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Divinely Ordained? Religious Creation Myths and the Relation of Militarism to Sexism by Joan Chittister, O.S.B. From 'Winds of Change: Women Challenge Church'

Divinely Ordained? Religious Creation Myths and the Relation of Militarism to Sexism

Joan Chittister, O.S.B.

From Winds of Change: Women Challenge Church, Sheed & Ward 1986, pp.89-107; reprinted on www.womenpriests.org with the necessary permissions.

The Preamble to the Constitution of UNESCO states quite clearly: War begins in the minds of human beings. Since this is so, the minds of human beings must also be capable of ending war. It is time for the Peace Movement to concentrate on the causes as well as the effects of violence. It is time to trace them to their source, to run them down, to flush them out, to expose the roots of a vast network of oppression and disdain for the lives of others. It is time to change people’s minds about the morality of war.

Unfortunately, the root of the problem may lie in religion’s theology of woman.

The condition of women in society is an uninterrupted history of diminished development. What’s worse, this oppression of women has been not only historical but universal. In every culture, in every time, violence against women has been constant and normative and sophisticated. And it has taken every form - physical, social, and psychological.

Women were the first slaves. An early hieroglyph for “slave,” for instance, was the symbol “woman held in hand.” Women slaves, of course, were easier to capture and keep than men would be, more useful in the domestic arena, an instrument for the perpetuation of the male line, and a symbol of success, a kind of primitive example of conspicuous consumption.

Not only were women the first slaves, however. They have also been the majority of slaves throughout history. The only exception to this social truth, in fact, lies in the slave system of North America and the Caribbean, where slavery became essential to the industrial organization of the time. Nieboer, in fact, in his now classic and definitive work, Slavery as an Industrial System, completely excluded women from the study on the grounds that “slavery proper does not exist where there are none but female slaves.” The subjection of women, in other words, was a condition that was essential - of the essence of women - widespread, natural, and to be taken for granted. Women as a class have, as well, been historically deprived of the education that would enable them to sustain themselves, to lead others, and to decide their own fates. The university system of the thirteenth century, designed to prepare the leaders of the Western World in the classical reservoir of learning of the time, was simply closed to women, despite the fact that some of the best monastery schools of Europe had until that time been run by nuns. With the exclusion of women from the universities, however, women soon lost contact with the educational stream of the times, and so their schools lost credibility and effectiveness. By the seventeenth century the popular dictum prescribed that “women need enough geography to find their way around the house and enough chemistry to keep the pot boiling.” Woman had become a completely domesticated animal with her highest function the service of others.

In nineteenth century United States, young women were allowed to go to school in the summers only, when boys would be in the fields for the harvest and so not in need of the seats and the attention. Even then, the curriculum for girls contained only writing, drawing, embroidery, music, dancing, and religious readings, subjects designed to make them good mothers and wives, not necessarily full human beings. Not until 1850 in the United States did the first independent secular college allow women to matriculate for a college degree, and then only on condition that they wash the clothes, clean the rooms, and serve the meals of the male students. Until after the Second World War, law and medical schools either refused admission to women entirely or set quotas of no more than 5 percent. Today, still, two thirds of the illiterate of the world are women.

Pornography, prostitution, rape, and wife-beating remain male pastimes in a male society. It is not true that prostitution is the oldest profession. The fact is that it is the only profession allowed to many women in many societies because it serves the male population without threatening it. Pornography is a four billion dollar industry in the United States alone. Rape victims are battered by the courts as well as by the attacker, and wifebeating is winked at by the system. Women, in other words, uneducated and underdeveloped, have become the playthings and the property of the world.

The justification, of course, was the “unity of the spouses.” Since there was only one person in marriage, the woman’s legal existence was suspended. Bacon argued, for instance, that men are given “power and dominion over women to keep her by force, if necessary, within the bound of duty.”

In the United States, the laws governing women became the model for the creation of laws to govern slaves.

