I am an “Equalist.” Are YOU?
Last week my friend Steph Smith and I went to an amazing three day retreat at a place called Ghost Ranch, in breathtaking Abiquiu, New Mexico. This is where the artist Georgia O’Keefe lived and did most of her work. The retreat was called “Wisdom Sharing – a Deepening Retreat.” The leaders, drum roll, were Alice Walker,who wrote The Color Purple and about twenty other books, most of which I have read; Gloria Steinem, one of the key figures of the civil rights and feminist movements, and founder of Ms. Magazine; and Dr. Chung Hyun Kyung, Korean ecofeminist and Asian Women’s theologian at Union Theological Seminary in New York City. These three amazing, inspirational women took turns each of the three mornings presenting from their life work. Then after each individual presentation, there was a panel discussion with all three women, moderated by another amazing woman, Dr. Melanie Harris, a Professor at Texas Christian University. At the end there was time for a few questions from the audience. At the start of each day was a morning circle prayer, led by a Native American woman. in the afternoons, there were also Wisdom Circles, led by visiting Native American women of wisdom. Or you could explore the exquisite Ghost Ranch landscape, and process the almost overwhelming material from the morning. Despite some organizational snafus at Ghost Ranch, it was one of the most amazing weeks of my life. It was so inspiring, in fact, that I began writing that book I have been wanting to write since I was in my twenties!
I called home and said to Ted, my husband, “I hope you don’t mind that I will be coming home even more of a feminist!” to which he replied, “Is that possible?”
I am so thankful that I was accompanied on this spiritual adventure by my friend and colleague, Rev. Stephanie Smith, whom I have known since she was twelve years old, which means for over twenty-five years! Steph, her twin sister, Sue, and their older brother, Dave, used to be in my youth group many years ago when I was the Associate Pastor at Pilgrim Lutheran Church in Warwick, RI. All three of them also babysat for my three kids. One of the twins for each of my two girls, who were just sixteen months apart, and their older brother Dave for my son, my eldest child. Steph’s mom, Kerstin, a single mother of these three amazing teenagers, was my support and inspiration when my marriage ended when my three children were two, three and six years old. Steph is now also a Lutheran Pastor, and so for the past few years, we have travelled and done our annual continuing education together. It is always good to have a companion for these spiritual adventures, with whom I can process all of the overwhelming new things I am learning. Each evening at Ghost Ranch we also saw a documentary film. All three films were provocative, and films I intend to purchase and use in my teaching.
The first day the writer Alice Walker was our leader. Her life has been spent fighting for equal rights for persons of color as well as for women. She calls herself an activist, a feminist, and also a womanist (feminism from the perspective of women of color). From her earliest childhood, she has experienced God mostly in nature, so also could be called an environmentalist or ecofeminist. She said, “I gave up on church a long time ago. The earth is my church. Nature is my church.” The documentary film about her life, “Beauty in Truth – Alice Walker,” directed by Pratibha Parmar, is something everyone should see.
The second day was led by Gloria Steinem. Having just re-read her book, “The Revolution from Within: A Book on Self-Esteem,” and being an old follower of Ms. Magazine, I had high expectations for Gloria. She far exceeded them. She is brilliant. She calls herself an activist and a feminist, but really began doing anti-racism work during the civil rights movement. Only after devoting herself to anti-racism work did she realize that the rights she was advocating for for others, she did not have herself as a woman. She is also passionate about our Mother Earth. In fact, as all feminists know, feminism and environmentalism are deeply interconnected. The film which she had a part in is called Miss Representation. It is about images of women in the media.
Finally, the woman many of us did not know that well before this event was Dr. Chung. The film she is featured in is called Jesus & Buddha: Practicing across Traditions. For the next three weeks I will be blogging about what I learned from each of these three women. Dr. Chung blew all of us away. She is both Christian and Buddhist. She would call herself an activist, pacifist, ecofeminist, womanist, etc.
Steph and I realized that we are all of these things. The last day of the conference a high school girl got up to speak. She said she had always thought feminists were ugly women who burned their bras and didn’t like men! She said she now realizes that she IS a feminist, but wonders if the word is sometimes misunderstood by people, especially by young people today.
So, Steph and I propose a new word: “Equalist.” I already ran it by a few people at the conference, and they liked it. An “Equalist” is someone who believes in full equality for all, which crosses all sectors of relationships: equality for women and men; equality for people of every race and ethnicity; equality for people of every sexuality/sexual orientation; equality across economic, religious, and political lines; equality across species; equality for all aspects of the earth/cosmos, including the earth and the cosmos themselves as living beings. All these “ists” and “isms” can be confusing and divisive. So, from this day forth, Steph and I are declaring ourselves “Equalists.” How about you?
This day may you see God in all you encounter;
and may you reflect God to all you encounter.
Linda Forsberg, Copyright October 21, 2014
Photo credits: Rev. Steph Smith in front of dining hall, Ghost Ranch; Steph and I, Georgia O’Keefe tour, Ghost Ranch; Alice Walker, Dr. Melanie Harris, Steph and I; Gloria Steinem, Steph and I; Dr. Chung Hyun Kyung and I; processing it all at Ojo Caliente, Hot Mineral Springs, NM