Art by Norman E. Masters
YES, actually, there are some very good reasons why it is important, especially at this stage in our culture, to NAME God female, to *speak* of Goddess.
There are many who say, "but God is neither male nor female, so what does it matter?" If that were true, we would hear both male AND female references to God; we would see representations of God that were both male and female; and the pronoun used to refer to Deity would as often be "God-She" as "God-He." Obviously, in our culture, God is most definitely gendered, and that gender is absolutely, thoroughly, unrelentingly MALE.
As long as God is solely, unrelentingly male (as he is in our culture), maleness *becomes* (a kind of) god.
Every male in our culture has the experience of seeing God portrayed as male, with male characteristics, which tends to affirm maleness on a fundamental level.
What about women? In order to identify with God, women must perform some peculiar mental "gymnastics" -- they must either tell themselves that gender does not matter (when we know that it does matter, it is one of the primary dualities) or they must "make themselves into a eunuch".
As strange as this may sound, it was explicit in the writings of the early Christian leaders:
a. "St." Jerome said, "As long as woman is for birth and children, she is different from man as body is from soul. But when she wishes to serve Christ more than the world, then she will cease to be a woman and will be called man."
b. Ambrose wrote: "She who does not believe is a woman and should be designated by the name of her sex, whereas she who believes progresses to perfect manhood, to the measure of the adulthood of Christ."
c. Ambrosiaster wrote, "Man is made to the image of God, but not woman."
d. No less a figure than St. Augustine wrote that only man is the image or glory of God.
e. Tertullian said to women, "Do you not know that you are Eve? You are the devil's gateway... How easily you destroyed man, the image of god. Because of the death which you brought upon us, even the Son of god had to die."
f. Thomas Aquinas, revered as one of the greatest Christian theologians of all time, wrote that woman is "defective as regards her individual nature"; that she is in fact, a "misbegotten male".
Naming God female legitimizes and affirms femaleness, just as naming God male affirms maleness; it affirms that the female body and consciousness are sacred, just as a male God affirms that the male body and consciousness are sacred.
Many of the images of female power in our culture tend to suggest that female power is never completely legitimate or good. In fairy tales, among the first and most basic stories through which we pass on our culture to our children, Who is always the powerful female? -- the wicked witch, the evil step mother, the "rich bitch". Who's always the good female? -- the innocent but powerless maiden, who often waits for a prince to rescue her. These stories, while simple, come from very deep parts of the human social-psyche; and they suggest that the only good female is powerless and dependent. A Goddess affirms that female power can be both good and legitimate.
Our culture has inherited the Greek dualistic view of the universe, which saw the entire universe as composed of sets of opposites:
|LIST A||LIST B|
Everything in LIST B is seen as potentially evil, dangerous. Now, guess who these (mostly male) philosophers associated with "LIST A"? Right, males. Females they consigned to LIST B. Furthermore, they said that to keep the universe running properly, "LIST A" is supposed to "rule over" and "hold in check" everything in "LIST B".
This was the philosophical rationale for white males ruling over everything from the earth, to dark skinned peoples, to women.
Thus in our culture, males have been identified with logic, spirit, heaven, mind, Sun, order; and women have been identified with emotion, matter, earth, body, the Moon, chaos.
This dualistic view of the universe has given us a strange idea of the sacred: only a few places, a few texts, a few conditions are thought of as "sacred" and the rest of all reality is consigned to a vast realm of "mundane" or even "profane"; and "priests" stand at the doorway to determine who may and may not pass through -- and under what circumstances.
Naming God female turns these dualisms on their head -- actually takes advantage of them -- and tells us that matter and the body are SACRED, just as much as spirit and mind; that the earth is sacred, that all those qualities formerly associated with females and the "lower" or "profane" end of the dualities -- are just as sacred, holy.
In both the larger (western) culture, as well as in LDS culture, There was/is a "cult of womanhood" that grew out of Victorian ideas about women, which in turn grew out of the social conditions created by the Industrial Revolution.
