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Who is this Christ-Sophia?



This year, we re-released our 2015 Goddess-infused Christmas album Sing of Peace. All of the lyrics featured in this album were written by Rev. Jann Aldredge Clanton. Jann has collaborated with many musicians and artists to bring her liberating lyrics to those of us who are thirsting for them. A central figure in much of her music is the Christ-Sophia, a concept that initially confused and intrigued me. My recent conversation with Jann explores this enigmatic character as She is expressed in the song, “O Come, Christ-Sophia.”


Alison: Who is the Christ-Sophia?


Jann: The name “Christ-Sophia” is a symbol of divinity that makes equal connection between genders, thus providing a model for a community in which all live in partnership. “Christ- Sophia” draws from the biblical and historical connection between Christ and Wisdom, Sophia in the original Greek language of the Christian Scriptures. Sophia, the Greek word for Wisdom, is a resurrected biblical female divine image that opens new possibilities for liberation, justice, and peace. New Testament writers link Christ to Wisdom, a female divine name in the Hebrew Scriptures. Wisdom (Hokmah in Hebrew) symbolizes creative, redemptive, and healing power. In their efforts to describe this same power in Christ, the apostle Paul and other writers of the Christian Scriptures draw from the picture of Wisdom. Paul refers to Christ as “the power of God and the Wisdom (Sophia) of God” (1 Corinthians 1:24), and states that Christ became for us Sophia from God” (1 Corinthians 1:30). The book of Proverbs describes Wisdom as the way, the life, and the path (Proverbs 4). The writer of the gospel of John refers to Christ as “the way, and the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). An early Christian writer declared Sophia to be the most ancient and appropriate title for Jesus.


The image of “Christ-Sophia” holds promise for inspiring social justice through shared

power. The name “Christ-Sophia” suggests equal connection instead of dominance and

submission in relationships. Christ-Sophia images equal gender connection in that the

name “Christ” traditionally denotes male divinity, and Sophia is a female name for the

Divine. Also, Christ-Sophia links races, connecting the Jewish Jesus to Wisdom in both

ancient and hellenized Judaism and drawing from both Egyptian and Greek sacred

symbols. Bringing Christ and Sophia together can inspire powerful partnerships that

contribute to equity, justice, and peace in our world. My book In Search of the Christ-

Sophia: An Inclusive Christology for Liberating Christians fully explores this divine name

and image.


Alison: What feminist values inform your writing?


Jann: Informing my writing are core feminist values of gender equality, egalitarian

communities, collaboration, diversity, justice, peace, care of the earth, creativity,

freedom to become all we’re created to be, respect for all people and all creation. My

writing prioritizes equal social, political, economic, and religious rights for women and

all female-identified persons; prioritizing those who are most oppressed means freeing

everyone else. My writing is also informed by the intersectionality of gender, race, class,

and age discrimination and other forms of injustice.


The more I advocated these feminist values, the more I realized that at the foundation of

our patriarchal culture is an image of a male God, sanctioning patterns of dominance

and submission. More and more I was understanding that the strongest support

imaginable for the dominance of men is this worship of an exclusively masculine

Supreme Being. So my call expanded to writing, preaching, and teaching on the

inclusion of the Divine Feminine. Female names and images of the Divine help to

dismantle patriarchal theology and structures that result in multiple, intersecting forms

of oppression and violence throughout the world. Patriarchy is at the root of systemic evils such as sexism, misogyny, racism, heterosexism, classism, militarism, ableism, and exploitation of the earth. Exclusively male names and images of Deity form the foundation for patriarchy. The Divine Feminine brings healing by affirming the sacred value of all people and all creation.


Alison: In the first verse you include the line, “Come bless us and challenge us to make

life anew.” How does Christ-Sophia challenge us?


Jann: The very name and image of Christ-Sophia challenges us to make “life anew.” Christ- Sophia challenges our language which forms a foundation for beliefs and actions. Christ- Sophia brings the Divine Feminine into the Christian tradition, challenging the patriarchal leadership, language, and structures.


