A: Last time we spoke, the idea of the “scandal of particularity” sort of popped onto the page. I’ve been thinking about it for the past few days, and I’d like to return to that idea if it’s okay with you.
J: Fine by me.
A: You said — and I quote — “There IS a ‘scandal of particularity,’ but it applies to God the Mother and God the Father, not to me.” Can you elaborate on this?
J: Orthodox Western Christianity — the religious structure built on the teachings of Paul and Paul’s orthodox successors — has worked very hard in the last few centuries to “reposition” me, Jesus son of Joseph, in the marketplace of world opinion. Many critics of Christianity have pointed out how damaging and abusive it is to claim that God “became” one particular man in one particular place at one particular point in time. No end of systemic abuse has been voluntarily created by Church representatives because of this claim. Claims about me have been used to justify maltreatment of women, violence against Jews, and attacks on the “inferiority” of all other religious traditions.
Christians who think that I, Jesus, am happy about their claims should check out the current song by Christina Perri called “Jar of Hearts.”* “Jar of Hearts” is a song about a person who has finally figured out how abusive her former partner is. “Who do you think you are?” she asks with no holds barred, “running’ ’round leaving scars, collecting your jar of hearts, and tearing love apart.” This song reflects quite accurately how I feel about “Mother Church.” I want no part of the traditional teachings about Jesus the Saviour. If they want to keep their Saviour, they’ll have to find a new candidate, because this particular angel has resigned. Quit. Left the building. I’m tired of being their whipping boy.
A: Not quite the answer I was expecting.
J: People think that angels have no feelings. Well, I have plenty of feelings about the way the Church has abused me and those I love. I forgive individual church leaders — those who have perpetrated great harm in the name of God and Jesus — but I feel the pain intensely. Forgiveness isn’t the same thing as sweeping great harms under the carpet. Forgiveness is first and foremost a state of honesty — honesty about the intent and the injury inflicted by the intent. The intent of the Church’s teachings about me (Jesus) and about sin, salvation, sacraments, and separation from God is selfish and narcissistic. These teachings promote physiological addiction disorders. They harm lives. They harm relationships. They harm the understanding of humanity’s role in Creation. I do not respect these teachings, and I do not support the right of the Church to teach abusive spirituality to desperate people. Abuse is abuse. Western society as a whole no longer supports or condones spousal abuse or child abuse or corporate abuse. Yet Western society continues to condone spiritual abuse. This must stop.
A: Many Christians have noticed the problem of abuse in the Church and have decided to walk away from the Church. They don’t see how it can be fixed.
J: People want and need to be in relationship with God. They need faith in their lives. Unfortunately, the Church has taken terrible advantage of this need.
A: I haven’t seen much willingness among Christians I know to ask tough questions about Church doctrine. They’re trying to change the window dressings while the basement foundation is full of rot. No wonder people are leaving the mainstream churches in droves! At least in Canada they are. Can’t comment on the experience in other countries.
J: In Canada there’s such a widespread ethos of inclusiveness, access to public health services and public schooling, government accountability, gender equality, and prevention of child abuse that individual Canadians aren’t seeing their day-to-day ethos reflected in the core teachings of the orthodox Church.
A: Because it’s not there. The words are there, but not the underlying ethos.
J: No. The ethos isn’t there. The Church can talk till it’s blue in the face about the importance of service work and mission, but regular people can still sense there’s “something wrong with the picture.” They can sense there’s rot in the foundations. And they don’t want to be a part of that. Some of them decide to leave the church. Others stay and do their best to try to fix it from within. But there’s mass confusion. And people are starving — literally starving — for a faith experience that makes sense to them at the deepest possible level of the heart.
A: For 2,000 years now we’ve been saddled with a religion that absolutely insists in no uncertain terms how ludicrous it is to even consider the remote possibility that possibly — just possibly — God might not be a “he” but might instead be a “he and a she.” It’s okay, of course, for us to bust our brains on the question of the Trinity and all the other “mysteries” that go with traditional Christianity. But it’s not okay for us to suppose that God is two people united forever in divine marriage with each other.**
J: Such a portrayal of God brings with it all sorts of implications the Church doesn’t want to deal with. For one thing, they’d have to explain why and how they “kidnapped” our Divine Mother, why they eradicated her from the message. They’d have to explain — at least in the Roman Catholic Church — why they allowed a cult to flourish around the fictional character of Mary, Mother of God.
A: You did have a mother. And her name was Miriam.
J: Yes. But she was no more the Mother of God than I was God incarnate. She was a normal human mother. That’s it.
A: Two flesh and blood people — you and your human mother — who’ve been turned into myths, lies, and symbols.
J: Meanwhile, there’s a very real and very particular Mother in Creation. God the Mother. This is the scandal of particularity I was referring to — the scandal of God the Mother and God the Father being two particular, definable, real, knowable people. Real people who have existed and continue to exist in real time and real space and real history. Real people who refuse to be moulded by the grandiose lies made by assorted religious mystics over the centuries. Real people who belong to each other — not to their children — in marital love. Real people who are our PARENTS. Real people who get hurt when their dysfunctional human children try to cross the boundaries of safety and trust between parents and children by engaging in occult practices — especially occult sexual practices.
A: Mystics have often described their “union with God” as a mystical marriage, with God as the bridegroom and the mystic or the church as the bride.
J: Yeah. And for the record, that’s another doctrine that’s gotta go. It’s highly dyfunctional and abusive for children to want to have sex with their own parents. This should go without saying. But for too long the Church has condoned mystical practices that lead in this direction.
A: Who can forget Bernini’s sculpture of St. Teresa of Avila with her mouth agape and her toes curled in orgasmic ecstasy?
J: Here’s a thought. Maybe we should butt out of the personal relationship between God the Mother and God the Father — their private life — and get on with the important job of being their children. For starters, human beings of faith could be nice to our Mother for a change. You know, talk to her. Include her. Invite her to the table of faith. Look to her for guidance and inspiration. Say thank you to her. Look her in the eye and say, “Thank you for loving me.”
A: It’s amazing how effective the Church’s strategy has been. They’ve managed to put blinders on people’s eyes so they literally can’t see God the Mother. She’s the Invisible Woman in Western theology. She’s standing right in front of us, waving her arms and jumping up and down, and people of faith still don’t see her.
J: If that isn’t gender abuse, I don’t know what is.
* “Jar of Hearts” was written by Drew C. Lawrence, Christina J. Perri, and Barrett N. Yeretsian.