What Happens When God Can be Mother Too?

Category Archives:Power

Pondering Wonder Woman and Power

When is a human being most powerful? Does Wonder Woman show us what strength is, or does it give back to us what patriarchy and the white middle class have always said true strength is?

I have to admit that I haven’t seen the movie. But I’ve seen clips and read reviews, especially this article in Sojourners, entitled, “How ‘Wonder Woman’ Does Not Placate Audiences.” The author, like many, sees Wonder Woman as a feminist milestone, at least in part because “Jenkins [the director] shoots her heroine and her fellow Amazons, like male actions stars.” Wonder Woman “smashes through windows and beats back bullets as easily as any of her male counterparts….”

As I continue to reflect on the connection between love and power that I touched on in a previous post, I have two critical questions that Wonder Woman inspires:

One) Why is Wonder Woman white? Is feminist and divine power based in societal privilege? Though Gal Gadot is Jewish, and that’s good, viewers read “white” when they see her, much like we have white-washed Jesus throughout history. Harper’s Bazaar Magazine writer Cameron Glover says: “But the premiere of the Wonder Woman film is bittersweet for Black and other women of color, because even in this so-called ‘feminist’ film, erasure and a lack of inclusion is not only expected, but a given. When it comes to mainstream feminism, race and other identities often take a backseat to gender equality—and that simply isn’t good enough.”

The picture I chose for this post is meant to show a new image of a powerful woman, one of love-as-strength and strength-as-love, which women and men can both embrace. There are women warriors around the world who only a few see. They are often people of color who own little, and love anyway.

Two) Is Wonder Woman a female version of a male superhero, with too many of the patriarchal, violent ways of doing business? Having heard the stories of many refugees, I don’t want to completely blow off the idea of Wonder Woman’s mission. During a war, I imagine I would welcome salvation whether violent or not. Nonetheless, as a movie most of us watch in peaceful circumstances, Wonder Woman strikes me as similar to the violent, male-centered version of any other DC Comic movie.

Feminist scholar Carol Christ had this to say in a comment, responding to the article, “Saving Tomorrow: Wonder Woman and her Elevated Role in Shaping Our World”:

But do we really want anyone–male or female–to learn as a child that the way to be powerful is to kill the “other”? I do not. We need to change the paradigm. This apparently was what the original author of Wonder Woman set out to do.

My husband points out that the original Wonder Woman cartoons showed her having tools of power but never using violence. She’d turn the bad guys over to the cops. He thought, as a boy, that she wasn’t a real superhero due to that. But he sees now that was the paradigm of patriarchy.

As for the original amazingly feminist vision of Wonder Woman, a press release from the 1941 debut said this (from an article by expert Jill Lepore):

“‘Wonder Woman’ was conceived by Dr. Marston [a Harvard educated psychologist] to set up a standard among children and young people of strong, free, courageous womanhood; to combat the idea that women are inferior to men, and to inspire girls to self-confidence and achievement in athletics, occupations and professions monopolized by men” because “the only hope for civilization is the greater freedom, development and equality of women in all fields of human activity.” Marston put it this way: “Frankly, Wonder Woman is psychological propaganda for the new type of woman who should, I believe, rule the world.”

This new type of woman can know herself as powerful and embrace love as her strength. As Wonder Woman herself said, “It’s about what you believe. And I believe in love. Only love will truly save the world.”

What do you think? Have we moved forward with the new Wonder Woman movie or do patriarchy and white privilege remain unchallenged? 

Mother-God-Power

Today’s reading from Matt. 2 in the Divine Feminine Version of the New Testament (DVF) reminds me the beatific Christmas story erupted quickly into a murder plot.

King Herod hoped to use the wise men to kill the baby Jesus, the future king. This is the kind of fearful immoral grasping I sometimes think of as power; it’s what my 9-year-old son is dealing with now. I hear him yelling guttural dramatic cries now as he jumps on the trampoline outside, acting out scenarios of evil winning.

We have recently taken him out of school because of a bullying situation. An older girl told and showed him many gory stories, and threatened to kill him in various ways if he didn’t watch her stories on an iPad. She tried to kill him once by putting a paper clip in his smoothie. He believes now that she could show up at any time or place.

Like Mary and Joseph returning to a place associated with exile, Marshall is home again isolated from his small community. He feels angry at grown-ups, for our failure to protect and our failure to bring justice. He is not too sure about God’s power, either. But he is sure about the bully’s.

Maybe Mary felt like I do, when she quickly left Bethlehem to go to Egypt with a tiny baby to protect from the malicious King Herod.

We are all in exile now in this house, waiting for the new exodus, waiting for the power of Mother God to save and bring justice to my son and all of us.

Probably the hardest part of parenting or mothering is a feeling of powerlessness in the face of our children’s pain. Goodness never seems enough. And, yet it is. The goodness of El Shaddai is enough.

