Category Archives: Life reflections

The Monday Book: WHEN GOD HAD A WIFE

The Monday book comes from Paul Garrett this week.

Throughout history, deities have been both male and female; whether the Sumerian gods of Enki and Nammu, the Egyptian Isis and Osiris, or the pantheon of the Greeks and Romans. It seems Judeo-Christianity is one of the few religions with a singular male deity.

Or not.

 In When God Had A Wife, The Fall and Rise of the Sacred Feminine in the Judeo-Christian Tradition, Lynn (Bear and Company, 2019) Picknett and Clive Prince put forth the theory that this was not always so, even after the time of Jesus. Picknett and Prince relate the history of Judaism from the Egyptian enslavement through the 4th century BCE. Using the Bible and over 100 other sources, they attempt to prove that the so-called “sacred feminine” has been a major part of religious practice throughout the history of both sects.

Worship of a female goddess took many forms, until about 400 BCE when Nehemiah “discovered” the book of Deuteronomy. (Quotation marks by the authors; they posit that he actually wrote it.) Up until that time the Jews worshiped a goddess named Asherah, among others who is the female counterpart to Baal.  Asherah was a goddess of fertility and nurture. Hundreds of small Asherah statues litter ancient Jewish sites, including Jerusalem. There is some evidence that they once adorned the courtyards of the Jewish Temples. Asherah statues usually have large breasts and a prominent pubic triangle. This is not meant to be erotic. The breasts represent nurture and the pubic area creation.

The Old Testament mentions Asherah more than half a dozen times, mostly in Judges and Kings. One of the most interesting is from Judges 6:25-30 wherein the townspeople demanded the life of Gideon’s son after they found Gideon had cut down the Asherah statue.

Even though repressed by the religious elites, female worship did not go away, but took the form of Wisdom. According to the authors, the word wisdom (Sophia) in biblical writing echoes the sacred feminine, even when uttered by Christ.

In the New testament it gets more controversial. According to the authors, Jesus also had a female counterpart, Mary Magdalene, who took on the role of goddess. The Church falsely accused her of being a prostitute as a means of discrediting her. The Magdalene controversy is interesting, with some so-called Gnostic gospels, even indicating Mary was Jesus’ wife. The Church labeled the Gnostic texts heretical in the first Millennium, BCE.

The authors theorize that with Mary Magdalene out of the picture, it became clear that there was a void that needed to be filled, hence Mary, Mother of Jesus (the Madonna) was recruited to take her place, resulting in various Madonna cults arising throughout Christendom.

This is obviously a controversial topic among modern Christians. It occurs to me that only a few hundred years ago these authors might have been burned at the stake. But all nature is binary: up/ down, left/ right, dark/light good/evil, male/female, yin/yang. Why should the same balance not occur in the deity?

Was the sacred feminine suppressed by the chauvinistic church, or is it yet another of the myriad cults and fads in Judeo-Christianity that have come and gone through the centuries? After thousands of years, I doubt that the controversy will be laid to rest any time soon.

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The Ending of Facebook is a Difficult Matter

I watched The Social Dilemma along with the rest of America. Mmmhmmm. Got it.

Then I watched two TED talks by Zeynep Tufekci. You need to type that letter by letter if you’re doing a search; I guarantee you will get it wrong the first time, and sympathize. Her 2017 TED talk is a 20-minute version of what Dilemma tried to do in a more entertaining way. Tufekci is less convoluted or trying to persuade with subtlety than giving up-front examples of what’s going wrong and why. The title of her talk might give you a clue as to her straightforwardness: We’re Building a Dystopia just to make People Click on Ads.

Really summed it up well for me. But the gathering of a thousand points of data every time I click or don’t click on an ad, a suggested content page below my home screen, one of those cute little quizzes to determine which Disney Princess I would be, those aren’t actually why I left Facebook for the time being.

We are not meant to know everything everyone else is thinking 24/7. If there really were clairvoyants, they would go crazy under the weight of all that emotional sound. I have friends who will argue about how to peel potatoes. And I have friends who will argue that peeling the potato the wrong way is a plot from QAnon or the Democrats.

No thanks; I actually like to eat the potato peel when possible. Lotta vitamins in there and the texture adds interest to the mashed spuds. (Oh crap, did I just argue my case?)

Thing is, I have seen Facebook do many wonderful things, and with careful control, maybe it would still. I’m working with a plan for a social media manager to organize the difference between my writing and my social time. Most of the issues with FB for me started after publication of our latest book. Even Amazon went crazy; someone tried to post a review and because of the title Amazon blocked some of the words.

The free flow of ideas in America has always depended on platform access. And a little bit of human empathy. And maybe even kindness or at least wisdom. I blocked a guy in DC for being certain that no one from DC could ever be wrong about interpreting what rural people thought. He didn’t see it that way. In fact, he didn’t see anything except his own status. That’s always the case with some men, and has nothing to do with FB except that because of his importance he had a group of yes-sirs about him. He had a pile-up of people who needed him to see loyalty, and he was counting on that. Had we been in a small town hall meeting, it would have been the same dynamic. Not down to Facebook.

A friend’s mom had ALS and was slowly deteriorating. A woman of faith and infinite kindness, she remarried two years before her death to a guy who really loved her and looked after her. One night, in a fit of insomnia, I was online and a status came up on her timeline. More or less it said, I feel so lost and scared and I know I’m going to see Jesus, but what if I’m wrong, or it’s not true, or I wasn’t good enough, or it hurts….

Three minutes later she had a pile-up. Some 47 people were simultaneously saying 1) I know you. If anyone was ever going to meet Jesus and have him carry her up the steps to the Golden City, it’s you. You’re nothing but love in human form. 2) It’s true. You’re just scared. How could you not be, going through what you’re going through? Doubt during fear doesn’t disqualify you from everything we said about number 1. 3) If it hurts, we will pray for you. A few people who had ALS said, we understand. Those who didn’t have ALS said, we’re here for you.

It was beautiful. In the middle of the night, she had a community–of many people she didn’t even know–for the best possible reason. They comforted her. That couldn’t have happened without Facebook.

I have no answers for whether some ideas are so bad, we shouldn’t have access to them. I have no answers for how many things advertisers and potentially other actors know about us because of our casual use of an intense service with little regulation. No answers for the very bad times that could be coming because of what Zeynep Tufekci et al outline, or when its arrival will be noticed in the rear view mirror instead of distant thunder from dark clouds on the horizon. That is actually a separate problem to the choices made by people to listen or not listen to each other. The algorithms will always listen.

I will get back on FB eventually, after a little judicious managing and deeper insights. No clicking on notifications, suggested content, ads or quizzes. That can manage the computer side. But the other decisions, empathy over outrage, listening over posturing, are mine. When and if I get involved in a pile-up, I will pray it is for the right reasons.

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