|Painting by Arna Baartz|
My family was quietly Christian, a thing of note given the Bible-thumping, snake-handling performance of faith that is almost tradition for those from the South. My grandparents matriculated from Little Rock, Arkansas and moved to Denver where they joined an integrated Methodist church. My grandmother taught Sunday School. My grandfather was an usher but my attendance was not compulsory. If I did not wish to go, I did not have to… unless it was Christmas or Easter. Those holidays required a brand new dress, shiny shoes, and me looking deliberately sanctified in one of the front pews.
Religion has always been a funny thing. It is constructed in such a way that believers organize themselves around the idea that their formula is the correct one and that all those who follow it are among the righteous and those who do not are among the damned, the lost. And while my own family did not browbeat me with their beliefs, my experience of Catholic school was certainly filled with shame-based language and “othering.”
I attended all-white Catholic schools from Kindergarten through my senior year of high school. I was not white. I was not Catholic. The landmines were everywhere. Theology classes were fraught with antagonism and contention, particularly once I entered high school and began asking pointed questions about the dogma we were obliged to not only learn, but be in agreement with.
Why do I need Jesus to mediate what conversations I have with God? How is it reasonable to posit that those who do not profess a belief in him are condemned to hell? Explain how God is a three-personed deity who imposes a set of rules we are to follow but who also sets certain biological instincts in opposition to those rules? And what the hell is all this business about God creating man, but man creating woman? That one left me sore.
I do not spend my time rallying against the beliefs of other people. I do not rally against the traditions of other people. I do however take note, and indeed, take exception to the ways in which Eve is constructed in a Judeo-Christian context. The story of Eve was in fact the primary catalyst for me to begin looking elsewhere for God or something like it because as far as I was concerned, any faith tradition that deliberately erases women, vilifies them, shames them or deems them cursed, is anathema to anything divine.
Let me isolate two critical things about the story of Eve that I inherited. The first of course is the story of her creation. We learn, in the book of Genesis, that Adam was God’s idea. After the invention of water and earth and sky, God makes man. And then as the story goes, man gets lonely and asks for a companion. And God accommodates the request and makes Eve from Adam’s rib. Okay let’s stop right there. Even as a little girl I resented that and even as a little girl I could hear how laced with agenda that story was. Man is divine but woman is some science experiment that God acquiesced to? Hell no. This story has been propped up so often by those who seek to legitimize misogyny by citing that even the invention of woman is evidence of how flawed patriarchy needs us to believe she is.
The second story is of course the whole, Eve defied God in the Garden of Eden and as a result of that all women after would be cursed with blood every month (menstruation) and painful childbirth, business. Such a story, treated as dogma, treated as explanation for the machinery of a woman’s body, is a weapon.
My listening of it is: Man and God are in concert with each other in reminding women that they are less valuable, less useful, and certainly less significant. Such thinking is aligned with the sacrificing of women, the burning of “witches,” Jezebel being dashed to bits and eaten by dogs, the women who were stoned, the ritual of rape that is almost inextricably linked to America’s cultural identity, and on and on.
I come from impossible women, supernatural women, and magic-making women. I have never needed proof of how mighty we are. I have always been interrupted by those who knew it not. I do not clamor for evidence of our greatness. There is always some woman nearby performing miracles. I do not even need to hyperbolize our contributions. We are extraordinary enough. We have always been enough. These days my faith walk is the deliberate celebration of how mighty we are and the God who made US is indeed wise in making sure there was an abundance of creative forces on the planet, able to transmogrify ourselves all the time despite the many unnamed cultural, spiritual, linguistic, and quite literal crucifixions we suffer.
On the Subject of Eve:
Let one more man defile a woman
And I grow horns in her name
Who are these Pharaohs?
They are unpeople
Handing switchblades to their sons/
The scripture robbers
Who rewrote Eve as unholy afterthought/
A borrowed rib
Defying God in the garden.
Be still with these lies.
The mythology of woman
Bringing ruin is only partially right:
We have awakened the
dragon in our blood/
our blood a banner of quiet scheming/
our scheming, the bastard child of battle.
You cooked up the thick sin of authorship,
Illustrated her without mercy,
A woman born not of woman,
Who ached from shadows
Until she ruptured volcanically.
Saw Adam for what he was,
Kept the company of snakes,
Her husband’s rib a rotting harp
In her impossible body
The music she made
Biting into that fruit,
tentorian for the daughters
by Dominique Christina. An excerpt from the Girl God Anthology, Jesus, Mohammad and the Goddess.
Dominique Christina is a mother, an educator, an agitator, a colored girl on purpose. Her grandfather was a shortstop for the Kansas City Monarchs. He is in the Negro Leagues Hall of Fame. Her Aunt Carlotta was one of nine students that desegregated Central High School in Little Rock Arkansas and is the recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor. Dominique is a National Poetry Slam Champion, two-time winner of the Women of the World Slam Championship, and author of "The Bones, The Breaking, The Balm" published by Penmanship Books, "They Are All Me" published by Swimming With Elephants Publishing and "This is Woman's Work" published by SoundsTrue Publishing. Her work has been featured in the Huffington Post and Upworthy and can also be found in numerous literary journals, magazines and anthologies including: Heart and Soul Magazine, The Golden Shovel Anthology, and Hysteria. Dominique believes entirely in the idea that words make worlds. She writes to honor the people who preceded her.