Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Patriarchal dominating god

(continuing “Goddess Mary” series)
Jesuit sociologist Walter Ong argues in Fighting for Life: Contest, Sexuality, and Consciousness that God is male. As can be expected, he conflates his God-image—the male “Father”—with Transcendent Reality and unwittingly argues against himself.
We are distanced from God as from a father.
We have never been physically and physiologically attached to God. . . .
In this sense, God is male. He is not nature.

Nature is feminine, Mother Nature. Out of her we grow.
We do not grow out of God. . . . [God is always] other, different, separated as a father physically is . . .
Without intending to, Ong shows plainly that the deformed relationship of Christians with Transcendence stems from their male god—the sole image of divinity permitted to them—out there, over us, detached from us.
From this grew the image of a stern and relentless judge-god and sin-centered theology. The demands of the exacting god prompted Teresa of Avila to,
thinking of how I have offended God, and of the many things I owe Him.
It led her to frequent confession and worrying over confessors who committed "so great an evil" as to say that mortal sins were only venial sins. She called it a "pretext" or excuse when they told her that “pastimes and satisfactions" are allowed, sure that her "poorly educated" confessors put her salvation in jeopardy.

I hasten to add that I am not trying to destroy Teresa’s deserved reputation as a great mystic; I am exposing the deformed image of divinity in our tradition. Teresa’s scrupulosity grew naturally and abundantly out of the staple spiritual diet in Christian Europe.

The Little Flowers of St. Francis belongs to a genre called hagiography—Lives of the saints with limited historical value but revealing a spiritual attitude that still plagues us today. Writing a century after the death of Francis, the author attributes to Francis of Assisi this "wonderful" sermon given in a town terrified by purported wolf attacks:
. . . saying among other things that such calamities were permitted by God because of their sins, and how the consuming fire of hell by which the damned have to be devoured for all eternity is much more dangerous than the raging of a wolf . . .
how much more they should fear to be plunged into hell . . .
The gleeful relish in this writer’s description of punishment for sin occurs commonly in our tradition. Another sample comes from neo-scholastic theology:
It is certainly fitting that God, as legislator and ruler, should not remit offenses without temporal punishment, so that in the future His laws might be better obeyed.
The Big Boss in the sky tops a long line of bosses who exact greater submission from females than males. In another Flowers of St. Francis story, Clare, the saintly sister of Francis, is visited by the pope, who asks her to bless loaves of bread on the table. She replies in a painfully obsequious manner:
Most Holy Father, please excuse me, but I would deserve to be severely blamed if a vile little woman like myself should presume to give such a blessing in the presence of the Vicar of Christ.
The Greek word hierarches means "one who presides at sacred rites," but a theological dictionary defines hierarchy as,
the body of men [sic] empowered to administer sacred things, a body organized in ranks and orders with a subordination of the lower to the higher ministries.
Creatures stand on a ladder in greater or lesser proximity to the Boss "up there" and must go through "ranks and orders with a subordination of the lower to the higher." The Holy is not freely accessible to all but must travel down to lower creation in a well-defined pecking order: pope, cardinals, archbishops, bishops, priests, men, women, children, animals . . .
Always power flows from the top down, and morality consists in following rules and obeying superiors—obedience a touted virtue and pride the biggest sin.

Hierarchy presumes submission to authority above and domination of subservient others below—a can't-fail recipe for alienated relationships. In his play Saint Joan, George Bernard Shaw gives Joan of Arc's main interrogator at the trial condemning her to be burned a telling speech:
What will the world be like when The Church's councils of learned, venerable pious men, are thrust into the kennel by every ignorant laborer or dairymaid whom the devil can puff up with the monstrous self-conceit of being directly inspired from heaven?
Because Joan's interrogators cannot imagine Holy Guidance erupting from within, her replies remain incomprehensible to them.
LADVENU. Do you not believe that you are subject to the Church of God on earth?
JOAN. Yes. When have I ever denied it?
LADVENU. Good. That means, does it not, that you are subject to the our Lord the Pope, to the cardinals, the archbishops, and bishops . . .
JOAN. God must be served first. . . . My voices do not tell me to disobey the Church; but God must be served first.
CAUCHON. And you, and not the Church, are to be the judge?
JOAN. What other judgment can I judge by but my own?
Christian hagiography reveals the effect of the power-over model on all relationships. When Francis commands one of his monks to twirl around like a fool, the monk is expected to obey him even "if he should order you to throw stones." Benedict finds one of his monks loitering during prayer time and strikes the offender with his staff.
In a more subtle manifestation of this mentality, Teresa of Avila writes that because Jesus "was subject to Joseph . . . Joseph could give the Child command." Caught in the hierarchical model, she struggles to sort out who had command over whom. Did Joseph because he was parent? Or did Jesus because he was God? The possibility of power arising from within or for shared, mutual, horizontal, reciprocal relationships does not occur to her.

