Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Midrash of Ephesians 2:19-22

The other night, after reading this passage, I had a "vision," or momentary mental flash about Godde as Seamstress. I allowed my mind to play with the scripture, write something unique and yet orthodox. I wanted to experiment with feminine language for Godde, and to place the idea of Godde in us into explicitly feminine experience. Being a seamstress is a historically feminine profession. Anyway, I love the idea of Godde as Divine Artist, Someone Who Creates. This is what I came up with...

 19 Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. 21 In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. 22 And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.

We, as Godde's new creation, are a diverse bunch. We were once a bunch of loose bolts of cloth discarded by the world. Now, with our foremothers and forefathers of faith, we are painstakingly being sewn by Godde, the Great Seamstress, into a beautiful dress. Her patient and steady hands are working to arrange us around Christ as the most brilliant red silk empire waist. For some, this bright red seems to clash. It is altogether too extravagant, too lavish to be surrounded by such other ordinary fabric. But for Godde, it is this love colored red that makes the whole piece's design cohere. We are being formed into Godde's respledent gown, one the Spirit delights to slip into. 

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Uneasy about The Life Zone...


Written by republican senate candidate Ken Del Vecchio, The Life Zone tackles some controversial material. Women, who had been on the table about to have abortions, awaken to find themselves jailed by a "mad man." When they give birth, simultaneously, they are free to go. You can watch the trailer here:

*SPOILER* Later, we find out the jail is purgatory. The women who give birth go to Heaven, but the one who refuses and kills her fetus goes...well, ya know, straight to Hell (Cos that's where all baby-killers go amirite? Straight to Hell. Do not pass go, do not collect $200).

Personally, I'm uneasily pro-choice. Meaning, were I to become unexpectedly pregnant (heaven knows I can barely take care of myself), abortion would probably (because even I'm not sure how I'd react in a given situation) not be an option my conscience would allow. However, I don't feel anyone has the right to legislate what another woman or a trans man (abortion is not just a women's issue) what to do with their bodies.

Furthermore, I've resolved never to judge another person on whether or not they've had an abortion. Especially Christian women, because, from the statistics I've seen, 1/3 of women have had an abortion, in America. ONE THIRD. Can you imagine, in your church or parish, most likely someone you know has probably made the choice to terminate a pregnancy...

It just goes to show no one knows how they'd react in a given situation, even Christian women who have such taboos about it leveled at them.

The reasoning given for this choice, contrary to popular caricature, is not "the child would be an inconvienence so let's just kill it!"

It's "do I have resources to take care of the child? Enough money? Do I have a supportive partner? Am I psychologically stable enough to deal with (another) child?

It's usually never as simple as "just get rid of it." From what I understand, it's an agonizing decision made after deep soul searching.

(For stats, go here: http://www.guttmacher.org/pubs/fb_induced_abortion.html)

Often, when anti-choice Christians fight for the rights of the unborn child, they barely take the rights of the mother into consideration. I feel lucky. In my church, people are insanely loving, putting their money and time where their mouths are. They're anti-choice, but they realize there are many complex factors in any one person's situation. They also allow the person the choice to think things through. I thank Godde for them. But, unfortunately, I get the sense not all anti-choice Christians are like this. They'll fight to the teeth for the baby to be born, but after that, the mom/dad is on their own...

The Life Zone, I suspect, would clinch my pro-choice position if I wasn't there already.

Think about, if you're a woman or trans man who has given birth, how difficult pregnancy is. You're body changes, you swell, you get sore everywhere, you may throw up, you get moody. Then, imagine giving birth. The pain that entails, the hours in labor. Then, imagine you might suffer afterward post partum depression. You're not necessarily thrilled about this new life. At the moment, you might just want to die...

