Partnership Spirituality • A. Allen Butcher • Denver, Colorado • December, 2018 • 5,646 words
Feminism in Religion, Economics, and the Family
Among the voices in this time of speaking out against harassment and violence against women, the actor Natalie Portman gave a presentation in October 2018 titled “Step-by-Step Guide to Toppling the Patriarchy,” in which her last step was for Hollywood to create new stories which respect women rather than portray violence against women. (See: youtube.com/watch?v=0qukNm3Bhgg)
A new story for empowering women to a level of equality with men needs to include a chapter which evolves or transforms the dominant religion from patriarchy to gender-equality; as in a religious partnership of women and men. The most powerful and meaningful new story would then be that of the merging of male-oriented transcendent spirituality with the immanence of creation and grace in women’s spirituality. The drama in the story of replacing patriarchal religion is in avoiding a matriarchal religion and instead in balancing masculine and feminine aspects in a Partnership Spirituality.
For most of the world, the dominant, patriarchal religion is the Abrahamic faiths of: Judaism (founded 19th century B.C.), Christianity (1st century A.D.), and Islam (7th century A.D.). “The patriarchy” will not end as long as the patriarchal Abrahamic faiths are not replaced by a Partnership Spirituality. One of the many new stories that need to be told in order to work for equalitarian or egalitarian culture is how the early partnership culture was lost and how it is being reclaimed today.
Among Christians there has long been both academic and theological debates about women and feminism in at least the New Testament of the Bible. The Jewish tradition also has had a long debate about women and feminism, while the Islamic tradition has somewhat less. There is plenty of such debate among Christians to slog through, including many books on the topic such as, “In Memory of Her: A Feminist Theological Reconstruction of Christian Origins” (1989), in which the author, Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza, talks about an aspect of the Early Christian Church which affirmed not just an equality-of-believers among people of different economic levels in society, yet also people of different genders (presumably whether you believe there are just two genders or more). The author writes of the, “Christian feminist vision of the discipleship of equals,” explaining how that got lost by orthodox Catholicism and how to reconstruct it. An Internet search on “Christian feminism” brings up plenty of material from people affirming that originally Christianity was feminist, and suggesting how to reclaim that lost nature of the dominant religion of the West. (Fiorenza, p. xxiv; see also pp. 143, 147-8, 151)
Religion can be a powerful force in culture for either conservative or for progressive influences, and so it is necessary to understand how it has been used to design the patriarchal culture, and how to utilize this force in order to direct the influence of religion toward the support of equality-of-the-genders, or egalitarianism.
A place to begin is to realize that there are people who have constructed, and who are enjoying today, a culture of economic equality among women and men in the communal societies of the Federation of Egalitarian Communities. One of the ideals of the feminist movement has always been that of valuing domestic labor, including childcare, cleaning, food preparation, healthcare, and more, equal with income-generating and other work typically done by men, and this ideal in particular has been realized in the Federation communities.
The idea of “wages for housework” came up in the first wave of feminist organizing around the time that women won the right to vote in America about a century ago. Yet what developed instead since then has been the turning of everything that people used to do for themselves in the home into commodities or services for purchase, essentially monetizing domestic work, which is one of the reasons women today have to work for income as well as work in the home, while many men have begun doing the same. While it is essential that men share the domestic workload, which does move us a step toward feminist, egalitarian culture, merely sharing the domestic labor burden does not result in valuing the two types of work equally. Child care is among the lowest paid occupations for those who work in it, while being one of the biggest expenses for those who must pay for it.
