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Come on Guys, Where is She?

Elizabeth A. Johnson has written an excellent work entitled SHE WHO IS: The Mystery of God in Feminist Theological Discourse.

Publisher is Crossroad/Herder & Herder; ISBN: 0824519256; 10th Annv.. edition (May 2002)

The Library Journal calls the book “ Thoroughly orthodox, grounded in classical Christian thought, liberatingly contemporary, and rooted in Women's experience.”

When I clicked on the title link to Barnes & Noble, I immediately encountered the suggestion that I might also like to read the following writings listed among books “closely related“:

THE GNOSTIC GOSPELS, by Elaine Pagels (read it - liked it);

WHY CHRISTIANITY MUST CHANGE OR DIE, by Bishop John Shelby Spong (read it - partially agreed with it);

SYSTEMATIC THEOLOGY, by Paul Tillich (not yet read but I’m interested because both Johnson and Spong quote Tillich);


These writings all, to a certain degree, crash against the wall when it comes to widespread acceptance by our most public and accepted authorities of Catholic and Protestant orthodoxy.


Perhaps the reason for less-than-enthusiastic acceptance and support of this sort of thoughtful writing is because the writing is exactly that - thoughtful. It is also intellectual and academically complete with cites, quotes, notes and bibliographies galore.

What is there about thoughtful writing on Christian history and practice that leads to discomfort among the devoutly orthodox, particularly those of influence who seem to be the spokespersons for what is claimed to be the majority view?

One suggestion easily noticed is that the majority of the spokespersons are male and serve in callings based on authority founded in a literal interpretation of scripture. Johnson’s writing speaks directly to this reality as the prime hindrance to a more useful and fulfilling practice of Christianity as a way of life.

Yet despite being her writing being “ thoroughly orthodox and grounded in classical Christian thought”, the resistance to what Johnson writes is part and parcel of more than two millennia of a blind and unreasonable acceptance of a patriarchal order within Christianity that is more and more being revealed as doubtful.

In order to read and write thoughtfully, one is greatly advantaged by an ability to think critically. Yet critical thinking seems to be one of those rash habits that causes unease and, when allowed to proliferate without censor, leads to the sort of exploding grenade reflected by Bishop Spong’s writings.

More than 2000 years of Christian doctrine and philosophy has evolved from that which more and more appears to have been Roman editing of what became the Bible; a manipulation of facts, words and deeds - all intended to create secular and religious security. The source then of contemporary Christian beliefs and attitudes very much appears to have been a polluted well from which polluted water has been distilled into a modern polluted form.

One prime candidate for doubt is looming larger and larger - that of a societal patriarchy based on a patriarchal God who is now being openly doubted. It seems now that only an appeal to scripture, with a firmly implanted traditional literal acceptance is the last remaining justification for a sexist definition of the Christian God. The literal acceptance of an inerrant Bible is very much the last bastion of defense.

It can be justifiably claimed that our contemporary society still has many areas where sexism is manifest. In most societies (though not all) in general and the American society in particular sexism can be discussed, challenged and steps advocated toward change - except it seems within the kingdom ruled by a patriarchal God.

Yet, asks Elizabeth Johnson, is the Christian God really patriarchal or even absolutely male?

One might ask if feminist theologians are really campaigning for a Mother in Heaven or a Female God.

If it is asserted that feminist religious writers are locked into an obsession, let it also be stated that patriarchal supporters are likewise locked into their equally dangerous obsession.

How often are we exhorted to accept or believe something with the tuneful answer “How do I know? The Bible tells me so.”

Come on guys! Where is She?

In this regard I enjoyed one small example offered by Ms. Johnson who writes of New Testament verses from the book of Mark, chapter 14, concerning Jesus being anointed by a woman bearing an alabaster jar of ointment. Responding to objections and criticisms made by some who were there, Jesus rebuked them and said:

“In truth I tell you, wherever throughout all the world the gospel is proclaimed, what she has done will be told as well, in remembrance of her.”
(New Jerusalem Bible version).

Now to every literal-thinking, inerrant-Bible-accepting, all-or-nothing Christian evangelist it can be asked, “Who was this woman?

