Wednesday, December 24, 2008

What If It Had Been a Girl?

Once upon a time there was a virgin woman named Mary, living in Galilee, who was married to a man named Joseph. This woman was visited by an angel who told her that she would conceive and give birth to a daughter who would be God's own daughter.

When Mary became pregnant Joseph became concerned, knowing that Mary was not yet married. Because God wanted to assure Joseph that he should marry Mary anyway, She sent an angel to Joseph in a dream. After Joseph and Mary were married, Mary brought forth her firstborn daughter, and wrapped her in swaddling clothes, and laid her in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

After the birth of the baby girl, an angel appeared to shepards and announced that the Savior had been born. The shepards visited the baby and began to spread the word. During this time, three wise women from the east saw a star and knew that the Savior had been born. They traveled to Bethlehem, bearing gifts, and began worshiping the girl.

Obviously, the above story is an adaptation of the Christmas story and prophecy as written in Luke and Matthew of the New Testament. I fully realize that adapting the story in this way may offend some people's beliefs. Offense is certainly not my intention here. Rather, because I believe that the supernatural events "recorded" in the Bible are mythical, I am more interested in exploring how societies founded in Judeo-Christian principles would have been different had the supreme being and savior been conceptualized as female.

As Merlin Stone has asked in her book When God Was a Woman:

"What... might we expect in a society that for centuries has taught young children, both female and male, that a MALE deity created the universe and all that is in it, produced MAN in his own divine image- and then, as an afterthought, created woman, to obediently help man in his endeavors?"

Generally, I believe that Jesus the historical figure probably existed but that he lacked supernatural powers and divinity. Assuming that he did exist, I think that the supernatural myths ascribed to him have been largely drawn from pre-Christian "pagan" myths. Winter solstice is an astronomical event that occurs "around Christmastime" and marks the shortest day of the year. Cultures throughout history have celebrated winter solstice as it marked the beginning of longer days and, important to agriculture, the "birth" of more sunlight. As one example, thousands of years before the birth of Jesus, the Egyptians worshiped the sun god/sky god they named Horus, a god of divine origin who was "born" during winter solstice. (Interestingly, this myth also involved a crucifixion and subsequent resurrection 3 days later.)

I know that many Christians believe that the Bible accounts for literal historical and religious truth. Yet, I find it impossible to believe that. Believing what I believe, I often wonder how society would be different if God, Jesus, and other important Biblical figures had been conceptualized as female, rather than male. To be very general, my guess is that male leadership in all things that matter- family, society, and religion- would not be taken for granted in the way that it used to be and still is in some ways. I believe that religious teachings are still being used by "traditionalists" to maintain a very specific gender heirarchy that, in both subtle and obvious ways, teaches us that men are inherently better than women at many things and in many ways.

On a more basic level, I continually find it fascinating that "God's" maleness goes so utterly unquestioned among so many today. I understand that part of being devout means not questioning religious teachings, but still, even when I was very young I remember feeling somehow "wronged" by what I was being taught in Christian churches. Since women were so rarely mentioned in the Bible as major historical figures (other than Mary), I remember feeling very alienated and excluded from this religion.

From women and men, Christians and non-Christians alike, I wonder what your reactions are to the above adapted story.

Happy Holidays. Here's to the gestation of springtime.

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