Meet Mago Contributor, Xochitl Alvizo

Xochitl AlvizoFeminist, theologian, and Christian identified woman, Xochitl is a Ph.D. Candidate in Practical Theology at Boston University School of Theology. Her research is focused on new and postmodern forms of church. She uses a feminist practical theological method that includes the use of qualitative research and narrative analysis. Her research begins with concrete communities of faith and the sacred stories they share and has an ecclesiological focus. Finding herself on the boundary of different social and cultural contexts, she works hard to develop her voice and to hear and encourage the voice of others. Her work is inspired by the conviction that all people are inextricably connected and the good one can do in any one area inevitably and positively impacts all others. Xochitl is one of the four women who founded Feminism and Religion in June 2011! 

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(Essay) Religious Mestizaje by Xochitl Alvizo

Some have said that all theology is autobiographical. Whether this is always the case or not, in this case, it is absolutely true. I came to the topic of religious mestizaje because of my own need to make sense of the fact that I fully identify as a Goddess loving person as well as a Christian-identified one. I have made reference to this before on this blog; I have admitted that even after my feminist awakening, even after coming to love and practice Goddess spirituality, even after reading all of Mary Daly’s books (some of them more than once), I have chosen to affiliate with Christianity while maintaining my Goddess devotion nonetheless. Therefore, Gloria Anzaldua’s understanding of mestijaze, and religious mestizaje in particular, has contributed to this ongoing revision in my religious identity.

The word mestiza or mestizo is born of the incarnation of hybridity and diversity.[1] Historicallymestizaje is the new hybrid race, a reference to Mexicans who are the mixed people born of Indian and Spanish blood in the 16th century.[2] The Spanish invaded the land now called Mexico, and in partnership with rival tribes, conquered the Aztec people. Oscar Garcia-Johnson, in his book A Mestiza Community of the Spirit, states that mestizaje “represents a hub of dehumanizing stories and self-empowering templates.”[3] Thus, there is an inherent violence implied in mestizaje as the word originated, and this violence is also implied in my Goddess Loving Christian mestizaje. Christianity has been the cause of much harm and dehumanizing violence, especially in its relationship to women, and really is in need of transformation and self-empowering templates. The origin of mestizaje implies the violence of one tradition or people dominating and suppressing another and the reality that new life, a new people and tradition, find a way nonetheless; I think this is part of what leads to my religious mestizaje. The new ‘way’ that I have found has taken form in a Goddess Loving Christian religious practice that reflects the concrete embodied reality of my experience – a religious practice that is always negotiated with a community of people. .

Feminist Goddess spirituality gave me something that I struggled to experience in Christianity – something Z Budapest says is the most important contribution of feminist and goddess affirming spirituality – that is, the self-affirmation of the divine within us as women.[4] The essence of my feminist awakening was the realization of God as woman and I her daughter.

So yes, there is a violence, a harm that has been done to my person and humanity, to my very sense of self as valuable and divine, implied in my religious mestizaje. The language and symbols of Christianity did not affirm my being in such a way that I would know and love the divine within me. But, more significant to my everyday reality, my religious mestizajereflects my refusal to comply to the limiting and restrictive symbols within Christianity and instead prompts me to participate with others in expanding them and also creating new ones. My Goddess Loving Christianity is the concrete resistance to the erasure of the feminine divine within me and represents my struggle to affirm the divine in all of her aspects – not just the ones that dominate and have been held up as normative by patriarchal distortions. In community with others I work and struggle to transform key Christian symbols so that they reflect those aspects of humanity and divinity that have been displaced/erased. I am invested in this work for the sake of healing, wholeness, and integration – not just mine, but that of others as well. It is a refusal to be erased or separated from the Divine that is within us as women.

A wall in Los Angeles, CA

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(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.

~~~~

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/ )