(Essay) Be-ing in the Church by Xochitl Alvizo

Sometimes it is difficult to make sense of the peculiar paths our religious lives take, much more so to make sense of one another’s paths which can be so different from our own.

I was raised in a Mexican American family and grew up in Los Angeles, California (my parents say I was “made in Mexico, assembled in the U.S.”).  And I grew up going to Spanish-speaking Catholic mass.  I have often said that the God I know in Spanish is so different from the God I came to know in English when I began to roam Protestant circles in undergrad. Growing up, the Spanish speaking God I knew was  as assumed and as basic as the air that kept us alive: always available and always with us in the good, the bad, and the ugly. God was a constant without which we could not exist.  But in undergrad, my Protestant friends seemed to have a completely different understanding of God than the one I had grown up with. Theirs was a God that required obedience, a God of very specific expectations, and a jealous God at that! It was a very confusing time for me and my engagement with Christianity wavered.

Then in graduate school, eight years after undergrad, something happened that revolutionized my life – I discovered radical feminists! As ironic as this might seem, radical feminists provided me with a way to make sense of Christianity. They gave me a language and the tools to both critique and engage Christianity and the church. I have often said that if it wasn’t for Mary Daly, I wouldn’t be able to call myself a Christian(!).

I got to work with Mary Daly the last two years of her life,  me and three other friends from grad school; Mary called us the hedge hags. We were part of Mary’s local community that shared in her day to day life, and ironically, we were all Christian identified women. Mary Daly grumbled about this of course, asking how we could continue to stay involved, and so we told her. Each of us gave Mary Daly our own account of the different and complicated reasons for staying involved in the church – not all of it making sense to her of course. But, we also share one common reason for staying that did make sense to Mary. We, adult, feminist, critically reflective women, have stayed involved in Christianity because there was something from deep within our be-ing that compelled us to do so, and be-ing was something Mary Daly did understand.

Mary Daly taught me to participate in Be-ing, in Ultimate Intimate Reality. [1] What Mary wanted for me, and what she wanted for all women, was that I do that which awakens me, that which ignites my Elemental Passion [2] and connects me with the Divine. And for me, that meant I stayed; I stayed to continue my participation, critique, and engagement in the tradition that has been passed down to me and that continues to be a part of who I am (and a part of so many others whom I love and with whom I share my life). But I do so differently now. I participate and engage on the Boundary, the “Time and Space created by women Surviving and Spinning on the boundaries of patriarchal institutions.” [3]  I live on the Boundary of Christianity and find my life’s passion there. It is there that I Rage, taking the “transformative focusing force that awakens transcendent E-motion,” [4] and it is there that my be-ing [5] takes place. Even though Mary first grumbled at the fact that these four feminist friends of hers were all women who “stayed,” she also knew we were women with the Courage to See, the Courage to Live, and the Courage to Sin. [6]

Our path was not the one she envisioned for women, and she certainly would not have recommend our path to anyone else, but Mary Daly knew it was the right one for us (at least for the time being anyway), and she enCouraged us to Rage on!

Mary Daly and the Hedge Hags (back when I had long hair!)

One of the reasons I appreciate this blog so much is because it helps keep me responsible; it reminds me of the many things of which I must be mindful as I participate in a religious tradition that has been the cause of so much harm. I am grateful that so many people participate in this blog with the Courage [7] to Con-Question. [8] Because of it, I continue to think deeply and critically about the Christian tradition I claim and I aim to participate in it in such a way that honors the insights and experiences of those who challenge me. I won’t always get it right, but I will always be making the effort.

It can indeed be difficult to make sense of the peculiar paths our religious lives take, but maybe looking to make sense of it is beside the point. As I have commented on this blog before, the human spirit and lived reality do not fit nicely into simple or clear cut categories or explanations. But I do believe it is a beautiful and necessary practice to continue to engage one another across our different paths, Spinning and Weaving new creations as we do.

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Spinning: “Gyn/Ecological creation; Discovering the lost thread of connectedness within the cosmos and repairing this thread in the process,” Wickedary, p. 96.

Weaving: “Original activities of Websters: creating tapestries of Crone-centered creation; constructing a context which sustains Sisters on the Otherworld Journey,” Wickedary, p. 99.


[1] Be-ing: “Ultimate/Intimate Reality, the constantly unfolding Verb of Verbs which is intransitive, having no object that limits its dynamism,” as defined in Webster’s First New Intergalactic Wickedary of the English Language, conjured by Mary Daly in cahoots with Jane Caputi, p. 64.

[2] That is to say, it ignites our E-motion: “Elemental Passion which moves women out/away from the fixed/framed State of Stagnation; Pyrogenetic Passion that fires deep knowing and willing, stirring Metamemory, propelling Wild Women on the Otherworld Journey,” from Mary Daly’s Wickedary, p. 74.

[3] Wickedary, p. 67.

[4] Wickedary, p. 91.

[5] be-ing: v: actual participation in the Ultimate/Intimate Reality  (not to be confused with capital ‘B’ Be-ing), Wickedary, p. 64.

[6] If you don’t already own a Wickedary, at this point in the blog I hope you are intrigued enough to get yourself a copy and look these words up yourself – I assure you it’ll be worth it!

[7] See, Wickedary, p. 69.

[8] See Wickedary, p. 113.

(This essay was first published on Feminism and Religion, where Xochitl is Co-Editor.  http://feminismandreligion.com/2011/08/31/be-ing-in-the-church-by-xochitl-alvizo/ )