How do you feel, if you believe in a religion where this is true, to only have a MALE god to relate to? Have you ever been worried about it? How do you feel having your Savior be a male? Do you wonder if he can really, possibly, truly know your innermost thoughts and ideas and struggles as a woman? Am I alone in wondering why the world shuns the idea of a FEMALE Divine?
In the LDS religion, though it is never voiced very loudly, most members believe in a Heavenly Mother...someone married to the Heavenly Father that they pray to and seek guidance from. But nothing is really taught or known or even talked about....just this vague idea that she is there, quiet, in the background, not really playing any part that I can see. These vague ideas made me imagine a Mother who was always soft-spoken and dripping with sentimentality and all the saccharine rhetoric that goes on about her existence has simply turned me off the idea for much of my life. I didn't want to identify with THAT kind of a female deity.
I know many people would think it sacrilelgious to even WANT to know if a female counterpart to God exists--let alone if I desire to pray to her, which I don't, not at this point. Here is why--the explanations of why we can't pray to her disturb me...like Heavenly Mother is too special to talk to? Heavenly Father is protecting her from the evil things her children would say about her? Or maybe, worshipping a woman is just one step away from leading followers in the direction of pagan fertility rites? Each argument, which I have indeed heard several times in my life time, seems sillier than the last.
Many LDS feminists have advocated giving a more prominent place to Heavenly Mother in their basic religious doctrine. I don't really know how I feel about this either. I understand the argument completely. Worshipping a male God without a female counterpart puts males in a privileged position, doesn't it? God is like them in a fundamental way that God is not like women. I think this is where some of the root of my issues with religion are growing...I cannot believe that an environment, any environment which conceptualizes the divine in exclusively males terms does not to some extent influence the ways in which that said environment is going to think about men and women and their capabilities.
Lynnette at Zelophad's Daughters voiced this issue with words I could have written myself: "If we have no Heavenly Mother, women have no divine role model which pertains to their gender, and that is indeed a challenge. But if Heavenly Mother exists, what we have is a divine role model for women which may be more disturbing than no role model at all--one in which women are silenced to the point of invisibility, in which they seem to disappear altogether into the idenity of their husbands. Though I find the idea that God is a married couple to be appealing, I am unsettled by speculations that the Father in some way represents both of them, or that she is listening or involved despite the fact that we are permitted to address him and him alone. Some suggest that this setup exists because the two are so perfectly unified. But why, I wonder, does unity seem to require that women (but not men) sacrifice their individual identity--in this case, to the point where we can only guess as the whether a female is even present in the relationship."
Please forgive the long post, but this has been weighing on me recently. Two things have happened lately that I have tried to process and take into account when sharing my ideas.
1. An old friend has recently learned of my disassociation with the LDS church. After several long emails of me stating all of my reasons, because he wanted to know, he was able to sum it up. He believes that I am simply mad at God and that I am not a Feminist at all...that my reasons of feeling lesser in the church (a church that he has decided is the one true faith to follow) is because I am a boycrazy girl who didn't get a husband. Yes, you heard me right. Because God didn't give me this husband and family I wanted, then I got angry and decided to act the part of a petulant child and just go out and "sin" because I am hurt over it. Hmmm, this has made me very tired and a bit reticent to even blog anymore. And this friend is probably reading these words right now thinking, "That's not what I meant!" But, I am quoting word for word, so yes, I think it is exactly what you meant. And while I promised not to get offended when he told me what he thought about my situation, I do feel a bit degraded that someone would think I was using my ideas of equality and justice as a cloak for feeling sad that God didn't give me the white picket fence that I was brainwashed into believing was the one thing I should seek after in my life because it was where my WORTH would lie. I have never really thought that that was God's responsibility. I have always believed it was mine. God did not force me to not marry men who have been interested in marrying me. It's not God's job magically put a man in front of me with a shinning halo and a big arrow pointing to him saying "He's the one." The truth is, we are all just acting on faith here...plain and simple. You could be wrong. You could be right. We really DON'T know...and I am SO tired of people making me feel like I DO know what they know and what they KNOW is the ONE truth and because I secretly DO know it and am not acting upon it then I will be punished in the hereafter...are you confused too? Yep. But this week especially, I have been wondering if God is going to condemn my soul, a soul that is trying so hard to do what is right for my life, to hell. If that is the God that you believe is going to judge me, then I'd really rather not believe in that God.
2. Another friend gently chastised me for expressing my concerns for my religion on my blog. She told me that I was influencing a lot of people. However, what she meant was, "Hey, you are not painting a pretty picture of this religion that I believe in and I am mad at that and you will be judged for this if you are leading people away from the truth with your words." This seemed crazy for me, and addresses another issue I have with religion. This ENDLESS need to convert the world to your beliefs. I am not a representative for the LDS church. I am not here to speak ill of any religion. If you believe in Jesus, but a man on the street is preaching against Jesus...will you believe him? If your convictions are firm, they you possess the capability to read and reason on your own. To me this is the food of life. To think, to guess, to ponder, to discuss. What do we have if we don't have this? In fact, I know many old friends who refuse to even read my blog anymore as they feel it has been full of evil, wrong ideas that they shouldn't entertain. And that is their prerogative.
Please note that I don't want the discussion on this blog to be about addressing these two people or my response to them. That's not the point, that's just where I have been at this week. I'd really rather have a discussion on deity and how you define him or her. I've been researching it and finding some interesting ideas, but I'd like to hear yours. Do you believe in a female counterpart to God? Is she Mother Earth, Gaia? Have you thought of this?
There are numerous Jewish and Christian groups who see the Holy Spirit as being our heavenly Mother. They base their thinking regarding the gender of the Holy Spirit on the fact that the Hebrew word for Spirit is Ruach, which is feminine. I thought this was an interesting idea...not one that works for me, but I love that other religions have tried to work the female into their fundamental belief system.
The Umbanda or in Salvador, Bahia, Brazil the Candomble religion worship Iemanja as one of the Seven orixas of the African Pantheon. She is the Queen of the Ocean, the feminine principle of creation and the spirit of moonlight. (Much like the Catholic Our lady of the Seafaring). I feel connected with her for a very real reason. When I was studying in Brazil our group of 40 students went the home of a Candomble Priestess and ate African food while she told us about her religion. They identify with three Gods and four Goddesses. As you grow, the Priestess will assign you a patron God or Goddess to identify with. Someone asked her how she assigned them. She said that often, the God or Goddess was simply shinning through so brightly, it was impossible to deny. So, that girl asked again, "Well, can you see any of them in us?" The Priestess, beautiful in her white clothing, regal in her manner, spiritual in her nature looked around the room and said, "Yes, there are three here who shine bright with their God." The girl pressed her, "Won't you tell us?!" I was quiet, knowing that when she had scanned the room, her eyes had lingered just a bit longer on me then they had on the girl next to me. She pointed to two girls and told them, then she pointed to me. "You, with the blonde, your Goddess is as clear as the blue sea on our coasts. Your Goddess is Iemanja."
Research Iemanja--you'll see why it was so special for me. The mother goddess, the patron deity of women, especially pregnant women...
The feeling inside, this idea that a female goddess was shinning through me was one of the most spiritual moments in my life. Even more than that was realizing that I hold within myself endless possibilities. However, it has taken me a long time to get to where I am, and I still wonder about these male Gods. I still wonder what life would have been like for an innocent, blonde, rosy cheeked girl to grow up with a strong female divine letting her know that she was just as good as the men who were allowed to lead her just because that's how it's always been done.