Saturday, May 20, 2006

Confession Of a Christian Witch, Or a Witchy Christian

As soon as I got in from NYC I went to the concert of a women's vocal ensemble because I promised one of my dear congregants that I would.

Most of their songs are goddess oriented and I loved a lot of them, but I wondered why a few of them made me a little bit itchy when they very intentionally avoided any male imagery for God while naming the Holy in one female image after another.

Why would this make me itchy? Sure, I roll my eyes a bit when the old hymns go into the old Lord Sovereign Master Father routine, but of course I do! I'm a feminist UU!
I pondered this. What was the quality of my discomfort around Goddess/Mother/Grandmother/Birther/Creatress, etc.?

After a few moments I realized that underneath my irritation was sadness and regret. Sad that these songs seemed to me to be written out of a kind of corrective impulse with more than a bit of competition and "us vs. them" spirit to them, as in "YOU can do all that God and King stuff and WE are going to get it RIGHT!"

I knew it wasn't fair to react that way, but I just felt bonked on the head with the religious divisiveness a few of the songs represented. I sat and fervently wished that my nephews might know a day (in their very old age, I should think) when people would gather and sing spiritual songs for hours, and never even notice the mixing and mingling of multi-gendered and non-gendered images for the Divine. Please, Dear Goddess. So mote it be!

My feelings, of course, had their origins in experience: specifically, my experience of leaving goddess-oriented Wicca for a feminist Christian path in the late 80's and early 90's. I don't like to say that "I left" goddess religion, but the fact, is, I was pretty much kicked out.

Or at least it felt that way at the time.

I always thought that, as a UU, I was truly free to follow whatever spiritual path my heart would lead me to take. I thought I would be supported in my religious endeavors by my fellow UUs. As I became more and more drawn to the life of the gospel and the Risen Christ (oooh, PeaceBang said "Risen Christ!"), I realized that not only would I be going into a kind of diaspora community among my fellow UUs, but that I was making myself quite unpopular in many pagan circles.
When I shared my interest in Christian spirituality and theology at a few feminist spirituality gatherings, I was greeted with cold disdain or open horror. When I led goddess spirituality groups or workshops and shared my affection for Christian saints and mystics, some women were interested, but most felt no compunction in telling me that I was a spiritual traitor to my sex.

The worst response came whenever I critiqued some of the spurious scholarship of the feminist revisionist historians, just as I would critique lazy scholarship of any kind. I was accused of "selling out to the patriarchy" for even working toward a degree at Harvard, and that's a direct quote. It mattered not at all that at Harvard I would have the opportunity to study with world-class feminist theologians and women scholars such as Elisabeth Schussler-Fiorenza and Sarah Coakley and Margaret Miles and Kimberly Patton and Clarissa Atkinson, bless all their good hearts and brains. They are all amazing women and scary-brilliant scholars. Great mentors, all.

Meanwhile, when I traveled liberal Christian circles not one person raised an eyebrow when I spoke of God as "She," talked about the feminist Christ, or expressed a commitment to gender inclusive liturgy. It was like, "join the club."
For a time I even described myself as a Christian Witch (and then "A Witchy Christian") and still felt unconditionally welcome among the Body of Christ.

I understand this dynamic, of course. The Goddess/thealogians have not been in a position of cultural power and dominance as have the Christians, and had and have every reason to feel more threatened by the defection of one of their own. Of course, I don't feel that I defected.

And I know that many UUs feel that they are in a diaspora right now: Humanists, Atheists, Pagans... we all take our turns.

The good news is that things seem to be changing. The pagans I meet nowadays aren't threatened by critique of some of that early matriarchal-fantasy stuff, or by accusations that they're making up a new religion based on someone's best guess of ancient indigenous practices. They say, "Yea, that's true, and that's what religion is. Get over it." No one from the pagan/Wiccan scene has told me I can't be a Witchy Christian, or that they care one way or another. It's true that UUs still seem to be largely unaware that there are millions of very progressive, liberal Christians out there who share many of our exact same theological questions, skepticism and social concerns, but that's changing too.

It was a very good concert and I'm glad it gave me a chance to confront those old hurts and to realize that it's 2006, I've been baptized now for seven years, and I'm still a daughter of the Goddess. You can do both, you know. It might hurt along the way, but you can do it.

There's a lot of hope in that.



Blogger Matt Stone said...

I found your story quite interesting. Where do you see this journey developing?

Blogger fausto said...

PB will have to ask Fausto what he knows about Kim Patton sometime.

Blogger Kim said...

Please say more about "the feminist Christ".
Jesus always struck me as something of a feminist.

Blogger PeaceBang said...

Okay, I'll bite. Dish to me off-line.

Matt, thanks for commenting. I will get back to you soon, and also spend some more time on your blogs, which look cool.

Blogger Christine Robinson said...

two thoughts...

firstly, it's exquisite torture to be told one isn't being a good enough woman by other women.

Secondly, never underestimate the Baptist Bends. (decompression illness from traumatic disengagement from traditional religions) It causes people to over react, short circut, lash out, and otherwise not be as rational and kind as their values require.

Blogger Miss Kitty said...

I really, REALLY needed to read this. Thank you for posting it. I was wondering what was "wrong" with me since I'm both a fallen-away Episcopalian *and* a fallen-away Wiccan. Both faiths speak to me...and yet there are things in both I just can't buy. I'm glad to know someone else has struggled with similar issues.

And please do talk a little more about "the feminist Christ." I recall in a freshman history seminar a photo of a bronze statue called "Christa"--of a woman crucified with the crown of thorns, the wounds, etc. Our professor, an old-school Anglican (and a cool "old fart," as he called himself, around 75 or 80), showed it to the class to get discussion started. There were only three or four of us in that lecture hall of 100+ who raised our hands to discuss. I wish I could remember the sculptor's name, but I'll never forget that image, and the idea of Jesus and the feminine/feminism all mixed up together.


Post a Comment

<< Home