I first came across Ronna Detrick when I worked in the Office of Students and Alumni at The Seattle School of Theology and Psychology. She was being featured in an alumni newsletter I was putting together, so I thought I would check her out on her website.
I was immediately intrigued (and truthfully, in love) with her approach to spirituality and her advocacy for the Sacred Feminine – the beautiful, wise, and mysterious feminine aspect of God that has often been undermined or forgotten in a traditionally patriarchal faith.
Through the connection of the Dean of Students and Alumni, I’ve since had the opportunity to get to know more about Ronna (a powerhouse) and her spiritual work with women (prophetic and inspiring). Recently, Ronna has been digging deep into the stories of women in Scripture, uncovering their spirits from the rubble left by oppression and redeeming these women as valuable, unique, and worthy figures in the greater story. Just as we’ve been talking about reading/seeing through the lens of pilgrimage, Ronna re-visits these stories through the lens of the Sacred Feminine, offering a new way of faith for us all.
Below you’ll find my interview with Ronna about her work and her process. At the bottom, you’ll find a special gift from Ronna just for you!
Describe the work you do in revisiting and (re)interpreting Scriptures, particularly those which are well known.
The easy answer is that I give myself permission to re-imagine Scriptures’ stories of women in brand new ways. The more complex answer is that I am completely enraptured by them, as if they wind themselves around my heart and beg for me to make them known. Sadly, too many of them have been interpreted in ways that steep them in either shame or silence. And I believe that as long as they stay in such places that we do, as well. I’m not OK with that.
When did you first begin looking back at Scripture and finding new themes and stories that you had never noticed before?
When I was in Seminary I took both Greek and Hebrew. I began to realize that the textual interpretation process has always been highly subjective; that words have been translated in particular ways for particular cultures and even particular agendas. To realize that the adjustment of the smallest of marks on the smallest of words could completely alter how we understood a particular concept or story was eye-opening and heart-expanding for me. I recognized that I had just as much permission and ability to interpret the texts as any of the men who had gone before me – for thousands of years. This was (and is) incredibly empowering and freeing.
What was it that made you look at these Scriptures again through a new lens? Were you seeking answers to a question? Had you changed, and therefore the way you saw these well-known stories changed?
In addition to the original languages mentioned above, I took a class called Feminist Critique and was exposed to both feminist theory and feminist theology. It is still hard for me to believe, but that was really my entry-point into feminism – at 41 years of age. And once the window had been opened, the floodgates opened.
And simultaneously, yes, I was changing. I had grown up in the church and had been steeped in both its culture and its doctrine my entire life. But it slowly began to feel less and less relevant to me, less and less connected to my heart. I was hungry for a way to know and interact with a God who felt intimate; to whom I could relate in a distinctly feminine way. That search continues, to be sure, but along the way it has been the stories of women who have companioned, guided, supported, and led.
Why is re-examining these well-known stories important for us today? I know some might find it uncomfortable (re)interpreting and questioning words that have been the same for centuries.
I am deeply aware that to step into the world of (re)interpreting Biblical text feels dangerous and dicey to many. And though I used to feel that way and even understand it, I don’t ascribe to it any more.
The stories we’ve learned have been told in particular ways. And those tellings have shaped the world as we know it: systems of power, politics, economy, social justice (or lack thereof), and certainly the condition of women around the world.
This reality, though sobering, actually encourages me. If the telling of those stories had the power to create this world, then the retelling of the same stories – in redemptive and powerful ways – has the power to change the world. And I’m all for that.
Describe your process in revisiting these stories and uncovering new truths. Do you begin with a question? Do you do any additional research? How do you know that the new interpretation you come to is sacred or from God?
My process is usually two-fold. First, and most importantly, I ask the women in the text what they long for me to know and understand. I let them speak. I imagine their voices, their emotions, their experiences, their perspectives. I try and get into and under their skin. And believe me, in that process, they get under mine.
Secondly, I read and do research all the time – constantly downloading new books on feminist theology and interpretation, ways of thinking about the Sacred Feminine, and certainly innovative storytelling of these ancient texts.