Now, imagine that you really can't take care of a child, for whatever reason. You're working three jobs as it is. You're struggling just to get dinner on the table. Maybe it triggers extreme gender dysphoria for you...Perhaps, you've been struggling with depressive episodes and you find you just can't deal with any more stress. Maybe you've been raped. Or, a family member has molested you, and you're extremely young and terrified.

Now, imagine what it would be like to go through all this against your will. Imagine that you have no choice in what happens to your body.

This is why the movie disturbs me. This is where we were before 1973, and before contraceptives were widely available. Women, with two, three, four kids, who couldn't have anymore or couldn't afford to feed any more children would perform their own, dangerous, often lethal abortion. Del Vecchio seems to think this would be a better thing for women. Or, at least, a more Godly situation...

I have a hard time thinking forcing a person to give birth is Godde glorifying, since Godde never forces us to do anything against our wills. It sounds like mental, physical, and spiritual torture to me.

Of course, I'm not saying abortion itself is a "moral good." Perhaps, though, it is the lesser of two evils...


There was also one more piece of food for thought I'd like to throw out there about "abortion is murder." Hugo Schwyzer in one of his lectures made a point about whether or not people who believe abortion is murder really do. He said that if we really believed that it WAS murder, people wouldn't just be picketing abortion clinics, they'd also be killing abortion doctors. If I really believe that abortion is murder, a genocide of the unborn akin to Hitler's of the Jews, I should be killing abortion doctors...Though, most of my extended Christian family would decry me as a killer, they would still laud Bonhoeffer's attempt at assanating Adolph Hitler. This is something I'm just thinking about.

Of course, on the other hand, I, a pacifist don't believe in even justified violence. Though, I also think that Bonhoeffer should have been celebrated if he had killed Hitler. One could argue that abortion is a form of violence.

Of course, this is irrelevent to my above points. A woman who has become unexpectedly pregant deserves respect, understanding, and compassion.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Religion, Oppression, and Stuff Pt. 2

MECHTILD OF MAGDEBURG, The Flowing Light of the Godhead
God is not only fatherly,
God is also mother
who lifts her loved child
from the ground to her knee.
The Trinity is like a mother's cloak
wherein the child finds a home
and lays its head on the maternal breast.

Ok. So the first part of this tackled how Christians do/n't interact with people who do not share the same tradition. My point was this: please, followers of Jesus, be quiet unless people explicitly tell you they want to know more. Or, unless you KNOW it is Godde telling you to do so. Maybe I'm being way reactive to things I've seen but...(read John Shore's I'm Ok--You're Not. lol)

This post is about something else brought up on that feministe post that also got me thinking. People were questioning whether or not a woman could both be monotheistic and feminist. Since, again, I'm not qualified to speak on the experiences of Jewish or Muslim women, I'm gonna focus on my experience of Christianity.

The reasoning goes that in a religion whose leadership, symbolic language, and sacred texts are androcentric there is, structurally, no place for women. It's inherently oppressive to us.

This reasoning, however, erases the voices of many women throughout time who have found their tradition liberating. Who, in the words of Lucinda Peach of American University, have carved out spaces for themselves in their tradition where they can flourish (and I chafe immediately against the idea anyone else can tell a woman what liberates her).

This reasoning also erases my voice. Though, to even say that I carved out a space to flourish in my tradition would be wrong. It was Godde Hirself who carved the perfect space out for me.

Briefly this winter, I de-converted from Christianity because I held the aforementioned mistaken belief. It seemed Godde hated women. 

I mean, the Bible can be scary for a woman. In the books of the law, women were required to marry their rapists. They were traded like property. They were unclean longer after giving birth and menstration and sex than men who ejaculated; thus their bodies were treated as a contaminating force. They were even barred from the holiest place in the Temple. They were marginalized in the gospels, even though Jesus was probably the least sexist guy in our tradition and we have many non-biblical sources that show for the centuries after Jesus died and was resurrected, women were leaders in the Jesus movement. In the Epistles, Mary Magdalene was edited out as the apostle to the apostles, and this honor was given by Paul to Peter instead. Later, they were told not to speak in church. Not to usurp male authority ya da ya da ya da. 