Today, according to Straus and Gelles in the work Behind Closed Doors, two million women are beaten in the United States yearly. In two thirds of all marriages, the woman is beaten at least once. Twenty-five percent of all married women are beaten weekly. Twenty percent of the emergency medical services provided to women in American hospitals follow wifebeatings. Twenty-five percent of all female suicide attempts are by beaten women. One out of every four female murder victims is killed by her husband or her boyfriend. Women, researchers tell us, are beaten every eighteen seconds and raped every three minutes.

Violence against women does not happen sometimes. Violence against women happens always.

On the backs of women, too, the poverty of the world falls hardest. Employment is no cure for it, for women are confined to areas of low pay and are paid less than men with less education, even less than men who do exactly the same work.

Women are psychologically diminished by underdevelopment, trivialization, invisibility, and the self-hate that comes from oppression. They have few rights in law; they are removed from the language; they are denied leadership. Women hold only 10 percent of the leadership positions in government, only 5 percent of the executive positions in business and no percent at all of the official positions of the Church.

The question is why? How can we account for the continual and violent oppression and suppression of women as a class? What meaning does that have for society at large? What meaning does that have for the Peace Movement? What meaning does that have for the Church?

The answer, it seems, must lie in the religious doctrine of female inferiority. Somewhere, somehow men got the idea that their control of women was not only acceptable but actually necessary and defensible and right. Religion has always provided that rationale.

Religion is simultaneously mystery and meaning. Religion asks the great questions of life and purports to know their answers. Why do we exist? Where did we come from? How did life begin? What is God like? What does God expect of us? These are issues to which the other institutions of society relate. On the answers to these questions depend both the ethics of our interpersonal relationships and the nature of our institutions.

The answers that religion brings to the great mysteries of life become the foundations of ethics and the basis of human organization. Religion says who we are and what our relationship to one another must be. What religion says, in other words, about the fundamental human assemblage becomes the glue of human institutions, the basis of ethical principles, and the source of social practice. The problem is that religion’s name for woman is negative. The problem is that this diminishment of half the human race validates and legitimates multiple other forms of violence as well.

What is important to remember, however, is that religions must warp their own fundamental revelation to do it.

Every major religion provides two dimensions on life: first, it explains the origin of life, and second, it interprets the meaning of life. The first dimension, the Creative Principle, explains as revealed truth the nature of the beginning, the source, the nature of human life. The second dimension of religious truth, the Creation Myths, describes the relationship of God to people, of people to God, of people to people. The interpretation of the creation myths, consequently, is crucial to the development of society. And it is precisely these interpretations which are the basis of sexism and, by implication, of militarism.

The basic problem lies in the fact that in every major world religion the feminine is revealed as a co-equal part of the creative principle, either as pure spirit, as hermaphroditic being, or as one of a co-equal divine couple. Yet in every major world religion women are interpreted in the religious writings of men as inherently blighted, inferior, or dangerous to males and so to be controlled and feared. The theology of domination that derives from such a warped view of life has easy application to any group of others who are seen as threat to the system in control. And every major world religion reflects this tension between the basic equality of human nature and the need to control it.