During the industrial revolution, many men found themselves leaving homes, farms, etc. to find jobs in the cities -- feeling increasingly isolated, alienated and lonely in an increasingly mechanized, alienating society.
And as the women, with whom those men had formerly worked side-by-side in the fields, farms and homes, became increasingly marginalized AWAY from these men, the men began to idealize and romanticize the women. It's a LOT easier to idealize and romanticize a woman when she's far away, writing loving, romantic or sympathetic letters, than when she's sweating and puffing right beside you in the field or slopping the pigs or weeding the garden.
Thus grew up the idea of woman as a *symbol* of the comforting home-as-haven (and bulwark) against the mechanized, impersonal, cruel world, which many had left behind in order to "make their fortunes" in the world. Despite the romantic rhetoric and images, this is a relatively NEW idea in human culture. As long as home is the place where you both live *and* "make a living", (be it farming, ranching, or consulting to multi-national megacorporations) one doesn't really need or view it as such a haven. It's only when people LEFT their homes to work, that home became such a symbol.
And the more men felt alienated, isolated, lonely and abused out there in the big cruel world (which, btw, THEY created by valuing financial and professional success above eveything else, and by casting aside "human" values which they more and more trivialized as "feminine") --
-- The more those men needed a place where they could both reclaim and be renewed by those very (human) values they themselves had forsaken / marginalized.
Thus the idealized, romanticized "HOME" (Hallmark music swelling, here) was created, with "Woman" [actually, "WifeandMother"] as its primary creatrix, maintainer, manager, and symbol. Are you old enough to remember Loretta Young (or any other movie actress of her era) impeccably coiffed, made-up, and gowned in long, flowing, romantic dresses, literally flowing into a beautiful living room??? She was the image of the perfect woman -- with equal parts Mrs. Cleaver, Lassie's "mom", and a touch of Ingrid Bergman's nun -- thrown in.
Most LDS leaders were raised on that image of the idealized home and woman, and it's THAT image they all seem to refer to whenever speaking on or to women. They do NOT seem to realize that it is a *CULT* OF WOMANHOOD, a *CULT* of Home, which they have completely bought into and which they continue to reinforce.
Many men and boys currently (implicitly or explicitly, openly or subtly) demand the women in their lives (mothers, wives, daughters, sisters, secretaries, etc.) fulfil those "softer" needs, in one way or another, to the extent that they objectify women, often diminishing or ignoring the individuality of those women, in favor of "serving" the males.
The church itself often encourages women (both individually and as a group) to perform such symbolic "service" -- in fact this may be one reason why it is institutionally unable to recognize or give women their due (in terms of Priest(ess)hood power and authority) -- it is still focused upon women fulfilling this symbolic role!
And invariably, those who rely on women to fulfil these needs are invariably disappointed, because the reality is that it is IMPOSSIBLE for any human being to fulfil those needs completely and perfectly. NO human woman could ever be all that we (idealistically) demand of a mother; NO human woman could ever be all this "Cult of Womanhood" requires -- and this is a primary cause of depression, guilt and frustration on the part of many women, and disillusionment, anger, and feelings of betrayal on the part of many men.
No matter how much he needs or yearns for it, man cannot reasonably expect woman to be a *symbol* of all good, lovely, sweet things for which he yearns. She is, after all, a HUMAN BEING, not a symbol.
But there IS another Source from which he *can* get those needs satisfied -- the Goddess /Heavenly Mother! This is just one of many reasons why men NEED the Goddess, why we NEED to name Divinity FEMALE, and why men and boys need Her as much as they need their Heavenly Father.
The Father simply does not seem able to satisy some spiritual and emotional needs -- but those He cannot, the Mother CAN.
Some time ago, many people made quite an issue of the idea of any child being without a father. Surely a Mother is as necessary.
All of these are reasons why many feel it important to *name* God female; to speak about and reclaim the Goddess, and heal our Motherless race ---