Wednesday, March 26, 2008


From the Nazi Holocaust emerged one benefit—Christian acceptance of our Jewish roots and apologies for past persecution. More difficult is accepting our pagan roots. When will we hear apologies for corrupting the very meaning of the word "pagan"?

Mediterranean cultures—Arabian, Egyptian, Sumerian and others—had gods and goddesses who died and rose in three days. Christian teaching used to represent these deities as foolish and phony, at best a preparation for Christ. This claim rarely comes from theologians any more, but many Christians still think our own God-image is unique and that the Resurrection proves Jesus’ divinity.

Celts, Native Americans, Hindus, and people of other cultures around the world also had mythical heroes whose life, death, and rebirth or Second Coming were celebrated. We can do what Christian teaching used to do—deride all the other myths and insist ours is uniquely correct. Or we can ask, What explains the remarkable Hero with a Thousand Faces (one of Joseph Campbell’s book titles)?

Campbell, Carl Jung and other mythologists provide answers that I pass on in God Is Not Three Guys in the Sky, but here I want to dwell on the Resurrection.

Dying and rising sums up the human condition and the activity of the universe. Things are always either growing or declining. Transformation occurs constantly. “This too shall pass” replies an Eastern sage to the request for a statement that will always be true.

Christian literature repeats the theme with more than the myth of Christ. We have the Passover and the paschal mystery and the verse in John 12:24: “Unless a grain of wheat falls down and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat. But if it dies, it produces much fruit.”

The Letter of First Clement was part of the New Testament canon in parts of Christian antiquity. It tells of the phoenix, a mythical bird that lives for 500 years, dies by igniting its own burial nest, then rises renewed from the ashes.

First Clement links Jesus’ death and resurrection to those of the phoenix, but my patristics professor downplayed this passage in First Clement, maybe to preserve the uniqueness of the Christian Resurrection. Job 29:18 also mentions the phoenix, and the symbol lives on in our culture.

Many years ago I got an excited response when a friend learned I was driving a car called the Phoenix. She knew its mythological significance and led me to it. It was a time of dying and rising for me; I call it my womb/tomb time. That period in my life continues to teach me about the paschal mystery, and I know other human lives have such transformative passages.

Life is a series of changes and every change is a little death and resurrection. The last child leaves home and the parents have to renew their marriage. A beloved job or career ends and a new door opens. Every reader can add examples.

Holy Week—April 10, 2009
Christian churches this week are concentrating on the death and resurrection of a man who lived 2000 years ago, and many ignore the ongoing deaths and resurrections in the entire universe and in each individual.

I stopped going to Good Friday services because they elicit sorrow and guilt over one certain individual’s suffering—a narrow, literal understanding of the doctrine “Christ died for our sins.”
Understanding this doctrine symbolically opens and enlarges it to connect us with suffering individuals the world over, for instance, human rights workers imprisoned and tortured. They also are suffering for us, their acts benefit us all, and we bear some responsibility for their suffering.

But mostly we are responsible for yielding to the Self Within symbolized by the God-image Jesus Christ. We all resist it but we need to die a little every day, because “death is required for new life,” as Joseph Campbell said. This daily dying includes the pain of moving out of familiar and comfortable closets of thought. It’s no fun to let go of cherished beliefs, of illusions, of specific results we had in mind for the future. But this is the work of letting ourselves be transformed. And yielding to it IS work, inner work.

We say, “Let this cup pass.” “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” And after years of resistance, “Not my will but Thine be done.”

“Unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains a single grain. But if it dies, it bears much fruit.” We don’t have to know what the fruit is or will be. But, damn, I want to know, I want to see results from my efforts. I don’t wanna just keep on keeping on, but I gotta.

My task: to be where I am, here in this small place, with these people, right here, right now.
Accept, surrender, and trust. Accept what is. Surrender to this reality without questioning or reasoning. And trust in the resurrection. See that it has already happened multiple times in my life. See, this and this and this turned out, and they looked impossible.

The outcomes don’t meet my expectations; no, eventually they’re better than I could have imagined. I don’t know what’s best for me; the inner Process does.

Enter the dark depth to let myself be changed. This is the Paschal Mystery, not only for believers in a particular resurrection in Palestine, but for everyone who’s alive.

