“All Children Are Our Children” by Carol P. Christ


Carol P. Christ by Michael Bakas high resoultion“All children are our children.” As I was posting my recent blog about the shooting of black men by the police, these words came into my mind with the force of revelation. At the time I was looking at a photograph of Philando Castile, taken at his place of work. Yes, I thought, my heart opening: “he is my child too.” This widening of the heart is at the center of the maternal values of ancient and contemporary matriarchal cultures around the world. It is a feeling some of us who were mothered well enough or who mothered children—including children not our own—carry within us. Is this the healing balm our world needs today?

Maternal  values?  So many of us turn up our noses at such a “gendered” term. Perhaps we were not mothered enough in our families of origin. Perhaps we still feel un-mothered. Perhaps we don’t want to be told that we have to become mothers. Perhaps we fear that if we become mothers, we will be only mothers—all of our other ambitions and desires will have to take second place.

The last is the reason I did not have children during the years when I put my career first. Though I did not ever have children of my own, there were many years when I put “motherhood” first in my life. I was second mother to my baby brother from the age of 10 ½ to 17 ½. During those years I also mothered all of the children in our neighborhood and prided myself on being their favorite babysitter. Yes, I was left alone with children from the age of 10 ½. However, my mother and other neighbors were never far away in case I needed help. Our lower middle class, wrong side of the tracks, 1950s post-war tract home neighborhood had many (though not all) of the aspects of the matriarchal community some (like our own Kate Bruner) are now seeking to recreate.

Maternal values? But weren’t the tract home suburbs exactly what I and so many of the women of my generation wanted to leave behind? Yes. To this day the very thought of a small three bedroom ranch style home in southern California makes my skin crawl. Why is that?

One of the main reasons is that my lower middle class non-intellectual  family and world were disparaged when I went to university, as were the maternal values that had nurtured me as a child. In university I learned that ideas are more important than embodied life and that for women, families are an impediment to success in the world. Not wanting to be disparaged for my class background or as a woman, I followed my professors’ lead: I set my sights on achievement in their world.

Needless to say, my mother experienced my choice as a rejection of her life. In many ways it was. However, I never fully turned my back on the world of my mother and my grandmothers. Deep down, I knew that it was their love and nurture that had enabled me to survive and thrive as a young girl who was quiet and sensitive, who climbed trees and read books. This inner knowing and remembering was one of the reasons I never became a full-fledged honorary member of the patriarchal club.

Maternal values: love and nurture, care and concern. These are the values I struggled to articulate as an alternative to the “independent unrelated free self” touted in Western philosophy. These are the values that inspired me to march on Washington for civil rights, to end poverty, and to stop the Vietnam War. These are the values that made the Mother Goddess whose womb is wide enough to encompass the world so appealing to me.

But, you may be asking, isn’t motherhood a trap? Under the conditions of patriarchy it has been. I certainly did not and would not choose to live in a home where the needs and desires of women and children always (to greater or lesser degree) are subject to the needs, desires, and whims of a father and husband who is assumed to know best. Nor do I accept the idea that maternal values belong in the home but not in the so-called “real” world.

But what if maternal values really did come first? Not just in the home—but everywhere? What if we were all taught—whether we were born male or female or intersex—that to love and nurture and be generous to others is the highest value? What if aggression was never honored or validated? Not in stories of war and warriors, not in toys or games, not in the schoolyard, not anywhere? What if care and compassion were the qualities we sought in all of our leaders? What if we all were taught to open our hearts to the world? Would domination, violence, and war be possible?

“All children are our children.” Affirming this, we can change the world.

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. 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 Michael Bakas.

A Serpentine Path Cover with snakeskin backgroundA Serpentine Path: Mysteries of the GoddessGoddess and God in the World final cover design will be published by Far Press in 2016. A journey from despair to the joy of life.

Goddess and God in the World: Conversations in Embodied Theology with Judith Plaskow will be published by Fortress Press August 1. Order now to receive it as soon as books become available.

 

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Categories: Abuse of Power, Academy, Activism, Feminism, General, Matriarchy

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12 replies

  1. oh Carol this reminds me of so much that I have written about and experienced over the last three and a half decades: and commented in a recent blog “… More true Maternal mind is required in our times, by all of us – all genders, in whatever role one plays each day.” … a mOtherworld is possible

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  2. So true…….and so difficult still to break through the trivialization of maternal being and doing in patriachal culture.

