The Personal Is Theological

There are a lot of reasons why we need Lana Dalberg’s new book, Birthing God: Women’s Experiences of the Divine, released this week and available in print and for your Kindle.

We need this book because we still need to hear more women’s stories.  Feminism and the women’s movement in the U.S. has long helped us see that the personal is political, and this book reminds us how powerfully the personal is also theological.

We need this book because there are strong forces mobilized against the power of women’s stories, especially in religious institutions.  To this end, check out some of the comments on my post sharing the fabulous “Ordain A Lady” video.  Then, tell me that there isn’t resistance to women’s voices, calls, and spiritual experiences.

We need this book because it features an amazingly broad array of diverse women’s stories.  This includes women’s experiences being Sufi, Episcopal, Catholic, Zen Buddhist, Lutheran, Bahai, Baptist, and so many others;  African American women, Chinese women, white women, Mexican women, Pakistani American women, teachers, nurses, activists, theologians, writers, pastors, and even a scientist.  Women.

We need this book because it breaks open the stranglehold that patriarchal images and language for God continues to have on our collective imagination.

In the epilogue to the book, which I was happy to get to read and endorse prior to its release, Lana says:

“All encounters and understandings of the Divine are essential to the whole.  In bringing to light women’s spiritual experiences, we increase our day-to-day awareness of the Divine and enhance our global consciousness of God.  And when we see in ourselves and others the divine connection between us all, we increase the level of goodwill and equanimity in the world.”

This book, and the women’s voices and stories within, matters.

From the publisher’s website:

In Birthing God, forty women relate Spirit-filled moments:  a grieving pastor walks a labyrinth and rediscovers the Rock of her existence;  a human rights advocate re-encounters Allah in an intensely visceral moment in the sun;  an educator, moved by an ancestral vision, launches a global tree-planting project to heal the wounds of slavery;  a revolutionary awakens from a coma and realizes that all of life is infused with Spirit;  a peasant woman under fire discovers within herself the God who gives her courage;  and a disabled doctor, embraced by Shekhinah, turns her heart to rabbinical studies.

Grounded in raw experience and ideal for spiritual seekers and leaders of all faiths, these engaging and powerful stories invite you to consider the origins of your own spirituality and to deepen your relationship with God.

In my endorsement of the book, I said:

“Lana Dalberg may start this book with the image and act of kenosis – emptying – but she fills it with a chorus of women’s voices midwifing the Divine herself into complex Be-ing.  The stories in Birthing God cross boundaries to unite human and divine, featuring universal spiritual themes in the very particular moments and memories of forty women’s lives.  They both draw on and depart from religious traditions ranging from Islam to Lutheranism, Catholicism to Zen Buddhism, simultaneously diving deeper into and transcending the limitations of that which we think we already know about the Divine.”

Check out the Women of Spirit and Faith website for information about upcoming book events.  And of course, head over to the publisher’s website, or your local independent bookseller, and get a copy for yourself soon.

Image via Women of Spirit and Faith.

About Caryn Riswold

Caryn D. Riswold is a feminist theologian in the Lutheran tradition. She is Professor of Religion and Chair of Gender and Women’s Studies at Illinois College in Jacksonville, Illinois, where she has worked for over a decade teaching undergraduates to think critically and creatively about religion. She earned her Ph.D. and Th.M. from the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, holds a master’s degree from the Claremont School of Theology, and received her B.A. from Augustana College in her childhood hometown of Sioux Falls, South Dakota.


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