In my reading today of Gaia and God, Rosemary Ruether talks about the view that cultures long ago were matriarchal, until a patriarchal horde came in and imposed patriarchy. Ruether, a feminist, actually doesn’t find the evidence for that tale to be all that convincing. She does talk about tribes, however, in which women are valued—tribes that see more importance in sharing than in acquisition. But I won’t go into detail about that in this post.
Something that I like about Ruether’s book is her summary of different theological positions—whether she’s looking at the Bible, or Origen, or Augustine. One summary of hers that I read today was that of Matthew Fox, who, in this case, is not the guy who played Jack on Lost, but rather a Dominican theologian. Or, actually, he was a Dominican theologian, but now he’s an Episcopalian.
I first heard of Fox at DePauw University. I knew two religion students who were writing their thesis on him. One lady told me, “You wouldn’t like him,” since she realized that I was conservative. Nowadays, who knows? Maybe I would like him.
For Fox, the essential goodness of creation is more important than its fallenness or evil. After all, he notes, the cosmos is fourteen billion years older than humanity, and so “original blessing” is older than human sin. But, according to Ruether, Fox traces sin to the rise of patriarchy “some four thousand to six thousand years ago” (page 146). So does he believe in the narrative that Ruether critiques—the narrative that society was matriarchal, and fell to become patriarchal?
For Fox, the Christian theology about Fall and redemption promotes alienation, and the West’s imposition of this idea on other cultures has been sad, especially because these other cultures highlighted the importance of harmony with nature before the West colonized them. According to Ruether, “Fox’s creation spirituality stresses forms of meditation, liturgy, and therapy designed to free us from cultures of alienation and restore our harmony with the original blessing that remains the true ‘nature’ of things” (page 146).
I may take a look at Fox’s book, Original Blessing, sometime in the future. Personally, I find that seeing people (even myself) and things as “bad” alienates me from them. I’m not saying that I’m “good,” per se, but, yes, there is good within me, and I’d like to do a better job of acknowledging the goodness of others, even those I do not like. Saying “well, we’re all sinners” doesn’t give me all that much of a warm feeling towards others, even when I’m acknowledging that I’m no better than they are. I think that many of us respond better to encouragement rather than to being put down—even when it’s a collective put-down of “us.”
But evil should not be swept under the rug, either. It should be addressed.