Augustine's writings betray the same perception of a cosmos structured in super and sub-ordination, domination and submission, power flowing down and requiring absolute obedience:
It is You who make wives subject to their husbands . . . [in] faithful obedience; you set husbands over their wives; you join sons to their parents by a freely granted slavery, and set parents above their sons in pious domination . . .

You teach slaves to be loyal to their masters . . . [You] warn the peoples to be subservient to their kings. (quoted by Peter Brown)
All relationships are vertical. You either dominate or are dominated. Authority, leadership, and order translate to command, control, and subjection. As late as 1982, J.A. Lyons writes,
Just as it is not possible to be a father without having a son, so too God cannot be almighty unless he has creatures over which to exercise his power.
The top-down power model still pervades Church communication, not only in governing the institution but governing belief! Vatican officials and bishops give themselves authority to,
judge whether what is presented as the content of faith is accurate.
Even theologians are forbidden to dissent publicly from official teaching. When polls first indicated a Catholic majority favoring the ordination of women, a bishop asserted that "the only appropriate discussion" about the question was "why the teaching of the church is correct." He assumed that, contrary to Vatican II’s declaration in Lumen Gentium, the Church is not the whole people of God but a few men in power.
At a 1994 synod on the role of religious orders, a Hungarian cardinal complained that the notion of obedience is being “corrupted by democratic sentiments."

Today the power game continues over Elizabeth Johnson’s Quest for the Living God: Mapping the Frontiers of the Theology of God. Despite the author receiving numerous awards for her theological studies and the book being widely used as a theology text, the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Doctrine censured it.

When the Catholic Theological Society of America objected to the bishops’ harsh critique, Cardinal Donald Wuerl, chair of the committee, answered that the role of a bishop is to be a judge of authentic theology and that Johnson should have sought an imprimatur (approval) from her bishop. I find this highly ironic because, in my view, Catholic bishops—indeed, all clergymen—could benefit from taking courses in theology from Elizabeth Johnson.
No doubt Johnson’s inclusion of the Divine Feminine poses a problem for the censuring bishops. Chapter Five of Quest for the Living God is titled: “God Acting Womanish.”

Tea Party & Medieval piety, August 30
(continuing “Goddess Mary” series) This response came to me:
I fear my mind cannot take all this in. . .
Yes, it's hard to take in. (She was responding to "Patriarchal dominating god.")
Thank Goodness, we have come some distance from past “saintly” attitudes and perceptions because they clash with ours. A huge shift has ensued. The “Father-God” now resembles less the thunderbolt-hurling Zeus and more a loving, caring Mother. But domination/subordination still cripples all our relationships—male over female, clergy over lay, white over black, straight over gay, and so on.

How the POWER-OVER model demeans women is exposed with sickening clarity in the image of a female soul relating to a male god. In medieval piety men adopted a dependent, submissive, stereotypically-feminine attitude to gain approval from a male god. They spoke of their soul as "she" in obedience to "Him." She was to be dependent and submissive.
Prevent the soul being too confident of her strength and so yielding to presumption.
(Louis Bouyer, The History of Christian Spirituality)
The passive female soul was dominated by the active male god who boasted,
Know that I am he who is and thou art she who is not.
As late as 1981 Walter Ong wrote,
In relation to God . . . we are all, men and women alike, basically feminine.
The female’s place is clear: she is inferior; she must never be the initiator; her proper attitude is yielding compliance. No wonder Teresa of Avila, a stronger woman than most, often apologized for being a woman. This model laid the spiritual foundation for the scourge of pornography.

It is also hard on males who lack the will to dominate. Rapists in prisons force a weaker male partner to be "the girl." Passive boys are beat up in fights. Both women and men are hurt when divine initiative and activity are seen as masculine, human dependence and passivity as feminine.