What was her name?

Why does your preaching of the Good News not include a Jesus-commanded remembrance of her?”

What is this historical deafening silence around remembrance of the woman with the alabaster jar?

In all your literal thinking and self-righteous posture, you cannot have it both ways. Either it is ALL literally true and to be believed and followed, or you must get out of the orthodox wagon.

Guys, it’s the internal story most of us were taught to carry around that is flawed. What is within us in terms of how we define the world and its realities - spiritual, material, intellectual, sexual - all the inner thoughts that determine our outward performance come from a source that was never designed to be perfect.

"The secret thoughts of a man run over all things, holy, profane, clean, obscene, grave and light, without shame or blame."

The above is a quote from Thomas Hobbes.

Our secret thoughts are the authors of our own story, our personal mythology from which we navigate our lives.

Sam Keen and Anne Valley-Fox have addressed this subject with excellence and I have paraphrased their writing to discuss myth.

Our secret thoughts are where we have authorized our answers to the following questions:

Where did I come from? Why is there evil in the world?

What happens to me when I die?

With whom do I belong?

How close should I be to others?

What are my obligations?

What is taboo and to be avoided?

Whom should I imitate?

Who are the heroes, villains, enemies and allies?

What are the stages along life's way?

What is disease?

How can I be healed?

What should we do with bounty and surplus?

What is our relationship with nature and the animals?

Why Do We Do The Things We Do?

Why Do We Feel The Way We Feel?

Are We Vitalized Or Bleeding Away Our Emotional Energy?

Our lives are living myths of our own creation. Our companion is our personal story, all the stuff inside we use tell us who we are and tell the world the same.

"Myth" is a word given too much work in how we share knowledge with one another. Many will not accept a myth because it is something built from nothing. Others say myth is illusion or a mistaken belief. When myth equates to the opposite of "fact", how can we trust or use myth?

Myth is assumption. Every definition of life is an assumption. Every reasoning behind what we choose to do and how we choose to behave is based on assumption.

Defenders of religious creeds use the word "myth" to characterize religious beliefs that conflict with their own, saying "Your, assumptions are not as valid as my assumptions. In fact, your assumptions are myth while my assumptions are truth."

What do we deny if we refuse to recognize our own assumptions?

How much are our individual lives shaped by inner scenarios based on assumptions we have been taught to accept as absolutely true?

Do we live an inner myth that reflects how we've been taught the world "is" rather than how we've discovered the world to "be"?

Our personal mythical scenario is always on and is always running. Sam Keen has described myth as referring to

"an intricate set of interlocking stories, rituals, rites and customs that inform and give the pivotal sense of meaning and direction to a person, family, community or culture.

The myths we carry around inside include unspoken consensus, the habitual way of seeing things, unquestioned assumptions, and our 'automatic stance'."

A society lives on its own unconscious conspiracy to consider a myth the truth, the way things really are. Do we belong to the majority who are literal without thinking; men and women who are not critical or reflective about the guiding "truths" - myths - of their own group?

As Keen implies,

" To a tourist in a strange land, an anthropologist studying a tribe, or a psychologist observing a patient, the myth is obvious. But to the person who lives within the mythic horizon, it is nearly invisible."

I recommend YOUR MYTHIC JOURNEY, Finding Meaning in Your Life Through Writing and Story Telling, by Sam Keen and Anne Valley-Fox., copyright 1973, 1989 Jeremy P. Tarcher, Inc

I also like this quote from Carl Jung:

"I asked myself, 'What is the myth you are living?', and found that I did not know. So ... I took it upon myself to get to know 'my' myth, and I regarded this as the task of tasks ... I simply had to know what unconscious or preconscious myth was forming me." -C.G. Jung, The Portable Jung

The Christian theory of a Godhead is usually portrayed in some context of a trinity, whether three-in-one or made up of three important facets, usually the Father, the Son and The Holy Ghost. Godhead itself is an excellent place from which Christians ought to start in constructing a more useable and more completely spiritual understanding of our ultimate higher power.

In this regard, I find myself surprised at the frequency with which I encounter people who flat-out believe that the Holy Spirit is absolutely feminine, regardless of what is in the Nicene Creed or what pronoun their Protestant preachers use from the pulpit.

