(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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flameinthesnow
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This is an important essay.

Jayne DeMente
Guest
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… Read more »
Jayne DeMente
Guest

Mary, thank you for the work you are doing in the world and I love your large piece of this sculpture… Jayne 4 http://www.womensheritageproject.ning.com

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