Sunday, March 23, 2008


Readers, for information on Bahá’í, I direct you to the long comment after Religious training and the comment here. They are wonderfully wise, thoughtful, and instructive, a response to my invitation to inform us about the Baha'i faith. They also express valuable thoughts about religions and spirituality.

Happy reading and happy Easter. More on Easter and Good Friday soon.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Easter symbolized

March 31, 2007
From a religious point of view, Easter is a more important Christian feast than Christmas, but it gets less attention because there’s less money to be made from Easter. So much for our supposedly Christian nation.

Like Christmas, Easter derives from pagan myth and ritual. The ancient religions surrounding the first Christians celebrated various saviors coming down from heaven and going back up to heaven.

A striking parallel to Easter is reported by church historian Henry Chadwick. He tells of the god Mithris, whose death was mourned on March 22 and resurrection celebrated on March 25.

The likeness of Good Friday and Easter to religious festivals of the pagans prompted them to accuse Christians of plagiarism. Besides the idea of dying and rising again in three days, Christians apparently borrowed ritual ideas.

My reporting this may give the impression that I have little respect for Holy Week and Easter. Wrong. I regard the Paschal mystery as a profound spiritual mystery, one centered on transformation, one that grows in meaning as I grow older.

But it doesn’t belong to Christians alone. Our tradition received appreciation of the link between dying and rising from both Judaism and paganism. Mythologist Joseph Campbell found thousands of transformation stories in myths of the world.

The word “paschal” is derived from the Hebrew word for the annual Passover celebration, when Jews commemorate their deliverance from Egypt. God brought death to Egyptian homes but passed over Hebrew homes on the night of their escape. They celebrate their break from bondage, the promise of a new home, and their birth as Yahweh’s people.

New Testament accounts say that Jesus was put to death on or around Passover, and so Christians and Jews celebrate the feast most important to them at the same time.

Pagan religious festivals honored several deities who died and rose in three days. The region where Christianity began teemed with death and resurrection stories prefiguring that of Christ.

Especially poignant is the story of Persephone, daughter of Demeter, who gifted humankind with fertile land and bountiful harvests. Persephone is playing in a field when she is abducted by Hades, god of the underworld and brother of Zeus, who is Persephone's father.

Heartbroken and mourning fiercely, Demeter learns what happened. She vows never again to let the earth be fruitful until her daughter is restored to her. Zeus relents, but Persephone has to spend part of the year above and part of the year below. When she arises every spring, the earth turns green again.

This mother/daughter story balances against the father/son story of Christianity as both portray the central figure dying and rising—both symbols of transformation. And the Eleusinian Mysteries, which commemorated Persephone’s rise, were celebrated for almost two thousand years, about as long as Christianity is old.

These mysteries had much in common with Holy Week mysteries. Initiation, fasting, and extensive preparation preceded them. There were processions, music, purifying with water, ritual eating and drinking, fire and light symbolism—all the elements of masterful Holy Week liturgies.

At the climax of the Eleusinian Mysteries, participants had a beatific vision that released them from the fear of death. They were transformed. Christians are urged to be transformed into new people, to die to our old selves and rise to new selves. But transformation from death to life permeates all of existence.

New shoots in spring arise out of dead vegetation left by winter. The end of a job opens the door to a new path in life. Births and deaths come together in uncanny ways. More than one family has seen new grandchildren arriving upon the passing of a grandparent.

The Paschal mystery tells us that beginnings and endings are joined in a mysterious way. John 12:24 states, “Unless a grain of wheat fall to the earth and dies it remains just a grain of wheat. But if it dies it produces much fruit.”

Understanding this soothes the pain of change. Every end’s sadness opens to a fresh beginning. Easter and other religious myths and rituals symbolize this holiness in all creation.

Good Friday, March 21, 2008

Last evening a performance of Puccini’s opera Madame Butterfly reminded me of Good Friday's larger, deeper significance.

An American Navy officer marries a geisha girl in Nagasaki with the intention of soon leaving her. With steadfast faith she waits with their young son for his return. He returns with his American bride to take their son away from her.

She is Christ on the cross.

And Christ is Annemarie in Rwanda. Her son was born in the middle of the genocide. “My child was almost a skeleton because I didn’t have milk in my breasts. But that man, that rapist was with me. He kept raping me again and again. . . . we went through torture like no other person has gone through.” About her son, now 11, she says, “He is the only life I have. . . . If I didn’t have him, I don’t know what I would be.”

