Affirming Feminine Spirituality

My Christianity Today Connection news e-mail connected me to an article in Today’s Christian Woman titled The Goddess Unmasked. It’s a Christian response to Wicca, looking at reasons why women who have grown up Christian become Wiccans, and discusses ministry to them.

It’s not my intention to discuss the issue of responses to various religions or specifically to Wicca here. This article caught my attention due to the topic, and it kept my attention because of the reasons, as summarized in this quote:

What lies behind the allure of goddess worship and its sister religion, witchcraft/Wicca? For many—especially those women who feel marginalized or devalued by what they perceive as the traditional, male-dominated church—its appeal is found in its affirmation of female spirituality.

It is very common in my experience that people who change religions from the faith in which they were brought up do so more because of the way they were treated than because they have been convinced that their old religion was false and the new one true. I’m going to guess that it is easier to recruit new converts amongst those who are loosely attached to their own faith or have been separated from it in some way, and that is usually going to be the result of a relationship problem of some sort, not just family, but community.

They may well become convinced of the tenets of the new religion, but that wasn’t the starting point. I don’t mean here to call converts dishonest. I’m sure they are, in general, following their consciences. I also apply this same principle both to converts to and from Christianity or any other faith.

I see a tragedy in this story in that so much of the church can be seen as male dominated. In some groups I know of, single women with children have been warned that if they don’t get married, and have a male in the home covering them, they are leaving the door open to Satan’s attacks, since they are not following the God-ordained plan for the home. That plan, according to these folks, is that a woman is always under the authority of some man.

We give some lip service in many churches to the idea that God encompasses both genders, and thus is no more “male” than “female.” That is a good theological view, but try referring to God as “she,” even in many churches who would accept women as pastors, and the reaction will be negative. Using “parent” instead of “father” in reference to God is even controversial. I greatly appreciate Andrew Greeley’s mixture of gender language in his novels, which I regard as excellent presentations of the gospel in the form of fiction. But for many, referring to God as heavenly mother is just too jarring.

On the other hand we can just as easily put down feminine spirituality in a condescending way, by talking about women being more spiritual because of emotional responses. “Isn’t it nice that the women are praying and crying at the altar,” someone says, with the obvious implication that such prayer is women’s work. This cuts both ways, by the implication that being male says you can’t have emotions, and that all women are totally subject to theirs.

How about both men and women can be spiritual people, but they may be differently spiritual. Not less or more, but different. Just how different and in what way? That’s not my problem. All I need to do is follow my own spiritual walk and avoid criticizing that of others.

If our concern is to keep people in our community of faith, the best approach, it seems to me, is to get about fulfilling spiritual needs. People who are put on the fringes, subjected to an amused tolerance, or even suppressed are likely to look for a place where those things don’t happen. Shocking, isn’t it?

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