Early Hinduism, with its recognition of Brahman as the Universal self, the impersonal absolute, the One, saw boundless fertility as proof of the existence of a great mother goddess who peopled the earth. With the fact that from Mother Earth, however, came both good and bad, spirit and matter, blessing and danger, came also the need for explanation and understanding. The Shiva-Kali myth did just that. The goddess Kali, asked to save her people, is successful and breaks into an ecstatic dance of joy which raises the fear that her undisciplined emotion will shake and break the foundations of the earth. To save the people from the danger of Kali herself, her husband Shiva throws her to the ground and restrains her. The interpretation given to Hindu women was a simple one: Just as female fertility had to be constrained by Father Heaven whose spirit would fertilize the earth and bring order to the undisciplined feminine principle, so the social order demanded that husbands control their wives. With this explanation, the dualism of matter and spirit was firmly in place in Indian society and social restrictions on women became both inevitable and necessary. In early Vedic society, consequently, women had a certain amount of freedom and status which emanated from a respect for the female power to give life, but they were expected to be dependent, docile wives whose husbands, like Father Heaven, were ordained to control them and their errant activities. The social effects of the enculturating myth went deep. Women had status in Hindu society because obviously women had power over life. But good women were to be subservient to men as dependent and docile wives. By the fifth century B.C.E. the marriage age of females had dropped to the age of five. Education and independence were lost. The salvation of a woman depended on her rebirth as a man in reward for having been a good (docile) wife who bore male children. Even after death, a man controlled his wife: she could not remarry and she was to do penance for his death. Widowhood and with it destitution was the woman’s lot for having caused her husband’s death by virtue of her own bad karma. Suttee, the practice of women’s being allowed to throw themselves on the funeral pyre of the husband if their love for him had been perfect, became preferable to a life of poverty and abandonment.

Woman was, in effect, the creator of evil in the world. Whatever her power, however great her energy, she was obviously responsible for what came into the world and the disorder, disturbance and the downfall of social order that came with it. Women were seen as the source of the world’s trouble, the birthers of the material. And the deduction that followed was debilitating: If women were responsible for matter, then men were the carriers of the spiritual or higher life. The interpretation of the myth became a weapon against an entire class of people and the social effects are with us still.


The Buddha, concerned with discovering the way to the fullness of life rather than with dealing with its origin took the position that nirvana - enlightenment and desirelessness - was possible to both women and men. That revelation, of course, should have guaranteed to women the education, authority, property, management, and the interpretation of the mysteries of the faith after the time of Buddha as it did during his life. The interpretation of the myth of the Demon Mara, however, was used eventually to justify the suppression of women. The story reads that the daughters of the Demon Mara -Desire, Pleasure and Passion - were arrayed against Buddha to test his Desirelessness. Though Buddha prevailed, the message is clear. Women are an obstacle to the achievement by men of a full spiritual life. When celibacy is institutionalized as the highest state of desirelessness after the Buddha, women are seen as an enemy of monkish perfection and must be shunned. True, Buddhist religious life, the Sangha, offered an alternative beyond marriage and motherhood that Indian women had not enjoyed in the past. Nevertheless, the institutionalization of male celibacy as the perfect manifestation of a desireless state, the continuing image of women’s insatiable sexual needs, and the merger over time of Buddhism with Hinduism led to their fettering in other ways.

Women, as a result, are permitted to participate in Buddhist religious life, but only in obedience to monks. Women can be abandoned at any time to enable men to pursue enlightenment. Women are seen as having bad karma. Women are made dependent for life on the control and direction of men. Hinduism, which sees women as responsible for the creation of matter and its dangers, is now overlaid with Buddhism which sees women as responsible for spiritual entrapment and in need of structures that oppress. The stage is set, then, for systems that claim to be equal, look equal, and profess equality but which cling to patterns that justify the oppression of women in the name of salvation.

Only in popular Indian devotions - Mahayana Buddhism and Hindu bhakti or tantrism - was dualism suspect, wisdom feminine, and all things said to be capable of triggering enlightenment. In these faiths androgyny became the major religious symbol. Some depictions of divinity, in fact, were half male and half female beings in which the soft and the strong, the beautiful and the powerful dimensions of life were joined. Unfortunately, these cultic diversions were short-lived in the face of the older, longer traditions and without much social influence in the face of ancient beliefs. To this day, and despite civil legislation to the contrary, dowries are still paid in India; marriages are still arranged; a woman’s salvation still depends on docile subservience to a husband; women may still be abandoned for the sake of the man’s spiritual enlightenment; women still have inferior religious status; daughters are still bad karma; and the life of a woman still depends on the gratuitous kindness of a man.