And Christ is the Shi’ite man in Baghdad kidnapped by Sunni militia, beheaded, and left on the street to terrorize others. And Christ is the Sunni victim of ethnic cleansing in Iraq.

And Christ is the people of Zimbabwe terrorized by their president Robert Mugabe. And the people of Uzbekistan terrorized by their president Islam Karimov.

And Christ is the families in New Orleans displaced by Hurricane Katrina and now sickened by formaldehyde fumes from their FEMA trailers.

Good Friday services that fail to remind people of the suffering Christ in the world today fail as Good Friday services.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Religious training & Bahá’í

Religions can be the solution to societal ills but also their cause. Their cause when superficial thinking replaces depth. When imbalance topples balance. When human emotions get the better of us.

In my last presentation I posed the question, How does Catholicism—how does any religion—get a strong hold on people? The group and I came up with these answers:

Magical thinking. I didn’t probe for explanation of this phrase so I’ll give my own and invite readers to add their ideas. I see magical thinking in myself when I expect/demand easy solutions to life’s mysteries and problems. We want it all to be rational and better—at least someday, if not right now.

Repetition. How many times does a Christian hear and say, “the ONLY Son of God,” “seated at the right hand of the Father,” “one, true Church,” and so on? How many times do Christians sleepily say "Amen" to "through Jesus Christ"?

Fear of authority. Fear of crossing the "Truth" handed to us as a given and not to be questioned.

Ritual. We sit, we stand, we kneel, we bow, we genuflect, we sing, we recite, we smell incense, we hear sermons. Our bodies are trained, well trained.

I’ll add two more elements to the group’s insights:
Us versus them thinking. Our race, our sex, our religion, our language, our customs are right. Theirs are strange, abnormal, and wrong.
Authentic spirituality. Religions really do link people with the inner Holy we call God, and so we think everyone should believe as we do.

For these reasons, religions can be dangerously divisive. But at their mystical core—at the deep center beyond all the repetitious phrases and ritual and teaching—all religions agree.

Arab customs that appall us do not derive from their religion but from tribal customs. We should be aware of this so that we don't harbor suspicion of all Muslims, which promotes war-mongering. Muslim educators, like Christian educators, like those of Buddhism, Hinduism, Baha'i, etc., struggle to lead people past superficial acceptance of their religious tenets. It’s not easy.

I love public television and depend on it for dependable information on a variety of topics. Its series "Beyond Theology" was superb. But last evening I watched "Jerusalem: Center of the World" and was disappointed because it failed to distinguish between history and myth, between fact and legend. It left the impression, for instance, that we know the spot where the man Jesus was born. No one knows that.

Pandering to piety, the program reinforced naive, literal belief, thus missing an opportunity to advance spiritual understanding and religious harmony. Several times I turned off the TV in disgust and turned it on again, waiting for the segment shown on the Newshour about Saladin. I wish the rest of the program had been as informative and uplifting.

Muslim chivalry—Saladin
Saladin was a Muslim military and political leader who roundly defeated Christian crusaders but treated them with respect and offered extremely generous terms of surrender. He refused to destroy Christian churches in Jerusalem or supplant them with Muslim mosques, and he invited Jews to resettle in Jerusalem. Admirable.

See the comments on Bahá’í faith.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Goddess in the Bible

Linguistic, archaeological, and scriptural studies reveal that the people of the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) worshipped the Goddess. Their literature is suffused with female images of the Holy One. This information came to me primarily from Raphael Patai in The Hebrew Goddess, Asphodel Long in The Absent Mother, and Phyllis Trible in God and the Rhetoric of Sexuality.

An exclusively male God-image does not meet the psychological needs of humanity, and—here’s the surprise—it does not fully reflect our Judaeo-Christian heritage.

According to Patai, "historical scrutiny" shows that for centuries following the Law of Moses, sole worship of Yahweh by the Hebrews "remained a demand rather than a fact," because the people chosen by Yahweh also worshipped Canaanite deities. In light of the thundering Bible prophets, that did not surprise me. What dumbfounded me was the scope, the popularity, and the legitimacy of Goddess worship as revealed by researchers free of male bias.

