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Wow... considering that I have a 10 month old baby sleeping at the moment it's probably too late for me to be writing about something this, well, deep. (I know, I know, 10:30 is LATE for us hardworking, baby raising parents) I'm gonna do it anyway.
Do you remember The Passion of the Christ? I can't figure out how this got by me but it smacked me in the face the other day when I was having a simple conversation. In the film Satan is portrayed as a woman. Granted she is an androgynous woman with a masculine voice but none the less, there it is. Satan as female. How about The Shack? Did you read that? In case you didn't, I'll get you up to speed. Suffice it to say that God is portrayed as a large black woman who loves music and spends large amounts of time in the kitchen cooking. The Holy Spirit is also portrayed as a female, more specifically of the slender, Asian, watercolor variety. Pastors and theologians were in an uproar over this thing and denounced the book cover to cover based on the concept of God as a woman.
Where were these passionate naysayers when the ultimate symbol of evil was cast in the same form? There are plenty of blogs and articles discussing it, but I can't find anyone who brought to light the imbalance. How can it be acceptable to portray ultimate evil as feminine and not ultimate good? I believe that the Creator is beyond gender but that we do ourselves a disservice when we limit our understanding of that creator to masculine labels and concepts.
Sue Monk Kidd, author (and one of my greatest personal sources of inspiration) of several books including The Secret Life of Bees wrote at length in The Dance of the Dissident Daughter about our cultural/spiritual tendency to associate woman with the earth and flesh. In her own words: "Women with their incessant menstruation, conception, pregnancy, childbirth, and lactation have been too visceral for patriarchal religion. As celibacy became the spiritual ideal in Christianity, men were cast as spiritual and women as sexual. Women were seen as the temptress, the femme fatale, who lured "good" men into the evils of the flesh."
As theologian Rosemary Radford Ruether stated, "Christianity became a body-fleeing, world negating spirituality that projected upon the female all its abhorrence, hostility, and fear of the bodily powers." Case in point: you get looks and glances (and sometimes outright confrontation) when you breastfeed in public here. Breastfeed publicly in a less "spiritualized" third world country and you might be in the minority if you cover your breasts at all when you are done! People groups around the world are much more comfortable with their flesh than we Westerners are. Part of our challenge is not losing that deep connection even as we spend so much energy on the development of spiritual and mental processes.
In closing, I think it's fascinating that Mel Gibson chose to depict Satan this way. It's certainly chilling in a way that no other portrayal manages to match. I'd love to see our culture embrace the same open mind when it comes to understanding the nature of God though. Off to bed with me now, I've got a baby to chase in the morning!