In China Confucianism, the codification of Buddhist principles to bring harmony to society through filial piety, goodness, and social propriety, simply accepted the notion of female inferiority and corruption and set about to institutionalize it. Women, the religious thought continued, were by nature simply inferior beings whose undisciplined natures polluted attempts to contact the divine and would be punished after death (as tradition maintained) for having produced this pollution. Female infanticide, concubinage, girl sales, and footbinding became the natural outcome of a society unabashedly based on notions of hierarchy and domination. In fact, the common term for “girl” translated “slave girl” as well. Women existed only for the procreation necessary to maintain the ancestor worship that had become the logical continuation of the principle of the oneness of life. Women themselves, however, could offer no ancestor worship since tradition dictated that the feminine nature was a fundamentally corrupt one.

Confucianism was the state religion of China from 57 BCE to 1911 CE. On the prescriptions and protocol of Confucianism rested the social patterns of the Far East for centuries. For Confucius, the Tao, or Way of God, was hierarchy, order, and ethics. In that hierarchy, women were subject to men and inheritors of social controls designed to assure their fidelity. In this way, family stability and the orderly continuance of the lineage so important to ancestor worship became the burdensome obligation of the woman. “The Will of Heaven,” Confucius argued, “begins in the relation between man and woman and ends in the vast reaches of the universe.” The natural law theme was clear and commanding and woman’s responsibility for the peace and order of the family was attributed to the mind of God.


Taoism (604 BCE) softened the situation somewhat. Human nature, Lao Tzu the Master said, was an admixture of yin and yang energies that could be balanced through meditation and nonviolence. Tao, the way of nature, was gentle, “worthy to be the Mother of all things.” The cardinal virtues of Taoism were humility and resignation rather than Confucian action and achievement. The power gained by practicing Tao was symbolized by water, valley, infant, and female. Yin was not subservient to yang as tradition had it, the Taoist claimed, but correlative and indispensable for the balance and wholeness of nature. There was to be no female infanticide in Tao. But Taoism was overshadowed by both Confucianism and Buddhism and in its ascendancy gained only one cultural consequence of note, the legal eradication of female infanticide.

The social profile is a clear one: In the face of a warring society and social upheaval, authoritarianism prevailed in China and with it the creation myth of domination rather than equality. Concubinage, female infanticide, the sale of girls, and footbinding, the height of Confucian misogyny, lasted until the twentieth century. Order, it seems, is the need to assure power to the powerful and to equate those with force with the force of God.


In Japan, women fared well for a time. The native religion, Shintoism, took as its Creative Principle the concept of the Divine Primal Couple whose Sun Goddess created the Japanese Islands. Women, as a result, had both religious and social import in early Japanese society. Shamanesses, female religious figures, could become channels for the spirits, the kami, and so women gained a modicum of social and cultural importance for a limited time. But the Japanese, in their respect for Chinese culture, eventually adopted Confucian ethics and, in turn, its depreciation of women. By the twelfth century, Confucian ethics and the misogyny that derived from it were refined to high art by the Samurai, the militaristic feudalism that became Japan’s ideal society by the twelfth century. “Harmony” became the control by rational men over the demonic power of women. Under the Samurai, women lost civil rights, political power, and education. Now, instead, a young girl was instructed in the obligation to suicide if her chastity was violated, if her husband was in danger, or if her relationship with her husband threatened his loyalty to his Lord. Bushido, this unwritten code of disciplined loyalty to the master, touched women’s lives in every aspect. Women were used for pleasure; wives for the management of the home. Both existed as second-class citizens in a world that purported to bring harmony to a universe where rational men were intended to dominate the demonic power of women.

Western Civilization

But a religion of fertility goddesses is one thing, monotheism another. How account for sexism and its relation to militarism in a Christian culture that claims a God of pure spirit who replies to the question, “What is your name?” with the answer, “I am who am.” Where is the inferiority construct in that and what needs to be questioned there? What can possibly be the association between sexism and militarism in a world view that claims that everything that such a God made is good?