With scriptural evidence meticulously presented, Patai concluded that, for almost two-thirds of the 370 years during which Solomon's Temple stood in Jerusalem, the statue of Asherah was present in the Temple and her worship was led by the king, the court and the priesthood. At relatively long intervals Yahweh’s prophets cried out against it.

I found Patai's conclusion, so contrary to our familiar mindset, confirmed by other scholars independent of Christian doctrine. And it is supported in Jeremiah 44:16-19:
We will not listen to what you say in the name of the Lord. Rather will we continue doing what we had proposed; we will burn incense to the Queen of Heaven and pour out libations to Her, as we and our fathers, our kings and princes have done in the cities of Judah and the streets of Jerusalem. Then we had enough food to eat and we were well off; we suffered no misfortune.
But since we stopped burning incense to the Queen of Heaven and pouring out libations to Her, we are in need of everything and are being destroyed by the sword and by hunger.
Just as the male-imagined God has many names—for instance, “Yahweh,” “Allah,” “Lord,” and “Elohim” (Gods),—the female-imagined Goddess had many names—for instance, “Isis” and “Mary.”

The most common name for Her in the Bible is “Asherah.” Two more are “Astarte” and “Anath.” Readers may not find them in their Bibles because translators have hidden feminine references.

In Deuteronomy 7:5 and 12:2-3, the Lord orders a campaign against Asherah:
Destroy without fail every place on the high mountains, on the hills, and under every leafy tree where the nations you are to dispossess worship their gods. Tear down their altars, smash their sacred pillars, destroy by fire their sacred poles, and shatter the idols of their gods that you may stamp out the remembrance of them in any such place.
First Kings 18:19-40 tells of a contest between Elijah and the priests of Baal and Asherah. Elijah slits the throats of Baal’s priests, but not those of Asherah’s priests. Perhaps, writes Asphodel Long, “Asherah was too well loved to be offended."
In 1 Kgs 19:1-4, Elijah flees for his life after being threatened by Jezebel—a bit of evidence that supports Long's interpretation.

Jeremiah 7:17-18 and 44:17 describe the Hebrew ritual in honor of Astarte:
Do you not see what they are doing in the cities of Judah, in the streets of Jerusalem? The children gather wood, their fathers light the fire, and the women knead dough to make cakes for the Queen of Heaven, while libations are poured out to strange gods in order to hurt me.
Long emphasizes that the families of communities who joined in these religious rites "were Hebrews," the people of the Bible.

The Bible has forty references to the Goddess. I found names for Her in Judges 3:7 and Second Kings 17:31, but most references mentioned by Patai are obscured in my New American Bible. Exodus 34:13, Deuteronomy 16:21, First Kings 14:15, Second Kings 18:4 and 21:7, Second Chronicles 31:1 and 33:3, and others talk about a "sacred pole," the correct name for which is “the Asherim.”

Of the passages I checked, about half named the Goddess and half used the word "pole." The latter refer, not to the Goddess Herself, but to Her symbol, a carved wooden image standing for the tree of life (Yes, the tree in our familiar Eden myth). Trees represent nature, which is identified with the Goddess.

In addition to condemnations of the Goddess, there are many Bible passages in which the male God speaks as the female Goddess. I’ll have to leave details for a later writing.

Goddess in the Bible 2
In my first “Goddess in the Bible” post, I promised to address Bible passages in which the male God speaks as the female Goddess. I quoted a passage attributing to Goddess Astarte the title “Queen of Heaven” and women making cakes in honor of Her.

In the Christian world Mary is “Queen of Heaven.” The mother of Jesus got little attention until the fourth century, when worship of the Goddess was wiped out by Roman emperors beginning with Constantine, who was converted before 313. Then the psychic need for a female image of divinity was transferred to Mary. This is why the Catholic Church declared her Mother of God (Theotokos) in 431.

In the early centuries Mary was worshipped by a Christian sect who baked cakes in her honor, an obvious parallel to Holy Communion. As I explain in God Is Not Three Guys in the Sky, the ritual eating of God-food occurs in many traditions and honors a variety of God-images, male and female.

Much, much more can be said about worship of Mary, but now I'll go back to the female God in the Bible.

