“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them… And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good.” Genesis 1:27 & 31 (KJV)
I have been perpetually berated with the idea that human beings are bad, immoral nouns who steal, cheat and destroy. Humans are creatures created to be governed, ruled, dominated and taken down a peg or three because one day when we were formed by God, we ate from the wrong tree, learned things we shouldn’t have and became the bane of the earth. Better, saith the Religious, to remain in Edenic ignorance before God than to open one’s eyes and discover the ins and outs of why.
All because impressionable Eve was taken in by the swindler Satan, who was a hissing, talking serpent, by the way. Yes, Earth’s First Woman was bamboozled by a snake chatting her up, wrapped around the branches of a tree telling her eating its fruit would give knowledge of good and evil. That in knowing where the line was drawn, it would make Eve and her husband gods. Eve fell for it, being incapable of scepticism in her idyllic ignorant setting, and duly tempted realized that nudity was embarrassing and God might be angry that they went against the one thing he told them not to do. Rebellious humans! Oh, Adam blames Eve for feeding him the fruit, you know. In the Renaissance they went so far as to say women were the font of all evil, and along with Lilith’s brood of murdering succubi, unrestrained legions of women would be the downfall of civilization, dignity, purity and decent living. When most women weren’t able to read, I can believe their ignorance and education-less emotionalism would be more of a threat! How odd then, that in the height of the English successes came Queen Elizabeth I and her merry gang of female compatriots who proved to not only acquire intelligence, but feminine attributes which made them paragons of their gender, and carriers of brighter futures and cleaner worlds!
By now someone is probably wondering what my feminist flutterings have to do with the Church. Religion has been the greatest propitiate of ideas since Adam and Eve got their leaves on. The majority of my issue with organized religion is based on its reliance on constructed social dependence. As a social construction, it is posited religion was a basis for maintaining the sacred norms of a society. How a society functioned was itself a function on the clergy’s ability to maintain morals, ethics and ideal philosophies. Cosmology became hypothesized evidence for a certain frame of mind, a method of proving divine philosophy & social order in the heavens. Mythology or religious writ was built upon a collective of unexplainable phenomenon and history, given credence by its propensity to survive and control the populace. Drifting from the consistent representation of the cosmos was heresy; grounds for being executed, expelled from the tribe or dealt with severely until one returned contrite and begging forgiveness from the fold.
Where would we as a North American and European society be if everyone followed the religious maxims of their days? Would the Earth revolve around the sun? Would it be flat or round? Had we always engaged in utmost belief, demons would cause disease instead of bacteria and viruses. The mentally ill would be possessed, extricated in fear not brought forward in a spirit of healing. Had we no rebels, we would have no proper world, nor scientific progress. Yet, the most auspicious rebels were the ones who did not deny relevant truths from whence they came. Reform seems to be far better than revolution.
Now, the globe has come into an era where geographically it is incredibly small. Where a collection of centuries ago crossing continents took years and many lives, today it can take less than four hours and a plane ride full of dehydrated air. The global village has become a melange of cultural sensibilities, yet our abilities to discern similarities in each other hasn’t quite caught up with the curve. We state especially in North America that we are a melting pot of tolerance, when as of yet we cannot see the views and discernments of others. We live awe struck by phantom terrorists, religious fundamentalists of whom we have nothing but fear, ignorance and an inability to quantify. How can we truly call upon the spirit of the living God when we cannot rectify the differences in ourselves? What right do we have to knock on heaven’s door asking for God’s goodwill and bounty? Where’s the grace gone?
If God is a universal phenomenon, then God came not to one people group but all. If God is a global entity then there must be (unobscured by natural differences of terrain and physical condition, and the differently nurtured histories) common threads of truth evident on a global scale. By fighting past the socially constructed pieces of the divine and the sacred, I believe we can dig amongst the tatters that remain for what is truly God. Truly Divine. Spiritual experience has multiple avenues and similarities. Ask yourself how many things in other religions legitimately battle against the words of Christ? In my experience, pastors and philosophers are more than willing to dialogue with you as long as they consider you pliant to their unique or mass produced system of belief. Have a discussion for discussion’s sake and it’s a waste of time, a method of the Evil One to take good Christians away from their moral duties to follow what their pastors say. Once they discover you are on the fringe and unapologetically searching, most wash their hands of you, or attempt constantly to save you with their narrow noose-like views on Father God and saving grace.
Why then did Thomas Merton engage with Far Eastern thought? Why did one of the most significant Christian philosophers of the twentieth century deem it an imperative to dialogue with other religious traditions? Thomas Merton influenced the Dalai Lama. Dialogue has become part of our world, why can’t it be a deeper part of our religion? What’s wrong with cherry picking truth? Most churches let women speak, and don’t require women to wear head coverings, as per the Bible’s instructions. So, in that sense, every church is cherry picking already. Is the issue one of selfishness? Is the issue based around cherry picking truth to make one’s own needs met and thus include building an entirely new social convention of one? If that is the case, denying the self to search for the truth seems the most appropriate cause of action.
Denial of self is a global concept. If there is no ego, how can the ego continue to consciously strip meanings like deer in winter stripping bark off trees? Perhaps the metaphysicians, the fringe believers, the mystics, oracle readers, the new agers have something to teach all of us about the sanctity of belief and the search for clear, concise, unencombering truth?