In Western civilization two religious world views predominate, one the root of the other. Judaism and Christianity claim a common vision of human creation: the God of Being created all things and people “in God’s own image” as male and female and for their eternal happiness. Their sin led to their banishment from paradise and to their punishment, he to earn bread by the sweat of his brow and she to bear children in pain.

In both religious traditions women are said to be honored, but the stage is small and the lines totally biological. Long gone is the commitment to a creation made in “the image of God,” an implicit admission of the feminine as well as the masculine element in the creative source. Rather, women came quickly to be described as the after-thought of human life and the source of its trouble - the one made for the other, second and therefore secondary, inferior instead of identical and equal to the other as “bone of my bone,” and “just like me.” Adam, the first man, says in the Judeo-Christian scriptures, “The woman you gave me, she caused me to sin.” Her seduction, not his equally bad judgment or co-conspiracy, was defined by male exegetes as the cause of humankind’s loss of primitive grace, and so responsibility came to fall harshest on the woman. The social structures of each society reflect the ideology of male rationality and female immorality and decrepitude to this day.


Judaism defines marriage as a prime symbol for God’s relationship with the people of Israel and the good wife as one who bore male children. Unfortunately, what made a woman valuable also made her unclean and therefore a spiritual threat to Jewish men on whom all major religious responsibility devolved. Women were segregated, dependent, and limited. They did not have the right to full religious participation, public intervention, or authority. What is more, inferior by nature and a temptress, a woman lost the right to the autonomy of full personhood because of Eve’s sin.


In Christianity Jesus’ acceptance of women, his balance of images, his teaching, his even-handed expectations were soon overlaid with rabbinic morality and a preference for Genesis II, the creation story of an earlier date that curses Eve to subordination. Just as the Jews had struggled to define themselves against the Caananites whose religious practices included women, the early Christian communities trod a line between Judaism and gnosticism. With vowed celibacy in the third century came the dread of women and the need to control them. Augustine argued that woman was no full image of God unless joined to a man who was her head. By the thirteenth century, Thomas Aquinas, working from Aristotle and Augustine, had defined woman as weaker in substance than men, defiled in intellect and in moral character, sexually promiscuous, and without spiritual strength (Aquinas 466; 472). God was exclusively “Father” not YHWH. Now God was male, though pure spirit. In this cosmology, males are, of course, closer to God. Everything else follows logically; the dictum marks Western culture to this day.

On the basis of this world view, Western women have taken a vow of obedience to men, been denied full spiritual participation by their churches, been defined by their biology. Their abilities are limited, their purpose sexual, their function domestic.


In seventh century Arabia, Islam brought to life the same creation myth and religious history that Jewish monotheism had already described. Mohammed did not preach a new religion; he simply preached a new prophecy of the religion that was endemic to the area. In his telling, as in Genesis I and in Jesus, women enjoyed a fundamental religious equality with men. Mohammed outlined, too, the social effects of that philosophy in ways uncommon to the area: a woman was allowed consent to marriage; polygamy was limited; divorce was regulated; she had property rights and in Mohammed’s time was even permitted to pray in the mosques. But whatever gains accrued to women were quickly eroded by the last line of the Koran itself “Men are in charge of women because Allah hath made one of them to excel the other, and because they spend their property (for women’s support). Good women are obedient.” On the basis of this dictum, later ages enforced veiling and purdah - seclusion and harems for women - to avoid the sexual danger presented by women, whose entire bodies were considered sexual and unfit for either mosque or marketplace. The move rendered women socially marginal and socially incompetent. The husband’s control was absolute. She could be imprisoned, even killed, for disobedience and divorced both without cause and without cult. All the man had to say was “I divorce you” and the woman was condemned to poverty and disgrace. To this day, over seventy four million cliterodectomies are performed in continental Africa alone. This established practice remains to assure against infidelity and to release women from what is said to be their insatiable bondage to sex (Hosken 3).

