Sunday, September 26, 2010

Why Female Deity? A Christian Perspective

Sad to say, but I still get questions as to why the Goddess matters. I continue to answer about the importance of seeing divinity from as many perspectives as possible, blah blah blah. Well here is a powerful article by Sister Joan Chittister, from her forthcoming book, Ruth Judith and the Power of Women in the Work of God. A nice cogent argument, so I put it here. Next time you are lighting your Bridget candles, and someone asks you why you do this, here is yet another explanation.

Finding role models to live by in Scripture, if you are a woman, is slim picking. I spent a fair amount of my young life looking for them, in fact. I heard a great deal in church and school about the kings, Solomon and David. They taught us about the faithful ones like Job and Joseph, for instance, who, despite their sufferings, never cursed God. But they said precious little, hardly a word, about women. Except about Delilah, of course, who had tempted Samson, leading to his ruin, and about Eve, who had tempted Adam and left us all in ruin.

Such teaching left girls with very male images of what it meant to be loved by God, or "made in the image" of God. Abraham and Moses and any number of men -- such as Noah, Jacob, Daniel, Isaac, Joshua, and Isaiah, to name a few -- had been entrusted with the work of God. But you didn't hear much about women at all, except, of course, for Mary, "the mother of God," who was clearly too exalted, too divinized to be a real model for real women. Women, it seemed, were also-rans where the work of salvation was concerned.

It takes years for a woman to realize how effective, how distorting, that exclusion can be to a woman's sense of herself before God. What had become clear to me, over the years, is that men got us to heaven; women went along. Men were the doers of God's will; women were everybody's "helpmates," but never their leaders. Women, in fact, were seldom or never the carriers of the vision. They were almost never the speaker of God's word. I admit to being disappointed by it all.

As a result, I did what most girls did. I looked to male figures and male saints and male spiritual leaders, for direction, for the interpretation of what, if anything, God expected of me in life. But somehow or other, little or none of it fit. Worse, all of it reminded me of a woman's secondary status, even where God was concerned. There was something not right about that.

Then, one day, I discovered, almost by accident, the books of Ruth and Judith -- two women who were strong leaders and committed followers of the Word of God. But these books had never been read in my church. I had never heard anyone even preach a sermon on them. I never saw any pictures of these two women hanging anywhere on sacred territory. But there were their stories, full and entire, right in the middle of the Bible. They were not pieces of religious fancy. These were, the priest told me, solemnly, "the Word of God." Suddenly, things began to change.

If anything in Scripture prepares us for the Jesus who walked with women, taught women, and commissioned women, these stories are surely it. They prepare us to see, if only we will open our eyes, the place and power of women in the Work of God. They enable us to realize the message of redemptive presence that comes through the stories of the women around Jesus -- Mary, Mary Magdalene, the Samaritan woman, the woman in the house of the Pharisees and all the women of all the house churches in the New Testament.

The books of Ruth and Judith are signs to us all. They are signs to men of the ministry, that they must share equally with women. They are signs to women of the ministry, for which they, too, must take clear and conscious responsibility, knowing, indeed, that God is with them, in them, calling them on, as witnesses, ministers and leaders -- for all our sakes.

From Joan Chittister's introduction to Ruth and Judith (Darton Longman and Todd).

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Action: Stop Child Trafficking in the US!

This cause is dear to my heart. I was homeless 4 times from childhood into my early 20,'s and I can not even now describe how terrifying homelessness is for a child. (And 9 out of 10 Americans who are homeless are children.) And though we in the U.S. like to think that child trafficking is something that happens in Asia, the truth is that the average age for a prostitute in the United States is 14. Read that again: 14.

Unfortunately, state and local law enforcement agencies rarely have the money to address child trafficking and child pornography. (This in the richest country in the world!) Now Congress is proposing funding for local agencies to combat trafficking and to support kids who escape. Clearly this is a minimum that needs to be done.

The bills before the US Congress are S. 2925 and HR 5575. Please ask your representatives to support this legislation! Or do it easily and sign a petition here:
Stop the Sex Trafficking of American Youth from I'm pretty sure these links work only for the US.

