“Using an embodied ritual and liturgy allows participants free expression for prayer… This embodied ritual is also an actualization of the call to reconstruct the meaning of a woman’s body, which is the seat or locus of exploitation, and reclaim it as hallowed ground and a temple of the spirit.”
Carmelita M. Usog, DMin (professor of Feminist Theology and Spirituality) quoted by Kwok Pui-lan in her chapter, “A Postcolonial Feminist Vision for Christianity,” in New Feminist Christianity: Many Voices, Many Views, ed. by Mary E. Hunt and Diann L. Neu
Sometimes in my research and writing I struggle to untangle worlds of ideas about identity, only to be reminded again and again that they are impossible to untangle, that race, sexuality, gender — basically, fundamental questions of self and otherness — are always already cites of wounding in Western Christian theology (and therefore within modern social contexts shaped by Western Christian theology). And if they are cites of wounding, they are also cites of healing, but it is important to acknowledge the wounding first.
I am posting a short essay by the veteran feminist theologian Kwok Pui-lan, as well as the conversation between Olivia Cheng and Dawn-Lyen Gardner (I am aware that it is a lot to take in — and that this week has been a lot to take in), because these women not only articulate but also embody the intersecting questions I am holding about how categories of identity function within the social power structures of Western Christianity.
Kwok Pui-lan was born in Hong Kong and is a leading voice on Feminist, Third World and Indigenous Theology/ies. I am interested in the way she describes the engagement with Asian spiritual (and aesthetic) practices in North America, at least in part as a result of dissatisfaction with available spiritual forms. I am interested in the examples she gives of embodied spiritual practices — painting, rock climbing. Her writing is direct, accessible; her sources of authority are other women and their practices, and not only other female theologians, even.
I imagine she also would find — as I do — some deeply spiritual/ theological content in the conversation between Olivia Cheng and Dawn-Lyen Gardner, who support/ comfort each other publicly in the wake of the shootings in Atlanta on Tuesday. Something more than supporting and comforting is happening in this conversation, though. It’s a kind of teach-in with a sacramental quality that I can barely find adequate words for.
Read the text, “A Postcolonial Feminist Vision for Christianity” and watch Cheng/ Gardner’s conversation if you have time (the conversation really gets started around minute 6). If not, feel free to come anyway with whatever you are holding. Video conference link and password are at the bottom of this page.
Coffee Hour is a lightly facilitated, gently theological online space where you are welcome, no religious commitment assumed or expected. It happens every week at 1-2pm Irish time. The password changes (today it is KwokPui-lan); the video conference link is always the same: https://meet.jit.si/CoffeeHourWithFriends2021
The lectionary for this week, for whoever needs it, is here.