|The Head of Christ by Warner Sallman|
In hindsight it is probably rather telling that I gave little thought to Jesus until I was no longer Catholic. Growing up in the Bible Belt of New Orleans, a conservative Christian region of the southern United States, one was not encouraged to question religious authority, much less express dissent, but instead accept as fact whatever was preached from the pulpit on Sundays. When I actually identified with a spirituality that inspired my sincere mind and heart connection with the Divine, it was Goddess Spirituality that called me, and it was as a Goddess Advocate that I began to really think about Jesus, Christianity and the institution that I’ll loosely call The Church.
Thinking back, Jesus was little more than that sad and suffering figure on the cross at the front of the church, or that little baby in the manger at Christmas time, while the sacrifice of his life to his father, our god, for our sins, instinctively never made much sense to me. I felt that sacrifice, whether accepted or required, spoke volumes more about Jesus’ heavenly father - a deity I cared little to claim as my god – and prayed I might escape his notice lest I might incur his wrath. There was something about a god that condoned suffering and accepted the sacrifice of sons that seemed too remote from the wise and loving deity, archetype or ideal I could lovingly and readily embrace as Divine. I’m not sure when I actually languaged it, but I believe intuitively I rejected the Christian ideas of suffering and sacrifice. I think I wondered why a female face of divinity was so lacking in the religion of my family. I think on some level, I wondered but could not actually put into words why life affirming ideas seemed so lacking within this religion I was born into, because no one was talking about it. Everyone just accepted the dogma. You see, we lived in a bubble. We only met other Christians. There just was little to no opportunity or encouragement to question the programming. Everyone I knew was a Catholic or Baptist and they all seemed to tow the party line, or if they did not, they were not openly talking about it. We seemed to revel in and never question singing lyrics in church on Sunday like “Onward Christian soldiers, marching off to war.” Or how bad deeds could be practiced all week, but on Sunday, in confession you got a “get out of jail free” card by saying a few Hail Mary prayers. But when I opened my eyes and took responsibility for my own education and gave myself permission to question, I began to see The Church dogma as giving license to a select few - primarily rich men - to control the masses and commit far too many sins – none of which seemed in alignment with the teachings of Jesus.
Reconciling Jesus Within Her Spiritual Paradigm
When I first uncovered Goddess herstory from the sands of time and patriarchal lies and subterfuge I’m not ashamed to say I was livid. My hair was on fire! I discovered I had been duped for the first thirty years of my life. And when I found out the role of the Church in the subjugation of women and destruction of other cultures, I was filled with utter disdain. I’m having trouble even finding the words for the toxic emotion inspired by these realizations. At first, I hated anything related to The Church, including Mary and Mary Magdalene, Pope John Paul II, who loved Mary, or the nuns who taught me. I was ready to discard even these female faces, who had once been the only figures within Christianity that provided any solace or sense of heartfelt connection to this religion I’d come to see as despicable. Although this does not describe all Christians, when I saw how the Religious Right was using Christianity as a weapon to steer government in the United States, and as a wedge issue to fan the flames of fear and hate to divide people, I was disgusted even more. And don’t even get me started on the hypocrisy. Many of these vocal and self-righteous Christians who were always telling everyone else the right way to live were the ones getting caught starting bogus wars, having affairs, soliciting prostitutes, telling lies, stealing, abusing their power – all the while they failed to really live by the teachings of Jesus. Sure they would shout out at us from our television screens or from their multi-million dollar pulpits about finding Jesus and by the way, don’t forget to increase offertory giving and mail them a check – but the teachings of Jesus were hardly what these church leaders and many Christians were practicing. They stood for shooting exhausted animals from planes, taking reproductive rights away from women, denying gays equal rights, teaching abstinence instead of sex education, then failing to commit funds to poor people who could not afford o feed their children. It seemed their god was power, control and the mighty dollar. Pope Francis said as much recently as he chastised Christians for their failures to help the poor and their willful ignorance on climate change and greed.
When this veil was lifted from my mind and eyes, it was difficult at first to return to anything remotely related to The Church – even Jesus, who was being used as their poster guy to legitimize suffering, sin and abuse of the masses. After all, some said, if you were poor, it was punishment from god for not working hard enough!
Church leaders seemed to count on their belief no one was opening a book or discussing ideas on the internet. They counted on everyone continuing to take their word as gospel and not question or give themselves permission to see history and spirituality through a fresh lens. And that is how I began to reclaim Jesus within my spiritual paradigm as a Goddess Advocate. In fact, I came to believe if Jesus would ever appear back on this Earth, his heart would be broken by the deeds perpetrated in his name. I remembered that Jesus was not part of the status quo. In fact, in his day he would have been a heretic, a terrorist, certainly not a sheeple, or one of the voices perpetrating suffering among the many for the benefit of the few. In his day he railed against the abuse of Temple elders, as he would surely do today. Forever seared in my memory is that Jesus Christ Superstar movie when he over-turns the tables of the money-changers, walks with the poor and treats women as his equals. The figure of Jesus began to become rehabilitated in my mind – and he had nothing to do with the institution that is The Church or so many calling themselves Christians.
Jesus - The Sacred Masculine
I began to see Jesus in many new ways. I saw him and his mother Mary as the last figures in the long line of Pagan Goddesses and their consorts, with Jesus the dying and rising lord or king. Just as several of the Goddesses such as Isis and Artemis passed their baton on to Mary, Jesus was the Green Man, Attis, Tammuz, or Osiris. In fact during the season of Ostara, near the Christian holy day of Easter, I have a meditation that I traditionally read to my congregation where we see in our minds eye the face of the consorts of Goddess morphing from one god to another, finally ending with that of Jesus. And now Christmas time becomes an opportunity instead of a farce as I use my radio show and platforms to publish articles or open discussions to remind Christians of their Pagan roots, when December 25th has associations not just with Jesus’ birthday, but with Pagan traditions, Winter Solstice and the gods, Mithras and Saturn.
With my new found relationship to Jesus, as well as Mary and Mary Magdalene, I also feel less hesitant to walk into a Christian Church. I go in and look for the female faces of deity; Mary, Mary Magdalene, Guadalupe and Black Madonnas. And when I see Jesus sitting in the lap of Mary, I see not only the consort of Goddess, but I also see Horus in the lap of Isis. And finally, I see in Jesus, the Sacred Masculine. He is the Sacred Bridegroom of Mary Magdalene, herself an aspect of Goddess, and in their pairing, is the balance of the Divine Couple – Divine Feminine and Sacred Masculine, our sacred life force, in wholeness, in balance, in equality, as it always should have been. I see in this Divine Duo the common ground where Pagans and progressive Christians can come together outside of the confines and dogma of The Church to build a new and healthy society, culture and spirituality that serves the many and not just the few.
-Rev. Dr. Karen Tate, An excerpt from the upcoming Girl God Anthology: Jesus, Muhammad and The Goddess.
Previously contributed to the book, Jesus Through Pagan Eyes, by Mark Townsend