However for gentle readers elsewhere, there is work you can do. UNICEF has an international community working against child trafficking; read their bulletins and donate to them here. Check the data: children are at risk for trafficking everywhere on the planet.

Finally, remember that here in the US, many of the children on the streets are gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered, and are on the streets because parents have kicked them out of their homes. For too long, police and other law enforcement agencies have considered these children unimportant. It is time to change that.

Please act now.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

What kind of Christian are you??!!??

Hee, hee. Ok here is another poll, and an interesting one at that! From researchers concerned that current scales of measuring Christian faith aren't inclusive enough of today's many types of Christianity, this one is somewhat inclusive of that Pagan/Christian line. Called the Religiosity Scales Project, it has questions such as How Important Is It To You (the scale on the quiz):

Not being prejudiced, or seeking to overcome my prejudices

Volunteering at non-profit organizations

Actively seeking social and economic justice

Taking care of the environment (eg., recycling, educating others about the environment)

Experiencing the presence of God in nature

Now, I admit, the word Goddess is absent. (Come on academic Christians, put on your big kid panties. . .) Still I enjoyed participating in the quiz.

And the result:

I am a Mystic! (100% scores;) I am also a Political Activist (98%)!

Ok, the test might not tell ya anything ya don't know. . . Still the research is cool, so consider participating!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Karen Tate and Politically Honorable Goddess Worship

Ok, I am in love with Karen Tate. Her weekly radio show, Voices of the Sacred Feminine (available online at her website), connects millions of women and men to feminist religion from all angles; her e-books on sacred Goddess places worldwide inspire many a pilgrimage, and now she has written the most awesome article in L.A.'s the Examiner: Reconcile Your Spirituality With Your Politics; Goddess Is A Democrat.

I love Karen's article, not because of any deep love I feel for the Democratic Party ("I don't belong to an organized party; I'm a Democrat" - Will Rogers), but because if you believe in a world of social justice for all people of all colors, sexes, orientations, classes, abilities, ages, religions, cultures, languages - well if you believe in social justice for all people, then you have no choice these days but to speak out against the right wing of the Republican Party as it exists today. Naming the Goddess - or God - as a Democrat might seem extreme, but given how Republicans are acting these days and how we ARE a two party system, well then even deities have little voting choice.

And I have Karen's permission to publish her article here, and my thanks to her. We are coming up on another election season, and the "let corporations rape the world any way they choose" Republicans hope to make gains in the November elections. No matter where you are religiously - Christian, Pagan, Hindu, Jewish, Buddhist, Muslim, Atheist, Humanist, Animist, Shinto - whatever you are if you've been reading this blog you need to get out and stop Republicans from winning this fall. Read Karen, and get active!

Reconcile Your Spirituality with Your Politics - Goddess is a Democrat

* August 25th, 2010 3:35 pm PT

I wrestled for sometime with whether to write this article. I almost wrote it when Sarah Palin hit the national stage and we learned her Church deemed the Queen of Heaven aka Goddess, a demon, and Evangelicals were at war with Goddess revering folk. I almost wrote this again when there was so much humbug on a previously friendly Pagan/Progressive Christian listserve I belonged to that suddenly, in the climate of Palin, became very anti-women’s rights and anti-Pagan. I almost shared these ideas again when Pagans on another listserve were more worried about what color candle to use on their altar than share political ideas that might advance our spirituality. Several asked why they should care if the Bible gives men and religions license to oppress women. (Slap hand to forehead!)

I guess I can say I was steadily getting filled up to my eyeballs with apathy, ignorance, intolerance and oppression. Then come the Tea Baggers wanting to take back their country from "big government" yet seemed to care little about corporate strangleholds on our democracy or that their movement was funded by the self interests of corporations. And more recently the ginned up controversy of the Ground Zero Mosque which is not on Ground Zero at all. Now, today, I read on the internet a cab driver got stabbed for being a Muslim and a Muslim group was prevented from renting a space for worship services based on a bogus excuse that was thinly veiled bigotry. And I suspect once this kind of intolerance and discrimination is let out of the bag, this is only the beginning.