The Swallow’s Nest reading for today parallels the story about the wise men foiling King Herod’s murder plot. It is from Exodus 1:13-23 where Pharoah tells the midwives to kill all the Hebrew baby boys born in their care. They refuse. And when confronted, they lie, saying the Hebrew women give birth too quickly to discreetly kill the infants.

The strength of the midwives is in their unwavering goodness, in what they refuse to do even at the risk of their own lives. The Scripture names these blessed women: Shiprah, and Puah, and says God gave them families due to their powerful acts of goodness.

Sometimes I equate goodness with weakness. I think my son Marshall does too now. His IEP/Placement team at school did not see Marshall’s situation as placing him in any danger, so they said his current placement is appropriate. We wait for justice, but we seek it too: we will consult a lawyer this week and have a call in to Disability Rights.

We wait in exile but not passively, and that is our life with God, too. Waiting on Mother God who is working through wisdom and goodness to provide a way home for each of us. And that’s true power.

“God is a stronghold for the oppressed, their protection in troubled times. All those who know Her goodness trust in Her, for She has never forsaken anyone who put confidence in her.” Ps.  116, p. 6, Swallow’s Nest

Powerful Breasts

dreamstimefree_120003Today I add in a beautiful book entitled Swallow’s Nest, a prayer-book of psalms re-written in feminine terms. The author’s favorite term for God is El Shaddai, sometimes thought to have meant Breasted One. My husband inscribed my Divine Feminine Version of the New Testament with these words: “For Susan, my love, May this text allow and encourage you to suckle more deeply at the breasts of God!”

All this talk of breasts makes me have to notice the fact I am using mine several times a day to soothe and feed my fourteen month old baby. My breastfeeding does not feel powerful, but it does feel sacred. It feels private, holy, intimate, like worship. Interestingly, I find it hard to worship in public sometimes the same way I find it hard to breastfeed in public sometimes.

So what about Mother God’s power? El Shaddai has power to nurture many, to mature, and to protect. To love, to comfort. Is this power? More than I know.

My 9-year-old son, Marshall, often tells me just what he thinks. (I have been known for this at times in my life, as well). Marshall is an Asper-kid and that’s often one of the strengths of Asperger’s—direct honesty.

My husband, Joel, has a compressed disc and has been laid out in the bed a lot. Marshall has blamed Joel for this. Underneath the blame was fear, I thought.

“Do you see mom and dad as all-powerful, sweetie?” I asked. “Is it hard to see Dad vulnerable?”

He said, “I see Mom as all-powerful to do good.”

Asper-kids tend to think in black and white/all or nothing categories, too. So Dad was just out of luck in that conversation. But Marshall’s remark about me as mom astounded and encouraged me. I didn’t think I was doing so well lately, and he has told me so. Yet, the power to nurture and protect, comfort and love is all-encompassing as the “power to do good.”

Mister Rogers said, “When I was a boy I used to think that strong meant having big muscles, great physical power; but the longer I live, the more I realize that real strength has much more to do with what is not seen. Real strength has to do with helping others.”

My view of power is skewed. Like Mr. Rogers used to, I see it as physical strength, as status, as wealth, even as the ability to destroy, as in a T-Rex or a bull dozer. And also as the power to be heard. With all these powers come masculine pronouns, not feminine ones.

Yet the power of love is the power of God.

 

Praise El Shaddai, all nations! Exalt God, all peoples!

For great is her steadfast love toward every one!

The faithfulness of El Shaddai endures forever. Alleleuia!

Psalm 117, Swallow’s Nest: A Feminine Reading of the Psalms, p. 5

Just a Woman

51zm3Fd25nL._SX333_BO1,204,203,200_“Listen to the Voice of God!…How powerful and majestic is her voice!” 

Psalm 29, Swallow’s Nest, p. 47.

I am not so good at listening to women, giving them authority. Nor do I always expect to be heard as a woman, especially by men.

I am reading Micha Boyett’s Found and enjoying it immensely. I relate to Micha’s “failed-to-be-a-missionary—now-a-mother” angst and I love her writing.

Early on in the book, though, I caught myself dismissing her voice about the Benedictine tradition she explores. I’m actually very attracted to the idea of ordering life according to prayer and work, service and worship. But because Micha is a woman, and maybe even more so because she is a young mom, I could not let her teach me very well.

Thankfully, the Lady God was moving in my heart and telling me, “Listen. Listen.” And so I did, with new ears. I am almost at the end of Micha’s book and she has gained for me the authority she deserves.

So often I treat God the same way. I don’t listen to her, as though she were “just a woman.” As though her voice were optional in my life, as though she was operating on some fake authority.  Especially since she speaks so softly.

Coincidentally, a lot like me.