Friday, May 13, 2005

Come together, boys and girls

Recently I read Dance of the Dissident Daughter by Sue Monk Kidd (thanks for the recommendation Cuppa!). It’s quite fascinating and a lot of it resonated with me. It’s the story of her personal journey away from a traditional Christianity to a place where she honours the Sacred Feminine. Though she’d been a pastor’s wife and an inspirational writer for many years, she says she reached a point where she was confronted with the patriarchy of Western Christianity, and she just couldn’t stomach it any more. She no longer wanted to be viewed as a second-class citizen in the eyes of the church or in the eyes of God.

I don’t think I’d go as far as she did – I don’t want to reject Christianity and create some new, nebulous faith for myself that honours a rather undefined God – but I do welcome her attempts at painting a different picture of God than what’s been painted through the lens of Western Christianity. I think approaching God as a blend of masculine and feminine certainly has its merits. I found myself wishing, however, that she’d related her new understanding back to a new kind of faith that’s still rooted in the truth that God revealed through the Bible and through Jesus. She does that to a certain degree (she talks about the feminine character of God articulated in the Bible as “Sophia” or “Wisdom”), but a little less than I would have liked. That’s not a criticism of the book or of her, though – her journey is her own, and I don’t expect it to be the same as mine. I’m just glad she chose to write about it.

More than anything, it made me want to return to the Bible for my own exploration – to find out how to interpret God through a different lens than I’ve accepted all these years. The night after I finished reading the book, my prayer took on a slightly different tone when I envisioned a Mother/Father God receiving my words and thoughts. It felt good.

Today, I read Real Live Preacher’s post about his longing for a place where his feminine side is welcomed and valued and where he feels the freedom to be okay with who he is and who other people are. I’ve also been reading posts from various people about how they’ve felt boxed in by various labels. There’s a common thread running through all of these writings – a desire for less boxes and more fluid definitions.

I have known a lot of people, male and female, who don’t fit tidily into any category of “masculine” or “feminine”. In my own marriage, for example, we’ve found a very comfortable place where we’re living out a bit of a role reversal in the eyes of our society – I’m the “bread winner” and he’s the “caregiver”. It works for us – there are things in my character that fit more in a traditional “masculine” definition, and there are aspects of him that have shades of what might be defined as “feminine”. That doesn’t mean that one of us is weaker or stronger, it just means that we don’t fit into the boxes well.

I wish we could find a way for that to be more okay. In this post-feminist era, why can’t we focus more on valuing ALL aspects of a person’s character (or God’s, for that matter), not just those that line up with their gender? I wouldn’t go so far as to say we’re all the same and that gender doesn’t matter. Yes, there are differences between males and females, but those differences don’t matter in the grand scheme of things, nor does one have more value than the other.

If a woman wants to seek a “non-traditional” role for herself, or play hockey or whatever, why not? We shouldn’t make a big deal about it. If a man wants to reveal his emotional side to his friends, or crochet doilies for a past-time, why not? On the other hand, if a person (male or female) fits very neatly into the traditional roles (eg. a woman feels delightfully fulfilled being a stay-at-home mom with a passion for baking cookies), than that’s okay too.

I once heard a quote from someone who’d been involved with the feminist movement who said the great travesty of the feminist movement was that it focused too much on giving women access to male roles/careers/etc. and neglected to put the same energy into creating value in those things that are traditionally female. That makes a lot of sense to me. Let’s find value in what makes each of us who we are rather than placing too much value on one thing or another.

You are free to be who you are meant to be, whether male or female, gay or straight, young or old, white or black. Your nature, your giftedness, your personality, whatever makes you who you are – it all has value.

God made us ALL in his/her image, so that must mean we ALL reflect something of his/her beauty whatever our gender or colour is.


Anvilcloud said...

You might like her newest fiction, The Mermaid Chair. It's also about a feminine quest of self discovery: in a way very different from Dissident Daughter, but similar in a way too.

I found her voyage in DDD to be strange, but I admire her guts to make it.

Linda said...

I'm glad you decided to look into the bible for some answers. Too often we dismiss the truth of the bible because it has been so badly interpreted by humans.

Cuppa said...

I can't even put my finger on what exactly is was in the D of the D D that spoke so deeply to me, but it did touch something in the core of my being and started this search for the feminine side of God. I just can't accept anymore,the "box" that my church has put God in for all these years.

Boxes beg to be opened don't they? Let's open them all and see what is really inside each one. Squash the boxes, put them out in the trash and live with the real thing. We can do this with God, other people and ourselves. Get rid of the boxes!!

Life is such an interesting journey of discovery isn't it?

Gina said...

I absolutely love that last statement!