One of my favourite programs on television, is on Australia's ABC, and is called Foreign Correspondent. An episode, that aired during the COVID-19 pandemic, was called the War on Afghan Women. It struck something in my heart, so deep, that I cannot stop thinking about the plight of women and girls in Afghanistan. I have so many questions, like, What does it mean when a man of the Taliban says that Afghan girls will be allowed to continue to go to school, according to Shi'a (Sharia) law? It means that they can only leave home in the company of a man. That has so many implications.
I would urge you to watch this episode, but be warned: it shows men beating women, and the murdered bodies of women.
In Australia, violence against women is illegal. But in Afghanistan, and other places where men fear women, men subjugate women in the name of God.
Men "fear" women?
Throughout history .... Why have women and girls been excluded from opportunities for education, the independence of careers, the mobility of being allowed to drive? Why would a woman be beaten for singing and dancing? Why would a woman be killed because she has been accused of adultery, when her husband and father-in-law are complicit in committing rapes upon her? Why would a man have more than one wife, but a woman not be allowed to have more than one husband? Why must a woman be dressed modestly but a man can wear practically anything?
Where is equality, the justice, in any of this?
But there's more. Why would a man believe that God is male? What use does an omnipotent being have for genitalia (and male genitalia at that)? Why would certain men throughout history claim that God has given them authority over others (for example, popes and imams), a divine right to rule over and judge their fellow occupants of this earth? Why would these men claim that their alleged divine spiritual gift affords them infallibility?
Why have (in so many places throughout the world) the lands, properties and rights been passed from father to son (or to closest male relative); ignoring the daughters, widows and mothers? Why would men go to war to protect their "God-given right" to lead (as in a caliphate or papacy) or to rule (as in a kingdom or among the nobility)?
And why on earth have other men allowed these special few to subjugate them?
But, then there's the flipside!
Why are people (especially women) who believe that God is feminine called witches? Men are not called witches. In the past, men were not normally drowned to see if they were witches, or burned at the stake because other people thought their ideas were so odd they must be witches. No! Most people who were accused of witchcraft, and murdered as a consequence, were women.
What is really frightening now, is that women have been publicly executed (beheaded), as witches, as recently as 2010-2012. It's possible that there are more with the same fate, who have not been added to the incredibly horrifying list of those executed for witchcraft. Sure, some people might have done something bad, but how will we ever know when the evidence was tortured out of them or their loved ones?
So, it makes me wonder what the world would have been like if God were thought of as feminine?
We think of God as creative and nurturing, as welcoming and forgiving, as just and kind. Most people of faith (regardless of religion) would agree that "God is love", and that "God is loving".
If we thought of God as feminine, would we think of God with stereotypically feminine attributes? Hmm. As we approach a closeness with God, we allow ourselves to open up to the "shekhinah", or Holy Spirit. While this Hebrew word suggests the dwelling place of God, it also refers to the feminine aspects of God, and the Holy Spirit has sometimes been thought of as feminine (apart from that bit in the New Testament when Mary was overshadowed by the Holy Spirit to conceive Jesus).
There are religions with a feminine deity, but while researching for this article, I came across a little epiphany for me (as someone who was raised Roman Catholic). First, the book of Genesis started with two distinctly different "stories of creation", and Genesis 1: 27-28, referred to the creation of man and woman in God's image (no rib-bone reference to make woman less important than man; she was created equal and divinely-inspired!).
This is what it says -
"God created man in his image; in the divine image he created him; male and female he created them. "
But then there was the second little epiphany! The discovery of Asherah!
So, who was Asherah?
Well, before the Jewish faith of Abraham became monotheistic and misogynistic, there was the belief, apparently, that Yahweh (God of Israel and Judah) had a wife called Asherah. Women would bake cakes and offer libations to her, and their husbands would join in. People would raise "Asherah poles" beside altars, and plant "Asherah trees". In some other neighbouring religions, she was the pro-genitress (originatress): from whom god comes! Yes, God before God.
Why was Asherah written out of the story of God? Yahweh, apparently, was jealous of Asherah.
Really? An omnipotent being, jealous? I think it was more likely that men were scared of women and wanted to subjugate them. Yes, I'm going for that word again!!! But you tell me of a better word that describes it! I also think that Asherah was written out of the story of God, because men wanted to justify their little trips away from home that ended in almighty bloodshed, and that meant giving God attributes that were distinctly masculine: angry, jealous, greedy, violent. I'm not saying that men are these things, I'm saying that (historically speaking) they were these things. You want some evidence?
Whenever I've tried to read the Bible, I try to read bits of the Old Testament, and either fall asleep with the repetitiveness or I get frustrated at the references to God helping men to do evil things (like the adulteries of King Solomon and King David, and the many wars on countless neighbouring countries leading to really graphic murders and entire genocides).
It just seems to me that the men who "wrote" the Old Testament (which was based on the Hebrew Bible [the Tanakh]), wrote whatever they liked to justify whatever they wanted to do. And none of it seems loving, forgiving, nurturing, welcoming, or creative .. in the least! Don't get me wrong, there are plenty of other religions that follow a similar theme.
It seems to me, that men of history have subjugated God to their nefarious purposes. And it's time this stopped.
So, as a starting point, I'd like to invite you to watch that episode of Foreign Correspondent, and meet my new heroine, Laila Haidari, who works in the streets of Kabul helping drug addicts. This woman is fierce in her femininity!!
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