Partnership Spirituality • A. Allen Butcher • Revised December 20, 2018 • Denver, Colorado
My family had been attending a Congregationalist Church in NE Ohio for a couple years. I liked this church because Congregationalists comprise a liberal denomination where the members make all church decisions by voting, with no or little denominational hierarchy.
My family would assume the same seating arrangement in the same row of the pews every Sunday, with my father at the aisle-end of the pew, then my mother, my older sister, and then myself, the youngest. Yet of course my sister and I would invariably start fighting during the sermon, so my parents soon changed our seating arrangement so that I took the aisle seat, then our parents, then my sister on the inside, furthest from me. I liked that arrangement better.
Our minister taught religion in a local liberal arts college, and I tried to follow his sermons, yet most of the time I just could not understand what this guy was saying. His name was Royce Grunler, professor of religion at Hiram College around 1970. I would focus on the sentence he just said to try to figure it out, yet he would then go on to something else and I would forget what he said a second ago. It was hopeless.
I would look at the studious expression on my father’s face and wonder whether he understood any better than I did what this college professor was preaching. As a high school freshman I already had more education than my father ever had, so I figured there was not much help there. This is where, like in school, I got the habit of staring at the instructor with a blank expression while my mind wandered around the room and the universe. What else could I do?
I decided that to pass the time I would read my copy of the Bible that I took with me to church each week. No one would criticize me for reading the Bible in church, right?
So I started from the beginning of Genesis, and it was all stuff I had heard about in Sunday School before the main sermon each week, until I got to Genesis 6:4. Wait a minute, I thought, no one ever told us this story before.
“There were giants in the earth in those days;” I read. “and also after that, when the sons of God came in unto the daughters of men, and they bore children to them, the same became mighty men which were of old, men of renown.” (Genesis 6:4)
What was that? What the heck is Moses, the supposed author of Genesis, saying in this passage? I could not make sense of it, so like everyone else, I guess, I skipped over this passage and kept going until I just could not slog through reading any more of the Bible. I tried, I really did. Yet I was soon back to staring blankly at any talking head trying to get and keep my attention.
For many decades after that I didn’t think much about those giants in the Bible. Yet I never really forgot about them. Somehow, that speed bump in Genesis remained in my brain, until decades later, nearly half a century after I first read that passage, it finally dawned on me what was going on!
I realize now that the story is that, while the Hebrew tribe was wandering around the Sinai Desert for 40 years they happen to come upon fossilized bones of dinosaurs partially obscured by earth where they had been buried for eons in the ground or hillsides or wherever! It came to me as a flash of realization that this is what the Bible means where it says, “giants in the earth!”
Think about it! The year is sometime after 1,290 B.C. (different people give different dates) and you and your starving and increasingly demoralized tribe come upon these huge fossilized bones, some of which look like gigantic human leg or rib bones, and you, being Moses or some Levite priest, are being besieged by your tribe-mates saying that YOU have to explain what the heck these things are! What are you going to say?!
You don’t know anything more than anyone else in your tribe about paleobiology and fossilized dinosaur bones. You can pray for enlightenment, yet in the end as always you just have to make something up!
Of course those gigantic bones had to be from human-like male giants, right? There could not be giant animals or, God forbid, giant humanoid females! So they must have had something to do with our past, and maybe we can get away with using these crazy-huge, bone-looking, rock-like things to explain where our mythical larger-than-life cultural heroes must have come from!
Never mind trying to explain how those giants “came in unto the daughters of men,” it just happened that way, and of course since orthodox Jews and Christians believe that the Bible is inerrant, whatever is its meaning they believe it must be true. That becomes one small passage in the Torah, later to be called the “Old Testament.”
And that is how you write a Bible! You just make stuff up!
If you are smart about it you claim that your writing was actually the words of someone famous, like Moses, which is called “pseudepigraphal” writing. Some scholars think that the character Moses himself was actually a mythical Hebrew law-giver. “Pseudonymous” literally means “falsely named.” See Bart Ehrman’s book, “Forged: Writing in the Name of God—Why the Bible’s Authors Are Not Who We Think They Are” (especially pages 23-25).
For example, the fifth book of Moses called “Deuteronomy” was not written in the time of Moses, sometime in the century after 1300 B.C. In his book “Who Wrote the Bible?”(pages 101-2, 147) Richard Friedman says that Deuteronomy (the name being derived from the Hebrew term for “words” referring to Moses’ words) was actually written much later in the 5th century B.C., by a scribe named Baruch son of Neriyah, probably assembling material from many different sources, which is common for writings attributed to historical and mythical law-givers and philosophers.