In a fundamentalist sense, life must be a microcosm of the macro-assumption that God is a monarch, rules by edict and an extortive factor that is supposed to be both loving and harsh, simultaneously merciful and judgmental. God’s kingdom is a kingdom of enforceable order So long as we view our world as something strictly ruled by God it will never be a world managed or loved by God in the purest sense of love and parenting.

For me, life as a microcosm of the world managed by God is more reflected in the nature of family. In truth, I came to the understanding I have of God more by fathering and parenting five children than anything ever encountered in a context of religious training, doctrine, sermonizing or patterning. I learned very painfully what it is to be God-like to very young children - then watch that God-like status wan as they grew older and more independent.

As the father of questioning and experimenting children moving into their teens, I realized how very little I could “rule” over those precious children, “command” their obedience and effectively “punish” their rebellions. On the contrary, my promptings led me to conclude that my function would be best as that of a benevolent supporter, encourager and rescuer (whenever rescue was both needed and wise).

Elizabeth Johnson makes the following statement repeatedly in her book, SHE WHO IS : “The name of God functions.”

How true that statement is! The imagery that comes with any name we hear is something to be pondered. If we see an older man in a white robe and white beard when the name “God” is mentioned, we have been given something incomplete in forming our inner self-story. It is even possible that our incomplete inner self-story was taught us by our mother who herself was subject to the distilled patriarchal version from the original polluted well.

But even in that regard and speaking stereotypically, our parenting was usually a microcosm of the macrocosmic reality of Godhead. As men are taught to be men and women to be women according to their natural “nature and role”, children will ask their father what to do and expect to be "commanded" by the "patriarch" exactly what to do. However, often children will ask their mother what to do with the anticipation of being told both what to do and why.

Those fathers who to some degree think outside the patriarchal stereotype will practice the sensitive and caring parenting that more fully reflects God/Goddess as a caring parent.

Is it no wonder that the Holy Spirit, which is supposed to be the prompter, the confirmer and the enlightener, the Paraclete promised by Jesus, would be feminine?

So long as we remain unable to view the object of our worship as the very essence of both masculinity and femininity we will remain part of a diminishing Christian influence in all aspects of modern life.

I am the ultimate family patriarch, and have modeled my family administration on God's supposed model

if I want to emulate God's patriarchal style in my own family of 8 children and 12 grandchildren, I should announce that I will no longer speak to my children directly. Rather, I have chosen my oldest son to be my mouthpiece and through Him I'll convey my wisdom and will regarding family well-being.

If my oldest son choses to write down a few things I say and then stop listening to me because he feels that what he has written is all my daughters and grandchildren need to know, that's his prerogative.

I leave myself in a lame duck situation because this arrangement has cut me off from direct speaking to anyone else.

My other son, my daughters, and my grandchildren are just out of luck if they want direct speaking with me because I have chosen the patriarchal path.

If my wife objects to my shutting out the rest of out children and grandchildren, that's going to be too bad - because I am the ultimate family patriarch, have modeled my family administration on God's supposed model and that's that. My wife, after all, is a woman and therefore doubly disqualified to be a patriarch.

The Biblical condemnation of feminism

A father of four daughters and 2 stepdaughters, I had as one of my prime issues with the LDS, their patriarchal order of things.

From my point of view, and I'm not inside what I'm about to say, there's another group in the US that can empathize with the occupation of the Palestinian people in addition to the Native Americas.

Women who marry into patriarchy. Their lives become occupied territory.


“Most of these feminists are radical, frustrated lesbians, many of them, and man-haters, and failures in their relationships with men, and who have declared war on the male gender. The Biblical condemnation of feminism has to do with its radical philosophy and goals. That’s the bottom line.”

Radical = disagree with patriarchs

frustrated lesbians = labeled by patriarchs who's idea of sexuality and passion means you start intercourse with a prayer.

man-haters = I work with single moms left behind by fathers who threaten the mother if she goes on welfare thereby generating an open and agressive child support case in Washington State. It's made me a man-hater myself.

failures in their relationship with men = patriarchs and patriarch wannabe's have no sense of what a relationship looks like, let alone what a failure they themselves make of it.

declared war on the male gender = well, that part of the male gender that has got something to be ashamed of.

bottom line = I'd like to see a good defense of the idea that the Bible even identifies femininism as a sin, evil or weekness that merits condemnation.