The POWER-OVER model underlies all, and churches continue to pound it in with their relentless HeHimHis Lord talk. It took feminist theologians, who stopped seeing everything as either higher or lower, to spot what lies at the bottom of the other inequities. This was written by Sandra Schneiders:
Rosemary Ruether has pointed out that patriarchy is the basic principle underlying not only the subordination of women to men, but of one race to another, of colonies to master nations, of children to adults, of nations to divine right monarchs, of believers to clergy. In other words, patriarchy is the nerve of racism, ageism, classism, colonialism, and clericalism as well as of sexism.
The male-over-female pattern supports and perpetuates all vertical, alienating relationships. Power unchecked becomes power corrupted. Given this pattern, clergy sex abuse—its biggest shocker the cover-up by bishops—seems inevitable.

The submissive female role also is forced on supposedly inferior parts of ourselves—feelings, for instance. Augustine expected men
to love the sexuality of their wives and the physical bonds of their families only as a Christian must love his enemies.
(biographer Peter Brown)
A brother in The Little Flowers (see previous post on hagiography) shocked his confreres when it seemed
he was grieving for his brother out of a natural and worldly affection.
They were relieved when he assured them he was not giving in to natural feelings.
The POWER-OVER model leaves Nature no inherent rights. Animals, forests, lakes and streams can be used, manipulated, and destroyed at will. Here is a writer still preaching domination over ourselves and over nature:
Christ is still living and cooperating with us in the restoration of dominion first over ourselves and then over the non-human cosmos—a truth forgotten by many theologians and spiritual writers today. (George Maloney, 1982)
He complains that ideas are changing, wishing that "dominion" would proceed unchecked.

The male god who demands exclusive worship forms the root and base of every power inequity, the religious justification for deformed relationships in our social fabric.
You think this is an overstatement? I point you to the example of fundamentalism with its extreme deformity, “Dominionism,” Evangelicals In Spiritual Warfare, a right-wing movement of Christians warring against views different from their own. They believe they must gain dominion over all aspects of society—religion, business, government, family, media, arts and entertainment. They're doing "the Lord's" work, converting Jews, GLBTs, Muslims, etc. to Jesus.

All beliefs “wrong” or out of alignment with their view are the work of demons, as you can hear in Fresh Air by Terry Gross.The rule of Jesus, they believe, will conquer all, make everything right, and they have the job of bringing on that rule. Politically they're aligned with the Tea Party.

Restoring the feminine to our idea of the Holy—getting rid of HeHimHis Lord talk would restore dignity to the less-powerful of every kind. It is all of a piece.
I add caveats. I am not condemning all clergymen and churchgoers but consider us all more or less prisoners of a mental pattern that, I gratefully observe, shifts under the radar while Dominionism grabs headlines. In my own prayer life, I surrender to my inner Guide, trusting Its wisdom as superior to my own. By outlining the deformed framework I hope to raise awareness of it and help to free us all from its shackles.

Sin-talk, September 6
I outlined the male god’s dominating power in my post “Patriarchal, dominating god,” which sets the stage for Judeo-Christian sin-talk and its effect on all Western relationships.

In the Christian myth, a father god rules as a Big Boss topping a long line of bosses who judge us for our sins. He’s out there, over and against us, inspiring more fearful obedience than trusting love. Creatures are distinguished from each other by their relative proximity to God—you know, the pope much, much, much holier than a lay woman. The son-god adds guilt by being crucified for our sins. Guilt, worthlessness, and powerlessness infuse the faithful.

The institutional church strengthens these feelings with its line of hierarchs over worthless sinners who lack the authority to decide what’s right or wrong. Power in this paradigm flows through channels that defy sense, commanding experience-wizened women to address a naïve young man as "Father" and ask forgiveness for sins. Likewise educated, worldly-wise men and women. Small wonder that few Catholics go to confession anymore.
Power always comes from above, and morality is all about following rules and obeying superiors, adding shame to feelings of guilt, powerlessness, and worthlessness, especially for those low on the scale of authority, with more people to look up to than down on.

Yes, of course I’m exaggerating, but not by much when we consider the paradigm that, fortunately, is now past. For a taste of it, scroll down to bits of Christian literature in previous posts, and here’s another tidbit. The following theology was written as late as 1982:
Just as it is not possible to be a father without having a son, so too God cannot be almighty unless he has creatures over which to exercise his power.
(J.A. Lyons, The Cosmic Christ in Origen and Teilhard de Chardin)
It takes a while for the insanity of this to sink in.
Richard Sipe in Sex, Priests, and Power critiques the role of celibacy in deforming Church authority,
The male virgin—the celibate—is one not defiled by woman (his emphasis).