Never mind all the things said of women by theologians throughout the centuries. Philo, Augustine, Aquinas, Tertullian, Calvin, Luther...All the theologians I as a Christian have been taught to respect. 

I'd been having Mary Daly's pronouncements bouncing around in my head, the one's from Beyond God the Father, for months. 

God is a masculine God. Christ is a male Christ. People look at the cross not as a revolutionary rejection of unjust authority, all authority but Godde's (the power of love instead of the love of power) but an excuse for people to force women to suffer at the hands of abusive husbands/leaders in the Name of God(tm)!!!

All of it was making scary sense. Plus, I'd seen what "men's headship" of women had done to my mother. Mom had followed the "submit unconditionally to thy husband" thing for many years with a man who could seemingly not be pleased. Our home was chaotic and dysfunctional. When she started following the "feminist" (and I believe, more importantly, Godly) principles of self-assertiveness and boundaries, our family improved dramatically (I even have a decent relationship with my dad now!).

Furthermore, the doctrine of men's headship in marriage made me uncomfortable in another way. It makes the husband a little christ over his wife, when the rest of the counsel of scripture insists that Jesus alone is Lord. It was a glaring contradiction, and seemed, instead of something Biblical, a kind of "heresy." 

For a while, I tried to hang on to my faith despite damning evidence (pun intended). Wanting to help facilitate change I wished would happen in the church at large, I talked to my pastor about maybe using feminine language for God-the-father in church. Then, I told him a personal story about Godde revealing Herself to me as Mother Bear (Hosea 13:8). My dear pastor, visibly shaken, tried to explain that I was wrong. He wound up completely invalidating my experience, and telling me God was a fierce father bear ready to protect me from error. Error in this case being Goddess worship? It was a psychological blow, and demonstrated everything I feared that was true about Christianity. A man (who had always enjoyed a likeness to God I as a woman had not, though I love him to pieces) had dismissed my personal experience of the feminine in Godde. It was silencing and infantilizing. 

And I thought, "what a shitty bargain I have struck with the God of Abraham, Issac, and Jacob." To be a Christian, I have to feel alienated from who God made me to be. A woman.

I don't blame my pastor. Now, even though he doesn't know (yet), I thank him. Without him, I wouldn't know what I know now. He sent me out, so I could learn, and return stronger than ever! He did me a great favor! 

Though, at the time, I was in an insecure place, and it was though he'd handed me a loaded gun. Of course, I was the one responsible for pulling the trigger. And I did, because, after that converstion, I felt that if this man, who I love dearly and whose opinion I really respect, and who has counseled me with great wisdom in the past, willfully refused to understand, there was no place for me in my tradition.

I followed an unspoken, disavowed command: do not goddess worship. A few days later I decided to leave my faith. It was, at first, a great relief not to have "split consciousness." I investigated Wicca, longing for a patron Goddess. I read everything I could, felt affinity with the Hopi Corn Maiden, and the African Oya, and Sumerian Inanna. I learned the magickal properties of herbs and stones, even though I wasn't really interested in doing spells. It wasn't magickal skill I wanted, necessarily, but a relationship with a deity who didn't hate women.

I read everything about goddesses I could get my hands on and thrilled to the idea that once upon a time in the distant past there was an Eden-like, non-violent, matriarchal society that worshipped the Great Goddess. And then, I read more and found Marija Gimbutas' work on ancient Europe had been largely discredited. This ethereal Eden-matriarchy was probably an inaccurate picture of ancient societies. Somewhere, I read that goddess worshippers sacrificed people to their deities. Not the non-violent matriarchy I'd hoped to find in my research...

Furthermore, I found that even in societies that worshipped goddesses, they were used to bolster male imperial power. They weren't necessarily empowering for women themselves. One of my complaints about Christianity was that Jesus was used by Constantine in the 300's to bolster male/imperial power, a legacy that has stayed with us to this day. 