From Phyllis Trible’s God and the Rhetoric of Sexuality, we learn that the Hebrew word for "womb"—rehem—is metaphorically and grammatically linked to the Hebrew word for compassion or mercy. As compassion and mercy saturate the scriptures, they are filled with this female image of God.
Citing some of the abundant womb metaphors found in biblical poetry, Trible observes,
The entire process of birthing has been attributed to the deity. In various passages, God conceives, is pregnant, writhes in labor pains, brings forth a child, and nurses it.
But translations fail to render the images accurately. Consider Deuteronomy 32:1-43. My New American Bible (NAB) states as Verse 11,
As an eagle incites its nestlings forth by hovering over its brood, So he spread his wings to receive them and bore them up on his pinions.
Notice that the image of a mother eagle is corrupted by the pronouns “its” and “he” and “his.”
Verse 18, “You forgot the God who gave you birth,” should read “the God who writhed in labor pains with you.”

In Jeremiah 31:20 God says,
"My heart stirs for him; I will surely have mercy on him."
Trible’s translation reflects the original female metaphor for God:
"My womb trembles for him; I will truly show motherly-compassion upon him."

Deuteronomy 32:18 states, "You were unmindful of the Rock that begot you, You forgot the God who writhed in labor pains with you."
Only a woman can have birth pangs, but The Jerusalem Bible translates the Hebrew verb for giving birth as "fathered." This attribution to Father what naturally refers to Mother became a pattern in the Abrahamic religions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.

Finding feminine images in the Bible requires no scholarly credentials, only an open mind. In Isaiah 42:14, Yahweh cries out “as a woman in labor, gasping and panting.”
More images of God as Mother appear in Psalm 22:9-10: Isaiah 66; Jeremiah 1:5 and 31:15-22; and in many more passages.

The poem in Jeremiah 31 ends with this climactic verse:
Yahweh has created a new thing in the land: female surrounds man.
My NAB translates it, “The Lord has created a new thing upon the earth: the woman must encompass the man with devotion.” And a text comment stutters, “No fully satisfactory explanation has been given this text.”
More on Bible translations hiding the Goddess next time.

Yahweh, adam, Jesus, Asherah
The Bible contains myths, which express truth but not facts.

Genesis 1 and 2 present two different stories of creation and two different orders of creation. The first has God creating animals and then humans, male and female. The second creation myth has God creating what is translated in our Bibles as “man,” then animals, and only then a woman out of man’s rib. Following this comes the Eden story with tree and serpent. It is used to blame women for evil.

Phyllis Trible in God and the Rhetoric of Sexuality explains why the traditional woman-hating interpretation is incorrect. She writes,
Over the centuries this misogynous reading has acquired a status of canonicity so that those who deplore and those who applaud the story both agree upon its meaning.
They agree—erroneously—that the myth depicts woman as inferior, subordinate, and the greater sinner.

Trible’s extensive linguistic/literary analysis, which refutes the accepted reading, cannot be stated here. I’ll say only that it hinges on the word adam, which means “earth creature,” not “man.” This changes everything. After God creates adam and tells it to care for the earth, God creates gender, female and male, issa and is. So we have to conclude that female and male receive equal status in the original version. I apologize for my inadequate rendering of the Hebrew and I direct readers to Trible’s book for the full analysis.

I’ll change the subject. We don’t know what the ancestors of the Jews called God because they avoided saying aloud the name of God because of “superstitious fear” (John L. McKenzie, S.J. Dictionary of the Bible). In place of the name was said Adonai—“Lord.”

Their name for God was written YHWH, known as the Tetragrammaton, but we know only the consonants of the word because ancient Hebrew was written without vowels. YHWH is now rendered “Yahweh” or “Jehovah,” using vowels taken from Adonai.

McKenzie states, “There is general agreement that the name is derived from the archaic form of the verb to be, hawah.” This carries no gender bias. But the God of the Bible is exclusively male; patriarchal bias reduced inclusive and vast “Beingness” to a male individual. A patriarchal bent and steady pressure to personify Spirit, to give It human qualities, resulted in a male Yahweh.

The Hebrews invaded a land that worshipped Goddess as well as God imagined male. “He" was so reduced to a humanlike male that an inscription found in the Sinai asks for blessing by Jahweh and “his Asherah,” the most common biblical name for the Goddess. In other words, She was His consort; they were perceived to be a couple.

Like the ancient Hebrews, Christians of today like to think of the Vastness that is God in human terms. Thus they cling to the God-image Jesus Christ.