Christ-Sophia challenges us to heal our wounded world. Sophia Wisdom has for the

most part been stifled, demeaned, or ignored for centuries. Our world is in deep need of

the healing that Sophia Wisdom can bring. She challenges us to see, to feel, and then

to act as if the future depended on us, because it does.


Sophia Wisdom challenges us to go with Her on healing paths of peace. “All Her paths

are peace” (Proverbs 3:17). She calls us bring justice and peace in all our relationships

and communities. Sophia Wisdom also shows us ways to use our unique gifts to

contribute to justice and peace in our world wounded by violence against people and

the earth. She challenges us to overcome injustices and to co-create a world of shared

power, equity, justice, liberation, and peace.


Alison: The second verse references labor and birthing. Why are these themes important

and how are they represented in traditional versus liberating Christmas music?


Jann: Below are my lyrics to “O Come, Christ-Sophia,” followed by the traditional Christmas carol to this tune.


O come, Christ-Sophia, full of grace and wisdom;

Come bless us, come challenge us to make life anew.

Come bring us power, beauty, hope, and harmony.

We long for your coming, labor for your birthing,

for you are our hope of peace, our power for change.

Come, Christ-Sophia, break down walls and free us.

Rejoice all you people, sisters, brothers, join now

to sing of a bright new day just dawning for all.

Sing now a new song; sing with jubilation.


REFRAIN:

O come now, Christ-Sophia; O come, now Christ-Sophia;

O come now Christ-Sophia, Wisdom and peace.


O come, all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant,

O come ye, O come ye to Bethlehem!

Come, and behold Him, born the King of angels!

Sing, choirs of angels; sing in exultation;

sing, all ye citizens of heaven above!

Glory to God, all glory in the highest!

Yea, Lord, we greet Thee, born this happy morning;

Jesus, to Thee be all glory given!

Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing!


REFRAIN:

O come, let us adore Him;

O come, let us adore Him;

O come, let us adore Him, Christ, the Lord!


My carol includes images of labor and birthing. The traditional lyrics include “born,” but

no words or metaphors to include the processes of labor and birthing.


My carol includes the Divine Feminine breaking down walls of exclusion and bringing

new life, and themes of peace, hope, liberation, and collaboration for new life. The

traditional words “King” and “Lord” denote hierarchy, and all the masculine references

support patriarchy. The third verse of the traditional carol also includes “Father.” A verse

in the Hebrew Bible with the image of birthing has been mistranslated through the

centuries to support patriarchy. Deuteronomy 32:18 is accurately translated “You were

unmindful of the Rock that bore you; you forgot the God who gave you birth.”

(Deuteronomy 32:18). The Hebrew verb is accurately translated “bore,” not “fathered,”

as in the New International, New King James, Jerusalem Bible, and many other

versions. The translation “You forgot the God who fathered you” is totally incorrect. Over

centuries translators and commentators have ignored female imagery in this passage

and many others. Traditional hymns and carols reflect these patriarchal biases.


Labor and birthing themes are important because not only do they denote female

processes, but also they refer to involving all genders in labor and birthing new

language, new visual images, new ideas, new actions—a new day of beauty, hope, and

harmony for all.


Alison: You’ve created many audio-visual experiences that weave together your songs,

photographs of social justice actions and feminist faith communities as well as

original Goddess-focused artwork. Would you tell us about your choices of

artwork in the video for “O Come, Christ-Sophia?”


Jann: This video features Divine Feminine and racially diverse artwork. Female divine visual images, along with female divine names in my lyrics, help to dismantle patriarchal theology and structures that result in multiple, intersecting forms of oppression throughout the world. Reclaiming the Female Divine in visual imagery and language empowers our work together for equality, social justice, peace, and sustainability. Including multicultural female divine images in our sacred rituals affirms the sacred value of females of all races who continue to suffer from violence and abuse. We contribute to racial justice and equity by changing the traditional symbolism of darkness as evil or ominous and light as good to symbolism of both darkness and light as good. My lyrics and artwork in this video and in my other song videos use positive images of darkness to affirm the sacred value of people of color in the divine image. In other song lyrics I include “Holy Darkness,” “Sacred Darkness,” “Creative Darkness.” The artwork in all my videos also symbolizes darkness as creative bounty and beauty, birthing and nurturing all life.


