A Servant of God or a Lover of Life? by Carol P. Christ


Carol Molivos by Andrea Sarris 2Thus through an enormous network of mythological narrative, every aspect of culture is cloaked in the relationship of ruler and ruled, creator and created. . . . [Sumerian] legend endows the Sumerian ruler-gods with creative power; their subjects are recreated as servants. . . . [This new narrative was] deployed with the purpose of conditioning the mind anew.(20, italics added)

This provocative statement is found in a chapter titled “The First Major Sexual Rupture” in a collation of the writings titled Liberating Life: The Women’s Revolution by imprisoned Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan (pronounced Oh-cha-lan). According to Ocalan, who clearly had been reading authors like James Mellaart, Marija Gimbutas, and Heidi Goettner-Abendroth, the values of the societies that preceded Sumer in the Near East were entirely different.

Within the Zagros-Taurus system, Mesolithic and subsequently Neolithic society started to develop at the end of the fourth glacial period, around twenty thousand years ago. . . .

Many methods, tools, and equipment we still use today are based on inventions and discoveries most likely made by the women of this era, such as various useful applications of different plants, domestication of animals and cultivation of plants, construction of dwellings,  principles of child nutrition, the hoe and hand grinder, perhaps even the ox cart.

To me, the cult of the mother-goddess in this age symbolized reverence for woman’s role in these great advances. I don’t see it as a deification of an abstract fertility. . . . The true reason for the longevity of the mother-concept is the fact that the mother concretely forms the basis of the of the social being, the human; it is not due to an abstract ability to give birth. (13-14)

According to Ocalan, earlier societies practiced “primitive socialism, characterized by equality and freedom, [which was] viable because the social order of the matriarchy did not allow ownership.” (14) Moreover, in such societies, [n]ature was regarded as alive and animated, no different from themselves.” (15)

Ocalan turns on its head the well-worn criticism that visions of societies so very different from those we know today are nothing more than fantasies of a golden age:

[I]t is our endless yearning to regain and immortalize this social order of equality and freedom that led to our construction of paradise. (14)

sumerian kingThere are many insights in this small pamphlet that deserve discussion. Here I wish to focus on the idea that one of the main purposes of patriarchal mythologies is to restrict creative power to the Gods and their earthly representatives, while reconstructing other men, women, and nature as servants.

It is well-known that the writers of patriarchal myths, laws, and theologies have extended the notion of servitude to a hierarchical chain of being in which poor, enslaved, and colonized peoples are understood to have been created to serve the rich, women to serve men, the body to serve the mind, and nature to serve human beings.

In light of this, I am going to make the radical proposal that all notions that human beings were created to “serve” (God or anyone else) should be excised from our religious and political vocabularies.

What if no one was created to serve?

What if service from a servant or slave is not what the Deity asks of any of us?

It has been suggested that Biblical monotheism redefines the notion of service when (or insofar as) it insists that only God—not Kings or Mammon—is worthy of being served. Yet this leaves intact the notions that creativity is restricted to God and that the proper human role is to “serve” God. As we know all too well, the notion that only God is to be served easily reverts to the notion that God’s earthly representatives (kings, priests,ministers, rabbis, imams, gurus, holy men, generals, fathers, husbands, the wealthy, landowners, slave owners, and so forth) are to be served in God’s name. Certain Christian texts go a step farther, suggesting that the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve. Yet this also did not prevent Christianity from institutionalizing hierarchical notions of service.

What if the Deity does not want service? Not even to It-self?

What if creativity is found throughout the web of life?

What if Divinity inspires us to exercise our own creativity for the good of all?

To understand this insight and to incorporate it into our religious and political vocabularies would require a radical revolution in the way our thoughts and actions continue to be structured by the Sumerian legend.

No more service to God and country.

No more servants of God.

No more servants of all.

Isn’t it enough to love Goddess with all our hearts and all our neighbors–human and other than human–as ourselves?

