Feminism and Religion: Gina Messina Dysert

Feminism and Religion: Gina Messina Dysert

On today's show, we have an in-depth conversation about the experience of women in religious communities and in the academic study of religion with our guest, Dr. Gina Messina-Dysert - Dean of the School of Graduate and Professional Studies at Ursuline College, and one of the founders of the blog Feminism and Religion.

Also on the show, Katy Scrogin reviews Ted A. Smith's new book, Weird John Brown: Divine Violence and the Limits of Ethics.

"Feminsm" is an often misunderstood term, but in the last 50 years it has become a vital touchstone within modern religious understanding. In the 1970′s and 80′s, a flowering of research into the study of women and religion arose within the academy. Feminist theologians such as Rosemary Radford Ruether, Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza, Delores Williams, Riffat Hassan, Rita Gross, and Judith Plaskow examined and reinterpreted their various traditions, as they analyzed male-centered language and ideologies within their sacred texts, working to uncover the liberating insights buried within. Some scholars such as Carol Christ focused their attention upon Goddess worship in the ancient and contemporary world, while others, such as Mary Daly, chose to abandon tradition entirely.

We enter into our conversation about feminism and religion with Dr. Gina Messina-Dysert, one of the leading voices today trying to bring understanding of the concerns of feminism to a wider audience of religious scholars and laypersons. One example is a recent TEDx talk she gave at an event at Ursuline College:

Her work on the blog Feminism and Religion, as both co-founder and contributor, has helped to make these conversations available outside the academy, bringing a number of academic voices into direct contact with everyday readers.

Dr. Messina-Dysert is the author of multiple articles, the book Rape Culture and Spiritual Violence (Routledge, 2014), and co-editor of the anthology, Feminism and Religion in the 21st Century (Routledge, 2014). She is also co-editor of the forthcoming anthology, Faithfully Feminist: Jewish, Christian, and Muslim Women on Why They Stay.

Also on the Show

Ted A. Smith is Associate Professor of Preaching and Ethics at Emory University's Candler School of Theology. His new book, Weird John Brown, looks at a key figure from American history to explore the relationship of religion and violence. From the Amazon description:

Conventional wisdom holds that attempts to combine religion and politics will produce unlimited violence. Concepts such as jihad, crusade, and sacrifice need to be rooted out, the story goes, for the sake of more bounded and secular understandings of violence.

Ted Smith upends this dominant view, drawing on Walter Benjamin, Giorgio Agamben, and others to trace the ways that seemingly secular politics produce their own forms of violence without limit. He brings this argument to life—and digs deep into the American political imagination—through a string of surprising reflections on John Brown, the nineteenth-century abolitionist who took up arms against the state in the name of a higher law.

Smith argues that the key to limiting violence is not its separation from religion, but its connection to richer and more critical modes of religious reflection. Weird John Brown develops a negative political theology that challenges both the ways we remember American history and the ways we think about the nature, meaning, and exercise of violence.
 

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