It's quite providential, and no accident, that I read this book on the heels of "The Fall." What Steve Taylor laid out due to his research, Sue Monk Kidd unfolded out of her own personal journey ... as she questioned the "Male Sky God" and discovered the latent, historical, and personal Divine Feminine.
(& if this hits you in the solar plexus, in a way that says, "oooooh, this can't be right", then you, too, like me, like so many, have been affected by the patriarchal traditions of man ... which have colored all things, including our view of God.)
Because I long to move on to other things I've been exploring and pondering, I just want to briefly touch on some of the things that I discovered, in the reading of this (marvelous and highly recommended) book. And -- if you desire to read it for yourself (it's likely in your public library), and if you would enjoy being involved in an online book-study, write to me privately (brehmites @ aol . com - remove those spy-bot thwarting spaces first!), and I'll send you an invitation. An intimate little group I belong to is about to launch this study, starting Monday ... and if you feel so led to enjoy, then en-join!
Back to Sue Monk Kidd ... her name may be familiar to some ... she was a prolific Christian writer ... crafting articles for numerous Christian magazines, speaking at women's events ... married to a college minister, Southern Baptist and quite traditional. Then God mucked her up.
She opens her book this way:
I was listening to National Public Radio the other day when someone asked the question, "Once you wake up, can you wake up any ore?" Yes, I thought. In a way my whole life has been about waking up and then waking up some more.
This book is about waking up some more.
The book is her journey, out of Christian Tradition, into the Sacred Feminine.
It's a journey I've also launched into ... as it feels as though I was gently led here, and then pushed over the edge.
It's about throwing away every assumption, and starting at zero ... open, receptive ... willing to receive truth, no matter how it's packaged ... willing to let go of everything that is revealed to be a hindrance -- even if that hindrance was long cherished, and is still worshipped by most everyone else you know.
The truth really does set us free ... but first it must pull the run out from underneath you ... first it must shake everything you think you know. At first, it feels like a free-fall.
Much of this book is about questioning the assumptions of male "in-chargedness" ... the entitlement mentality that gets handed down to those humans who happen to be born male ... the privileged status of half the world ... which seems to need to suppress the other half, in order to maintain their supremacy.
This is cemented in place by the added assumption that God "Him"self has ordained this to be so ... that God, being male, prefers men. That this is the created order of things ... that the hierarchy just IS: God, Men, Useful/Subservient Women, Children, Cattle, Uppity Women (Ok, so I made that up ... but it's sure 'nuff been my experience -- particularly within the church realm).
Ironically enough, many women (perhaps those useful/subservient ones) help to keep this in place ... passing on this message to their daughters.
However it is learned, in the life of each woman ... at some point in her life, usually not before she gets out of childhood, a woman will run smack-dab into the notion that "God made men the boss." In charge. Primo. Superior. Don't question it, just smile, nod, and keep to your place, woman. You'll be happier that way.
Well, as my favorite bumper sticker declares, "Well-Behaved Women Seldom Make History."
At some point, each woman has the horrifying, dawning awareness that she is, by virtue of who she IS, less-than. Intrinsically, and inherently inferior. At least, so says those who deem themselves to be "in charge."
As a result of the unrelenting messages (covert and overt), that we are "less than", many (most?) women live without any sense of their own inner authority ... no sense of autonomy. We often carry a fear of dissension, confrontation, retaliation for "not staying in our place" ... believing we need to seek permission for our choices and actions ... deferring, always, to those "above" us ... learning early to manipulate in order to get our needs met ... learning to trade, to go around, to appease ... living in fear of not pleasing, not measuring up ... fear that there will be reprisal, some form of disapproval ... and for some, even a violent back-lash.
We are born into this culture that men have created, named and defined ... and most of us unquestioningly accept that "this is how it is - deal with it." Women have given away our power ... and this power is rarely used to liberate women, or to restore value to us. It's most often used against us ... disguised by the patronizingly, seemingly-benign means of "protecting" us. And so, many of us turn into "Stepford Wives" ... going along, accommodating this culture, fitting in, cramming our lives into the preordained boxes ... much like how Chinese women's feet were bound, in order to fit with the crippling notions of beauty and acceptability.
I was shocked and horrified to realize that the "early church fathers" debated whether women had souls..! Then, they debated whether we could be saved. "Women were the first to sin, and the second to be created," they intoned. Women, they said, were created to benefit man ... but woman is more easily deceived, weaker-willed, unworthy, and will lure men into sin." When we, as women (or as young girls), first take in this message, that we are less-than, that we are inferior, something vibrant, alive and hopeful, gets destroyed.
I remember when it dawned on me ... I remember thinking, "God, how could you make it this way? Why would you make half of us less-than?" I howled inside, wondering why I had to "dumb-down" in order to be accepted, wondering why the worst-possible insult that a boy could give another boy, was to call him a "girl." Why did I embody the worst-possible insult...?!?
And this message is not confined to the church ... we have imported it throughout the world ... and the effects are deadly.
Here are a few statistics:
- Four times as many girls as boys die of malnutrition -- as boys are preferred, and given more food.
- Women do 2/3 of the work, world-wide, and receive 1/10 of the world's wages.
- Even in the US, women still earn only 75-80% of what men earn, for the same work.
Florence Nightengale put our choice this way: we choose between pain and paralysis. Far too many have chosen the latter ... and all of their (forbidden!) anger, is turned inward, into depression ... so many have just given up. We resign to sleep-living.
And yet ... it's this very thing, this sense of sleeping, that leads to awakening ... for as nature demonstrates, that which sleeps, does awaken. As feminist theAlogian Carol Christ describes it, a woman's awakening begins with an "experience of nothingness" ... a vacuum of emptiness, self-negation, disillusionment ... a profound awareness of the limitation put upon women -- especially her OWN limitations...!
We come face to face with the "original sin of being born female."
Psychotherapist Anne Wilson Schaef describes it this way:
To be born female in this culture means that you are born "tainted," that your birthright is one of innate inferiority. I am not implying that this must remain so. I do believe that we must know this and understand it as a given before it can be worked through."
Yes - we have to notice where we are, in order to begin any journey. And, as women, for the sake of all humanity, we *must* take this journey. May I suggest that men can also explore how they've been affected by patriarchy ... more on that to come.