As the celibate system took shape, power had to be limited by one factor: sex. Women cannot have power. . . . [Many] accept this bias as natural and sanctioned by grace.
Sipe quotes St. John Chrysostom complaining in about 386,
Divine law has excluded women from the ministry . . . Yet I have heard someone say that women now assume such liberties as to rebuke the bishops of the Church.
What else is a woman but a foe to friendship . . . a necessary evil, a natural temptation . . . painted with fair colours.
Sin-centered spirituality shames and subjugates men also, especially men who lack positions of power. They do have power in their families and the result is domestic abuse.

Unworthiness contaminates us all. In this sin-centered atmosphere, every prayer brings the realization of how awful we are. This subject makes me feel dirty. I’ve developed such dislike of the word “sin”—the very meaning of which has been twisted by this power paradigm—that I cringe a little when it’s mentioned in prayers, for instance the “Lord-have-mercy” part of the Mass.

To heal from the paradigm of POWER OVER, we can focus on feminine divinity empowering us from WITHIN.

Goddess confounds male dominance, September 13
From an exchange with a traditional Catholic:
We have God's Truth. . . . Truth is given to us.
Others also have God's Truth. Truth reveals itself in an infinite variety of ways.
Myth and Truth don't mix. . . . god/goddesses are a myth with no divinity. You can demote God to myth-level but that doesn't mean you have the power to control Almighty God Power greater than yourself.
Correct. We cannot control how Source reveals itself; we can't control Its infinite variety of expressions—Its myths—coming through human imagination. We don’t know why male deities supplanted female deities. We can guess but don’t know the reasons for the patriarchal system described in previous posts.

But at this point in the evolution of human consciousness, many are becoming aware that what we call God vastly transcends all possible myths and God-images—goddess, god, turtle, eagle, wind, earthquake, whatever.
Goddess is not better than God; God is not better than Goddess. Both express truth; each is a possible way to imagine the Source of All. To understand this is to understand myth and symbol. And to understand the distinction between Jesus the Man vs. Jesus the Myth.
Being human, we prefer certain images for relating to spiritual reality, probably those we're used to. Nothing wrong with that, as long as we don't demand that others do as we do.

God the Father, the guy in the sky who holds us accountable, now is joined by a softer God the Mother to temper the wrathful judge described in “Sin-talk.” We imagine Mother Goddess giving us life from her Womb; we imagine her Earth enveloping us at death to be transformed into new life. SHE is not as separate, as disconnected, as "other" as the He that Walter Ong describes (in “Patriarchal dominating god”). We visualize Holy Mother erupting from below or appearing from within, giving us a break from the oppressive power above.

Stereotypically, Father enforces rules while Mother nourishes and empowers each child, no matter how weak. He stands for POWER OVER and She stands for POWER WITHIN. He stands for POWER AGAINST and She stands for POWER TO as in the power to act capably or generously. Thus, each individual can work on performing with strength and without adversarial relations. This challenges us more than obeying superiors above us and provides an alternative to hierarchical power under Father God. Instead of always being accountable to someone else, someone outside of ourselves, we listen to the voice of conscience within.

The paradox of She and He together can lead us to appreciate Transcendence by confounding our understanding. We need Mother Goddess and Father God plus all the other conceptions provided by religions and science. We need the mix.

If the divine SOURCE had been imagined exclusively female for several millennia and males had been carefully excluded as either divine images or human authority figures, we’d also see distortions. It’s the exclusiveness of male power that produces the problem.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Mother right

When Goddess reigned, August 11
(continuing “Goddess Mary” series)
As there are various names for God, there were, in times when Goddess reigned, many names for Her. I repeat: God and Goddess are simply two different ways to imagine and personify the mysterious Power within all experienced by all in human history.

In remote antiquity the Great Goddess was supreme, with many names and various titles given Her in diverse places. In Babylon She was known as Ishtar. Among the Hebrews, ancestors of the Jews, She was Asherah (see my Goddess in the Bible). In Egypt the Goddess Isis reigned supreme, more important than her brother/husband God Osiris. In Sumer, the area between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, She was Inanna, and Her women priests determined who would be kings. An eminent Sumeriologist quoted by Merlin Stone tells us,
The kings of Sumer are known as the “beloved husbands” of Inanna throughout the Sumerian documents.
In a comparable practice but with a twist, Catholic religious sisters took their religious vows in wedding gowns and became “brides of Christ.” The communities of sisters discontinued this practice a few decades ago as it became distasteful to many.

