(Essay) Christian Women and Thealogy by Mary Ann Beavis

Grotto, Jerusalem
Grotto, Jerusalem

For several years, I have been researching a phenomenon that I call “Christian Goddess Spirituality” (CGS), a blending of elements from Christianity and Goddess Spirituality. I have interviewed over 100 women who self-describe as practicing CGS in some form, and held a focus group of fourteen CGS practitioners in June 2013. (The reason for interviewing women only at this stage in the research is strategic, as my hunch is that women and men seek the Goddess for different reasons.) This is a very condensed and preliminary report on some research results, focussing on the thealogical aspects of CGS, illustrated by quotations from the interviews.

Although some CGS practitioners describe themselves as polytheistic, the majority are inclusive monotheists—a notion that all the deities are one, rather than that there is only one God. “Dale”, married to an Anglican minister in small-town Saskatchewan, explains: “As an adult I see other Goddess images as other faces of the same God. I am often curious to see how other Goddess images can throw light on the face of God and what I can learn about God, myself, and the meaning of our being through these other faces. … I think there is lots to be learned looking from Goddess imagery.” CGS practitioners tend to see Goddess as many and as one, as immanent and transcendent, as the female divine within and without. “Alana”, Catholic, a sexual abuse counsellor from Saskatoon, SK, noted: “In what I do I see a lot of women, a lot of hurt women.  And the feminine divine is becoming more and more important in how I speak to them and possibly facilitate some healing for them.  And it’s about seeing God in them or the Goddess in them.”

Interviewees were about equally divided as to whether their Christian identity, or their devotion to the Goddess, was more important, in the sense that if they had to choose the church or the Goddess, they would choose the Goddess. “Nola”, an ordained minister in Indiana, expresses her ambivalence about the church: “Devotion to the female divine is more important than my traditional religious affiliation. … because it has freed me to speak what feels like my truth rather than simply repeating creeds and doctrines that I have no attachment to. … I always have some ambivalence about the church’s teachings, in spite of this I became a minister, so go figure.” While some respondents can be described as Christian Goddessians, where the Goddess is integrated into their Christianity, others would agree with one interviewee who observed that for her, Christianity was part of the history of the Goddess.

In keeping with the sense of the divine within, CGS women tend to see female saints and biblical women as manifestations of the divine: I have mixed feelings about the bible. I tend to see the very strong female characters as expressions of the female divine which is always a debate. I prefer to talk about Christian mythology than bible” (“Tanya”, Montreal). However, many sense that the Goddess has been suppressed in the bible: “I think that she has been glossed over. She does come up in Proverbs, and she is in the Book of Wisdom. Whenever the Holy Spirit was talked about in the bible originally, that is who they were talking about” (“Adela”, NW Louisana). Although Jesus remains important to most CGS women, Mary Magdalene is often mentioned as a female Christ figure: “To me she is a symbol of the feminine aspect within Christianity. … She really got it and understood what the gospel and Sophia.” Many CGS women are comfortable integrating Goddesses from other religious traditions into their spirituality: “I had an experience with Guan Yin when I was in Hong Kong and I went to a little temple and I meditated to Guan Yin. … The Goddess means, for me, it’s a lot like the female aspect of God which includes male and female” (“Ursula”, Victoria, Australia).

If you would like to know more about this project, or to participate in an interview, please contact mbeavis@stmcollege.ca.

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4 thoughts on “(Essay) Christian Women and Thealogy by Mary Ann Beavis”

  1. This conversation is a good beginning but the collective “we” need to train our minds to understand that the “sacred feminine” & female veneration, was securly in place prior to Judaism/Christianity/Islam. Concrete research holds that the tradition links itself to a primordial black hole. It is joyful to hear that the reseach done in academia and by the self education of our foremothers in this field, is trickling down into mainstream. I would like to believe that in the future, when we look back at His/story, we will see that formalized Christianity is a bit like fitting a square peg into a round hole, with regards to the whole human story. After all, the first five books of the bible record “spirits” (not a deity or consciousness) that even its followers, were not sure was Yaweh? About a thousand years later, the story of Genesis was written and “accepted” for the Torah collection of stories, by a mixture of cultures and leadership, that followed Yaweh. Although, this chapter was based on an actual group of people (including the garden) its purpose was to denigrate female spirituality and make the five spirits legitimate as “one” male god. The followers of the father of the these male religions, Abraham (long before Moses) also worshiped the female (under Sarah, his wife/sister) while giving equitable allegence to Yaweh. As these patriarchial religions developed, each borrowed the rituals and traditions of the females as theirs, to help the conversion process. Therefore, by understanding the earlier female story and noting their 1st principles, one understands it is not heredical to honor the sacred feminine in these male traditions; but again, it’s mind boggling if one does not understand the importance and the corrected stories of women and the bible.

    Divine Feminine = European term
    Feminine Divine = Wyomanist contemporary term
    Sacred Feminine = Academic term for universal topic
    Goddess = European & colonist term for sacred feminine
    Ancestor = Indigenous worship tradition of sacred beings and of the deceased
    Pagan/Heathen/Druid = Euro traditions of those that worshipped the earth (applied by Euro-colonists to indigenous peoples world wide)
    Spirits = beings that both walk the earth and reside in another dimension; or one’s soul as in “my spirit”. Term is also connected to Angels or spiritual beings.

    Jayne DeMente, MA in Womens Spirituality
    Author of “Feminine Reformation; a goddess meta narrative”. Text book.

  2. Reblogged this on 마고 아카데미 한국 and commented:
    기독교 여성들과 여신 신학: 메리 앤 비비스 박사의 연구조사 보고서입니다. 기독교 여성들이 어떻게 여신 신앙을 유지하는가에 관하여 여성목회자 등 여성신자들이 속이야기를 풀어내고 있습니다. 이들이 기독교 속에 어떻게 여신이 들어 있는지 그것이 어떻게 억압되어 있는지를 잘 설명하고 있네요. 매우 쉬운 영어라서 누구라도 번역이나 요약 가능할 것 같습니다. 힘찬 새해를 기원합니다!

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