Speak the Truth about Conflict, Pain, and Suffering: It Is Not All Love and Light by Carol P. Christ

Nurture life.

Walk in love and beauty.

Trust the knowledge that comes through the body.

Speak the truth about conflict, pain, and suffering.

Take only what you need.

Think about the consequences of your actions for seven generations.

Approach the taking of life with great restraint.

Practice great generosity.

Repair the web


In Rebirth of the Goddess, I offered Nine Touchstones of Goddess Spirituality as an alternative to the Ten Commandments. The Nine Touchstones are intended to inform all our relationships, whether personal, communal, social, or political.

Ours is a broken world. We must speak the truth. Spirituality is not only about “love and light.” Goddess Spirituality, which I often call Goddess feminism, grew out of the feminist movement, which was born in the recognition that all is not well in the world. A central insight of Goddess feminism is that women need the Goddess because when we picture God as exclusively male, we create a world in which boys and men believe they are like God, while girls and women believe they are less than men and God.

In this world in which rape is an ordinary part of war, women are paid less than men for the same work, sexual harassment and sexual aggression are tolerated in workplaces, one in three women will suffer physical or sexual violence from an intimate partner and many of them will be murdered by an intimate partner. Feminism was born when women began to speak up about these injustices and many others.

The Goddess may be love. I believe that She is. But love is not blind. This is why I have written that the Goddess is the “intelligent embodied love that is in all being.” Goddess not only loves the world, She also understands it. She is always there in our joy and in our suffering. She is the “still small voice” within us that urges us to speak out about everything we know to be wrong.

Some of us have been taught that it is not “Christian” to rock the boat. Others have learned from New Age teachers that we must always project “love and light.” But as Beverly Harrison wrote, anger can be a work of love. When the world is not a loving place for all of us and for all beings, it is our duty to speak out about the harm that is being done—in our homes, in our communities, in politics, in the world.

In the 1960s I was fortunate to have been part of a widespread movement that said “no” to racism, war, and poverty. In the late 1960s I was part of a movement of women who said “no” to patriarchy. In the late 1970s and 1980s I was there when scores of women spoke for the first time about incest and other forms of sexual violence in my classes and in my office hours. In the 1980s I was part of the anti-nuclear movement. In the 2000s I wrote many letters and then an official complaint to the European Union about illegal degradation of wetland systems in Lesbos. Today I join with many others in protesting rule by the one per cent. I say #metoo. I express my outrage about families separated at the US border. I urge the US Senate not to confirm Supreme Court nominee who believes the US President should be above the law, while supporting laws that would deprive women of the right to make choices about our own bodies.

There are so many things wrong in our countries and in our world that we may have a hard time deciding where to begin.

When we speak the truth about conflict, pain, and suffering in our world, we can become overwhelmed by the magnitude of the problems we face. Will war ever end? Will environmental destruction continue? Can we stop violence against women? Will we ever end racism? Are millions of people doomed to live in urban slums around the world? What can any one of us do?

I am not optimistic about the future of the world. When I faced my own despair, I made a decision. I decided that even if I am pessimistic about the future of the world, it is worthwhile to do what I can to try to save it. Accepting my despair about the big picture means that it no longer has power over me. I am free to act and to do what I can do to save the world I love. Whatever we do will have some effect. We can help some children, some adults, some birds, and maybe even stop one war along the way, even if we cannot save the world as a whole. And the truth is, no one knows the future.

I have also learned that it is important not to let the problems of the world destroy our capacity for joy. We need to take time to enjoy the beauty of the world and to love ourselves and one another in our daily lives. Simone de Beauvior said it well, “if we do not love life on our own account and through others, it is futile to seek to justify it in any way.” There is more to the world than conflict, pain, and suffering. It is our experience of the joy of life that motivates us to speak the truth about conflict, pain, and suffering.