The contribution of the member communities of the Federation of Egalitarian Communities in creating feminist culture is in devising processes that effectively value domestic labor equally with all other forms of work by doing away with money altogether, in fact using no exchange system at all, not even labor-exchange within the community. Instead, the economic process used is labor-sharing, which is a form of time-based economics. While time-based economics includes labor-exchanging, there are two other forms as well: labor-gifting which is essentially volunteering time as in “giving back” or “paying it forward;” and labor-sharing which is a common commitment to contributing one’s own time to functions which mutually support all the members, including oneself. It is labor-sharing in Federation communities like Twin Oaks in Virginia (founded 1967) and East Wind in Missouri (landed 1974) through a vacation-credit labor system that has enabled these communal societies to enjoy an egalitarian, feminist, non-monetary, time-based economy, in which all labor that benefits the community is valued equally. (Full disclosure: the author lived twelve years in these two Federation communities.)
The importance of knowing this story about gender-equality in communal society is the evidence shown that the ideal is attainable; egalitarian culture does exist, and anyone can learn about and enjoy it! The problem, of course, is that most people do not want to live in communal society.
Frequently, young adults who individually join a Federation community will form a relationship, then leave to have children in the dominant culture rather than in the community where they met. I once did a survey of former members of East Wind Community, asking them why they joined and why they left, and the answers were most often that people joined for idealistic reasons, like to enjoy an ecological, feminist, sharing lifestyle, and left for practical reasons, like to go back to school, to pursue a career not available in the community, and especially to have children.
Children-in-communal-society is a major issue among both religious and secular groups. The systems for communal childcare in the Federation communities have changed over time, from where during about the first quarter-century of the movement the communities, rather than the parents, made all decisions regarding the children through their childcare programs. However, the Federation communities found two major problems with communal childcare in large communities.
First, the turn-over rate of members, both parents and non-parent care-givers, meant that issues like immunizations, discipline, diet, etc., that had been settled earlier invariably have to be re-debated as new parents come into the program, requiring ongoing meetings to continually reset or redesign a consensus. Second, the fact that many or most parents leave with their children before they reach school age results in reluctance on the part of some members of the communal group to fund birthing and childcare. In response to these and other issues, the Federation communities since the early or mid-1990s now empower parents in creating support systems for their children with the help of other individual members, rather than the community itself organizing childcare for the parents, which I think of as “cofamilies” formed around each child and nested within the larger communal society.
The Cofamily in Egalitarian, Feminist Culture
The term “cofamily” is intended to add to the common list of types of families. The existing list includes: single-parent family, nuclear family, extended family, and blended families. While this list involves only people who are related biologically or through marriage, there is another form of family which needs to be acknowledged and added, which is groups of three-to-nine, usually unrelated and unmarried adults, supporting each other and their children. A cofamily is a form of small intentional community, with the prefix “co” in this case representing any number of terms including: cooperative, collective, communal, complicated, convoluted, or any similar term other than “consanguine family.” The term “cofamily” can refer to either a small group by itself, or to a small group within a larger intentional community, whether communal, collective, cohousing, land trust, ecovillage, or other.
The classic problem of children and families in communal society is best explained by a quote from the Catholic Worker movement. In his book, “Breaking Bread: The Catholic Worker and the Origin of Catholic Radicalism in America” (1982), Mel Piehl quotes a Catholic Worker community resident named Stanley Vishnewski who clearly explains the dynamic.
“Single persons under the influence of a powerful religious motive can live happily in a communal society where everything is shared in common. … But we soon learned that marriage and our attempts at communal living were incompatible, for no matter how devoted to the work, the moment they married their relationship gradually and imperceptibly and then frankly and strongly veered away from the community to take care of their own. … This fact, that the family seeks its own because it is a natural community, is the fundamental reason why a complete plan of communal living was bound to fail.” (Stanley Vishnewski, quoted in Piehl pp. 128-9, found in Brian Berry, “America’s Utopian Experiments,” p. 204)
Although the Catholic Worker movement is now growing rapidly, it is mostly creating small communities or cofamilies of under ten adult members each, which can manage communal childcare for a few children at a time. When a Catholic Worker community grows to ten adults or more it will likely experience the problem with communal childcare that Stanley Vishnewski explained.