Personally, I think there's a lot of good material for stand-up comics of both sexes if they'll look for it. Before men get all sober and serious about the role of women, they need to get that way about themselves.

If I were in charge, what I’d do with “The Sacred Institution Upon Which This Country Is Based”

I started out with a different title : Hypocritical Sanctimony meets Sanctimonious Hypocrisy.

Thinking that citizens are better served by an insistence that gay marriage deserves more concern right now than any other national concern we ought to fell insulted by this kind of dumbing down tactice. With self-serving sober sanctimony, that gang – pretending to deep and profound thoughts – declares that we absolutely must defend that “sacred institution upon which this country is based.”

Really? A while back I stumbled across a powerful writing from Cheryl Seal at The Real Assault on American Marriage: 10 Top Ways Bush Republicans Have Undermined Marriage

Thank you Cheryl. Let me agree in writing:

1. I’d worry more about those couples already married than about those who want to get married. I’d be concerned and working toward seeing that they kept their jobs or, if unemployed, found good ones upon which they could economically stabilize their marriage.

2. I’d work intensely to stabilize marriage by doing everything in my and my administration’s power to achieve – not “work toward” – health coverage for every member of every family and every member-to-be of every family-to-be.

3. I’d work for increasing family incomes with minimum wage increases and expanding worker benefits. I wouldn’t stand there like a dope and call McDonald’s jobs “manufacturing jobs” and pretend that corporate tax cuts have created meaningful long term income opportunities for that sector of society where the largest number of marriages are already at risk.

4. I’d understand that the sacred institution of marriage is placed more at risk when it attempts to survive with inadequate housing, bottom-line cheapskate and/or corporate slumlords, and home ownership as an impossible dream.

5. I’d strengthen marriage by dropping the swagger and the “bring it on” rhetoric that sounds like it spilled from the urinal in a junior high boys’ locker room.

I’d tell all those macho image-makers and self-serving patriarchal philosophers that marriage is incomplete without intellectual, spiritual and moral equality.

I’d insist that earned income is a function of ability and has absolutely nothing to do with gender.

6. I’d take a long look and seek answers from those who truly know about failed marriages among our minority populations and stop thinking that unfettered capitalism includes within its framework some sort of naturally-occurring equal opportunity for every citizen to succeed in some idealized cookie-cutter manner.

7. I’d tell the neocons to shut the f*** up and give priority to our married soldiers and their spouses. I would certainly not let the neocons write out political and military checks that the children in our families – built on our sacred insititution of marriage – will have to cash.

8. I’d focus on those military families and single soldiers in another significant way – I’d care about what happens when they come home and are no longer tactical plastic markers on a map.

I’d make sure that the VA is truly an effective and functioning VA – a boon to our society of veterans and something for which we as a nation can all be proud and not suspicious.

I’d see to it that families and the marriages that build them are not hampered by an urgent need for food assistance and other welfare.

9. I’d sustain our sacred institution by getting out of the business of trying to control one gender’s right to chose.

If I were a truly moral and ethical president, I would trust our processes of education and scientific study and encourage responsibility around human sexuality as a national concern and effort rather than a divisive argumnt based on polarized personal moralities.

10. I’d sustain and advocate for the sacredness of our marriage institution by educating and protecting our precious human national resource - our children.

Rather than prance around sounding pious and sober about gay couples, I’d march around obsessed with doing something about the factors that do greater harm to our families and their young members.

I’d work to encourage the nation to turn on its domestic abusers and family abandoners in a major way.

In short, as president, if I ever started defining marriage as “the sacred institution upon which this country is based,” I’d be ready to start encouraging an intervention in all those things that form the framework for failed marriages, failed families and ruined lives.

I’d stop pretending that the American people believe that banning gay marriages is the answer to solving the problem.

they need to prove that God is as narrowly focused on righteous intimacy as they are.

