slavery. Rather, Glancy positions her analysis within feminist and womanist perspectives to extend our understanding of what it means to be human, in a manner that lifts it from the narrowness imposed on it in classical Greek and Pauline thought. Each of the articles in this issue engages creative and resourceful ways through which to address and undo the injustice of supremacist attempts to marginalize, erase, silence, and devalue gendered and raced lives.
In our In a Different Voice section, award-winning poet Rebecca Lauren powerfully brings lived experience into conversation with nature, spirituality, and hermeneutics to reveal insights that critique even as they express a resilience of body and spirit. This section sets the stage for, and leads into Short Takes, a group of essays exploring teaching about the child sexual abuse (CSA) crisis in the classroom. Recognizing the catastrophic impacts of CSA on the survivors, their families, and communities, the six short articles contributed by authors from Australia, the UnitedKingdom, and the United States offer strategies through which to teach about religious-based gendered violence in a constructive manner. Kathleen McPhillips takes up the issue of teaching about CSA by Catholic priests in Australia; and Chris Greenough, based in England, looks at biblical accounts of sexual violence against women. Peter Gogarty expands upon trauma-informed teaching about CSA in the context of criminology and social work in Australia, while Anna Halafoff examines a Tibetan Buddhist preceptor’s enactment of emotional, physical, and sexual abuse of his students, also in Australia. Ann Gleig and Amy Langenberg focus on sexual abuse in American Buddhist and Hindu communities, while Tamara Blakemore, who teaches in a social-work classroom in Australia, shares trauma responsive experiential learning strategies that build empathy and connection. This rich and interdisciplinary set of teaching-related essays models thoughtful ways in which the classroom can be a critical incubator of raising awareness and fostering the skills through which to examine and address injury and trauma, whether intergenerational or institutional. Appropriately, this section is bookended with two more poems by the inimitable Lauren.
This volume ends with a Special Section devoted to a conversation around Kathleen Gallagher Elkins’s book titled, Mary, Mother of Martyrs: How Motherhood Became Self-Sacrifice in Early Christianity (published by FSR Books; now available from Wipf & Stock). This special section features the contributions of the panelists, which highlight feminist and womanist scholarly conversations on self-sacrifice and motherhood in ancient texts as well as current events and movements of activist mothers, and Gallagher Elkins’s response. Sharon Jacob refracts her reading of the book through the lens of women of color, drawing particular attention to a Hindu work to illustrate how mothers become reflections of the divine in their ownzcontexts. She draws attention to the figure of mother as threat in the context of the British colonization of India while also raising important questions about mothers/women of color. Stephanie Buckhanon Crowder engages contemporary womanist maternal thought to elaborate on the communal nature of mothers in the first century and draws attention to Black mothers in the United States, whose maternal activism/sacrifice is comparable to the examples provided by Gallagher Elkins, and worth noting. Hisako Kinukawa reflects on her Japanese childhood wartime experiences to raise critical questions about the very causes of violence that bring about maternal self-sacrifice as a form of resistance to that violence. Anna Rebecca Solevåg offers constructive criticism about the strengths of the book that could have benefited from further elaboration, also suggesting that the book is much more nuanced than its subtitle suggests. The section ends with an embodied and thoughtful response from Gallagher Elkins that highlights “the resilience and agency [that] these modern mothers exercise even in deeply oppressive contexts” (189), resilience that we are all called upon to exhibit in these troubling times of pandemic and civil strife, and to which the work of this journal is dedicated.