Grief, Disappointment, and the Big Comforting White Guy Who Can Make It All Right by Carol P. Christ

As the results from America’s Super Tuesday election primaries came in, I found myself feeling disoriented. I could not focus on any task and found myself obsessively reading the news and checking my Facebook timeline. Many of my friends who had supported Elizabeth Warren were embracing Biden as the next best hope to defeat Donald Trump. Sometime on Thursday, I came across Starhawk’s Facebook post on the grief and disappointment so many of us were feeling following the latest primary results.

In the post, Starhawk spoke of her disappointment that Bernie and Elizabeth did not do better and that Biden did so well. She spoke first of her grief that Elizabeth’s campaign never took hold. No doubt she, like me and many of you, had heard feminist friends express the fear that a woman could not win, saying that as much as they wanted to vote for her, they probably would not. Starhawk said that we simply do not have enough archetypes of female power to enable people to imagine a woman as President.

She also noted that people who oppose Trump are frightened and confused. We do not understand how he got to be President in the first place and we do not understand why so many people continue to support him.

Starhawk suggests that in the face of fear and confusion, people may be turning to Joe Biden because he fits a familiar archetype that she calls: “Dad. The big comforting guy who can make it all right.” Unlike Warren and Sanders, Biden asks little of us, we don’t have to change, we don’t have to try anything new, we don’t have to give up structural privilege, we don’t have to pay higher taxes, we don’t have to end endless wars, we don’t need a Green New Deal, and those who have them can keep their health care plans: we can simply go back to the good old days when Trump was not a part of our reality.

Starhawk does not mention this, but I think it is important to add that the “big comforting guy who can make it all right” is not just a Father, He is the Father God, who in the unconscious images most of us still hold in our minds, is old, white, and male. Unfortunately, the image of God as old, white, and male is just as likely to be found in the minds of black churchgoers as their white counterparts. It is probably no coincidence that Biden’s first big wins came in the South from ballots cast by voters who consider their Christian faith important. For them, the image of the Great White Father God is a potent force. Let’s see what happens elsewhere in the country.

Starhawk urges those who mourn the loss of Elizabeth and the losses of Bernie to give ourselves time to acknowledge our grief and disappointment that we are not living in a world where qualified women are easily embraced as leaders. When the grieving is done, she says we must ask ourselves again: What can I do to build support for a vision of real change?

In her interview with Elizabeth Warren, Rachel Maddow said that women she knows personally and professionally are feeling “bereft” and “like they just cannot get off the couch.” In response, Warren agrees that “more work” is the only answer, continuing, “We cannot lose hope over this. . . because the only way we can make change is we get back up tomorrow and we get back in the fight.”

I hope that in the months before the primaries are over, we who are readers of Feminism and Religion will continue to ask ourselves “what can I do to support a vision of real, systematic change.” Let us not be seduced by the archetype of the Old White Guy Who Can Make Everything Better. Let us do what we can to support the candidate who has a vision of real, systematic change.

We do need a Green New Deal, we do need to get big money out of politics, we do need a living wage for all Americans, we do need to tax the rich, we do need universal child care, we do need tuition free college and job training, we do need to end endless war, we do need to work harder to end structural injustice including racism and sexism and homophobia, and we do need to provide health care for all, including coverage of birth control and abortion. The party has been moved to the left, and we can insist that all of these issues must be part of the Democratic Party Platform. We need to keep the House, we must take back the Senate, and we must get the Republicans out of state legislatures where they are gerrymandering, purging voting rolls, and making it hard to vote if you are a person of color. We can ask Biden and Sanders to commit to a woman VP! Let us not settle for anything less.

And never forget that the work we are doing to unseat the Father God from His Throne is critically important work. As long as His image lingers in our minds, we can be lulled into the fantasy that “He” can fix it all for us. But in truth, He cannot. Only if we all work together can we change the world.


Carol P. Christ is an internationally known feminist and ecofeminist writer, activist, and educator who will soon be moving to Heraklion, 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 $9.99 on Amazon. Carol has been leading Goddess Pilgrimage to Crete for over twenty years: join her in Crete. Carol’s photo by Michael Honneger.

Listen to Carol’s a-mazing interview with Mary Hynes on CBC’s Tapestry recorded in conjunction with her keynote address to the Parliament of World’s Religions.

Author: Carol P. Christ

Carol P. Christ is a leading feminist historian of religion and theologian who leads the Goddess Pilgrimage to Crete, a life transforming tour for women.

