Archives For Elizabeth A. Johnson

Top Story: The Guardian reports that Bolivia, one of the countries hardest hit by global climate change, is planning to pass a law that would enshrine a list of rights held by nature. Called “The Law of Mother Earth” (la Ley de Derechos de la Madre Tierra), it seeks to establish “a new relationship between man and nature” according to Vice-President Alvaro García Linera.

Evo Morales receiving the blessing of the Aymara priests.

The country, which has been pilloried by the US and Britain in the UN climate talks for demanding steep carbon emission cuts, will establish 11 new rights for nature. They include: the right to life and to exist; the right to continue vital cycles and processes free from human alteration; the right to pure water and clean air; the right to balance; the right not to be polluted; and the right to not have cellular structure modified or genetically altered. Controversially, it will also enshrine the right of nature “to not be affected by mega-infrastructure and development projects that affect the balance of ecosystems and the local inhabitant communities”.

The Guardian notes that the law is partially inspired by an “Andean spiritual world view,” resurgent since the election of Evo Morales, the first fully indigenous president of Bolivia. In addition, Bolivia is pushing to have similar rights enshrined by the United Nations as well, just in time for Earth Day (aka International Mother Earth Day).

The UN debate begins two days before the UN’s recognition April 22 of the second International Mother Earth Day — another Morales-led initiative. Canadian activist Maude Barlow is among global environmentalists backing the drive with a book the group will launch in New York during the UN debate: Nature Has Rights. “It’s going to have huge resonance around the world,” Barlow said of the campaign. “It’s going to start first with these southern countries trying to protect their land and their people from exploitation, but I think it will be grabbed onto by communities in our countries, for example, fighting the tarsands in Alberta.”

The Bolivian initiative already has backing from Ecuador, Nicaragua, Venezuela, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Antigua and Barbuda, though it doesn’t seem likely many highly industrialized 1st-world nations will be joining up any time soon. Will climate crisis start to turn more countries towards an ethos of “wild law”? If it does, Bolivia will seem prescient. You can read the entirely of the new law (in Spanish), here (accurate translations welcome from anyone who has free time on their hands).

The Danger of Feminine Pronouns in Prayers: The New York Times reports that the Committee on Doctrine of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops have accused Catholic theologian and nun Sister Elizabeth A. Johnson of violating church doctrine in her 2007 book “Quest For the Living God,” issuing a 21-page critique (plus introductory remarks) and recommending the book not be taught in Catholic universities due in part to her suggestion of using female imagery for God.

The passages drawing the harshest admonishment, however, concerned Sister Johnson’s proposal that feminine as well as masculine imagery be used in prayers referring to God, a recommendation that has been debated and rejected by the bishops before. Still, the book persisted, “all-male images of God are hierarchical images rooted in the unequal relation between women and men, and they function to maintain this arrangement.” Wrong, the bishops said: If the Gospels use masculine imagery, it is because divine revelation would have it that way. […] Dr. Tilley, the Fordham theology chairman, described that argument as “approaching the incoherent.”

This fear of non-male pronouns isn’t isolated to the United States Bishops, baptisms using gender-neutral formulas for the Trinity were ruled invalid back in 2008 by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (the organization formerly known as the Inquisition), and in the “Ratzinger Report: An Exclusive Interview on the State of the Church” the current Pope opined that “I am, in fact, convinced that what feminism promotes in its radical form is no longer the Christianity that we know; it is another religion.” In short, calling God “she” or “her” (or even “it” I suppose) is tantamount to neo-paganism. Let’s not forget the PR fiasco that was the investigation of American religious sisters. As the New York Times piece puts it, the Catholic Church wants to put “the study of the male and female aspects of God […] substantially off-limits.” It seems the risk of a Christian Goddess (other than Mary) emerging is too great to tolerate having students even think about God as a woman.