All large communal societies have had to deal with the communal childcare problem. Monasteries often simply refuse any children, while the Christian Hutterites gave up their communal children’s houses for family-based early childcare while maintaining socialization methods for keeping their children in their communities (Huntington, pp. 38-40, 42), and most of the Israeli kibbutzim went on down the slippery slope of privatization of their communal economies after giving up their children’s houses in favor of cohousing-like family apartments on government-owned land trusts. (Isralowitz, pp. 5-6; Lieblich, pp. 64-5; Near, p. 734)
East Wind Community’s communal childcare program lasted 10 years, Twin Oaks’ 20 years, kibbutzim 80 years, although today there are new urban kibbutzim practicing communal childcare, and the Hutterites’ communal childcare lasted 300 years although it was on and off a couple times in their history. For the group of first Christians in the Book of Acts their communalism only lasted around 20 years. Trevor Saxby suggests in his book, “Pilgrims of a Common Life,” that the reasons for this loss of communalism in the Early Christian Church may have been due to persecution, famine, and the failure of members to work for income to support the community, although the failure of communal childcare could have been another reason. (Saxby, pp. 21, 52, 59-60)
The stories are different, yet the lesson is the same. This is why communities which share privately-owned property as opposed to sharing commonly-owned property, like cohousing, usually advertise for people with children while communal societies usually do not. This is also much of the reason why collective, rather than communal, community designs like cohousing and Catholic Worker communities are the fastest-growing community movements. The confusing thing is that many communities may function communally while the property is owned by an individual, which is a form of intentional community which I have named “class-harmony community,” some of which are Catholic Worker.
While it is amazing that the egalitarian communities have existed for over fifty years, with their solution to the communal childcare problem being to limit the number of children they will support while providing for “nested cofamilies,” it is their turn-over rate of membership that keeps the movement to a slow growth-rate. After half a century there are fewer than 250 adult members of egalitarian, communal Federation communities while a few thousand people have been members, with the largest community, Twin Oaks, being about 100 adults. Twin Oaks Community appears to have adopted a decentralized model of about one-hundred adults per community while similar communities are founded around it, with a current maximum of one child for every five adults, which is slightly below the ratio of children-to-adults in the dominant culture of the “Outside World.” Understanding the membership turn-over rate, plus the fact that most all of the children born into these communities either leave with their parents by the time they reach school age or leave on their own once they become adults, suggests that this method of creating feminist culture is limited in application to the dominant culture.
The value of communal, egalitarian culture is in showing the extent of the concept, or how the ideal of gender equality can be fully realized in the real world. While we now know how to create a culture that values all labor equally, by using forms of time-based economics, especially what I call the, “vacation-credit labor system,” we have to recognize that even after experiencing it most people simply do not want to live in communal culture, even though many idealize communalism. While many people talk anti-capitalism, most people abandon communalism once they experience it to return to capitalist culture, usually valuing their communal experience yet refusing to live it again once they acquire property and family. Theoretically, it is possible that a communal economy could work on a scale large enough that most people could satisfy their personal needs and wants, while the current strategy for getting there is the decentralized network of separate communal groups of up to a hundred adults each in close proximity.
What communal culture shows us is that while the problems of capitalist monetary economics inspires people to step outside of the dominant, competitive culture to create communalism, the experience of living communally inspires people to want to return to capitalist competition, if only to see how well they can play the game!
Ironically, both capitalism and communalism give rise to the other, as each engenders its own opposite. Besides in communal society, we can also see this dynamic in various festivals, like the Gatherings of the Rainbow Family of Living Light and in Burning Man and related events. While the people who attend such gatherings are committed to community and cooperation in their gifting cultures, there remains a strong tendency among attendees of Gatherings in national forests to spread a ground-cloth and offer items displayed upon it for trade in a sprawling “Barter Lane.” The resulting scene is of the ages-old, bustling, colorful, market ambiance that attracts many people to what I call, “wilderness training experiences in basic market economics,” practicing through barter transactions the market functions of: buy-low-sell-high, inflation in the cost of the most desired commodities of chocolate and tobacco, market deflation when someone brings a large bag of chocolate bars and hands them out, comparative advantage, rational self-interest, and other market dynamics all for fun and profit, enjoyed particularly among teenagers and younger children. While the Burning Man administration actively disrupts such Barter Circles, the much more anarchistic Rainbow Gatherings have been unsuccessful in preventing barter in our otherwise non-commercial events.
