The Spirituality of Wonder Woman in the age of Trump

wonderwomantrump

drawing by demsey satya nagara

I was obviously not the only person anxiously awaiting the new Wonder Woman movie this past weekend. The long anticipated movie has been record breaking in numerous ways, but as I sat in the darkened theater with my teenage daughter, I could only think that the current state of political and societal affairs led to an even greater positive response to this female centered movie.

Diana is an Amazon, shielded from the world until a WWI soldier appears, and she decides to leave her home forever so she can protect the millions of innocents losing their lives. Her mother, Queen Hippolyta, gives these parting words, “Those men don’t deserve you.” Diana quickly finds herself in London, a city representative of a world where women are constrained by politics, society, and even fashion. She is thrown out of a room where the white men in power make decisions that impact the world, a woman who is only seen as distractingly pretty with a limited mental capacity for the big decisions of the world. The visual of Diana circling a room of men in power is far too similar 100 years later to the real images which have emerged from Trump’s White House of white men making decisions which directly impact countless people not represented in that space.

Diana’s strength and power are amazing and awe-inspiring. Yet, what truly makes this movie so good is her heart. We see it breaking when she witnesses women and children living in terrible conditions, being enslaved, and dying due to the war raging around them. Again, modern images burst through my internal vision as I placed the fictional faces side by side the real children from Syria and Mosul. The climactic scene of the movie is a battle with Ares, the God of War. As he tries to convince Diana that humans have chosen the atrocities, he echoes the words of her mother about what people deserve for the decisions. She responds, “It’s not about what you deserve, it’s about what you believe, and I believe in love.”

The age of Trump is about believing that those in power deserve that power. They deserve the money, the finer things of life, the best health care, the autonomy to believe that no circumstances of birth or assistance from countless people along the way led them to their place in life. It is the false ideology of the Christian prosperity gospel – that we get the rewards in life we truly deserve.

Diana, as Wonder Woman, is a hero we need today. She knows people do not always get what they deserve, and innocents suffer daily for the hubris and narcissism of the men (and I intentionally use this word) in power. The movie concludes with her in the current day, declaring that she stays and fights for love. She loves humanity and works towards a better day.

In a society where women are gravely underrepresented politically, where women and people of color and children suffer disproportionately, where the President sows seeds of fear and lies – we need a beacon of hope and love. Wonder Woman is fictional, but director Patty Jenkins is not. And sometimes our greatest truths can be inspired by mythical stories. Women and men, and people of all colors, can partner together to create a world where everyone has a seat at the table. We can rid ourselves of the language of who might deserve this or who might deserve that, and know that love means everyone deserves a better life. This is the spirituality we need in today’s world.

Advertisements

Don’t put me on a pedestal…

pedestal

“I just love women. I put them on a pedestal.” A well-known author spoke those words to me the other night. We were at a social gathering, and I found myself the only woman in a circle of men. The author is someone who has presented insightful information about egalitarianism and the prominent role women have in creation, theology, and mythology. His writings and teachings are ones I appreciate. Yet, given the current status of women in this country, those words rankled.

“Women don’t want to be placed on a pedestal! They want to be equal partners!” Our discussion continued until it took a different direction, but the image of a pedestal remained with me. While we have a President who only wants women under him (literally and figuratively), we have a Vice-President who wants to place women on a pedestal. I am not surprised by the recent news highlighting Mike Pence’s refusal to dine or work with a woman without a man present, including business functions. (As a woman in the male dominated field of ministry, I would be essentially isolated if I followed such a rule in regards to my male colleagues.) Anyone who followed the election process should well comprehend his view of a “Christian theocracy,” a place presided over by very conservative men who have a narrow understanding of the Bible and Christian faith, and wish to impose this legally on the rest of the nation. It is this view that propagates placing women on a pedestal – supposedly raising them up to a place where they are honored, adored, and treasured.  People who follow this viewpoint use specific passages from the Bible to support their ideas, namely Proverbs 31. They claim it’s the greatest way to respect a woman.

Yet, when one is placed on a pedestal, it’s too easy to be knocked off. A woman is either the saint, residing just out of reach of ordinary mortals – or she is the whore, the fallen woman who tempts good men and leads them to destruction.

This idea of placing a woman on a pedestal took root in the early 1800s in the American South. It coincided with the view that a “real man” was a tough guy, aggressive, competitive, and master of all he surveyed. This included not just his land, wife, and children, but also his slaves. Placing women on a pedestal was a way to keep them caged so that a man could maintain control and power.

I don’t want to be on a pedestal. I want to be an equal with men, whether it is in personal or business relationships. Neither of the two men who are representing us in Washington have any concept what that means. While it’s more obvious in the President’s case, it is perhaps more dangerous in the case of the Vice-President. Claiming to honor and protect women (and supposedly his own virtue) is code for saying he doesn’t really trust them, and he certainly can’t trust himself. People who are not on the same level can never truly be equals. A pedestal is simply a jail.