Elders and spiritual leaders from all walks of life have been telling us we are teetering on the edge of a knife and with the right push, we’ll fall either way. Considering that, I don’t want to be complicit by my silence with those others standing mute. If by speaking out I can perhaps be that metaphoric 100th Monkey to help stem the tide from tipping toward more oppression, inequality, war, intolerance and hate, let me try. And particularly as a Pagan, a member of a fast-growing spirituality perceived to be in the religious minority in this country, with a history of being oppressed by Christians zealots, I would think other Pagans would be concerned enough to speak out too. Can you imagine the anti-Pagan hate that would be conjured up by The Right if in the near future some disturbed Pagan commits some crime in this climate of religious intolerance? We already have to suffer the discrimination of tier one versus tier two religions. I will not be one of the quiet lurking in the shadows as hate-mongers set the tone. The escalating lies and hate-filled propaganda have pushed me over the edge. My hair is on fire and the only way to put it out is let loose my sacred roar!

So, agree with me or not, here goes....Goddess is a Democrat!

I’m not alone in my views. Riane Eisler has said it. Starhawk has said it. If Goddess had to choose between the current two major political parties, she would choose voting for Democrats. Others elders and leaders too numerous to mention have supported this clear choice by either their word or deeds which reconciles our spirituality and politics. If our country, our world, is to move forward it has to break the shackles of war for economic gain, ignorance, racism, bigotry, homophobia, plutocracy, exploitation and sexism. We have to start caring if everyone’s boat floats, not just the boat rich white conservative men and women book passage on. We have to worry about The Many and not The Few. That means if you are a Goddess Advocate, an environmentalist, a feminist, if you want a caring culture, a culture free of war and one of advancement and enlightenment, societies who value science as well as spiritual freedom, where people aren’t constantly being duped to vote against their economic interests, or their rights are taken away to satisfy religious dogma - then you cast your vote for Democrats. It is really that simple.

No, the Democrats are not perfect - far from it! Especially the Blue Dog, Faux-Democrats. I’m not happy the more sweeping change I voted for has not come yet, but we can’t dig ourselves out of catastrophic circumstances over night, especially in the face of such overwhelming obstructionism, lies and propaganda working against Democrats. And as reasonable citizens, you do not throw a tantrum and get even for your disappointment and switch sides and vote for the people mostly responsible for causing the cataclysm! People tell me, " I’m not a Democrat or a Republican, I’m an Independent." Great. But given the two choices we have in our political system, you usually have to cast your vote one way or the other, Democrat or Republican, and today’s Republican leaders are a dangerous bunch. They are either ignorant and intolerant with no sense of compassion, economics and history or they are hypocrites and liars who care little for you and me and care everything for the richest 2% of the country and people making $250K annually. They talk about wanting smaller government and less interference in our lives until it comes to telling people who they can marry, what is tolerated in the bedroom and what women can and cannot do with their bodies.

And then there are the issues of social justice. If there is to be social justice in this country, it will not be promoted by Republicans. This is the party that let people die in the Superdome during Hurricane Katrina. This is the party that belongs to Fox News and vice versa. Bush broke the sacred oath of trust between himself as Commander in Chief and our armed forces by sending poor and middle class men and women into a bogus war which many believe was really an excuse to pad the pockets of the military industrial complex and oil companies. He’s been caught on tape saying the way to revive an economy is war. George Bush and his cronies gave this country a black eye around the world, making us less safe and his party is doing it again now with this Ground Zero Mosque issue. The GOP says they want to distance themselves from Bush, but the Bush policies are in their blood. It’s who they are.

In fairness, I should say, probably not all conservative Republicans are of this ilk, but if there are any Republicans wearing white hats where are they? They are letting the crazies run their party figuring the end justifies the means. They rarely, if ever, dispute outright lies spun to further polarize our country. Their silence leave people like me thinking when you do find homophobes, racists, those who would dumb down Americans to steal their vote, those who would take reproductive rights away from women, those employing fear to control, whether they’re scaring white people about those different from them, about terrorists, the French, or people of different religions, they will more than likely be Republicans. They are the ones that would balance the budget on the backs of the poor by taking away Medicaid and Social Security or privatize it so their rich cronies can find a loop-hole to steal it in another Wall Street crash - OOPs!. They are quick to say the poor are lazy rather than admit the inequity in our society that holds some people back. I’ve heard some say they think wealth is a gift from God and greed is perfectly okay while believing the flip-side of this is poverty is a punishment from God for the sins of the poor. How convenient that theory to justify subsidies for corporations and ignore people! Yet they are the ones who always vote to de-fund education - maybe because an informed electorate employing critical thinking, with a sense of fairplay, not hate and fear and a sense of white entitlement, will not vote for their vision of the future.