Archaeological finds show the status of women declining in a worldwide turn to patriarchy, a phenomenon still not fully understood. In Europe the change came after 5000 and before 1000 BCE, when Kurgans, also known as Aryans or Indo-Europeans, penetrated the settlements of Old Europe. Aggressively they invaded the area we know as the Middle East, bringing with them new war technology and replacing female deities with their male deities, Sky and Warrior Gods—Joseph Campbell calls them “thunderbolt hurlers like Zeus, or Yahweh.” Their conquests brought a new order of violence and domination by gender.

Our Bible tells one chapter in this story, the Hebrew prophets unsuccessfully trying to stamp out the worship of Asherah and replacing Her with worship of Yahweh, “the Lord” who commands genocide in many Bible passages. Abram's call (Gen 12:1), dated about 1800 BCE, marks a decisive shift in consciousness.

Power shifted from female centrality (but not domination) to male domination. Massive evidence exists, but here I’ll cite only a few details from Merlin Stone’s research illustrating the shift in Egypt. The word “pharaoh” comes from par-o, meaning “great house” where woman ruled. Thus, the pharaohs received their titles through their mothers. In the earliest records beginning in 3000 BCE, the Goddess was served by 61 women priests and 18 male priests. In the period from 1570-1300 BCE, the temple clergy no longer had any women.

Myths also changed. In India the male Indra, Lord of Mountains who overthrows cities, killed the Goddess Danu and Her son. In Greece, the Supreme Goddess Hera became the subordinate, frustrated, and shrewish wife of Lord Zeus. The oracle at Delphi and the priests passing on Her counsel were female; later they were male. In Babylonia (Iraq) the male deity Marduk murdered the Creator Goddess Tiamat. In his informal conversations with Bill Moyers, Joseph Campbell tells this story.
The characteristic of an imperialistic people is to try to have its own local god dubbed big boy of the whole universe, you see. No other divinity counts. And the way to bring this about is by annihilating the god or goddess who was there before. Well, the one that was here before the Babylonian god Marduk was the all-Mother Goddess.

So the story begins with a great council of the male gods up in the sky, each god a star, and they have heard that the Grandma is coming, old Tiamat, the Abyss, the inexhaustible Source. She arrives in the form of a great fish or dragon--and what god will have the courage to go against Grandma and do her in? And the one who has the courage is, of course, the god of our present great city. He's the big one.

So when Tiamat opens her mouth, the young god Marduk of Babylon sends winds into her throat and belly that blow her to pieces, and he then dismembers her and fashions the earth and heavens out of the parts of her body. This motif of dismembering a primordial being and turning its body into the universe appears in many mythologies in many forms. . . .

There was no need for him to cut her up and make the universe out of her, because she was already the universe. But the male-oriented myth takes over, and he becomes--apparently--the creator. (The Power of Myth)
Besides showing the transfer of female to male power, this myth reinforces the idea that the Gods of the Christian Trinity proceed out of a female Source. We do not have to read these myths literally to see that their very existence supports a maternal Origin or Source.

Where is Christ in all this?
We have to distinguish Christ the myth from Christ, Higher Power or Higher Self. In ancient myths, the Son of the Goddess becomes Her consort and is a God (forerunners of Mary and Jesus), but She is primary, the more powerful, the important personage. The Son is known variously as Damuzi, Tammuz, Attis, Adonis, Osiris, Baal, and finally, Christ—it is the same archetype.

Christ's descent to hell followed the path of female deities to the netherworld, and it illustrates the shift from female power to male power. In the earliest versions, the Goddess—Inanna or Ishtar—is a mature queen who travels to the underworld to visit Her sister-ruler. She acts with independence and dignity. But in a later version, Persephone is a young girl abducted against Her will by Her uncle Hades. Finally the descending deity becomes a male hero, Christ. The symbolism of death to life is no longer represented by a female, but by a male.