For another example, King Solomon, who supposedly wrote the Old Testament Book of Ecclesiastes, which some people say means “speaker” or “preacher” in Greek, may not have gotten the wisdom written in the book directly from God, instead from other much more ancient cultures by way of his 1,000 wives and concubines, many of them given to him as tribute from folks such as the Egyptians and Phoenicians.
Some 1,200 years after the time of Moses the now fat and happy Jews of Israel are occupied by the greatest imperial power the Mediterranean region had ever seen. Unrest against those guys occupying your capital and temple is growing, and you need a savior! Now here comes this counter-intuitive movement of peace, love, and liberation from groups such as the Nazarenes, Essenes, Stoics, and Zealots, all needing a hero to rally around.
So they constructed a savior-myth, named him “Jesus” after some itinerant healer, and claimed that he met on a hill top, to be called the “Mount of Transfiguration,” with the long-gone prophet Moses the law-giver who died and was buried, and with the prophet Elijah the spiritual leader who did not die instead was taken to Heaven alive in a fiery chariot. (See: Matthew 17:1-8; Mark 9:2-8; Luke 9:28-35 ) This meeting makes Jesus greater than both of the earlier prophets since he is now vested with the attributes of both a political and a religious leader. So next they made stuff up about how everyone has to believe in the divinity of their character Jesus or else spend eternity in Hell.
Thirteen of the twenty-seven books of the New Testament, or about half, are said to be written by Paul, while four to six of those are thought to be pseudepigraphic. Paul and others are writing all that stuff in order to broaden the appeal of their peace, love, and liberation faith to non-Jewish “gentiles,” yet the problem is that the gentiles want to know about the early life of the mythical savior Jesus. Oops. We forgot to document the mythical Jesus’ early life story, so now we have to go back and make that stuff up sometime between 30 and 60 years after the events supposedly occurred!
To confirm that’s how it happened, Marcus Borg arranges the books of the New Testament in the order in which they were actually written, in his book titled, “Evolution of the Word.” It turns out that seven of Paul’s books were written before the Gospels Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John which provide the story of Jesus’ life, even though in the New Testament the Gospels appear first. Revelation, the last book appearing in the New Testament projecting events in the “End Time,” is actually the fifteenth book written out of the total of twenty-seven. Chronologically, the last book written and included in the New Testament is Second Peter.
Bart Ehrman says on page 23 in “Forged” that “one-third of the New Testament books . . . are books who’s authors never identify themselves,” including Acts, Hebrews, and 1, 2, and 3 John. The four Gospels never identify their authors, so they were later named “Matthew,” “Mark,” “Luke,” and “John.” I don’t suppose it really matters who wrote all that stuff if it is all made up anyway.
People begin writing all kinds of crazy apocryphal and apocalyptic stuff, so you choose the writings you like and claim the rest is heretical, put your choices in something you call the “New Testament,” ban and burn the rest, and soon this rebellious religion takes over that imperial power to become the “universal” religion to which all must profess adherence or die.
And that is how history is written. You need to justify your wealth and power so you just make stuff up that will do the job for you!
Now, 2,000 years into the “Year of our Lord,” we have a global civilization with existential threats to our fat and happy civilization coming fast and furious. Lots of things have and are changing as life for most animals and many humans becomes more difficult.
Most of us are not cold-blooded reptilians unaware of the rising temperatures around us; we can see what is happening and why. People like Riane Eisler point out that the problem slowly began 5,000 years ago with the change from a “partnership culture,” in which there was a balance of feminine and masculine traits in human society, to a “dominator model” in which by dominator-culture injunction men began to rule the lives of women and to “take dominion over the earth,” including wantonly despoiling it. Soon all life was no longer considered sacred as previously women’s spirituality and many indigenous cultures believed, becoming instead a resource for plundering by a conceptual construct we call “monetary economics,” which has now grown to a globally-exploitative system.
Along with the evolution of money arose the dominator religions called the “Abrahamic faiths:” Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. These gradually supplanted the earlier goddess-revering partnership culture, which had affirmed creation as the work of the Goddess. Joseph Campbell says in the book “The Power of Myth” (p. 47) coauthored with Bill Moyers, “We have Sumerian seals from as early as 3,500 B.C. . . . with the goddess giving the fruit of life to a visiting male. The old mythology of the goddess is right there.”