14 thoughts on “Grief, Disappointment, and the Big Comforting White Guy Who Can Make It All Right by Carol P. Christ”

  1. Brava to you and Starhawk. Actually, I think it’s not just the people who oppose Trump that are worried and confused. I think the people who support are perhaps more worried and confused. Lots and lots of people want to go back to the good old days when, yes, Dad could make everything better. It’s time to at least support a female vice president. That can seed a female president. Let us hope!

    Liked by 4 people

  2. Thanks for this post, Carol, and the links. I was so upset when both Bernie and Joe announced their candidacies, because there were so many qualified women and people of various colors. I did not want to end up choosing between old white guys. We need a green new deal and then some, we need universal healthcare, we need redistribution of wealth, a just and compassionate asylum and immigration policy, and that’s just a partial list. I know which candidate represents those views. I am still disappointed. I am older myself and surrounded by older people. I’m very familiar (literally) with the effects of aging on thinking, (at least in some cases), cognitive impairment, short-term memory loss, inflexibility. Goddess help us and let whichever man is our candidate choose a vital, brilliant woman as his running mate.

    Yes, point well-taken about the archetype of the Big White Comforting White Guy Who Can Make it Right–though IRL I have never experienced such comfort from man or god.

    All that said, I shall keep calm, carry on–and vote!

    Liked by 5 people

  3. Male chauvinism, the intense loyalty to men and to the system of hierarchy, domination and exploitation they have created, is rarely mentioned or acknowledge in today’s world. “Electability ” is one more code word for enforcing the “good ole boy” network of anti-woman and anti-feminist dogma comprising the tsunami of a backlash we now face!
    I appreciate your counsel. Your list of all we need to focus on is helpful and heartening. We truly need to ensure that women can meet and organize as women.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. How eloquently you speak to our grief and oh Carol you do nail it – Biden – the perfect image of the old father god – with him, as you say, nothing will change – well that’s not true – the Earth will deepen her suffering alone because our separatism keeps us alienated from ourselves – we who are part of this same planet – we who will continue to suffer more from injustices/horrors of all kinds as global warming continues…

    One point – I have grave doubts about a woman becoming president because of the endemic woman hate that abounds in our culture – this is concrete reality that flies in the face of the lack of archetypal power figures – we desperately need to acknowledge the depth of woman hate and do what we can to empower more women to help create those archetypal patterns (both and reality) – this is a huge job – but my point is that I would still cast my vote for a woman I thought was qualified like E. Warren certainly is. Risky, I know and maybe foolhardy too.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Great post, Carol. And thanks for directing us to Starhawk’s original words about this issue. People have very little idea about the kinds of subconscious images that are motivating their actions, like the Big Daddy in the Sky. Even many of those who think they have moved on from their childhood beliefs still unconsciously cling to them in times of stress and turmoil. I think Jesus’ parable about sweeping the “demon” or “unclean spirit” out of your heart only to be invaded by seven more is compelling in this context. Only if you replace that demon or image with another will your heart be healed. We Goddess women have been doing that for years, and as a result, are less vulnerable to those old beliefs. We’ve been doing the inner work as well as the work of changing the world to a better, more humane place.

    The other part of the problem you’re talking about is that repressed grief can often turn into irrational anger. We need to protect ourselves from this as well. If your candidate is not chosen to run against Trump (whichever that candidate may be), make sure you go vote anyway. We need to rid ourselves of this totally unfit president no matter what.

    Liked by 3 people

      1. I think we can bring other images into our unconscious in a bigger way, so that the big daddy no longer predominates. I’ve been a Goddess woman since 1976, and for me the Goddess is so much a part of my being that when big daddy appears, I have an alternative to depend on, one that doesn’t infantilize me, and keep me from doing what I know I need to do. The Goddess empowers me.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I do agree Nancy that the Goddess movement has a big role to play in lessening the power of the big old white man in the sky. However I am particularly disheartened to see some of my Goddess friends rushing to promote Biden on Facebook. Siggghhhhh… The Goddess empowers me too and I am also very clear that old Joe does not have the same political values I do. Sigggghhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh Of course I will vote for him if he wins but the race is not over yet.


        2. I have the same background – I SEE big daddy…. the problem is that we have an edge that others need to become aware of… and identifying him like Carol does is exactly what we need…


  6. Its like we also have “Cinderella brain.” I don’t mean as us individuals but “we” as a culture – both men and women. The prevailing thoughts/fear is that we have to make the shoe fit no matter how much we need to contort ourselves. And to continue the thought, when that happens we think we’ll all be saved – or at least we’ll be saved, nevermind the rest.

    Thanks for the post. I like that you and Starhawk speak about the patterns and the grief. None of us are alone in that!

    Liked by 1 person

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