Also see: Ethics of Goddess Religion: Healing the World , Nurture Life: Ethics of Goddess Spirituality,  Walk in Love and Beauty: A Touchstone for Healing, and Trust the Knowledge that Comes through the Body: Heal Yourself, Heal the World


Carol P. Christ is an internationally known feminist writer, activist, and educator currently living in Lasithi Prefecture, Crete. Carol’s recent book written with Judith Plaskow, Goddess and God in the World: Conversations in Embodied Theology, is on Amazon. A Serpentine Path: Mysteries of the Goddess is on sale for $10.98 on Amazon. Carol  has been leading Goddess Pilgrimage to Crete for over twenty years: join her in Crete. Carol’s photo by Michael Bakas.

Categories: Activism, Feminism, Feminism and Religion, Feminist Ethics, Goddess, Goddess feminism

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11 replies

  1. Reblogged this on silverapplequeen and commented:
    One of my favorite writers.


  2. Well spoken truth!


  3. I definitely appreciate your emphasis on not focusing solely on the positive or maintaining the status quo, but instead naming the suffering that happens in the world. I find myself tempted to consider what could replace the misogyny, racism, environmental desecration, and so on–what the alternative world looks like–but I think skipping straight to a utopian fantasy may allow the most privileged among us to carve out these spaces while continuing to expose vast groups of individuals who are being exploited to an oppressive system. You describe being an activist for many decades, so I’m curious about how you see the interplay of fighting against oppression and fighting for a better world (of course, it isn’t an actual dichotomy).


  4. “When the world is not a loving place for all of us and for all beings, it is our duty to speak out about the harm that is being done—in our homes, in our communities, in politics, in the world.”

    So very true! Sometimes very difficult! From my earliest days I was taught that safety is in silence and being invisible – whether it was being spanked for crying, or hiding when father came home from work, or “not getting into trouble” by “minding my own business”. Such things learned early take a long time, a lifetime, to overcome. Fear can keep us from acting.

    I used to believe justified anger was the energy to “right wrongs”. But I found it made me as aggressive and hate-filled as what I opposed. And it gave me a stomach ache.

    A local Buddhist teacher gave me another option in “compassion”. Compassion for the suffering of creation, and compassion for the hallow, empty, superficial people who cause it. Compassion doesn’t mean not acting or recognizing reality, but acting from a soft heart that refuses to be hardened by evil – even as it fights against that evil. But sometimes it’s very difficult to remember!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Carol, I love the way you begin your posts with the nine touchstones…

    Your words comfort me because they speak truth:” Ours is a broken world. We must speak the truth. Spirituality is not only about “love and light.” Goddess Spirituality, which I often call Goddess feminism, grew out of the feminist movement, which was born in the recognition that all is not well in the world.”

    Like you I am not optimistic but I do not let the despair I live with daily stop me from helping one fledgling bird find a perch, save a toad, watch a sunset, give thanks for beauty and people I love… I do not give up…

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Brava! From time to time I edit a book by a mainstream metaphysician (aka New Ager) who seems to really believe the world is all love and light and only the spiritual is what is real. I’ve recommended your books–especially She Who Changes–to my current such author. I also wrote fairly firm comments about her opinion that feminism isn’t real and women aren’t suffering in this world. Alas. I’m trying to explain righteous anger to her, too.

    Al is indeed not well in the world, but, Sara, I agree with you that we live with despair that cannot and should not stop us from helping in little ways.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Barbara – I just had an email from someone about this post…. in spite of the dominant reality “She has hope that all will be well. This is denial of the worst kind and its everywhere – of course this blindness has kept us stuck in the hell we are living through.


  7. Thanks, Carol. I’ve been thinking about “everything not being love and light” as well lately. But in a different, more individual (rather than social) context. My spiritual path is a psycho-spiritual path, which means that I need to look at and deal with those negative aspects of our culture and my personal life that I’ve internalized and find ways to get them out of my way. Otherwise, I can’t access the “love and light” that is there for me and for other women.


  8. Thank you, Carol! I needed to hear this—despite the lack of optimism about the future doing what we can to save the world. This comforts me.


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