I started noticing, too, the way gender and sex were still conflated in Wicca. In Dianic Wicca, my particular field of study, this focus on literal, bodily function was still quite transphobic. As if a trans woman was any less a woman than any other: penis or no.
(Don't get me wrong. As a religion, I have nothing against Wicca. For many, Wicca is great. I'm just saying it wasn't necessarily fulfilling for me.)...

Furthermore, the masculine was still associated with reason and the feminine with emotion. The masculine with the sun's energy, and the feminine's with the moon's. Explicit or not, this is the division in traditional Christian theology: male is imbued as imago dei with the "greater light" of reason, Godliness, and culture and women with the lesser light of emotion, bodliness, and nature. (I believe all genders contain a little of everything. A woman can be really logical and spiritual and nurturing. A man can be nurturing, and logical, and emotional. The gender binary itself is an illusion; it's more of a continuum...)

Furthermore, in Wicca, women's bodies were still revered by their fertility functions. The maid, mother, and crone symbols, though I still love them as metaphors about the cycles of a woman's life, are still about the physical capabilities of women to give birth, just as birth giving is in Christianity: "a woman will be saved through childbearing..." 

My biggest problem, however, was that no goddess had called out to me. I had no patroness, even though I longed for one. I would pray to various goddesses, waited for a response. I prayed to the generic Great Goddess. No answer. I still had no drive to do magick. Like I said, I wanted a relationship with someone. I wanted a Divine Mother, Sister, and Friend...Wicca satisfied my intellectual need for goddesses, but it could not satisfy my need for the intimate, loving Divine relationship that characterized the one I once had with the Godde of Jesus. 

And then, one night, I found myself re-converting to Christianity. 

One night, after I'd stayed up late studying. I was so empty, and trying to pray to the goddess for wisdom. For comfort. For love. There was nothing but hopeless blackness and sadness in my heart. 

When I went out to smoke, I lost my favorite Goddess charm somewhere around my dorm's complex. I kept circling around and around in a frenzy, as if losing this artifact was literally losing my last connection to the Divine. In the back of my mind, I kept thinking of Jesus' parable of the woman with the lost coin. It was as if Godde and Jesus were squating in the back of my mind. And Godde was that determined and strong woman following me down the street looking for Her lost coin. The Trinity seemed to say: "you're looking for your goddess. But your Godde is looking for you."

When I went inside, I just happened to stumble on a quote online about Godde and Jesus being our Mother. Just as I read, a song started playing on my ipod called "This Is To Mother You." These were the lyrics: 

This is to mother you
To comfort you and get you through
Through when your nights are lonely
Through when your dreams are only blue
This is to mother you
This is to be with you
To hold you and to kiss you too
For when you need me I will do
What your own mother didn't do
Which is to mother you
All the pain that you have known
All the violence in your soul
All the 'wrong' things you have done
I will take from you when I am come
All mistakes made in distress
All your unhappiness
I will take away with my kiss, yes
I will give you tenderness
For child I am so glad we've found you
Although our arms have always been around you
Sweet bird although you did not see us
we see you

And I'm here to mother you
To comfort you and get you through
Through when your nights are lonely
Through when your dreams are only blue
This is to mother you

That was it. The dam broke. I had a come back to Jesus moment. lol. 

Through these months away from my faith, Godde systematically broke apart everything I mistakenly believed:

There are problems in every religion, even the goddess centered ones. This is because of sin. Because humans can suck. In Christianity, one of our corporate sins just happens to be sexism. In our symbolic language, our overwhelming leadership of men, and our inattention to "women's issues" like domestic abuse/objectification/sexual assault/pedophilia. The list could go on ad nauseum.  