Communal groups even end up using the monetary system for trading commodities among themselves. For example, East Wind Community makes peanut butter as a business while Sandhill Community makes sorghum sweetener and honey for their businesses, the two being about 300 miles apart in Missouri. For internal consumption both communities wanted the other’s commodities. They tried bartering the commodities, yet problems resulted in how to value the different items, whether by weight or labor involved, or some other method. Then too there was the problem that barter transactions are taxable, and so the communities had to value their products in dollars for sales tax reporting. And further, having a separate ledger for barter complicated the computations of productivity, dollar-per-hour of industry labor, and annual income tax reporting. The communities simply found it to be easier to sell their commodities to each other rather than barter them. Here again we see why monetary economics exists, and the difficulty for even communal societies to do without at least an alternative or local currency, which is an exchange system rather than a gifting or sharing system.
One important and valuable function of time-based economics beyond the individual community is labor-exchange between communities. As long as labor is not given a dollar value, either within or between communities, it is not considered to be a commercial exchange, and therefore is ruled non-taxable by the IRS and other government agencies. By assuring that the community’s income is below the taxable level per person, a communal society can then be tax-free. Because the communities share so much internally it has been proven to be possible to live a lower-middle-class lifestyle on poverty-level income. Further, a time-based, communal economy avoids not just income taxes yet also, when incorporated as what the IRS calls a “religious and apostolic association” using section 501(d) of the tax code, communal groups are free of social security and unemployment taxes. From all of this I developed the acronym: LIVE FREE! Which stands for: Labor Is Valued Equally • For Realizing Economic Equality!
Evidently, despite the economic freedom and feminist culture of egalitarian communalism, people have an innate desire for private property in family groups, for the excitement of meeting and trading in markets, and for efficient exchange mechanisms between communal groups. While people want to know that alternative cultures exist outside of monetary economics, few people, including those who experience it, choose to make it a lifelong commitment.
The issues around children in communal-sharing societies, barter in festival-gifting experiences, and trade among communal societies serve to explain both why capitalism exists and why communalism can never become the dominant culture. The greatest value, then, of successful communal societies like those in the Federation of Egalitarian Communities, is in the model these communities present of egalitarian culture. The experience of these communal societies shows us the practical extent of the application of feminist, egalitarian culture as practiced in some communal societies in economics, governance, and the social design considerations of children and family. The next step, therefore, is to apply feminist, egalitarian culture to religion.
Partnership Spirituality in Unitarian Universalism
“Any vital social program is possible only if it is the expression of a religion which calls on the whole loyalty of [women and] men … The more adequate the interpretation of life which is provided by a political or economic philosophy, the better foundation does it constitute for a social and economic program … [and that interpretation needs] a religious motive to vitalize the program.” Arthur Morgan wrote this view of the importance of religion in his study of utopian theory, fiction, and practice, published in his 1944 book titled, “Edward Bellamy: A Biography of the Author of ‘Looking Backward’.” (Morgan, 1944, pp. 302-3)
In the above quote Arthur Morgan presents the case for making our religion consistent with our cultural intentions. I extrapolate from this to say that if we want an egalitarian, feminist culture on any large scale, then we need a religion which respects those values: which I am calling a “Partnership Spirituality.”
In considering where to start in the creation of a Partnership Spirituality it is helpful to consider who is already doing something similar, and the largest such group is the Unitarian Universalists. Arthur Morgan served a time as the vice-president of the American Unitarian Association (from the back cover of “Edward Bellamy”), before it merged with Universalism in 1960, both originally being Christian denominations.