The patriarch Abraham left the city of Ur in Mesopotamia around the year 2,000 B.C. for Canaan, now Palestine, and began a monotheistic religion that has come down to us as the Judeo-Christian tradition, which systematized male dominance through what Riane Eisler calls the “dominator model” in her book, “The Chalice and the Blade: Our History, Our Future.” (p. xix)
Eisler explains that it was the Hebrew Levite priests who re-mythed (p. 85) the Garden of Eden story, changing it from the earlier partnership form, where as Merlin Stone writes in her book “When God Was A Woman” that, “According to legends of Sumer and Babylon, women and men had been created simultaneously, in pairs—by the Goddess,” to where in Genesis in the Bible man is created first and woman as an after-thought. This “re-mything” was done partly, if not entirely, in order to be able to keep track of patrilineage. “Re-mything” is a euphemism for “making stuff up.”
Earlier, in the partnership or matriarchal culture, it had been difficult for men to know which boys of the village were their biological sons for inheriting their wealth. As men’s wealth increased, inheritance became the determining cultural issue, and the Jewish solution was to enforce male ownership-and-control of women’s reproduction, to the point of death to women who have sex out of wedlock, while the men of her own family throw the stones or light the fire to burn her at the stake (Leviticus 20:10-14, 21:9; Deuteronomy 22:20-2). Stone writes, “the Levite priests devised the concept of sexual ‘morality’: premarital virginity for WOMEN, marital fidelity for WOMEN, in other words total control over the knowledge of paternity.” (p. 161, emphasis in the original)
The re-mything involved was very extensive, changing everything of the Goddess religions to service of the male God. Merlin Stone, Riane Eisler, and Marija Gimbutas in her book “The Living Goddesses” (p. 112), and other writers go into much detail about how as Eisler writes (p. 89), the changes were “reversals of reality as it had formerly been perceived.”
Recognizing that morality and religion are contrived constructs, according to the values of the culture, Partnership Spirituality affirms that we can today create a religion of our choosing, as people have done in the past. I don’t think that our knowing that religions are simply made up by priests says that we need to be atheists or agnostics, because that ignores the positive role that religion can have in society. Religion is a tool of cultural self-determination, just like government, economics, education, technology, and everything else, and like the rest it needs to serve the people, not oppress us and destroy our environment. We either control our own lives, or leave it to others who will do it for us.
The year 2027 will be roughly the 2,000th anniversary of the beginning of Jesus of Nazareth’s ministry, which he began at his age of 30 years. Whether he was an actual person or not, all sorts of people through the last two millennia have piled all kinds of stuff upon that name to create patriarchal Christianity, particularly Paul. 2027 will be a good opportunity for proclaiming the non-patriarchal, egalitarian religion of Partnership Spirituality.
While many Christians have evolved from the idea of having dominion over the earth to the idea of humans having responsibility for stewarding creation, reverence for the life-giving aspects of nature has always been a primary aspect of women’s spirituality. Traditionally, it has been said that while God is love, the Goddess is wisdom, so by elevating the feminine principle to parity with the masculine in our culture we may best affirm the wisdom of sustainable ecological lifestyles and cultures.
Today we are in transition between the astrological ages of Pisces and of Aquarius, and it is to us to re-myth our cultural foundations and personal beliefs as we choose. I choose to call a reclaimed gender-holistic religion “Partnership Spirituality,” while you may call it whatever you like. You can be engaged or not in the creation of the New Age, helping to make up this partnership religious stuff as you wish. For my part, I have written a tome to be used as a bible for Partnership Spirituality, available on Amazon.com titled: “The Intentioneers’ Bible: Interwoven Stories of the Parallel Cultures of Plenty and Scarcity.” Much of the material in this article is also in that book. May it serve as a foundation for the evolution of Partnership Spirituality.
Borg, Marcus J. (2012). Evolution of the Word: The New Testament in the order the books were written. New York: Harper One.
Campbell, Joseph. (1988). The power of myth: Joseph Campbell with Bill Moyers. New York: Bantam, Doubleday, Dell Publishing Group.
Ehrman, Bart. (2011). Forged: Writing in the name of God—Why the Bible’s authors are not who we think they are. New York: HarperCollins.
Eisler, Riane. (1987). The chalice and the blade: Our history, our future. San Francisco, CA: Harper & Row (1988 edition).
Friedman, Richard E. (1987). Who wrote the Bible? San Francisco, CA: Harper Collins.
Gimbutas, Marija. (1999). The living Goddesses. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.
Stone, Merlin. (1976). When God was a woman. New York: Harcourt Brace.