In-Sight: Excavating the Feminine

​One of the marks of Pentecost was, “Your sons and daughters willl prophesy….upon my servants, men and women  I will pour my spirit” (Acts 2:17-18).  This same inclusive mark is evidenced whenever the Spirit is moving.  Women’s voices arise in civil and religious discourse.  Women’s actions influence the public square.  And in a world defined by male dominance over the ages, many men do not like it.  Our day is no different.  But as always, women cannot be silenced because the Spirit cannot be stopped.

Mirabai Starr is one woman who has helped me see, appreciate, and affirm the pentecostal power of women.  She did not grow up in any religious tradition, so in responding to her hunger of the heart, she instinctively sought the Sacred in an eclectic way.  For that reason her wisdom is both deep and wide. That is refreshing to me as I seek depth, and also breadth, in my life with God.  In a recent interview she spoke about how the recognition of women’s voices, “requires excavation, because they are hidden in the patriarchal overlay. It’s at the heart of all the world’s spiritual traditions, it’s the way they were designed and built from the get go: by men, for men.” [1]

That design is in the essence of all the worlds religions, where males have either founded or dominated them.  Even more, masculine bias reaches an apex as God is most always described in masculine terms.  Thankfully, some of this is benign, but too much of it is a deliberate attempt on the part of men to subjugate the role of women in the society, the academy, and the church.  All of it, whether innocent or not, distorts God’s egalitarian intent and deforms the spirit of any who align with it. [2]

Fortunately, we have spiritual leaders in the Christian tradition who keep God’s egalitarian way in view. Jesus himself affirmed the the way.  Paul voiced it. Francis’ collaboration with Clare is a powerful testimony, as is John Wesley’s inclusion of women leaders in the Methodist movement. [3]  Beyond this, we have the witness of women themselves within and outside of the Christian tradition.

And that brings me back to Mirabai Starr, who is such a woman and one who has introduced us to other women—most recently in her book, ‘Wild Mercy: Living the Fierce and Tender Wisdom of the Women Mystics.’ [4]  In an interview related to the book she noted, “The feminine is rising at last.  She is shifting the global paradigm from one of dominance and individualized salvation to one of collective awakening and service to all beings.” [5]

This is surely one reason why women are signs that the Spirit is moving, because God seeks to awaken us to the realization of our oneness, and from that universality to express kindness in a world sorely in need of it.  Women combine courage and compassion in ways men too often do not—the fierce and tender combination Mirabai Starr writes about.  Our daughters are prophesying, and the world is better because they are.

[1] Sounds True interview, 4/9/19.

[2] Ironically, some women accept the skewed inequality, and affirm male dominance in their political and religious views, forgetting (or perhaps never being taught) that male dominance is one of the results of the fall (Genesis 3:16).  Alpha males don’t share that message.

[3]  With respect to Wesley, I call your attention to these books: (1) Maldwyn Edwards, ‘My Dear Sister’ (Penwork, n.d.), and (2) Paul W. Chilcote, ‘She Offered Them Christ’ (Abingdon, 1993).

[4] Mirabai Starr, ‘Wild Mercy: The Fierce and Tender Wisdom of the Women Mystics’ (Sounds True, 2019).

[5] Mirabai Starr, “Indwelling and Outflowing, “ The Mendicant, Spring 2019 (Center for Action and Contemplation).

About Steve Harper

Retired seminary professor, who taught for 32 years in the disciplines of Spiritual Formation and Wesley Studies. Author and co-author of 42 books. Also a retired Elder in The Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.
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