Norma Smith Olson, left, and Kathy Magnuson
"Whether we choose the path of faith, skepticism,
or a uniquely understood spiritual connection to all the atoms
in the universe, we must treat each other gently, as if we were specks of dust - because we are." - Shannon Drury, read her story here.
by Norma Smith Olson and Kathy Magnuson
It was in a small Methodist church in southeastern Minnesota that Norma first heard a sermon expressing the concept of god as mother. It was the early 1980s. The minister spoke about how "god the father" didn't work for some women, especially for a woman who had a difficult relationship with her own earthly father. The concept of "god the mother" could be more accessible for some women. The minister may have even used the term "feminist" in a positive light as he spoke to the congregation of about 30 people while the sun came in through the stained glass windows. It made an impression - unforgettable - to think beyond a masculine god.
In 1993, thousands of women from around the world, of many faith traditions, gathered in Minneapolis for the "Re-Imagining Conference" to ex-plore the idea of the feminine side of god. It was radical. It was controversial. It was progressive.
The work of Re-Imagining helped to bring about the use of inclusive language and to move women's wisdom forward. And today a group of women who were at that conference nearly 25 years ago are gathering the history so that their work is not forgotten.
In this women's spirituality-themed issue we share voices of women from many different perspectives: Re-Imaginists Sherry and Mary Kay are from a Christian tradition; Avi is Jewish; Trini is Womanist; Shodo is Buddhist; Fedwa is Muslim; Karen has reworked the creation mythology from a feminine viewpoint through her artwork; Shannon, an atheist, writes about the challenges of being a mother when the big questions of why bad things happen in the world arise - is there something bigger than ourselves?; Jeanette shares her story of being a spiritual "none" - a person having no religious affiliation.
According to the 2014 Pew Research Center's New Religious Landscape Study, people who self-identify as atheists or agnostics, and those who say their religion is "nothing in particular," account for a combined 22.8 percent of U.S. adults - up from 16.1 percent in 2007. At least 34 percent of Millennials (born 1981-1996) are unaffiliated. The younger people are, the less likely they are to claim that religion is important in their lives. Yet younger Millennials are the age group most likely to "feel wonder about the universe." Despite cultural, age and spiritual differences, we look for meaning in our lives.
The more people - with differing faiths and practices, or none - try to understand each other, the harder it becomes to demonize the "other." The more we hear and know diverse stories, the bigger our world and our hearts are. We realize how silly it is to suggest that all Christians, from the radicals to the ultra-conservatives, would think and act the same. Just as it is inaccurate to say that all Muslims think and act in the same way. Women who claim no faith tradition can be deeply spiritual - or not - and have stories and lives of depth and meaning. Language and stories matter. Listening, hearing, understanding and searching for meaning and connection matters.
April's theme is "Together and apart." When was a time you were an outsider and how did that feel?"Tell us about it. Send up to 150 words to firstname.lastname@example.org Deadline: March 10, 2016
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Watch for the results of the annual What Women Want MWP readers' survey in the May issue!