Mother right, August 3
(continuing “Goddess Mary” series)
The first human social structures were matrilineal or based on mother-kinship. Woman was perceived to be the sole parent, and it followed that children took the name of their mother's clan. Lines of descent went through her, as did titles, possessions, and territorial rights. J.J. Bachofen (Myth, Religion, and Mother Right) quoted the ancient Greek historian Herodotus who was writing about the Lycians from Crete:
They have a strange custom which no other people has: they take their names from their mother, not from their father. For when one asks a Lycian who he is, he will indicate his descent on his mother's side, and list his mother's mothers, and when a woman citizen marries a slave, the children are regarded as nobly born; but if a male citizen, even the noblest, takes a foreign woman or a concubine, the children are dishonorable.
Bachofen corrected Herodotus' assumption that no other people had this custom. Mother right was not confined to any particular people but marks a cultural stage, a period when names and possessions followed the most obvious parent—mother. As it obviously applies to humans universally, this cultural stage was not restricted to any particular ethnic family but preceded the patriarchal system globally.

He described what he called matriarchy but is really matriliny:
Its outward expression is to be found in the naming of the child after its mother, But its significance, is manifested in several other points.
First, in the status of the children, which is taken from the mother, not the father; secondly, in the inheritance of property, which is handed down not to the sons but to the daughters; thirdly, in the government of the family, which falls not to the father but to the mother, and by a consequent extension of this last principle, government of the state was also entrusted to the women.

Thus we have not an outward peculiarity of nomenclature but a thoroughgoing system; it is bound up with a religious intuition and belongs to an older period of human development than father right.
Mother right in property and inheritance lasted down to Roman times, according to anthropologist James Frazer. But today there is evidence that such social arrangements still prevail in parts of Australia, Africa, and Asia where, for instance, the husband moves to his wife's tribe.

In North America, the Iroquois provide an example. Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott, principles in the 1848 Seneca Falls Convention that launched the women’s movement, knew Iroquois women who, unlike white women, had equal responsibilities with men in family, religion, government, and commerce.
They watched the Seneca nation, near Seneca Falls in upper New York State, govern with women holding political power. Clan mothers, for instance, nominated male chiefs, one requirement being not to have sexually assaulted a woman.

Archaeologist Marija Gimbutas found that matrilineal passing on of possessions survived in mountainous regions around Sarajevo into the twentieth century. Even our patriarchal Bible shows traces of mother-centered cultures from pre-biblical times. In the Book of Ruth, Naomi tells her daughters-in-law after the deaths of their husbands, "Go back, each of you, to your mother's house" (Ruth 1:8).

Merlin Stone in When God Was a Woman supplies more historical information to upset common notions of how things have to be. Herodotus wrote that in Egypt,
Women go in the marketplace, transact affairs and occupy themselves with business, while the husbands stay home and weave.
Sophocles wrote:
Their thoughts and actions all are modelled on Egyptian ways, for there the men sit at the loom indoors while the wives work abroad for their daily bread.
A professor Cyrus Gordon wrote in 1953:
In family life, women had a peculiarly important position for inheritance passed through the mother rather than through the father.
According to S.W. Baron, Egyptian papyri reveal that
many women appear as parties in civil litigations and independent business transactions even with their own husbands and fathers.
Archaeologist Sir William Flinders Petrie wrote,
In Egypt all property went in the female line, the woman was the mistress of the house, and in early tales she is represented as having entire control of herself and the place.
Theologian and archaeologist Roland de Vaux wrote,
In Egypt the wife was often the head of the family, with all the rights such a position entailed.
The precepts of Ptah-Hotep advised husbands to obey their wives. An E. Meyer wrote that until the fourth century BCE a wife in Egypt chose her husband and
could divorce him on payment of compensation. In Egypt the wife was often the head of the family, with all the rights such a position entailed.
Love poems from Egyptian tombs suggest that women did the courting, even using intoxicants to help them woo the men.

More data to upset preconceptions about male/female roles come from the animal world, which for years was misinterpreted as following patriarchal patterns of male domination and female submission. Herds of elephants and schools of whales are led by females, and the praying mantis female eats the male during copulation. Among large cats the females do most or all of the hunting.

Animal behavior also overturns the notion that females naturally must win the attention of males. In most species, males put on a display to win the favor of females, either combating rivals or strutting their beauty. Most birds have more attractively colored males than females. The adornment of males in some animal species, similar to that of human females, impedes their freedom of movement but they put up with it for the sake of sexual allure.