Arthur Morgan and family founded Community Service, Inc. in 1940 (now Community Solutions), and The Vale community in 1946, both in Yellow Springs, Ohio, and sponsored the founding of the Fellowship of Intentional Communities in 1948-9, which changed its name in 1986 to the Fellowship for Intentional Community. (Morgan, 1942, p. 9)
Unitarians and Universalists inspired and supported several intentional communities in America during at least the 19th and 20th centuries. The founder of the famous Brook Farm community outside of Boston, Massachusetts, George Ripley, was a Unitarian minister in Boston. Ripley contributed to transcendental thought, hosting the first meeting of the Transcendental Club in his home in 1836, which later became the organizational theory of Brook Farm (1841-47). Robert Fogarty called Brook Farm, “By far the most well-known of all the ‘utopian’ societies.” (Fogarty, pp. 99, 183; Oved, pp. 142-3)
A member of Brook Farm, John Orvis, became a leader in the Universalist minister John Murray Spear’s Harmonia community (1853-63) in southern New York, close to the Pennsylvania border. In 1858 they sponsored a convention with the theme “Feminine Equality.” (Fogarty, pp.107-8, 197)
The Altruria community in Fountain Grove, California lasted only one year (1894-5). Its founder, Edward Biron Payne, was a Unitarian minister who preached a social gospel, eventually becoming a Christian Socialist advocating gradual change, interdependence, and mutual obligation. Although Altruria attracted many competent people who started several different income projects, the group failed to focus upon any one to scale it up to sufficiently support the community. (Fogarty, p. 127; Hine, pp. 102-4)
Early in the 20th century two community projects were started by Unitarian ministers in Massachusetts, one in 1900 in Montague by Edward Pearson Pressey called New Clairvaux, and the second in 1908 in Haverhill by George Littlefield called Fellowship Farm. Both of these groups were homesteading communities focused upon rural self-sufficiency and cottage businesses, taking inspiration from the arts and crafts movement which decried urbanization and industrial mass production. New Clairvaux had a printing press, a school, and up to twenty-nine residents, yet dissolved by 1909 due to financial problems. (Miller, pp. 54-5)
Fellowship Farm had about forty members, a printing press and craft businesses, although it is unclear how long it lasted. Littlefield’s community idea inspired several other groups, including homesteader/arts and crafts communities in Norwood, MA, Kansas City and Independence, MO, and in Los Angeles, CA where twenty families comprised the LA Fellowship Farm from 1912-27. In all about three-hundred families lived in Fellowship Farms. (Fogarty, pp. 228, 230; Miller, pp. 107-8)
Later in the 20th century three intentional communities in central Virginia were associated with the Thomas Jefferson Memorial Church Unitarian Universalist in Charlottesville, Virginia: Twin Oaks (1967-present), Springtree (1971-to present), and Shannon Farm (1972 -to present). Springtree and Shannon both started after their founders attended a summer Communities Conference at Twin Oaks Community. Early on, Twin Oaks had its own UU Fellowship, which carried on exchanges with the UU Church in Charlottesville, members of which helped Twin Oaks build a UU meeting hall with labor and money donations, called the Ta’chai Living Room. Over the decades various Twin Oaks members have attended UU services and other events in Charlottesville and at various UU churches in the Washington D.C. area.
Notice in the timeline above of intentional communities and organizations that the Unitarian Universalist influence is an important part of the foundation of some of the movement, culminating now in the Fellowship for Intentional Community which publishes “Communities” magazine, the “Communities Directory” and other books, and sponsors conferences, trainings, consultations, a loan fund, a website, and other movement services. There are as well many other religious and spiritual organizations comprising the foundation of the communities movement, with the Quakers having the longest association with communitarianism, yet the point is that while religious sentiments often give rise to people wanting to live by their religious precepts, which results in the founding of utopian societies, all of that already exists with regard to egalitarian, feminist culture. Effectively, Partnership Spirituality works in the opposite direction, with the creation of egalitarian culture having been completed first and its religious expression following.