The Essence of the Labyrinth

0326171453

On an overcast Sunday afternoon, filled with sporadically spitting rain, a friend and I explored a private labyrinth which was created from a metaphysical perspective. Labyrinths speak to me, as they have for countless people for numerous centuries. As to why, I normally can only answer with a favorite response from Divinity School – “It’s a mystery.” (And yes, that was a typical response when we had absolutely no idea as to the answer.)

Labyrinths aren’t a maze – they have a set path towards the center, and back out again. Normally circular in nature, these pre-Christian structures symbolize the universe, the womb, the heart of life. Christians co-opted these paths during the Medieval period in Europe, and recent years have seen a resurgence in interest, from both Christians and non-Christians alike. The primary manner of walking a labyrinth is to let go of whatever weighs on us as we journey to the center. The time in the core is one of illumination, and then the journey outward is one of union with the Divine or whatever guiding power is present in one’s life.

But really – one can walk, dance, skip, or crawl a labyrinth any way one pleases. What is important is connecting with the transformative energy. This particular labyrinth was built around the idea of connecting with the earth’s energy. Now, I am certainly not a scientist. When one mentions energy, I normally think “wish I had more,” or “equals mc squared.” But my friend is a scientist, and his thoughts were focused on the definition of energy. He suggested that “essence” might be a better word.

I think he might be right. While the power of walking a labyrinth is a mystical mystery, I know that I am connected with essence when I engage my body, heart, and mind with such a journey. It might be the essence of the Divine. It might be my own essence. It definitely incorporates the essence of creation and nature. And even though it is a solitary walk, it connects me with the essence of others, like my friend on the same path, or friends who have walked other labyrinths on other days.

The labyrinth certainly reflects our life journeys. We wander, weave, stumble, fall, run, and just when it seems like we won’t ever find our way – we have arrived in the heart of the walk. We touch base with the core of our lives, our essence, and then continue once again to place one foot in front of the other as the sojourn moves forward. And each time we connect with the essence, a new understanding is revealed to us, and empowers us to continue our pilgrimage. We might never comprehend the meaning of life, but a glimmer of this essence can guide us quite some way until the next glimmer reveals itself.

 

 

Country Music, Women & God

I’m proud of my roots. I am a native of the North Carolina mountains and have many fond memories of my childhood. I particularly loved the only radio station we could always get – no matter what cove or valley we drove through – an AM station that played a lot of country, some rock n’roll, and even the occasional disco item. Country music in particular was the background noise of my childhood. Some of the songs were hysterical and cheesy – think “Convoy” – but many were always filled with a variety of life situations and a range of characters. There was also the standard fare – tough lives, drinking, rural living, and God.

In recent years, country music seems to be dominated by boys (and I use the word intentionally) who write about trucks, hot young women in tiny outfits, and drinking. “Bro- country” is the term that has been coined by music critics, and I am certainly not alone in my disdain for the one note that is filling the country airwaves. Young country phenom Kacey Musgraves famously spoke about this last summer when she said singing about trucks should be outlawed. The interesting thing about country music, and particularly bro-country, is that it still pays homage to the Christian faith, which is inconsistent with the themes of the preponderance of these songs.

My favorite country music song of late is “Girl in a Country Song” by Maddie & Tae. These two young newcomers provide great insight into the way women have by and large been relegated to sex objects in the world of country music today. Women in these songs are passive observers, simply there to be desired by the male protagonist. There are exceptions to this overbearing dominance in country music today – Miranda Lambert, Carrie Underwood, The Band Perry, Zach Brown Band, and a smattering of others. I’m by no means the first one to be irritated (to say the least) by this disturbing trend the past decade. However, one of the things I find most troubling is country music’s belief that it is intricately connected to Christianity. At the heart of Christianity is the belief that each and every person – no matter what gender, race, culture or orientation – is a child of God and should be treated with respect, honor and love. And how is that possible when women are seen only as objects, relegated to the lower status of “girls,” and celebrated for wearing skimpy outfits while putting up with bad-boys? Would any Christian parent (or any decent parent of whatever faith tradition) truly want their daughters to aspire to such things?

I certainly understand that a certain number of songs (in any genre) will be written about a physical attraction and desire, but when this is the overwhelming theme played on today’s country stations, there is a problem. Someone who truly purports to be of the Christian faith will recognize that each person (male and female) is created in God’s image, and is thus worthy of respect. Let’s hope Kacey Musgraves, Maddie & Tae, and others will continue to speak and be heard in their quest for better quality country music that truly reflects an egalitarian and respectful society, for people of whatever faith background.