Carol P. Christ is author or editor of eight books in Women and Religion and is one of the Foremothers of the Women’s Spirituality Movement. She leads the Goddess Pilgrimage to Crete in Spring and Fall: Sign up now for the fall tour and save $150. Follow Carol on Twitter @CarolP.Christ, Facebook Goddess Pilgrimage, and Facebook Carol P. Christ.  Carol speaks in depth about the Goddess Pilgrimage to Crete in an illustrated interview with Kaalii Cargill. Photo of Carol by Andrea Sarris.

 

 

 

 

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Categories: Abuse of Power, Earth-based spirituality, Ecofeminism, Feminism, Feminism and Religion, Feminist Theology, General, Slavery

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26 replies

  1. Brilliant! I love this piece.

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  2. Your title is packed with meaning and prompts lots of other questions as you list them also and a few more — thanks Carol. But I don’t see the question as having only one side as an answer in terms of becoming Servants of God vs. a Lover of Life.

    And what if our lover — that wonderful person we are in love with — is our life, so to speak, simply because we live for that love. Love of that depth can also give us an appreciation of Life. And I’m not talking about sex necessarily, but If true love is understood in that deeper sense, there’s nothing more fulfilling, and nothing in religious practice that comes near it. There can be awe in prayer and a depth in meditation which can create wonderful centering, bringing ourselves into full presence and a profound realization of the gift of existence. But in my experience, life comes alive, truly alive and most delightful, when we love some very special being and who then also loves us equally in return.

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    • Hi Sarah —

      Again we’re on the same wavelength. Sometime when I’m visiting my daughter in NYC, it would fun to meet you for lunch.

      I’ve been thinking a lot about love as well, because for me the energy I experience as Goddess is the energy of love. Recently we had an installation of new minister in our UU church, and the sermon was a wonderful activist call to change the world for the better. But I was stopped cold by the minister’s hierarchal ranking of different types of love with — because of our Christocentric background — agape on the top. I can’t think this way anymore. Love is love, it doesn’t matter if there’s an erotic component or a personal component (like love of a child or friend or relative or a species of animals). Love opens our hearts and our lives to LIFE, and that’s all that matters. As Carol says in this wonderful piece: “Isn’t it enough to love Goddess with all our hearts and all our neighbors–human and other than human–as ourselves?”

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      • Wow, Nancy, I’d love to share a great lunch with you and your daughter in New York City some day — that would be wonderful. And I agree with you on Carol’s “Isn’t it enough to love Goddess with all our hearts” and our neighbors (human and otherwise) as ourselves. It’s so easy sometimes, really, to simply be kind.

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  3. In my life experience “serving” Nature (my idea of god) is not what is required of me, although I choose to be an advocate for the earth and her creatures, plants, and elements. What seems to be hoped for is participation through relationship. I think Nature wants us to LOVE her, and if we do she responds by loving us back in ways that we can feel. (if we are separate from Nature she is there waiting)…

    Here’s a personal example: For a number of years fireflies have been absent from these mountains. This summer the blinking green lights are back again. And I have been going outside to walk among them… last night I said “oh I am so glad you are back – I love you all!” and when I spoke some of them clustered around me in what appeared to be a response to my words. And when I came back into the porch awhile later a few followed me in. I had to catch the ones I did and set them free. For those brief moments I was fully present to the fireflies and sensed that we were somehow one.
    Nature does not want me to be a slave to her; she wants me to appreciate her with all my heart, and this I do willingly, with joy in my heart.

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    • Thank you for this post, Carol! Human beings forget that with our images and metaphors, we create our concept of deity, the cosmos, our part in all that is.

      Thank you, Sara, for sharing your experience with the fireflies. Illumines many exchanges I have had in/with the neighborhood of my back yard.