Recent primate research indicates that pure aggression is less the biological drive than formerly thought. Primatologist Frans B.M. de Waal found that the more feminine traits of cooperation and the search for harmony are woven into aggressive moves of animals. Socially successful apes have the ability to make friends. Today's observers of the animal world realize that past observations were colored by incorrect patriarchal assumptions. Male dominance and aggression are not biologically determined but historical phenomena, the causes of which are still debated.

Conclusion: Sexist/patriarchal marginalizing of women is not only unfair; it contravenes Nature.
PS. Don’t miss this devastating portrait. In his NCR essay, Eugene Kennedy analyzes with devastating accuracy some psychologically underdeveloped men now becoming priests, calling them set decorators trying to reconstruct the hierarchical system of the early 20th century Church.

Canaanite woman & General Lee, August 16
The gospel and homily Sunday morning in Sacred Heart Chapel relate to my recent blogposts. Both promote an opening-up, a radical shift to a new perspective. In the gospel story (Matthew 15: 21-28), Jesus rebuffs a Canaanite woman asking him for help, saying his mission is exclusively to the “house of Israel,” that is, to fellow Jews. “It is not right to take the food of sons and daughters and throw it to the dogs.”

To this insult from Jesus the woman sends a clever rejoinder, “Even the dogs eat the leavings that fall from their masters’ tables.” It brings a compliment from Jesus and having her wish granted. The woman has successfully converted Jesus from an exclusive, closed-circle stance to a new, open and broader view of things—including non-Jews.

Our homilist told another story promoting this theme. In 1865 the congregation in a Richmond, Virginia, church witnessed a shocking scene. At communion time, a black man rose up and strode to the front of church from the back, where Blacks belonged, before anyone else had a chance to get up to receive communion. A terrible breach of custom, of manners, of what everyone knew was the way things had to be. Whites waiting to see who would put the insolent black man in his place were astounded when, instead, a white man got up and joined the black man to receive communion alongside him. The white man was General Robert E. Lee.
Lee and the Canaanite woman opened doors and windows of perception to include the excluded—Blacks and Gentiles. I invite Christians to open doors and windows of perception to include the formerly unthinkable thought—that Goddess is as good an image of Divinity as God.

I invite readers to Jesus as Goddess Advocate , a guest post by Karen Tate, who tells why she left Catholicism but went back to Jesus, reclaiming him as the Sacred Masculine. Also scroll down and review my brief outline of historical material at the beginning of this “Goddess Mary” series.

It is quite likely that some readers will refuse to accept it since it upsets so drastically the view to which we have been trained. The very idea of a Goddess is distasteful to people. Reactions when I refer to Goddess with respect include shock, indignation, outrage, fear, ridicule, scorn, embarrassment, and confusion.

The problem is not lack of evidence but conditioning. Overturning my own training took years of effort and dozens of books. I suggest the same for readers afraid to step out of the familiar frame of reality. While reading Goddess materials you may notice what I did—the damage done by patriarchy to our sense of womanhood. Menstrual bleeding, for instance, signified power in prehistoric times.
Male envy of blood power is indicated by a strange practice anthropologists have uncovered in diverse locations. Judy Grahn explains in The Politics of Women's Spirituality:
Men have developed blood mimic rites in which they slit the underside of the penis to make an imitation of the female genital. The idea is that when the split penis is held upright against the man's abdomen it resembles a menstruating vagina
This practice, called "man's menstruation," occurs in New Guinea, Australia, the Philippines, and Africa.

Juxtapose it with Thomas Aquinas saying woman is
defective and misbegotten, for the active force in the male seed tends to the production of a perfect likeness in the male sex; while the production of women comes from defect.
Augustine taught men to hate women and sex.

Until recent decades, Catholic women had to be purified after giving birth. Christians blamed women and sex for passing on the evil of sin and in effect defined women as naturally subservient because they bear children. Moderns have not gotten over the association of menstruation with shame and femininity with weak subservience. Goddess spirituality can turn the tables on this male-centered view by declaring that, because they have the power to bear children, it is natural and appropriate for women to have power in other areas.

We cannot know to what extent egalitarian societies existed or to what extent Goddess cultures gave power to women. But there is no basis for denying that pre-patriarchal societies revered the power of woman's body, that women played a central role in them, and that power in many primal cultures was not understood to be domination.
Coming up: Does it matter whether we imagine the Ultimate Value of all reality to be male or female? I say YES.