Again I leave this subject with a promise to return.

Goddess in the Bible 4
My post titled “Yahweh, adam, Jesus, Asherah” really was my third “Goddess in the Bible” post. Together these four writings give evidence that exclusively male God-language does not fully reflect our Judaeo-Christian heritage.

Unlike most Christians, I’m guessing my readers know perfectly well that Ultimate Reality--what we call God—is no more male than female, but I’m not so sure they realize our Christian heritage agrees.

In prior posts, I cited surprising information about the Hebrew ancestors of the Jews worshipping Goddess. They had both female and male God-images. But the female images were condemned and the non-gendered YHWH, which means something like “Beingness,” was rendered “Lord.”

In many Indo-European languages other than English, nouns have genders, so that pronouns, adjectives, and even verbs referring to each noun express the same gender, thus reinforcing it. In Hebrew, writes Patai, most names of God are masculine, so that "every Hebrew-speaking individual from early childhood was imbued with the idea that Yahweh was a masculine deity."

“He” was so much a “he” that some considered Goddess Asherah to be his consort. A few writings suggest Yahweh and Asherah were perceived as a couple.

The male-only “Lord God” who’s always referred to with the pronouns “He, Him, His” dominates our religious language so much that some Christians—perhaps it’s even a majority—think God really is more male than female. One person even sent me a writing that argued this.

It takes a cleansed imagination to accept Phyllis Trible’s revelation that in many Bible passages, “God conceives, is pregnant, writhes in labor pains, brings forth a child, and nurses it.”

I ask readers to review my prior posts for etymological and historical evidence of Goddess consciousness in the Bible (etymology studies word origins).

And here’s a telling anecdote to help counter our tradition’s gender bias. A Bible translator for a tribe in southwestern Chad, Africa, wrote that the work of translating for them was difficult because the Bible’s male God-language clashed with their idea of Great Spirit and their language to express it. Their word—Ifray—for what we call God was related to their word for "mother." Translator Rodney Venberg wrote,
To speak of God (Ifray) with such terms as ‘he’ and ‘Father’ was totally inconsistent with their grammar and went against their whole notion of the creation (after all had a man ever given birth to a child?).
And now another bit of information to dispel the notion that the Judaeo-Christian God is male. Daniel Stramara, OSB, writes about El Shaddai, a name for God used 48 times in the Bible but usually translated “the Almighty.” He states that the name
is based on the Akkadian word shadu meaning mountain. But shad is a perfectly normal Hebrew word meaning “breast” . . . Hence the most probable meaning of El Shaddai is “God, the Breasted One.
El Shaddai appears in Genesis 17:1-22; 28:3; 35:11: 43:14: 48:3: and 49:25. The author of Job uses it 31 times, and it occurs in other books of the Bible.

The Bible has many male God-images—Jesus its prominent one. Of the female God-images, Sophia is the most prominent. She is, in fact, the prototype for Christ, as I explain in God Is Not Three Guys in the Sky.

But the people for whom Rodney Venberg was translating the Bible would have resonated with the God-image called Zion in Isaiah 66. Verses 11 and 12 sing:
Oh, that you may suck fully
of the milk of her comfort,
That you may nurse with delight
at her abundant breasts! . . .
As nurslings, you shall be carried in her arms,
and fondled in her lap.
God-images are only images, that is, beloved metaphors for the Eternal One revealed in Exodus 3:14. Naturally, other religious traditions have their own God-images just as good as ours.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Jesus, God, and sexism

May 6, 2016
I contributed to Voices of the Sacred Feminine: Conversations to Re-Shape Our World, an anthology now available on Kindle for $1.99.  More information HERE.

My chapter is entitled, "Sexist God-talk: Reforming Christian Language."
When troubles assail us, we turn to Holy Mother God.
Other contributors are Roy Bourgeois, Matthew Fox, Noam Chomsky, Barbara Walker, Jean Shinoda Bolen, Riane Eisler plus many more. Roy Bourgeois writes,
In my years of ministry, I met many Catholic women who told me about their calling to the priesthood. Their eagerness to serve God began to keep me awake at night.
May 14, 2016

I love it when men evince as deep a knowledge of what the patriarchy has wrought as women do. Such an aware person is Don, whom I’ve quoted before.  In answer to my invitation to Voices of the Sacred Feminine: Conversations to Re-Shape Our World, he writes,
Yes! We must continue to put the Divine Feminine before the people. Patriarchy is deeply implanted in our collective psyche and we are called to a change in our consciousness. And when I come out with this, I am reminded not to identify the Divine Feminine with Holy Mother Church, a reframing of Patriarchy as refuge.
Patriarchy as refuge—great insight. I experience it at Mass when good people, intelligent people confident of being insulated against sexism by their knowledge, nevertheless recite and sing praises to “the Lord.”

