Thursday, February 18, 2016

Sister Joan Chittister - The Divine Feminine: The Foundation of the Abrahamic World, YouTube Video "What We Do Is What We Become"

 Notes from  Dr. Mary Theresa Streck, ARCWP
Two frames for this lecture: (1) our pictures of God and (2) the influence they have on our lives: national, cultural, international, personal.
·         How have we come to see and accept the natural denigration of women as the will of God?
·         What is this saying to us so called “religious” people?
·         The fundamental relationship to all of the women’s questions is the subject of the feminine dimension of God.
·         What we think of the Divine Feminine will determine what we think about everything else in life.
Four questions that need to be dealt with:
1.    Why is the concept of the Divine Feminine important? (Can a woman really image God?)
2.    Where does all of this talk come from?
3.    What are the signs and proofs, if any, of its authentic role in the spiritual life?
4.    What does that have to do with us?

Clearly language affects what we see.
The names we give God, the way we see God, determines how we see ourselves.
·         If we fail to nurture both the masculine and feminine side in us, the lack of inclusiveness will stunt the growth of our souls.
·         We need to make the respect of the feminine an equally important part of the social fabric of our lives.
·         If we see God as only male, then maleness becomes more god-like than femaleness.  
·         If we limit ourselves to the divine masculine, we will never see the divine feminine in God or in ourselves.

Question 1: Why is the concept of the Divine Feminine important? (Can a woman really image God?)
·         Without the awareness of both the masculine and feminine aspects of God we will never know the fullness of ourselves.
·         Churches that refuse to mention the feminine aspect of God are depriving us of the whole Spirit of God.
·         Seeing God as only male promotes the servitude of women.

Question 2: Where does all of this talk come from?
·         More than just a current fad?
·         Deep and radical roots in our tradition? Every major tradition carries with it at its core an awareness of the divine feminine. Hindu Shakti – great mother – source of all, Tara – Buddhism, I AM WHO AM in Jewish Tradition.
·         I AM WHO AM: I am the essence of all life, I am the spirit that breathes in everyone, I am in whose image male and female are made. I am ungendered, unsexed, pure spirit, pure energy, pure life, ineffable, not able to be defined. (But we do!!)
·         No single image will suffice. Make no graven images – no partial images of God.
·         In Hebrew Scripture, God is neither male or female. God is of the total essence of both and both are of the essence of God.
Hebrew Scriptures are full of the female attributes of God:
·         Isaiah 42: God cries out as a woman in labor.
·         Psalm 131: God is a nursing woman
·         Hosea 11: God is a mother who takes Israel in her arms
·         Ezekiel 36: God is a washerwoman
·         Genesis 3: God is a seamstress
·         Job 10: God is a cook who has poured Job out like milk…
·         Proverbs 8 and 9: Wisdom / Sophia raises her voice in the streets, is there with God from the beginning…

God is not mother, nor is God only father either. God is neither masculine or feminine, God is pure spirit, pure being, pure life, WHO AM, and both of them in all of us.

Question 3: What are the signs and proofs, if any, of its authentic role in the spiritual life?
Who are the women raised up by God and what do they have to say to us?
·         Mother of Moses – due to her feminine intuition, a people was saved.
·         Shiffa and Pua – Women save Israel
·         Queen Esther – model of feminine strength -  Is willing to sacrifice her life for the safety of her people.
·         Sarah was open to “more than the rational” to solve a problem. When the impossible happened, Sarah was open to it. Receptive
·         Naomi, Ruth ….
·         Women have been an essential part of God’s economy of salvation forever.

Question 4: What does this Divine Feminine dimension have to do with us?
·         Full dignity of life
·         A place at the table
·         The chance to be listened to
·         The fullness of moral agents everywhere
·         A public role to be reckoned with
·         The right to be heard

Society has devalued the feminine side of all of us.  Men are frightened of their feelings. Women are so uncertain of their strength.

God the Father, Avenging Judge, Warrior, Lawgiver, Perfectionist have overwhelmed the image of God.  We run the risk of creating a distant and emotional God, all rational and all powerful, all male, exercising power over everything. 

Confusing – why all the natural disasters and God does nothing about it?

This is the God defined by Plato and Aristotle who argue that this distant Father God is perfect and unchangeable and therefore cannot be moved by our sufferings. Or this would cause God to change.

This is not the God of scripture. We have lost sight of God our Mother who formed us and influences us and encourages us, not to be perfect, but to do our best.

God our Mother, who gave us free will, prefers to share power with us rather than power over us, not rendering us human victims and our human responsibility nihil.

The divine feminine in God leads us to understand natural evil, both the storms within and around us, and supports us through them, enables us to survive them, encourages us to get up and go on, to repent and repair them.

To understand God as divine feminine, is to realize that all creation is her creation.
God did not create nuclear bombs and we can uncreate them any time we want to.
Anytime we decide that power is only half the answer to human relations we can stop giving ourselves over to ruthless power.

To believe only in a “power over” God is to assume that the evil we create, God is required to uncreate or be less a God.

God is the mother who enables us to face the fact that the fate of the earth, and all its people, is indeed, largely in our hands.

The fate of the earth and all her children, all her women being burned, and buried and married off is indeed largely in human hands.

The divine feminine is as much about heart as it is about rationality.
More than a harsh, punishing God, our God is a gentle mother who loves us for trying.
The divine feminine is not here to judge but to enable us to change what must be undone in order to bring us to the height of our humanity.

The God who is both feminine and masculine energy not only raises the standards, but helps us over the bar and feels compassion for us, feels our suffering, feels anger and joy and is concerned with our fears and when we struggle.

With God we are creating this world and we are feeling the pain of the world -  to recreate it.
Protective and nurturing

Plato’s god is deficient – is distant and lacks love.
The patriarchal God keeps us under control, lacks feeling.

The feminine God of the mystics relates to us and is everywhere and in everyone.
God does not “fix” the world for us. Awareness of the fullness of God is the reality that requires us to fix it.

Until we see all humans as equal, the fullness of God is only half alive in us.

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