Divine Feminine: Early Polytheist Israel Includes Goddess Worship

File:Hecht Museum, Israel – figurines 004-crop.JPGYahoo News posted on an interesting archaeological discovery in Israel that continues to add evidence that monotheism in Judaism was a late development in its Biblical history, and that one of its most prominent deities was the “wife” or consort of Yahweh. This prominent Jewish goddess was named Ashera, who also had a place in the pantheons of older cultures as well, dating back to the ancient Sumerian and Ugaritic myths.

For those familiar with the work of Margaret Barker and other similar Biblical scholars, this is not breaking news. The worship of multiple (including female) deities, pre-dating the first temple period has been researched and written about for a long time. But the additional evidence, of course, does make it increasingly hard for those who want to claim the root of the monotheistic, Judeo-Christian thought  reaches back to the dawn of time instead of the revisionary, Deuteronomist scribes in King Josiah’s day, will have difficulty contorting around this kind of information. As a Mormon who takes Joseph Smith’s teachings about a “Heavenly Mother” and his King Follett sermon seriously, this already synthesizes with my religious worldview.

Sex Selective Abortion is… Feminist?

Ann Furedi, who argues that English law already allows sex-selective abortion.
Ann Furedi, who argues that English law already allows sex-selective abortion.

Sarah Ditum writes for The Guardian “as far as I’m concerned, it doesn’t matter why any woman wants to end her pregnancy. If it’s to select for sex, that’s her choice.”

That’s a radical enough opinion that most people will be repulsed by it without further comment, but further comment is warranted to really explore the tragic, schizophrenic, unscientific, and ultimately misogynistic logic behind it. First: there’s the routine set of mental contortions necessary to deny that abortion is, in fact, the killing of a living human being. No matter how much Ditum may talk about ending pregnancy or refer to the unborn human being as “what’s growing inside you,” the reality is that the sex of your unborn child is determined at conception. It does not “end up as a man or a woman.” He or she (not it) starts out that way. It couldn’t very well be a sex-selective abortion if the gender-fairy didn’t arrive until birth, now could it?

Secondly, Ditum admits that sex-selective abortion couldn’t really be covered by current English law because ostensibly abortions are for the sake of the mother, and the specific sex of the unborn human being shouldn’t have any impact one way or the other on the mother’s health. Then she considers the global perspective:

But what about when a pregnant woman lives in a society that gives her real and considerable reason to fear having a girl? The kind of society where dowry systems mean an inconveniently gendered child could bankrupt a family, or one where a livid patriarch deprived of a male heir could turn his fury on both mother and daughter? In those situations, a woman wouldn’t just be justified in seeking sex selective abortion; she’d be thoroughly rational to do so.

This is a micro-version of the entire feminism/abortion debate, and it illustrates perfectly this plain, simple, uncontestable fact: elective abortion is acquiescence to patriarchy. What does Ditum think you should do in an oppressive society that denigrates the value of women? Clearly the solution, as Ditum states quite frankly, is not to stand up for women’s rights and dignity, but rather it is to enable that oppression. Go along to get along, that’s Ditum’s motto when confronted with rank oppression.

It’s really hard for me to tell the difference between what Ditum calls feminism and what any reasonable person would call collaboration. Rather than stand up for women in need, why not just kill them so as not to rock the patriarchal boat? Apparently feminism really is just code for “concerns of upper-middle class white women” these days, and when it comes to the entrenched power interests of the patriarchy goes, the old saying applies: “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.”

Scientists Find Extraterrestrial Life

2013-09-19 ET

Scientists sent a balloon up into the stratosphere to take samples between 22km and 27km above the Earth, where no large particles from the surface should be able to reach. (Short of a major volcanic eruption, of which there were none within 3 years of the experiment.) When the balloon returned, they found “small biological organisms which they believe can only have originated from space.”

No, it’s not April 1 today, and The Independent has more info.

Parenting: Get Your Game Face On

2013-09-19 The Kids

I try very hard to do two things in my day to day life:
1. Be on time.
2. Protect my kids’ childhood by not constantly rushing them from Appointment A to Appointment B.

