My friend, Cassandra Rae of SimplyFearless gave me a book for Christmas. She didn’t find it at a bookstore, rather at a street fair/flea-market kind of thing. It has the name of the original owner on the first page and an unused notecard with the picture of a rhinoceros tucked inside. It’s hardly new; published in 1976. It cracks a bit when you open it and the pages are dry and slightly yellowed. It’s lovely. Mostly, because it’s from Cassandra; because when she saw it she knew to buy it for me. But also, isn’t it obvious? It’s lovely because it’s about when God was a woman! Do you remember?
Here’s the opening quote in the introduction by Simone de Beauvoir in 1949 (who, if you don’t know of, you should):
Man enjoys the great advantage of having a god endorse the code he writes; and since man exercises a sovereign authority over women it is especially fortunate that this authority has been vested in him by the Supreme Being. For the Jews, Mohammedans and Christians among others, man is master by divine right; the fear of God will therefore repress any impulse towards revolt in the downtrodden female.
There are centuries of truth rolled into that statement. Millions upon millions of personal stories embedded in those words. Hundreds of millions of women who have been silenced – and remain that way – because this encapsulates the system of belief by which we have been enculturated…and harmed – not just women, but men and society/the world at large.
What if God was a woman? Would such realities still be true? Such injustices exist? Of course not! Is God a man? Of course not! But somehow, the assigning of gendered language/metaphor to God in the past couple-thousand years has radically changed the experience of women throughout the world – past, present, and future. We need to remember.
When God Was A Woman is a look at the most ancient of religions, the religion of the Goddess, and the role this ancient worship played in Judeo-Christian attitudes toward women. I’ll let the author, Merlin Stone speak for herself:
Though we live amid high-rise steel buildings, formica countertops and electronic television screens, there is something in all of us, women and men alike, that makes us feel deeply connected with the past…For people raised and programmed on the patriarchal religions of today, religions that affect even the most secular aspects of our society, perhaps there remains a lingering, almost innate memory of sacred shrines and temples tended by priestesses who served in the religion of the original supreme deity. In the beginning, people prayed to the Creatress of Life, the Mistress of Heaven. At the very dawn of religion, God was a woman. Do you remember?
Do you remember? I do not. But I want to. Oh, how I want to.
How I want to bring new metaphors and language to life. How I want to re-interpret my own story of faith through the lens of a female God. How I want my daughters to understand their own God-given beauty, strength, and divinity without a male template being the predominant or exclusive definer. How I want to live in a world without patriarchy, misogyny, and endless misunderstanding. I do not remember. But I want to.
Admittedly, this topic gets me extremely fired up. And I don’t necessarily want to be understood/experienced as an angry woman. But sometimes anger is justified, righteous, necessary. The loss of our memory of God (my own loss of such) as a woman does make me angry. I want her back. I do not remember. But I want to. Do you?
We listen carefully to the stories. We hear the women whisper. They whisper in the fragments of the forgotten.
I hope you’ll listen. I hope you’ll remember. I’m trying.
If you’re up for some provocative conversation about this, here are some questions you might think of asking…of yourself, of your friends, of your mother, your father, your pastor, your church, our world. No easy answers; maybe no answers at all, but definitely the makings of good conversation! I’d love to hear!!!
What is your gut-response to the idea of God as a woman? How do you respond to your own response? How would others respond to you if they knew?
What would be different in your life if you could remember; if it was even remotely possible to apply a lens of God as woman to your experiences, your relationships, your work environment, your culture?
What are your experiences of patriarchy, misogyny, or misunderstanding in this regard? Do they make you angry? What do you do with that anger? Where/how is it expressed?
If you could imagine God as a woman, what might She most want you to hear from Her?