The video “O Come, Christ-Sophia” begins with Katie Ketchum’s beautiful painting for

the album cover of Sing of Peace. This album brought me into collaboration with Spiral

Muse. Also, for “O Come, Christ-Sophia” video I chose compelling “Christ-Sophia” paintings by Stacy Boorn, pastor of herchurch. These paintings illustrate the power and beauty of dark female divine visual images.This video includes Elaine Chan-Scherer’s “Our Lady of Charity: La Caridad” painting adding beautiful diversity to the video. The video also features photos from The Gathering, A Womanist Church andAssociation of Roman Catholic Women Priests, two other organizations striving to dismantle patriarchy and white supremacy.


Alison: Why is it important to rework traditional hymns rather than write new songs with

new music?


Jann: I think it’s important to write new lyrics to traditional hymn tunes and to write new songs with new music. My songs to traditional tunes have been the most popular. I hear from music leaders that many people are more receptive to new words to familiar tunes because they have something familiar to sing. Carols are ubiquitous in many cultures during the Christmas season. “O Come, Christ-Sophia” is the first song I wrote. It was during the Christmas season when all the masculine words and images felt like stones pelting my spirit. I wondered what it would be like if we sang to adore “Her,” instead of “Him.” I didn’t just rework the traditional carol substituting “Her,” but wrote entirely new lyrics to this tune, as I’ve done with my other songs.


Alison: What is your hope for humanity at this moment of such acute political,

humanitarian and ecological crisis?


Jann: Our world is in deep need of the healing that Divine Wisdom can bring. My hope is that political, social, and religious leaders will be guided by Her.


Our world is ravaged by war and other forms of violence. I hope for cease fire in theMiddle East, Russia/Ukraine, and other places around the world. Although it may seem impossible at this time, I believe Sophia Wisdom can guide us to peace and justice.


My hope is that “Mother,” Sophia, Ruah, Shekinah, Shaddai, “Mother Eagle,” Gaia, and

other Divine Feminine images will continue to rise in our world to bring a new day of

peace, equity, and freedom for all genders and races. Including female divine names

and images gives sacred value to women and girls who for centuries have been

excluded, ignored, cursed, and abused, and continue to be. When the Divine is seen as

female, then women and girls are seen in Her image and thus respected and

valued. My hope is that the Divine Feminine continues to bring transformation that

contributes to equality, liberation, and justice.


I hope that our children and grandchildren grow up in a world without gun violence.

Young people are following Sophia Wisdom to guide the way through March for Our

Lives and other advocacy organizations.


My hope is that people throughout the world will follow Sophia Wisdom in healing our

earth. Greta Thunberg embodies Wisdom as she inspires a global movement to

address climate change to save our planet.


My hope is that people of all genders, races, abilities, and ages throughout the world

have the freedom to become all we’re created to be in Her divine image.


Rev. Jann Aldredge-Clanton, Ph.D. is an author, teacher, and ordained minister. She currently serves as co-chair of the national, ecumenical organization Equity for Women in the Church, co-pastor of New Wineskins Feminist Ritual Community, ministry partner of The Gathering, A Womanist Church, and adjunct professor at Richland College, Dallas, Texas. Her work focuses on feminist theology and Divine Feminine ritual.


Her published books include She Lives! Sophia Wisdom Works in the World; Inclusive Hymns for Liberating Christians; Inclusive Hymns for Liberation, Peace, and Justice; Earth Transformed with Music! Inclusive Songs for Worship; Inclusive Songs for Resistance & Social Action; Inclusive Songs from the Heart of Gospel; Seeking Wisdom: Inclusive Blessings and Prayers for Public Occasions; Breaking Free: The Story of a Feminist Baptist Minister; In Search of the Christ-Sophia: An Inclusive Christology for Liberating Christians; and Praying with Christ-Sophia: Services for Healing and Renewal, and Hersay: Songs for Healing and Empowerment. Learn more about her work at https://jannaldredgeclanton.com/. You can find the extended version of this interview there as well.





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