Actually in terms of "pro" I support choosing and accountability for the choice. I usually come down on a side that counsels against a choice to have an abortion but I'm very much against criminalizing the act and its associated legal retribution. If Christians want to construct a "moral" world then it must be non-coercive in order to get God out of the extortion business.

"Do it my way or I'll send you to hell" is extortion and the least reason why someone would make "good moral choices." Good moral choices from my perspective are first founded on ethics. Those who practice good ethics ought to be doing so as a direct application of the golden rule and a genuine desire for the highest good.

They absolutely are not subject to an innerant Bible nor those who think they have interpreted the Bible for everyone else.

As for the sexuality site, I liked what I saw. I think that open discussion of what most fundamentalists have unwittingly portrayed as God's obsession on human sexuality is imperative if, in fact, God is obsessed with the intimate details of human sexuality.

Since the subject provokes more intense moral outrage, it should be discussed openly and with an eye single to teaching it as a spiritual concept rather than relegating it to a discussion of the mechanics of physiology.

In that regard, such conversation can't help but throw a spotlight on the demagogues who raise the issue for selfish reasons. In that kind of revealing moment the loudest moral mouthes are forced to throw open their own cloaks of privacy and flash to the rest of us what they are really after.

Honestly, they need to prove that God is as narrowly focused on righteous intimacy as they are.

Who owns the definition of marriage you two are using or contemplating?

What would you, Arthur C Ruger, say is the definition and purpose of marriage? I would be most interested in your answer to a gay couple who might be wrestling a bit with the whole concept. Any thoughts?

Hmmmmm ... interesting question.

Okay, I'll assume I have been approached by a gay couple who values what I might have to say regarding their wrestling match.

1st Question: Who owns the definition of marriage you two are using or contemplating?

If it is your own, then undoubtedly the word marriage already has some meaning - including purpose and definition - that reflects your own sense of relationship and longing for something with which to define and portray yourselves as a couple.

If it is not your definition but one merely being contemplated by you as applicable according to American society, then it's important to remember that this country has yet to formally legislate a definition of marriage as a legal term complete with benefits around inheritance, medical coverage, legal rights and the like.

It's also important to remember that if it is not your definition it is someone else's - someone else's magic. Someone else's magic in your life is either dispensed or loaned and as such, remains the exclusive property of the lender/dispenser. The lender/dispenser will not validate any usage of their magic if it is contrary to how they expect you will utilize it.

Some folks insist that "marriage" is a word they own or that God owns and that God, although not a respecter of persons as written scripturally, is still particular about who uses His word and who will not recognize as holy and sacred what already is holy and sacred to you.

This circumstance will be valid only so long as you yourselves are in harmony and sub-ordination to that same point of view.

In reality, no one owns that word more than any word is owned. Marriage is yours to define and around which to appoint your own purpose.

My wife and I were married in a Native-American ceremony presided over by a Christian Native-American Shaman who is a member of the Cherokee Good Medicine Society. We were not joined in holy matrimony by a priest, pastor, reverend, preacher, bishop or any other god-talker. And certainly not a justice of the peace.

Those who matter to us, family and friends including the Episcopal parish where we are both preachers, all recognize our marriage.

The State may not yet be ready to recognize your "marriage" in terms of legal status with all its entitlements, but so long as those things are secondary to your own sense of relationship, commitment and coupling, if "marriage" names that sense for the two of you, by all means, marry.

The number of people who'll whisper "they're not really married" will have dominion over you to the degree that you allow it.

I think God is too busy trying to stay untangled from the prayers of the self-righteous to take the time to do nit-picking over who owns what words.

sitting where god's patriarch had instructed the young men to sit

I once sat in a meeting where the speaker interrupted his sermon to take a whack at my son whom I'd asked to come and sit with the family after he and his other quorum members had passed the sacrament to the congregation.

Something about sitting where god's patriarch had instructed the young men to sit and about God making his wishes known through the patriarchs (leaders).

Neither my son nor I said nothing as we sat in the congregation. But that was it for my son. When I left the religion he'd already left it.

Actually I think the guy was still upset at me for blocking his shot in a church basketball game the night before.

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