I learned, through experience, Jesus may have been male, but his "Father" and the Spirit are beyond gender. Jesus was our savior and his humanness and not his gender is important. His maleness says nothing about Godde ontologically except that S/He Who Is knew, as Rosemary Radford Reuther's noted in Sexism and God Talk, that a woman savior who served others and gave herself up for people would be no big deal. It's what a woman was supposed to do anyway. It was radical that Godde would come as a man, with more social power than women, and would empty Himself on our behalf. Godde, the first person of the trinity, transcends gender, so imaging Her in feminine terms is no less theologically correct than imaging Him in male terms. That Jesus called Godde Father was not to disclose that Godde was male, but was a loving and powerful parent. Mother and Father can both work today...

Lately, I've been thinking about what Jesus said in John 20 to Mary Magdalene when He tells her to tell the disciples He's ascending to His Father, and their Father; His Godde and their Godde."

In Jesus, Godde is now my Mother, Father, Sister, Brother and Friend. 
While S/He Who Is does not belong to me in a literal sense, S/He does belong to me and I to Hir. In the way lovers belong to each other. As a Christian woman, this means I have equal access as men do to the Divine. This means this is my tradition, too, and that it can benefit from my experiences just as much as it did from Paul's. The Sacred Hearted Jesus is mine, Godde the Parent is mine, Godde the Spirit is mine, the church is mine. Everything in the world is mine as a gift from the One Who Loved Me. And I have things to give back to each. 

This is incredibly liberating!

Religion, Oppression, and Stuff

The other night on feministe.us I lurked on a conversation happening about a post about Lady Gaga's appropriation of Latin@ imagery in her Judas video. I'm agnostic as to the OP, whether or not Lady Gaga was really appropriating cultural images that did not belong to her. She is Catholic, of course, but I can't speak to the difference between Italian and Latin@ imagery because I am not Catholic, and I'm not knowledgable enough about Catholic culture to put in my two cents.

What fascinated me, though, was the conversation in the comment section about religion, the three largests monotheisms, which transpired there. It was basically a conversation about whether or not religion is inherently oppressive. Personal stories poured out of people. How ex-Christians had to leave because it injured them, oppressed their souls.

For me, when someone says religion has oppressed them, than that for me full stop means that their experience should be respected. No one has the right to try to convert them, or try to change their minds, or talk them out of their feelings. That just compounds the problem. Christian privilege is the air in which we move, and live, and have our being. I wish more Christians understood this, that their well meaning attempts at "revealing the truth" to some people, are in themselves oppressive; In one posters words "even if the person is nice about it."

It's unwanted. And therefore, oppressive because it functions in a society that privileges all things Christian.

This needs to stop. For one, people have heard it all before. In the US, nobody is ignorant of the basic "gospel message." For another, many people have spent their lives in faiths to which they no can longer adhere because it has harmed them. For another, I fail to understand how "love thy neighbor as thyself" could ever translate to pushing something down someone's throat. That's not love. It's violence.

I also wish more Christians realized that by fighting for restrictions on abortion, and for biblical roles in the family, and against gay rights, they are actively oppressing people. I mean, I'm a pro-gay (and queer), pro-choice person of faith. But even if I wasn't, it wouldn't be my place to legislate people's personal choices (not, of course, that being gay or trans or a woman is even a personal choice at all!). For many Christians, being anti-gay and anti-choice are just  "issues" they adopt because as good people of faith they "should." They think it's God's will. But, for the queer folks and women, these are THEIR LIVES they're messing with.

America, I hate to break to some people, is not a Christian nation. Or, rather, it shouldn't be. It's a democratic republic. Which means, when the people speak, the nation needs to listen. When I thank Godde for my country, I would thank Her for letting me live in a country whose charter documents spell out religious freedom. For everyone.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Forgive Yourself

I've stumbled on this comment in several different places today. Three, to be exact. I don't believe in accidents.

Plus, I've had Tori Amos's song Crucify, about this very topic, stuck in my head for days.

What does this mean?