Social Intersections and Effects

It is clear, then, that whatever its motive and whatever its source, religion as inherited by us validates violence against women. Creation stories are used to prove that some humans are more human than other humans. Whether creation is a explained as the result of Mother Earth, the intercourse of a primeval couple, or the creative act of an integrated male/ female being, the fall of man (sic) is attributed to the disordered appetite or polluting chemistry of woman. It is religion, in other words, that teaches that inequality was built into the human race, that some people are by nature closer to God than other people, that some people are innately more virtuous than other people, that some people are made for other people’s use, that some people have both the right and the duty to control other people, and that these people know who they are.

The corruption of the creation myths of each major religion of the world, including Christianity, has been used by men to assure the ascendancy of men. Men were entitled to women as part of their birthright. Whether the women in question agreed or not, men took as divine decree the right to buy them, collect them, trade them; and fight over them. Religion, in other words, in its derogation of half the human race, has created a theology of domination that despite all spiritual maxims to the contrary, makes generalized violence, aggression, and international militarism not just logical but necessary in order to control what must be administered by men who have been “given dominion.”

The natural inequality of women has been institutionalized by the woman’s marriage vow of obedience and used to justify both discrimination and abuse. Wife beating was specifically allowed by canon law (Power 35) and enshrined in civil law as well which sanctioned the right of “reasonable chastisement” (Bauer and Ritt 103). The great English barrister Blackstone, in his law treatises of the 1760s, reaffirmed medieval law’s approval of “moderate correction,” noting that since the husband was responsible for his wife’s misbehavior, the law had entrusted to him the power of “restraining her by domestic chastisement” (103).

Dependence of women on men was both assumed and assured by legislation that denied to women in the name of the Will of God goods essential to the maintenance of life: property, education, credit, and economic advancement. So engrained became the doctrine of female inferiority as a function of natural law that by the 1860s it was used to validate the “naturalness” of slavery as well (Fitzhugh 249). In fact, when black slavery was instituted in the United States, the laws governing the rights of women in society served as the model for slave laws (Eider). During the same period, the “white man’s burden” became the moral justification for imperialistic agression, and the peoples of other lands submitted to biological and psychological scrutiny which questioned their full human development (Romalis and Romalis 283). Biological determinism held sway. American foreign policy and wars were based on biblical themes of divine election and natural superiority (Chittister). The Roman Catholic Church debated whether or not blacks were fit subjects for ordination, which is to say that the white male Church took seriously the notion that some humans might be less human than other humans. The position was a logical one since it had already been posited that women were lesser creatures, but a discordant one in religious discussion unless that assumption was built into the doctrine, with or without justification by the pristine texts.

In the twentieth century, psychologists wove elaborate schemata designed to distinguish female and male sex differences. Dependence, passivity, emotionalism, compassion, and conformity were female traits; aggression, power, strength, objectivity, and intelligence were male. All of this suited the religious, and male, assumptions that women were by nature inferior (Kagan 39). Given the power to define creation, male literature, research, and legislation created it. God-talk had won again.

Every human institution built inequality into its basic philosophy, operational procedures, and social structures. The fact is that human rights are debatable when the explanation of humanity has a touch of the less than human in it and violence becomes virtue. In military societies, for instance, training programs are geared to “take the woman out of the recruit,” to violate the enemy sexually, to link sex and aggression. The U.S. Army marching jingle asserts: “This is my rifle (slapping weapon), this is my gun (slapping crotch). One is for killing, the other for fun” (McAllister). The historical-economic associations between the domination of woman and the making of war are lengthy and obvious. More subtle, more insidious, and more damaging perhaps are the associations between religion, sexism, and war.

Questions and Implications

To this day, two social truths prevail: women are lesser creatures in the eyes of the world, and multiple nations on a small planet see their own needs as rights which are superior to the needs of any of the other peoples of the earth. What is more, nations are willing to subjugate others for their own aggrandizement, even to the point of nuclear obliteration. These two uninterrupted patterns of human behavior need to be explored. Does one reinforce the other? And if so, what is the hope for the resolution of either? More to the point, are institutionalized religion and its creation myths, as they have been traditionally interpreted by the idea agents of each creed, at the very base of this self-destroying pattern?