Unitarian Universalism is likely to be friendly toward the idea of developing a Partnership Spirituality movement since it has already an earth-based, women’s spirituality affirmation in its independent affiliate called the “Covenant of UU Pagans” or CUUPS. The origin of this affiliation is said to be in 1977 when the UU Association passed at its General Assembly a “Women and Religion Resolution.” In 1988 the UUA General Assembly granted CUUPS an affiliate status, “honoring goddess-based, earth-centered, tribal and pagan spiritual paths.” CUUPS provides a theological orientation and a liturgical tradition (i.e., the rites of public worship) which is consistent with the idea of combining the spiritual traditions of transcendence and immanence, Goddess and God, male and female. (See: cuups.org)
Merging an egalitarian expression of Christianity with women’s spirituality in a form which could be affirmed as being not so much polytheistic as it would be a binarian monotheism would involve extensive dialogue and deliberation, and so Unitarian Universalists would be the perfect group to carry on the idea of a Partnership Spirituality.
In the same way that Trinitarian Christianity (i.e.: Father, Son, Holy Spirit) is considered to be monotheist, so also may a Binarian Partnership Spirituality of male and female (or any other genders) be considered monotheist when affirmed as one entity. That is, we say it is so, then for us, so it is! Such is the malleable nature of spiritual and religious beliefs.
It would be well that Twin Oaks Community and other groups utilizing the 501(d) tax status consider taking one of its primary organizational tenants, which is feminist egalitarianism, to an affirmation of a religious belief, because having a spiritual or religious orientation is a requirement of that favorable tax status. We know that the IRS and conservative government in general has a bias against communalism, and any time these conservative forces desire to do so they can challenge again Twin Oaks’ claim to meet the requirements of the 501(d) Religious and Apostolic Association, as they did in the late 1970s.
While Twin Oaks had been filing its taxes for many years under the 501(d) subsection of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) tax code they did not formally request the status. When the IRS discovered what Twin Oaks was doing in 1977 they said that they were not exempt and had to pay a quarter-million dollars in back taxes. Because Twin Oaks does not have a vow-of-poverty like churches and monasteries filing under the tax-exempt 501(c)(3) status, the IRS made the spurious statement that in 1936 when the U.S. Congress created the 501(d) status they intended to include a vow-of-poverty requirement like that of the 501(c)(3) churches and monasteries. To challenge this contrived argument Twin Oaks appealed the problematic IRS ruling in Tax Court and won the case! (Twin Oaks Community, Inc., versus Commissioner of Internal Revenue, 87th Tax Court, No. 71, Docket No. 26160-82, Filed 12-3-86)
Given that such a spurious legal challenge happened once, it could happen again to any Federation or other community using the 501(d) tax status, and the obvious charge next time could be that the community is not actually a religious organization, instead it is secular. The United States Post Office made such an adverse determination against East Wind in 1979 when the community applied for the non-profit bulk rate mailing permit. The USPO St. Louis Office denied East Wind’s request saying, “The bylaws submitted by the East Wind Community makes no mention of any religious worship or religious activities.” (Postmaster, USPO Mail Classification Center, St. Louis, MO, January 4, 1979 to the Postmaster, Tecumseh, MO 65760)
In another case, East Wind Community was attempting to set up an “Earned Leaving Fund” (ELF) to enable members to leave the community by letting them work in the community businesses to earn personal funds for resettlement costs in the outside world. This is clearly contrary to 501(d) requirements, so the community retained a legal firm, which responded saying that the ELF be “treated as an outside employee both for accounting and tax purposes. One way to do this would be to set up a separate bank account … into which the Earned Leaving Fund is deposited as earned.” (Collins Denny, III, letter of 9-4-87, Mays & Valentine, Richmond, Virginia)
I have since suggested that this separate bank account plan could and perhaps should be used by especially new communal groups that have a significant amount of income from outside jobs as opposed to community businesses. While the community business income is exempt under 501(d), outside job income is not. Therefore, having two separate community bank accounts, one exempt for community-business income and the other non-exempt for outside-work income with the two taxed differently, would likely facilitate a new community’s application for 501(d) status, yet that is a another issue.
