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Department ofReligious Studies

Stories

Topic - Sex, Gender, & Sexuality

Topic - Sex, Gender, & Sexuality

First RS Conversation of the 2019-20 Series - Topic: Sex, Gender, & Sexuality

On October 17, eighteen students and six faculty gathered for the first Religious Studies Conversations event of the year, led by Professors Pearl Barros and Michelle Mueller and moderated by Paul Schutz. Over pizza and snacks, participants discussed the intersections of religion, gender, and sexuality.

To begin the conversation, students raised numerous issues, including the status of women and LGBTQ+ persons in religious traditions, the implications of the use of masculine language in religious ritual, prayer, and teaching, and the status of trans and non-binary persons. Profs. Barros and Mueller then shared their personal religious backgrounds and the stories of how they came to engage feminist theology. They then discussed the intersection of their work with gender and sexuality, building on the initial concerns raised by students from the standpoint of their own research. Prof. Barros concluded her comments with the provocative image of Christa, a female Christ, and Prof. Mueller highlighted the use of God and Goddess language in the Wiccan tradition.

A wide-ranging conversation followed, which touched on traditional Catholic interpretations of Mary and contemporary treatments of Mary as "woman" and "sister," the presence of both male and female deities in Hinduism, biblical perspectives on gender drawn from the Book of Genesis, the social implications of the practice of exclusively masculine language for God typical of the Abrahamic traditions, and other issues. Prof. Clovis Karam contributed numerous insights from his study of Islam, and Prof. Teresia Hinga discussed the evolution of gender language in her native Kenya, which shifted from a genderless word for "God" to the gendered "God the father" after the arrival of European colonizers.

To conclude the event, participants reflected on possible futures for religion, expressing hope for greater acceptance and on-the-ground movements to expand the horizons of religious traditions in harmony with contemporary insights into sex, gender, and sexuality.