We know better but we participate in this offensive liturgy—I do too, sucked in because I cherish the sacred milieu of community relating to Divinity. But, oh, how I bristle at the words that reduce Divinity to an exclusively male lord god!

Don comments that John Nienstedt, Archbishop of St. Paul, resorted to the “Holy Mother Church” narrative. Not only Nienstedt, but the whole official Church reduces woman to worshipping the male god. Its script says
       "He is God and she is Holy Mother Church worshipping Him and she is soul worshipping Him and she is Mary worshipping Him, her own son!"

In Voices of the Sacred Feminine I was taken by Tim Ward’s “Why Would a Man Search for the Goddess?” It struck him strange when he returned after six years of living in Asia that the West worships only a masculine God. He ruminates:
This vague feeling that things are out of sync with the opposite sex rumbles around inside of us, mixes with sexual frustration, resentment, anxiety, anger and despair.

I applaud his courage in facing his own repressed anger towards women.

May 24, 2016       We Are God Stuff

My being published in National Catholic Reporter is not uncommon for me, but publication of my latest letter pleases me more than most. I hope it explains why I say (and surprise people) that I don’t believe Jesus is God. I cannot link to it online but this is what I wrote:
“Hallelujah!” I crowed when I read that Fr. Ed Hays taught the incarnation is not just one moment in time but a continuous “infleshing of the Divine Mystery within us” (NCR April 22-May 5). This captures exactly my understanding of the doctrine of Incarnation. I have felt secure in my interpretation but still feel a sort of vindication that the great Fr. Ed Hays taught the same. 
I understand the doctrine of Incarnation inclusively. We all are God stuff, and this is the meaning of Paul’s words, “Christ is living in me” (Galatians 2:20).
 Mass language imposed on us by the Vatican subverts this understanding by encouraging congregations to worship an external god resembling the Greek gods that surrounded Christianity in its infancy. I do not join in singing or reciting these words:
“When we eat this bread and drink this cup, we proclaim your death, O Lord, until you come again.”
I sing, “When we eat this bread and drink this cup, we proclaim the life of Christ alive in all of us.”
I have blogged about Sophia in the Books of Wisdom and Proverbs being a forerunner of Christ. Same with Shekinah. Same scriptural claims made for these feminine images as for the masculine one. We know why the masculine image, the Christ, officially became God, while the Church calls Wisdom and Shekinah personifications of God.

Insights come to me when I’m in church. While irritated as usual by Mass language turning Jesus of Nazareth into a god, it came to me: Jesus Christ is a personification of God.


Jesus, God, and sexism.       March 1, 2008

I’ve been smiling at myself because of what I wrote yesterday. I said a common iteration of official belief is “God reveals self in Jesus.” Actually, it’s “God reveals Himself in Jesus.” I’m so used to striking offending male bias out of religious language that I misrepresented the official teaching.

The vile bias creeps in everywhere. Everywhere. Even the alluring, enigmatic words of the seer Meister Eckhart are spoiled by Father-Son language. And the Church goes on with its He-man language, blithely ignorant that it insults the Majestic Power of the Universe by limiting It to one gender.

I like to draw distinctions. Let me draw another one—between devotion to Jesus and worship of Jesus. Devotion to Jesus as a link to God brings rich soul food. Worship of Jesus as God is a form of idolatry. Most offensive is demanding that everyone else conform to faith in Jesus.

Such conformity is what emperors and bishops (who borrowed imperial regalia) imposed on the Roman Empire, then on the Holy Roman Empire formed in the tenth century, then on European colonies. It’s what started the crusades against Muslims. We are kidding ourselves if we think Muslims started the present clashes. They were initiated centuries ago—by Christians.

I challenge readers to translate Eckhart’s words (See prior posts) into language suitable for our time. Any takers of my challenge?