Bottom line. Pagan or not, do you want to be responsible for perpetuating the power and ideology of these people? People who are galvanizing a movement based on lies and non-issues used to divide people and make us hate each other. People always ready to fund a war while Americans go to bed hungry. People who are against reform of Wall Street-run-amok and demonize the idea healthcare for all. They believe in people working more and more for less and less to fund insatiable greed. Perhaps once there was a time when Republicans could sit down with Democrats and work out some equitable compromise. Not anymore. The Republicans of today are a mean, selfish, ignorant, racist and homophobic bunch. That’s not just my opinion. Just turn on the news. That’s who they have speaking for them. They won’t approve unemployment benefits for people who lost their job in the economy they helped destroy, but they can twist themselves into a pretzel to try to protect big corporations from having to follow safety and environmental regulations and help the rich get richer while the corporate and political vultures pick the meat off the bones of the poor and ever-shrinking Middle Class. The media will not say it because it’s considered politically incorrect, but let’s shine the light on this. This is a culture war. Make no mistake.

I could lament the death of the American Dream for the Middle Class. I could cite statistics about how women make 70 cents on the dollar and most retire in poverty. Or how wages of the Middle Class have been stagnant for years while the richest in the country have gotten more powerful and wealthier. How CEO’s used to make 50 times as much as their employees and now they make 350 times more than their employees who are getting less and less benefits and salary. I could cite how other countries of the West take so much better care of their people with real family values, not lip service, but corporate interests in the U.S. have convinced their sheeple this sort of social justice reflects that scary word - socialism! History, truth and statistics are not on the side of Republicans and if you aren't making $250K a year, you shouldn't be either.

To conclude, if you are a Pagan or a Goddess Advocate, I suggest you vote for people who promote ideals and laws geared toward values that run parallel with our spirituality - ideas that promote the highest good for The Many. That’s you and me. As a formerly oppressed religion and an Earth-based spirituality, you must stand for equality, balance and fairness in our legislation and for environmental and economic sustainability - not people who work against that! By Her many faces across continents and cultures, Goddess Spirituality represents diversity. Likewise, I believe Pagans should embrace diversity. I, for one, don’t want to live in a narrow little conservative box with tight corners filled with hate and fear. I want to live in a spacious, rich and diverse world where there are lots of ingredients in our cultural gumbo. It’s really so much more delicious than plain white bread.

So please, consider supporting and helping people with ideals that will help us fall from that tipping point of the knife onto the side of peace, tolerance, equal rights for all including religious freedom and human rights, which includes a woman’s right to choose what she does with her body. No church or state should legislate a women’s reproductive rights lest she is a slave to her body! You push back and speak out against those who throw these ideals under the bus. And you go out and vote for Democrats and take three people with you because the Wolf is at the door and we cannot afford to have this crop of Republicans setting the tone for what this country stands for. We are better than their ideals. We need to be raising the bar and setting the tone, direction and values for a better world. It’s really that simple.

-Karen Tate

Friday, September 10, 2010

Morgan's Tarot: Freak!

My randomly pulled Morgan's Tarot card this week is the wonderful card: Freak!

Pulled into response to my own question about how I can become a scientist my own way, the lovely Freak card returned its own answer: My own Freaky way!

The Morgan definition for the card reads:

This card may mean that it is all right to be what you are.

Or, the situation is radically different from what it normally is.

Or, despite the fact that everything is okay, it doesn't feel that way. Refreshing influences rather than draining influences may dispel your anxiety.