How can one search for the meta-divinity if one is still steeped weekly in one of the socially created systems which preserve a singular view of the sacred? It is only by being outside of a specific faith community that one may investigate clearly, just as with terrain one may find a trail by hacking and pioneering through bushes and gullies, but only removed from the immediate and at a different perspective can one find a clearer path toward the common destination. My goal is not to abandon the Church and Christendom, but midwife it through the dross of social convention into the true freedom of a world consumed with the love and mercy of the divine. It’s about God and about Grace. It’s about the truth that God made us good. God formed and breathed us into being, looked at what God made and said it was good. Good meaning intrinsically on the yes side of plus. I cannot live in a world where everyone in it is a demon waiting to claw at effigies of Christ. Sin came. We caused it, but deep inside our souls, inside ourselves is the prevailing concept that God wouldn’t have sent Jesus Christ for a bunch of devils in disguise. We are, beyond sin, beautiful beings of God. Images of God, and being not evil, God would not have created pure evil as it’s outside the Godhead.
Far from being a testament to universalism, my search is one of purity. Clarity.
I abhor hypocrisy. I abhor the use of religion for personal or social gain. Like many humans, I grimace instinctively at the many evils committed by religious organizations in the name of God the Father, the Virgin Mary and the holy Jihad. Yet, although I abhor the misuse of the Divine, my faith in the divine power guiding the universe has not lessened. I believe firmly that this cosmos is a created entity, ordered by God and loved by God. Be that as it may, as a self-proclaimed loather of hypocrisy, I am fully aware that returning to an organization I have noted problems accepting in totum is itself a form of hypocrisy. How can one who vocally condemns pieces of a community then return to that community as if the act of returning is a form of acceptance? One does not continue to attend political rallies for a political party one no longer votes for. Likewise, one does not continue attending a school one already replaced with another or quit all together. Returning to the Church before these issues are resolved is a form of vocal, physical and social acceptance of the deeds and policies of the Church.
This is something I cannot in conscience do.
As a woman and a historian I have not reached a point in my research and personal journey where I can forgive the Church and members who call themselves Christians, who have marginalized gender-groups, people-groups, committed crimes in holy names, and poisoned the lives of millions in a “noble” attempt to follow the false word of sacred script. The social convention to place man above woman in the church, home and outer world is one which although is written about many times in the Bible and other holy teachings, I find to be a convention not of divine providence, but of paternal machination. I believe these scriptures to be methods of chaining women to a traditional role in order to maintain a social order, not in order to maintain a spiritual maxim.
If God is genderless, then the historical basis for many misogynous teaching is moot. God is called the Father not because God is a male entity, but because in the social perception of the Biblical cultures, the male dominated society was easier to interpret and understand. Both male and female allegories are used in Scripture to express God. God is limitless, expansive, creative. God is both male and female, and we having been created and deemed good in the eyes of God should be considered as physical, spiritual and social equals. Even in today’s North American society, male/female relations are not yet at an equilibrium. Add in the ever growing debate on traditional gender roles and the sexual revolution, and the gender of God has become a powder keg connected to a MOAB beside an atom bomb.
Should I walk into the average traditional church and speak my intended views on scripture, faith, meditation and gender roles I would be considered a heretic and told to stay away from the children. I would be marginalized in an environment originally structured to be an all inclusive place of comfort and joy. Being raised in a home where Grandma’s form of religion was the only true form of religion (however narrow), my revulsion of traditionalism is clear.
There are still people in this world being marginalized, condemned, tortured, unfulfilled and killed for their views, differences of opinions or disobedience to a religious organization. This is unconscionable. Also unconscionable is modern day slavery, gender discrimination and traditionalist gender roles making it impossible in some areas of the world for women to have true equality and freedom. Until these issues too are resolved, how can I enter into a traditional female role? Even a traditional social role like monogamous marriage is being mistreated and lauded in its hypocrisies by many false prophets, false philosophies and false conventions. When little girls still wake up never knowing when their families will sell them as brides, when women enact constant demeaning labour simply because ‘she is a wife and this is what God said a wife must do’, when women are denied the right to personal safety, personal sexuality and personal choice of when and how to bear children, the world itself is off its kilter. This cannot be God’s will. How can one enter into a convention such as marriage with so many damaged women and damaged men remain in the wings, caused personal pain by the very convention which should be a sacred act of one-ness? One flesh? I do not deny the fact that there have been many excellent marriages in the world. I do not deny that the sanctity of marriage is a basic human right. What I refuse to accept is the misuse of such a holy function of human and sexual unity. Fully acknowledging that Christianity is by far not the only religion to have such issues, I close with this affirmation.
There is a divine guide in this world. This divine guide is a being of love, an entity who created the universe out of love, who is active in this universe. In our lives. Perhaps after a lifetime under the thumb of at times incredibly fundamentalist Christianity, I’ve rebelled by searching not for the pre-recorded voice, but the whisper after the thunderstorm. Until I find that whisper, no man made house, nor social practice, nor pre-ordained event will satisfy my yearning for the divine. For God, and God’s mercy, grace and abundant all encompassing love. Reform the Church. Open dialogue. Find similarities and do not condemn others for socially contrived causes. Reform the Church. Love God.