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      • I write a monthly column called Backyard Reflections for the local paper about my experiences with wildlife hoping that others will start looking at what’s around them…

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    • You are extremely lucky to have a community of fireflies. Where I live, we have hardly any fireflies this year. I suspect their absence is a side-effect of the insecticidal spraying they have been doing to target a different kind of beetle that kills the trees. Unfortunately, these sprays result in heavy collateral damage.

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      • We have not had fireflies for five years so this mysterious re-appearance is a blessing. And because most households routinely use deadly sprays to keep lawns green etc it is especially moving –

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    • That’s exactly what I mean about being a lover of life. Last night when I removed a spider from the bathtub and put it outside, I said, “Mom loves you.”

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  4. You are proposing a fascinating radicalism! I will have to think about it- but what interesting thoughts to ponder! Thank you for sharing your out-of-the-box thoughts.

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  5. Divinity creating us to be creative. No more servants of gods. Love it! Is his authorship of this work the reason Ocalan is in prison? In Turkey?

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    • It would be a good enough reason for patriarchal authorities to imprison him wouldn’t it. I think his idea that the women’s revolution must be an integral part of every revolution predated his imprisonment, and this of course means he was listening to women.

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      • Love and co-creativity, YES! That’s why we’re here. For me, the two are intimately connected. When I’m feeling creative, I’m happy and loving. Co-creating with the universe is its own joyful feedback loop. If I think about it, it’s the relationality in that CO-creativity that creates the joy, i.e. the love of the universe, i.e. the love of the Goddess. that results in joy. It makes us want to do even more co-creating.

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  6. Amen!!

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  7. Carol, What a wonderful post. Most people don’t connect the lack of hierarchy with love, but of course, if there’s no hierarchy, then there’s just relationality that’s left. And what is relationality at its base, if not love. Thanks.

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  8. Brillian! Amen! In complete agreement! These thought you have expressed so well here seem absolutely real and logical to me. The radicalism is in the long ago and continued departure from this truth. Thanks as always for sharing your gift of wordsmithing with us all.

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  9. Carol, this is such a glorious post–radical in its simplicity! Have been pondering it all day. Thank you.

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  10. I hope everyone noticed that if Ocalan is right, the Sumerian myths of the Goddess cannot be accepted at face value, but need to be analyzed and deconstructed to see how/if they too have been shaped by the notion that all creativity is divine and the human role is to serve. Ocalan also states that first the Goddesses were demoted and denigrated, then erased.

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    • Actually, there are a number of feminist scholars who have deconstructed the Sumerian myths and believe — I think correctly — that the indigenous Sumerians mythologized Inanna, for instance, as the goddess of love and death. Under the Akkadians, She became Ishtar, the goddess of love and WAR. The confusing part is that the Akkadians used the Sumerian language for many years for their religious language, so you have to distinguish between Sumerian writing during Sumerian times and Akkadian times. The earliest myths of Inanna, under the Sumerians, still resonate with these indigenous understandings.

      How this connects to your blog, Carol, is that warfare is a hierarchical activity, so this shift indicates the same hierarchization that Ocalan and you are talking about.

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      • I was pretty shocked when I assigned Inanna by Wolkstein and Kramer a few years ago. My class kept saying “what is feminist about this?”

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      • I can just imagine that, Carol. I can’t put my hands on when this combined myth was written down (Wolkstein and Kramer don’t say), but clearly it’s after hierarchical rule has begun. Inanna is a ruler, a queen. She punishes Dumuzi when she returns from the underworld, because she has the power to do so as ruler. Like you, I reject power-over in myth. What might be feminist here is that this is the first myth of descent to the underworld — like Demeter/Persephone, Adonis, Attis, and eventually Jesus — and the protagonist is a goddess.

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      • i think the two them combined myths from different time periods with no conception of increasing patriarchalization.

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    • Carol I don’t think any of the myths can be accepted at face value because patriarchy twists story into something it is not. As a woman with Passamaquoddy roots I know how christianity has tainted the myths of so many tribes. We have to be vigilant!!

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