Marketing the Gods: With the Marvel Comics-inspired “Thor” movie coming out soon, religion e-zine Killing the Buddha features an essay by Eric Scott (a Wiccan and second-generation Pagan) about encountering Mjolnir at Wal-Mart.

“The truth is, I looked at the toys in my hands and I saw the result of millions of dollars of development and thousands of hours of manpower, put into something bearing the name of a god, my god, and it had nothing to do with me. Their Thor was a god forgotten by all except the few quiet geeks who read his adventures in Journey into Mystery andThe Mighty Thor for forty years. It wasn’t that they meant to upset or unsettle me; they simply realized that people like me were too few to matter. It’s impossible to think of a story about Jesus like this, not written to pander to or irritate Christians, but simply not considering them at all.”

I’ve praised Eric’s writing at this blog before, so let me simply say that the whole essay is worth a read. He also has a short story, “Reaching for Da’at”, up now at Caper Literary Journal.

The Danger of Vodou in Haiti: Two recent article look at anti-Vodou violence and hysteria in Haiti, a phenomenon that is responsible for killing over 40 Vodouisants that we know of. First, the Independent in Ireland gives an outsiders narrative, showing the fear that comes when tragedy is blamed on an innocent through accusations of “voodoo”.

“When cholera killed Dieufort Joesph’s neighbour last year, the 25-year-old feared for his young family’s safety. But the threat didn’t come from the disease. It came from the panic that spread through the narrow streets of Gonaives in north-western Haiti. Within days the rumours began — Mr Joesph had used voodoo to kill the girl. The quietly spoken market porter explained that for some of his neighbours, this meant he and his family must themselves be killed.”

Joseph, who hopes to move to new housing soon, acknowledges that the shack he currently lives in will most likely be burned down due to the accusations of malefic magic. Meanwhile, Haiti Libre reports on the first anniversary of the Haitian group “Religions for Peace,” formed in part to help counteract anti-Vodou violence.

Euvonie George Augustin, a great servant to the Confederation of voodoo and representative of the voodoo within “Religions for Peace”, explained that these attitudes “are the result of a lack of civic and religious education”. For her, the intolerance is a major source of violent behavior and calls on all Haitians to unite to change society, adding that “the next government must be able to rely on the participation of all sectors of the national life to be able to transform its campaign promises into reality.”

It seems that many eyes will be on incoming president Michel “Sweet Micky” Martelly to help quell religious violence in Haiti, but will Protestant missionaries engaged in a zero-sum game of conversion allow him to turn down the anti-Vodou rhetoric?

When Will the AFA Be Accountable? Right Wing Watch wonders at what point the American Family Association will take responsibility for the increasingly extreme statements from Bryan Fischer, their Director of Issues Analysis, radio host, and blogger.

“So we know that when Fischer says that Native Americans deserved to be wiped out, African Americans rut like rabbits, and Muslims need to convert to Christianity, he absolutely believes it, even if the AFA later changes it. […] The AFA cannot place a disclaimer on Fischer’s bigoted rantings claiming that his views do not reflect the views of the AFA and, at the same time, keep editing his posts in an effort to distance the organization from his bigotry … especially not when they are also giving him two hours a day to spout that same bigotry on their radio program. The AFA either needs to own up and take responsibility for the relentless steam of bigotry that pours from the organization’s Director of Issue Analysis and most prominent spokesperson or cut ties with him altogether … because, frankly, the only way the AFA can legitimately claim that Fischer’s bigotry does not reflect the views of the AFA is if the organization actually stops giving him the platforms from which to spew that bigotry.”

Fischer, for those who haven’t been keeping track, claims the Establishment Clause only applies to Christians, that Native Americans are mired in alcoholism and poverty because they won’t all become Christians, and believes the environmental movement is a stalking horse for Paganism. I’m not exaggerating when I say that those are some of the milder opinions he seems to hold. I’m curious at what point does conservative Christian rhetoric cross a line to where even supporters turn away? Perhaps Right Wing Watch will finally find the answer.

That’s all I have for now, have a great day!