Sunday, January 2, 2011

Back to School/ the Feminine Divine

I am in Richmond for a two week intensive at ESR. I had a wonderful Christmas holiday and didn't want to leave Barnesville, but I no sooner arrived here than I was delighted to be back in my cozy little apartment with the old house smell. I am also very much looking forward to my class in conflict resolution.

I have completed a year of the Mdiv program, and so far it has exceeded expectations. It has been such a pleasure to be here. The classwork has kept me busy, and I have very much enjoyed the intellectual stimulation. As I have mentioned before, I love the balance between intellect and creativity that the school offers, not to mention the spiritual framework and the opportunity to do a writing as ministry emphasis.

There's almost too much to comment on from last semester. One of the highlights was the focus on reclaiming the female divine within what we (or I) tend to think of as the patriarchal "Father" God of the Bible. Of course, it would stand to reason that an omnipresent, all-knowing God would contain the female as well as the male, but we so often learn to think of YHWH as solely masculine that we can lose sight of the references in the Bible to the feminine attributes of the divine. Last semester, in both Hebrew class and Women in the Old Testament, we looked at explicitly female imagery used to describe Jehovah, such as womb, mother, breast, child bearer, or mother bear. It is easy to forget images of God giving birth or nursing the young. Also, as women are more than wombs and breasts, we wondered if images typically ascribed to men can also be female attributes--the warrior God could be female, for we saw in the Bible examples such as Deborah of women as military leaders, and the shepherd (ess) God could also be female, as women herded sheep in Biblical times. We found that in Jeremiah, women were condemned for worshiping the Queen of Heaven, but recast this to understand that perhaps a more overtly feminine side of Jehovah was once celebrated as a Queen, and that this side was later suppressed.

It made my heart leap to think of the Judeo-Christian God in inclusive ways that valued the feminine aspects of the godhead. As a Quaker, I appreciated how Biblical imagery, by being so inclusive, can support women's equality with men. I dearly wish we could talk about this more in the culture in general, as I believe many, especially women, turn away from what they (often rightly) perceive as the misogyny in Judaism and Christianity led by a judgmental man on a throne. And yet there is so much in the Bible that points to a richer and fuller God.


Hystery said...

Christian feminist theology is one of my favorite things. :-)

Diane said...

Hi Hystery. Yes, it is so illuminating and in many ways "conservative," as it is right "in" the text, hiding in plain sight, so to speak.