The interrelationship of sexism, authoritarianism and violence has been long established (McConahay and McConahay; Divale and Harris). At the same time, every major religion of the world has identified the female element of creation and then proceeded to limit and derogate the nature of women. The question is whether the relationship of theology to sexism and militarism may not be the missing factor in our understanding of the present social moment.

If the theological world view of a people legitimates a theology of domination, do peoples with more benign or less masculine creation myths or imagery - the Taoists and the Puritans, for instance - engage in fewer wars as well as treat women differently? When they do go to war or engage in armed conflict, have they themselves initiated the armed action or are they simply responding to provocation? If so, what does that say about the theories of territorial imperative and violence?

Two concepts confront us: either force negates the possibility of women’s ever gaining equality with men, or force may be its own sign of inferiority or underdeveloped humanity. Is the condition of women in society, as well as the occurrence of war, a sign of the real paucity of our presently evolved form as humans? Are present theories of aggression competent to account for the role of religion as a factor in aggression? Modern scholarship has led to the classification of masculine and feminine qualities as patently male and female characteristics. The question to be considered may be whether or not the glorification and institutionalization of the masculine value system may cut off other conflict-resolution options in society and lead to militarism.

By implication, by omission, and by design, religions have provided a construct of life in which God is male, woman’s subordination to man is divinely ordained, and woman is by nature either evil or pure, depending on which theological viewpoint you espouse. Religion has been used to assert male superiority and so, by indirection, a theology of domination. Obedience and dominion have been used to justify hierarchy as well as control by the fittest. Therefore, ironically, religion may well lie at the base of both sexism and militarism, since violence done to women legitimates violence done to others.

It is to the effects of this distortion of religious revelation throughout the ages that the Peace Movement must look for the deep, deep linkage between sexism and militarism.

Religion validates violence against women, true. But by implication, these interpretations of the Creation Myth prove implicitly that it is a design of God that some humans are more human than other humans, that some people have been given control of other people, that some people are more god-like than others, that some of creation is inherently bad and must be subjected to others. Inequality, the myths insist, has been built into the human race. Therefore, some people are by nature closer to God; some people are made for others’ use; some people but not all people have been “given dominion.”

The Theology of Domination - violence, aggression, militarism - becomes logical, necessary, the “white man’s burden.” In this religious climate, all human rights become debatable. Violence becomes a virtue: the will of God, Armageddon, “Kill a Commie for Christ,” Aryan purity.

The point is that the woman’s issue is the radical justice issue. If inferiority has been built into the human race by the Creative Principle, then indeed some people have the right and the duty to control all lower levels of life. To believe in the natural inferiority of women is to be just one short step away from the extermination of red people, the segregation of black people, the napalming of yellow people, the exploitation of brown people, the gassing of the next generation of Jews, and now the nuking of the planet. And all in the name of God.

The challenge to the Peace Movement is to see the linkages between sexism, racism, and militarism; to model equality; to gather feminine input to create a new world view; to critique structures in order to change and equalize them; to change sexist language, which, because it excludes women from the mind, excludes them from the real world; to develop conflict-resolution techniques that are feminine; and to call religion to its own best self in living out the doctrines of Baptism, Eucharist, Incarnation, Grace, and Redemption.

Finally, we must retell the Myth.

Both Adam and Eve were made by God as equals, “bone of bone and flesh of flesh.”

Neither Adam nor Eve was strong enough to resist temptation.

Both denied the will of God for them in life.

Both were condemned to labor for their sin: she to childbirth and he to work by the sweat of his brow.

Both were excluded from the Garden of Paradise to repair the relationships that they had ruptured, with one another, and with God as a result of their sin.

The purpose of the punishment was to transcend and redeem the sin, not to institutionalize it. We must learn that the violence done to right relationships in the name of God must end before it ends us all.


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