In her book God’s Daughters, Princeton religion professor Marie Griffith writes that religions require of their believers a “willingness to join a narrative tradition, a way of knowing and being through storytelling, through giving and taking stories.” But because wealthy men have been the literate majority throughout history, too often it’s their stories we’re talking about here, their perspectives, their tales told over and over again, leaving women stuck in the tired old position of having to claim the identity of either the virgin or the whore as they are still (still!) two of the only stories told about women in so many of our religious communities.
I recently led a workshop at Lewis & Clark’s Gender Symposium on Religion. In the room was a Jewish woman who had been born a boy, a Wiccan woman who had retired from her former role as a Christian pastor, a pastor’s wife who didn’t know what her religion was but she knew what she wasn’t—she wasn’t what her husband said a Christian was, that was for sure—and all kinds of others who stories we don’t see in the tapestry of religious and spiritual history. None of whom identify as either the virgin or the whore.
The amazing thing about a tapestry, however, is that it can be taken apart. Those holes between its threads make it able to be undone and done again, so that old holes close, new ones open, and a new image, incorporating newly colored thread, continuously emerges.
This is what living religion looks like. An ever emerging image, continuously changed as new stories and new perspectives are added even while those of old are passed down.
At our workshop, we started with ourselves. We told our own stories, those that have been unrepresented in our religious communities. And then we wove them through a paper tapestry which now hangs in the college’s chaplain’s office. It’s not much. A small thing. But it represents such a big thing—that none of us fits into either of the archetypes men of old have told about us. And that, if we want people to know this, it’s time for us to get weaving.