    I recently read a charming little sci-fi book by Elizabeth Moon called “Remnant Population” in which an indigenous alien population encounters the last member of a human colony that has left their planet, an old woman who decided to stay behind. In their world the most respected members and leaders are “nest guardians”, the grandmothers who care for and teach the young and assist new mothers. They accept her as an important leader. But when a new group of humans come to investigate the newly discovered aliens, they are completely unable to see the heroine as anything except an invisible, worthless old woman, nor are they able to grasp who the “leaders” of the alien culture are.

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  3. Although never able to reject the values of compassion and nurturing I did turn away from the mother world after my children were grown to pursue a career. I too took care of my little brother throughout my childhood feeding him his bottle when I was only three.. In fact my family nickname was “the little mother.” I think now that I probably came that way… When I married so young and had children I believed that “mothering” was the only job open to me because it was the one thing I thought I knew how to do. Hah. The unmohered make poor mothers at best, and I was one.

    I think maternal values did come first. What I still don’t know is how to honor them except by advocating for all the earth and her creatures. And one rarely is taken seriously if s/he chooses this path. I choose it because I must. It is who I am.

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  4. Thank you Carol for this important reminder of the values that can remake our world. We must bring love and relation to the fore, including everyone in our embrace.

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  5. Reblogged this on writingontherim and commented:
    This is a rather long read the gist of which is this: what if “we were taught to love and nurture and be generous to others” and these were the primary values in the world rather than the current values. “What if we were taught to open our hearts to the world? Would domination, violence, and war be possible?”

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  6. I was a post-war teenager, too, and lived in a two-bedroom house (until my father and uncles converted the attic into two more bedrooms) in a suburb of St. Louis. I don’t know if my mother chose to stay home or if Midwestern culture made her stay home. I didn’t understand until after she died at age 50 how unhappy she was and how poor her mothering had been. I find this so sad. She just never learned to love and nurture, nor to be generous to her own children. Alas, she never learned about compassion.

    Your final paragraph about maternal values should be posted (in big letters) in every classroom in every grade in every school in at least the U.S. Brava!

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  7. Thank you, Carol. Your ideas and those of so many others who understand are so important. I’d like to encourage everyone to investigate the work of Riane Eisler, who is doing practical work to change the world into more of a “partnership” revering one.

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  8. HI CAROL, a comment on this challenge: “What if care and compassion were the qualities we sought in all of our leaders? What if we all were taught to open our hearts to the world?”

    I’ve mentioned this before, but just to touch base again with the women’s miracle going on in Great Britain. Their new Prime Minister is one of the most delightfully gentle, compassionate women I’ve ever seen in politics, named Theresa May, and she is changing their world in Britain one step at a time (and maybe changing my world too). She seems very aware of having to mitigate the power-over mindset and develop an entirely new, even deeply feminist era. In one of the pictures of her, she’s wearing a pullover with these words printed on it — it says THIS IS WHAT A FEMINIST LOOKS LIKE. Remember she’s the Prime Minister of Great Britain wearing this message out there in public view.

    I linked my name here to an amazingly wonderful, profoundly hopeful online video and with lots of humor, and which introduces Theresa May to the world. HOORAY!! — please do take a look, you won’t regret it. And you get to hear her deliver a great speech too. The music on the video is also gorgeous.

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  9. Wonderful insight, so needed in our time. We who value motherhood in society, government, and human-nature relations – beyond the nuclear family – embody and enact this in the world today.

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  10. Forty-eight years ago when my first child was born, after the birth, the moment they placed him in my arms, I experienced an epiphany, a revelation by Spirit, a vision – we were floating in space , the two of us, surrounded by stars and I knew as thoroughly as it is possible for a human being to know that this could be any baby – was every baby – not mine at all or at least only in the sense I was being entrusted with his care. It utterly transformed me- made me a mother in the sense Carol speaks off and created an abiding compassion for Earth and her most problematic enigmatic creation- humankind, including happily me. I cannot begin to tell you, all these decades later after having been witness to the immense amount of suffering we humans inflict on each other, what a profound gift this has been, how greatly it has contributed to my sense of well-being and belonging to and of this planet.

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  11. What a wonderful post!

    I used to think that mothering was “less than” achieving in the world, but gradually understood how truly important it is.

    I have one child, and no grandchildren or probably chance of them. However, I have a number of younger friends just having kids, and I have young nieces and nephews, and honestly, I find myself loving all the children, it seems to have no relevance whether they are blood kin or not. They are children, people (even at 4 months or whatever) and they all have my heart.

    I love your call to a different set of values!

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