Brown’s premise is that the monotheism of Judaism and Christianity elevates the masculine and degrades the feminine. The pagan cultures with their many gods, who worshipped male and female deities as equal counterparts, gave the feminine the proper veneration. Thus, goddess worship is the route to feminine empowerment.
Of all the premises, this is the one that perhaps makes me the angriest, because of the nakedness of the falsehood. It is a misunderstanding about God and empowerment that has hurt women in the past and, I am afraid, will draw women into similar traps today.
The Old Testament describes many of the activities of pagan worship. Fertility festivals and ritual orgies were in fact the practices of the Canaanites, and these were practices which God explicitly commanded the Israelites not to adopt. The Israelites adopted them. There were generations of Monotheistic revival, and generations of pagan revival. It was a cycle that eventually led to Israel’s ruin.
What is the attraction of Baal/Asherah fertility worship? Many people just want to get food on the table, and they will placate whatever they are told to placate to make sure the crops grow. The great news about the Baal/Asherah, is that you could not beat the festivals, which involved ritual orgies. In the performance of this religion, men would line up to perform ritual sex acts with sacred Asherah priestesses.
How liberating for women! Once again, the woman is asked to be something she is not, in this case the embodiment of a goddess spirit, in order to be objectified for sexual purposes. What progress for the march of feminism! Thank you, esoterics, for suggesting that we return to pre-historic ritual gang-bangs!
If you are outraged, well, so is God in Heaven. God sees the ritual sexual exploitation of women and it breaks God’s heart.
There is nothing like that in the practices of monotheism. The worship of God is not the worship of the Masculine. The worship of God is the worship of a fully integrated personality of which we as both female and male bear the image.
This God is not interested in placation, but in relationship. The gods of the pagans exploited the people demanding placation. God liberates the people through relationship. Hope comes to the sinner, peace to the suffering, and freedom to the enslaved. Those enslavements are to whatever exploits, whether it is addiction, or poverty, or sexual objectification. True worship does not turn priests and pastors into objects! True worship does not enslave the worshiper to placate the deity!
This is why idolatry and Baal/Asherah worship breaks the heart of God. It keeps people in bondage, when God desires their redemption.
The argument is that “the Church” has not understood these truths either about women or the feminine completeness of God. No one knows exactly what is meant by “the Church” however. We have already seen how attraction to the feminine elevated Mary in the practice of the Roman Catholic Church. Among Protestants, who removed the Mary cult, many groups have been ordaining women as ministers for decades, even centuries.
In many places and many times, bullying by sinful males has marginalized the abilities of women to contribute. This was true in pagan times when one of the few avenues to power available to women was to become a sex priestess, a temple or “sacred” prostitute. The marginalizing of talented women continues to be true. It has also been true that voices throughout the history of the church, and into the Judaism of the Old Testament, called for that situation of bullying to be redressed by gender justice and appreciation for the feminine image of God.
Roles are shifting, and with those shifting roles come fresh understandings about the talents women bring that fit the needs of “the Church."