Well, there you go! "It is all right to be what you are" is one of my favourite messages from the universe: an anti-wrinkle cream, anti-plastic surgery, anti-tooth whitening kinda message. Also a profoundly accepting message that we are all just fine in the eyes of the universe kinda message.

And my situation is radically different from what it normally is: I'm studying a science program at Uni. (me? science? weird!) So in that respect the card is spot on.

And finally, yes, everything being okay doesn't feel that way when situations are radically new (I check my school email account daily, worried I have forgotten something, for example.) Refreshing influences in new situations, like the proverbial open door and light at Bridget's shrine for all who come, are much needed for us all.

When I get this card in a reading I encourage my client/friend to embrace their inner freakie self. We don't encourage difference enough in this post-industrial, recession driven age. So instead of freaking out, develop your inner freak. Who knows where it may lead?

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Finding Mary Magdalene: the Heinz Chapel

(Mary Magdalene Picture courtesy University of Pittsburg.)

I attended an organ concert at Heinz chapel this past week, my first visit inside the famous Pittsburgh landmark at the University of Pittsburgh. Now the SW Pennsylvania area abounds in Gothic revival architecture, so I had never visited this particular chapel despite dropping my organ-loving daughter there for concerts. So I walked into this chapel rather inured to stone vaults and repeated arches and even Tiffanny windows.

However this chapel was built on a college campus with a college committee choosing the images inside: the result had me gasping and ignoring organ music. (Hey I hear a lot of Bach already. . .) A full fifty percent of the images in the Heinz chapel's stained glass were women. And not just Biblical women - though that would itself be stunning - the Heinz chapel's famous stained glass include Native women (Kapiolani, Kateri Tekawitha, Pocahontas), literary women (Emily Dickenson, Elizabeth Barret Browing), women from multiple denominations (Hannah More and Elizabeth Fry and Saint's Dymphna and Eunice and Clare),and histories (Abigail Adams, Dorothea Dix, Clara Barton, Florence Nightingale). Look carefully and find a small section of window dedicated to the Women's Christian Temperence Union:

(detail of Florence Nightingale)

What also astounded me was the huge window devoted to Saint Mary Magdalene. For many Christian women all over the world, Mary Magdalene has such important significance - as one of the apostles following Jesus. She is one of the most important examples of a woman and teacher in the Jesus movement. She was present at Jesus' death, burial and the first person to see the resurrected Christ. In apocryphal texts she is the "apostle to the apostles." I know Christian women who identify Mary Magdalene with Wisdom, Sophia, the feminine side of Christ, a symbol of women's equality in church and worship, and as an example of the female side of God. All those views are especially valid for those of us sitting in pews every Sunday hearing about God the Father and the Father, Son and Holy Ghost. (Hey I am sick of creator, redeemer, sustainer language as well. . .)

The presence of this huge window in the Heinz Chapel, dedicated to the Magdalene, just awes me. Her window stands equal with the Virgin Mary, with Joseph and with other apostles depicted. Such a physical demonstration of women's equality and the Magdalene's importance is amazing.

Years ago I took an art and religion course at the Pacific School of Religion with the fun and wonderful professor Doug Adams. With Professor Adams, we explored the art of church, what buildings tell us about religion. Professor Adams literally encouraged to explore the PSR chapel by crawling under pews and rolling in the aisles. (None of this was surprising to me as I grew up in Frank Lloyd Wright's First Unitarian Universalist Church in Madison, Wisconsin, where the UU adults left us kids alone and we literally climbed the limestone walls that Wright so carefully designed. . .) Professor Adams wanted us to understand that the visuals of a church teach as much as any sermon.

What does that say for all the churches with pictures of male apostles, male ministers in the hallway, Jesus pictures everywhere, and no women to be found? The overwhelming message is that religion and the divine are male. Whether Christian or Jewish or Muslim, those of us from the patriarchal religions grow up without images of female divine.

The Heinz chapel blew me away because, pagan or christian or Hindu or whatever type of Goddess worshiper I am, I still live unaccustomed to seeing women anywhere in religion. Yet I stood in the Heinz chapel, ignoring the music, to instead see that rarest of things: pictures of women - all types of women - as holy.