Stunningly, what I read – from highly trained and reputable scholars – almost always corroborates what I had thought and felt for myself. And, of course, that then validates that I’m on the right track, that I’m inviting ways of seeing these women anew that will change everything.
This question of how I know that what I come to understand is “of God” may or may not satisfy your readers, but here it is. I trust that what I hear, comprehend, perceive, and understand – deep in my bones – can be trusted; that I can be trusted. And my validating “proof” comes from the story of Eve: the crowning glory of creation, made in the image of the gods. I am her legacy. I am her kin. And as such, it is my birthright to know God’s intimacy and care as she did; to trust in and act on that same intuitive knowing. Not the way her story has predominantly been told, but you’d expect no less from me, would you?
Is your primary work less with the text specifically, and more with how the historical and cultural interpretations of the text have affected us? I’m thinking particularly of your (re)interpretation of Eve’s story, and how typically it has been used to silence and degrade women.
I would hope that I’m striking a balance between “work with the text” and discussing “historical and cultural interpretations.” One begets the other in my experience. And so, in the story of Eve, it is equally as important to pay attention to the text itself as well as the ways in which the interpretation of her story has impacted thousands of years of history for women and frankly, for men, as well.
How would you describe the importance of realizing how our own reading of Scripture can affect us in both negative and positive ways?
A “negative” reading of the text, in my opinion, is when we fail to take into consideration the context and agenda inherent from when it was written – and how it’s then been interpreted throughout time. To assume, at face value, that there is only one way to read it feels far too simplistic and sadly, the cause of so much harm throughout history and ongoing.
A “positive” reading of the text honors all that has gone before and recognizes that it is powerful enough to allow and engender new understandings, new tellings, new truths. The pages are opened with curiosity and even with the expectation that our own thoughts have value and, as stated earlier, can be trusted.
If the text is to have value it must be allowed to breathe – as must the stories within them. I hope that is what I do; resuscitate women who have been gasping for fresh air, fresh eyes, fresh ways in which their influence can be profoundly felt.
Being that we’re in the Easter season, how has your work in revisiting and reinterpreting Scripture brought redemption to your spirituality and faith? What has been resurrected in you because of your work?
I am completely certain that were it not for the stories of women in Scripture, their companionship in the darkest parts of my own story, and their ongoing presence in my day-to-day life, I would not have sustained my faith; nor could I, ongoing. Reimagining them has enabled me to reimagine myself. Redeeming them has redeemed me.
Finally, what’s the next story you plan to explore, and what are you seeking in your exploration?
I’m leaning toward both Deborah and Abigail – and will undoubtedly do them both; though I don’t know who will come first. I love both of these women: they are of profoundly courageous, wise, and kind – in unorthodox ways. And not surprisingly, what I love in them is what I long for on my own behalf. They inspire me to be more of who I am; Deborah and Abigail, to be sure; but every woman in Scripture.
The stories of women in Scripture deserve to be re-imagined, retold, and redeemed in ways that honor them as icons of inspiration and sources of wisdom, truth, and deeply feminine strength. Only when that happens, can we as women recognize our own wisdom, truth, and deeply feminine strength…and then (continue to) change the world.
I’m curious: What do you think of Ronna’s work? In what ways are you finding redemption in the retelling of old stories, both in your life and on the page?
BONUS! SPECIAL DISCOUNT
Ronna has graciously offered all of our readers a 15% discount* on products or services at RonnaDetrick.com when you use the following code at checkout: lacy
*discount not available for use on Kindle book or Sacred Art
Ronna Detrick loves nothing more than having provocative conversations about God and women. She realizes this is an oft’ taboo topic which, quite frankly, makes her want to talk and write about it even more! She’s been blogging for over seven years, providing Spiritual Direction even longer, and figuring out what it means to live someplace between faith and doubt for as long as she can remember. She is writing a book on the desert experiences of women and the beautiful, winsome companions to be found in the re-imagined stories of scripture. You can get her musings, her writings, and her heart directly in your inbox. And you can learn even more about her products and services here.