What is relevant to this article in the Collins Denny letter is his concluding comments that, “I believe that the Internal Revenue Service still maintains an internal bias against 501(d) organizations which do not have a vow of poverty. In saying this, however, I must point out that I have not made any inquiries or seen any IRS publications which support my feelings that a bias exists.” (Collins Denny, III, letter of 9-4-87, Mays & Valentine, Richmond, Virginia)
There may come a time when Federation communities will want or need to dust off their statements of religious belief which they have filed with the IRS and make witness of their lifestyle as justification for their claim that they are indeed religious organizations. Both East Wind and Twin Oaks include in their statements of religious belief the quote from the Book of Acts in the Bible about all believers holding property in common, along with various ideals about sharing and oneness. Yet the most prominent aspect of their existence and structure is egalitarianism, and so adding the equality of women and men as another aspect of their stated religious beliefs could make Partnership Spirituality a saving grace for them.
A New Age Partnership Documentary
As we have already in existence examples of the furthest expression of egalitarian lifestyle and culture, affirming and building a religious or spiritual expression of egalitarianism builds upon the ideals and experience of women and men in partnership, as means of effecting what Natalie Portman and many others have stated needs to be done of “toppling the patriarchy.”
Do not underestimate the significance of the cultural change from patriarchy to partnership. This is a “New Age” level of transformation of our culture through which we many anticipate many rippling affects. Consider that around the year 2027 will be the 2,000th anniversary of the beginning of Jesus of Nazareth’s ministry, which became Christianity. Jesus’ birth date is contested, yet in our Gregorian calendar is considered to have been December 25, 4 B.C. not 0 A.D. and he began his ministry at age 30, so 2,000 years later is about 2027. Another reason for emphasizing this date is that 2027 will be the 200th anniversary of the first printing of the term “socialist,” in the “London Cooperative Magazine” in 1827, eventually giving rise to the community movement of “Christian socialism.”
Now is a good time to assess the heritage of this patriarchal era, and to begin to affirm the new era of partnership. A very good ally in that assessment and projection is the Center for Partnership Studies created in 1987 by the author Riane Eisler. The CPS website states that it serves as a, “catalyst for cultural, economic, and personal transformation–from domination to partnership, from control to care, from power-over to empowerment. CPS’s programs provide new knowledge, insights, interventions, and practical tools for this urgently needed shift.” (See: centerforpartnership.org)
“The identification of the partnership model and the domination model as two underlying social configurations requires a new analytical approach that includes social features that are currently ignored or marginalized, such as the social construction of human/nature connections, parent/child relations, gender roles and relations, and the way we assess the value of the work of caring for people and nature.” (Wikipedia.org, Riane Eisler, Partnership and Domination Models)
Riane Eisler’s Partnership Center would likely be an excellent resource for Unitarian Universalists and others in the creation of new stories of partnership culture and spirituality. A New Age of Partnership, however will require more, it will need a new Bible, and for that I have written an alternative history of gifting and sharing societies through the ages, focusing upon tribal and communitarian cultures, with an emphasis upon women’s stories in them. This work is currently only available in digital format at Amazon.com titled “The Intentioneer’s Bible: Interwoven Stories on the Parallel Cultures of Plenty and Scarcity.” Much of the material in this article is also in that book.
Having a good start on a history of gifting and sharing cultures, as opposed to the taking and exchanging of the dominant culture, another potential resource would be a video documentary of the history portrayed in “The Intentioneer’s Bible.” And who better for such a project than the Public Broadcasting System (PBS) documentarian Ken Burns!
Perhaps PBS is not exactly a Hollywood-level story-teller, yet the difference in emphasis and orientation likely makes PBS more appropriate for telling the story of egalitarianism through the ages, toward a transition of our civilization from patriarchy to partnership.
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