Thursday, November 16, 2006

Make Love AND War?

The feminist blogosphere is steaming with responses to (and with) an article in the Nov. 27 issue of The Nation (yes, it's common for mass circulation magazines to pre-date issues). Before I add my views to the pot, I'll catch you up on what others have been saying.

The Nation's article, "Arrows for War" by Kathryn Joyce describes a Christian group called "Quiverfulls." Joyce says the group's aim is to produce as many babies as possible so they can grow an army to fight enemies such as Muslims, liberals, progressives and feminists. It's not unusual for the wives to bear more than 10 children--indeed status seems to be related to the number of children produced. Joyce says that in a book that inspires the Quiverfulls, The Way Home: Beyond Feminism, Back to Reality, author Mary Pride argues that "feminism is a religion in its own right, one that is inherently incompatible with Christianity." Joyce shares the following quote by Mary Pride:
"Feminism is a totally self-consistent system aimed at rejecting God's role for men."
Echidne over at Echidne of the Snakes in a Nov. 13 post, "The Womb Wars II"
writes that the Quiverfills
have decided that a literal reading of the Bible requires them to have as many children as possible. Contraception is evil and large families are needed as the arrows in the next Womb War....
In the preparations for this war the men in the family are the commanders and women are the privates who are expected to make the children who are the weapons and ammunition. It's a breeding war, and for it to work the women privates must be willing to obey the orders of their commanders. You can guess how that comes about: by telling women that God is the only power who has a right to decide when they will have children and God works in mysterious ways, largely through the sex drives of their husbands....
At the Pandagon
blogger Amanda Marcotte, in her Nov.10 post, "Reminder: The anti-choice movement is genocidal" (which has elicited more than 100 comments) writes:
It cannot be stated firmly enough, but organized opposition to abortion rights stems directly from the belief that women should not be able to limit the number of births they have, and the invocation of the sacredness of fetal life is a post hoc justification.
If you want to read an opinion on Quiverfulls from a blogger, Heart, on Womanspace , who used to be inside this movement (or one similar to it) and was "ex-communicated," check out her Nov. 14 post, "I Name the Patriarchs, Part I, The Truth About 'Full Quiver' Families."

Before I get to the spiritual feminist part, I want to ask a practical question: What makes Quiverfull folks think these babies they're popping out like there's no tomorrow will grow up to support their point of view and fight their wars? How many Vietnam era "draft dodgers" came from families that supported the war? How many Pagans do you know who come from Pagan families? I have 2 friends (1 from a family of 3 kids, the other an only child) who married people from families that had at least 10 children and were originally Roman Catholic. By the time Mother-in-law #1 had borne 10 kids she and her husband left the Church and became liberal Christians and feminists. The 10 kids in this family are now on all sorts of religious paths, none of them Roman Catholic, including one who converted to Judaism. After Mother-in-law #2 had 10 children she and hubby left the Catholic Church for evangelical Protestantism. Their children are also on a variety of spiritual paths, none of them Catholic, and some atheistic or agnostic.

My guess is that the Quiverfulls' aims, as extreme and abhorrent as they seem, may come as no surprise to spiritual feminists. It's no shock to me that religions that refuse women equal participation and continue to empower men only, by representing the Divine as male only, should fight to keep control of women's bodies. And you can expect them to continue to use Biblical texts to do this.

Why do the women continue to cooperate? I think the answer is complicated, but one reason certainly is that the texts that they use to justify this oppression are considered sacrosanct in our society--even by some so-called progressives who still don't quite get that a society's major religious beliefs influence their social systems and their politics. I'll probably blog more about that at a later date, but I want to set something straight about contemporary Goddess beliefs. I've heard some people claim that because those who honor the Goddess or Great Mother apparently value fertility, that they expect them to be anti-abortion. Let me state this loud and clear: THE OVERWHELMING NUMBER OF THOSE OF US WHO HONOR GODDESS ARE PRO-CHOICE.

Perhaps the confusion arises from old-school archeologists who want to label archeological finds of Goddess objects "fertility cult figures." Sure, ancient Goddesses had babies--they had/have all the biological functions of women. But this was not their only function. The Triple Goddess honored by many modern Goddessians includes a Mother figure, but this Trinity also has a figure called the Maiden, who is independent, sometimes studious, sometimes atheletic, and has sex for no other reason than to give herself pleasure. We also have an older-woman figure, usually called the Crone, who is beyond child-bearing years and is honored for her wisdom. In addition, (and this sometimes gets lost in the shuffle) you don't have to be a specific age to identify with a specific aspect of this triune Goddess. In other words, you don't have to be over 50 to identify with the Crone, you might just be a woman of any age who doesn't focus her life on child-bearing, whose focus rather is, for examples, philosophy or spirituality or psychology. Or you may be 40 years old and much married yet feel yourself to a "Maiden" because your focus is on your own fulfillment or career advancement. Too, one woman may incorporate all these roles into her life at the same time. And when we honor the Mother and seek to be like her, our nurturing and birth-giving may not necessarily be related to biological children but may be nurturing by teaching, or giving birth to works of art or inventions. We celebrate Goddess(es) as the embodiment of the divine. Personifying her as female (no, not "feminine"), recognizes women as full human beings. Sure we like to see a women get pregnant and have babies WHEN THAT'S WHAT SHE WANTS. And we respect women who CHOOSE to stay home and nurture their children rather than work outside the home. But that is only one of many ways a woman may choose to live.

Like political feminism, one of the most important aspects of spiritual feminism is the right of a woman to control what is done to or with her body and to control her life. We feel that this is unlikely to be achieved in any significant and long-lasting way as long as women are in religions that support their subordination and take away their choices.




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Judith Laura

More blogs about /goddess/feminist theology/spiritual feminism/pagan/feminist spirituality/.