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?


Florian said...

This is nit-picky; but it is good to catch ourselves from falling into the temptation of oversimplifying history. The Muslim Turks were threatening the Byzantine Empire in the 1000's. The Byzantine Emperor called on the West for help; and Pope Urban II called for the first crusade. So I think we can blame the Muslims for starting that one, not the Christians.

SMK said...

The limitation with that analyses is that it treats the Moslems as a monolithic group and also ignores their own history. Reviewing the history of the Umayyad, Abbasid, and Fatimid Caliphates may be instructive though there's so much to wade through.

The Umayyad period saw mass conversions who "... were often better educated and more civilised than their Arab masters. The new converts, on the basis of equality of all Muslims, transformed the political landscape." So read that more carefully and you see that the Umayyad, as opposed to the teachings of Islam itself, were severely racist.

It's not until you get to the Fatimids that could get a sense of the civilization Islam was set to create - though it took the Muslims 300 odd years to make it happen..."Fatimid advancement in state offices was based more on merit than on heredity. Members of other branches of Islam, like the Sunnis, were just as likely to be appointed to government posts as Shiites. Tolerance was extended even to non-Muslims such as Christians and Jews, who occupied high levels in government based solely on ability.... "

all quotes form wikipedia. So rather than blaming Islam you'd be better off blaming the Umayyad Caliphate.

Now compare that to Shi' today. Anyway... so much more history there. In fact most every extremist group puts their hat on the pole of expecting the End Days to favor them in redressing the wrongs of history. When was the last time God fulfilled any of those expectations?!

Looking at the Byzantine Empire conflict is looking to a period of Islamic history where norms not from the Qur'an dominated. It would be like making Catholicism responsible for the devastations of colonialism when in fact Protestants played a huge role as did the burgeoning capitalists.

One of the limitations of imagining each religion and people as distinct and separate is to miss threads of humanity that cross the lines that we think are so obvious.

florian said...

In response to smk: I was not blaming Islam, nor the Umayyad Caliphate. I was not intending to treat Muslims as a monolithic group. I was putting the blame on the Seljuk Turks, who had only recently converted to Islam anyway, as I understand it. When I said "blame the Muslims, not the Christians", I simply meant that those to blame (the Turks) turned out to be Muslims and not Christians.