As you can imagine, these two goals are often in conflict. My general approach is to build in lots of extra time. I try to get to my kids’ school with enough time before gymnastics class that when Caleb wants to check out all the dandelions or Sophie wants to finish her drawing, I can say “yes”. Better still: I can stand back, smile, and just watch my children being children. I treasure those moments, and there are never enough of them.

Sometimes it doesn’t work.

We were on track for an 8:20 departure this morning despite the kids deciding to have breakfast twice. They have weirdly erratic appetites, and sometimes I can’t get them to eat a single bowl of cereal in the morning. Even if it has marshmallows. Today, they had an entire bowl of cereal, said they were done, and then decided they needed oatmeal as well. They ate all the oatmeal, too, so I’m glad we had the time. (Hungry kids = unhappy, poorly behaved kids.)

Anyway, 8:30 is the real deadline if I want to be sure they get to school on time, but heading to the car at 8:20 means that I have time to calmly mediate any disputes about who gets to sit on which side of the car, that I have time for them to buckle themselves in at young-child pace, and that I don’t have to worry about getting stuck behind a school bus or something. But just before I say “Let’s get in the car,” Caleb decides he needs to go to the bathroom right now. No big deal, I think, but then it ends up being one of those #2s where he just sort of hangs out on the toilet indefinitely. Even with all the gentle cajoling I can muster while keeping a smile on my face it’s a full 10 minutes before he’s finally ready to go again.

But when we get downstairs, Sophie is nowhere to be found. “Where’s Sophie?” I ask. “I’m in the bathroom,” she responds. It’s 8:27, and she has also decided that right before we leave for school is the optimal time for a #2.

How do you plan for synchronized poo? You don’t. There is no planning for synchronized poo. 

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Tipping $200: Another Reason I’d Like to be Rich

OK, “I wish I was rich” is probably not the intended response to this feel-good video, but I think we all daydream sometimes about winning the lottery, right? I have at least, on and off since I was a teenager. Maybe that makes me a hedonistic materialist?

Here’s the thing I’ve noticed, however. When I was a kid I primarily fixated on the awesome stuff I would get to pimp out my room and my computer. I was basically fantasizing about the ultimate man-cave. The older I’ve gotten, however, the more I find myself thinking about the feeling I’d have when I gave large sums of money to people who I know could really use it.

The reality is that I have a pretty comfortable, great life as a middle class American in the 21st century. It would be fun to have more expensive toys, but I’ve purchased enough gadgets in my life to know the buzz fades quickly. The real impact would just be a sense of security. But then again, that just makes me feel like I’m not living my life with as much faith as I should be, if money in the bank is what I need to feel at ease. It’s a call to greater effort on my part, really.

The point I’m making is just this: giving away money would be really fun. I don’t imagine I’d get out a camera to record it (although it was nice that these folks did), but I certainly do think I’d do similar stuff. I’d have a “give away budget” just for that purpose, and it would be awesome.

Digital Drama: The Way to Keep Mormon Theatre Relevant?

I believe that keeping the flame of Mormon drama alive is important. Especially at my faith tradition’s still early stage of development as a religion and a culture, we already have a rich heritage of dramatic literature filled with a wide range of excellent plays.

As an effort to preserve and publicize that heritage, Zarahemla Books published Saints on Stage: An Anthology of Mormon Drama, which includes theatrical works by some of Mormonism’s best dramatists. Michael Perry has recently been collecting a lot of Mormon plays under the umbrella of his Zion Theatricals, which licenses performance rights for Mormon themed drama to theatre companies and community groups. Angie Staheli has been encouraging production of LDS drama on the stake level at her blog LDS Plays. In the realm of higher education, Brigham Young University and Utah Valley University continue to produce works by Mormon student playwrights, while independent theatre companies such as the Echo Theatre, Leilani Productions, and my own Zion Theatre Company continue to include Mormon drama in their seasons. There are many individuals and organizations who are striving to continue to vibrant tradition of creating theatre that is informed by the spirituality and beauty of our faith tradition, even when it isn’t explicit in its religiousness.

Yet despite these exciting developments, it sometimes feels like we lose as much ground as we gain, and that we are more often than not treading water. So I’ve been trying to analyze and figure out ways of making Mormon drama not only relevant, but also exciting and profitable, so that it can continue onward. As I’ve mentioned before,  I believe the relatively new trend of digital theatre seems to be an effective and exciting route for Mormon Drama to take.

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