It’s as ancient as the sin of our mother Eve and our father Adam, the desire to establish our own identity—minus the purpose of God. We would be our own gods and goddesses; deciding what is good and evil.
The publishing house of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA), using Theology of the People, a division of Augsburg/Fortress Press, published a book entitled, Fierce: Women of the Bible and Their Stories of Violence, Mercy, Bravery, Wisdom, Sex, and Salvation. The author, Alice Connor, is an “Episcopal priest and a chaplain on a college campus.” An ad with a free reading guide, introduction, content, first chapter and a video was sent to me this morning, via e-mail, by the Presbyterian Women of the PC (U.S.A.).
At the bottom of the ad, PW stated, “Presbyterian Women will occasionally send an email on behalf of organizations that may be of interest to our constituency. These paid advertisements help fund Presbyterian Women's publishing work and other ministries. Thank you for supporting organizations that support PW.”
I have ordered the book with the thought of reviewing it, but so much information was sent, including a link to Augsburg/Fortress and Amazon, (which offers some pages to read), so I am setting out several warnings—about apostasy. I am certain that many women received the same information that I received. And it seems that this book will touch women in at least three mainline denominations.
Probably the worst chapter, “So God Had a Wife, Maybe? Probably,” is on the ancient pagan goddess Asherah. It begins, “She was erased.” And continues to suggest that the Israelites worshiped not only a male god but also his wife, Asherah. The author, Alice Connor, writes:
“Like math sums done wrong, or a letter phrased poorly, bits of her were scraped away and wiped off the page, as carelessly as if she did not exist. And in a way, I suppose she doesn’t anymore. Her presence has been denied for generations. She was Asherah. She was Mother of the Gods, she was the Lion Lady, and she it was who subdued the sea. She was the wife of Yahweh, She was the embodiment of nourishment; her breast fed multitudes. She represented not only survival but plenty. Her hips birthed gods; her presence created abundant harvests. The people made sacrifices to her—grain and animals, even their children from time to time. …”
Connor continues, stating that Asherah was worshiped alongside of Yahweh. Continuing with her story she suggests that eventually Asherah was erased when the Israelites were searching for a reason for their defeat and exile. But now, allegedly, she has been discovered again:
“Now thousands of years after those holy books were written, scholars have rediscovered her and the bare-breasted clay totems buried for centuries. They speak her names and write of her totems, her sacred trees, her high places with their rough and beautiful altars, and they don’t know which name to call her: Asherah, Astarte, Anat, Qudshu, Queen of Heaven. …”
Connor speculates about her existence and referring to the Hebrew Scriptures writes, “She’s between the lines of Hebrew, like the feeling you get when you try to push the positive ends of two magnets together. You can feel the energy pushing between them, even though the space looks empty. Between the lines of Hebrew where her sacred poles were torn down and she isn’t even named, there is energy pushing back.”
Connor still speculates on the historical reality of Asherah but eventually equates Asherah with others who have been erased from their historical context. The tragedy here is Connor’s denial of the utter unfaithfulness of God’s people. It is also her own unfaithfulness that she could so easily, as priest, deny the truthfulness of God and his word.
The questions on the reading guide are sometimes helpful but too often inane, “What difference would it make to you if Rahab’s occupation as a prostitute were somehow definitively proven or disproven? Not just historically, but to this story and to your understanding of sin and redemption. Do you think the Israelite spies slept with Rahab? What difference would it make to their story and that of Israel’s conquest of Canaan?”
The exercises at the end of each chapter entail meditation on icons of the biblical characters including Asherah. And the chapter on the Song of Songs entails feeling your body which, I admit, made me both laugh and appalled me. Not because the body is evil but because it seemed to me to be the ultimate self-worship.
And that, self-worship as well as self-guidance, rather than listening to God’s word and obedient discipleship, is the framework of Connor’s book.
Just recently, I sorted out my library, removing most of the radical feminist books I have used for research. I started to toss them, and did toss some, but decided to save a core of them downstairs on some unused shelves in a pantry. (My old house has so many unexpected nooks and crannies.) The books are all the same!
Until the coming of Christ I suppose that all kinds of heretical movements, such as radical ‘Christian’ feminism, will continue to form, change and die. The books will multiple and move from circle to circle with praise from those who should know better. But the ugly systems are boringly the same: denying God’s word, denying Christ’s redemptive gift of life because of his shed blood, denying our sanctification through the Holy Spirit—the list is too long and too often the same.
Lift up the cross of Christ, the word of God and the righteousness that is God’s gift.