A Countercultural Religious Left response to the Dominant Culture’s Religious Right
A. Allen Butcher • The School of Intentioneering • Denver, Colorado • November 4, 2020
For definitions of terms and explanations of concepts see the glossary at the end of Part 5.
Toward an Age of Equality – Part 1 of 5 – Resolving Culture and Gender Wars with Partnership Theory
Partnership of Opposites: Common Solution to both Culture War and Gender Conflict
Gifting and sharing lifestyles through the millennia is a long and fascinating story. As a teenager I wanted to learn how people can live in cooperation as opposed to competition, yet as I looked for ways to learn about deliberate or intentional human community, in which people of similar values agree to live together as opposed to circumstantial community where people with differing values just happen to live in close proximity, I found that my interest was not taught anywhere in much depth. There were and are many gifting and sharing traditions in the world, and many stories about them, yet no comprehensive source on the topic, so I thought to create such a resource, a project which has now occupied much of my adult life.
It took me forty years to complete the first edition of a 1,000-page book (over a half-million words, available as an Amazon ebook) about human cooperation which I titled The Intentioneer’s Bible; hopefully someday to appear in print as a second edition with additional history and analysis. The most general and perhaps most profound practical and philosophical conclusion from that study is the concept of “Partnership” as a unified-field-theory of human culture.
While opposites and differences abound in human culture, leading to much rivalry and conflict, the solution of mutual respect and tolerance for differences is to focus upon the preference for unity, through practicing partnership-awareness. Partnership as a theory of preferred cultural design is advanced as a working or evolving solution to the greatest sources of anguish through the ages: patriarchy and property. As patriarchy must be balanced with matriarchy for a partnership culture, so also is gifting and sharing of labor and property balanced against private property and competition in the application of partnership theory in political-economic systems.
The second edition of The Intentioneer’s Bible will further explore partnership theory. While the German philosopher G. W. F. Hegel popularized his famous concept of process theory as thesis + antithesis = synthesis, partnership theory accommodates multiple perspectives, not just two forming a third. While Partnership theory can be used to resolve opposites, it can also be considered non-dual and without dichotomy, for realizing unity-in-diversity and holism. (See Eisler: centerforpartnership.org)
I searched for and included in The Intentioneer’s Bible all the best stories I could find about the counterculture and its use of time-based economics in intentional community, and contrasted that with a rendition of the dominant culture’s development of monetary economics. Of the great number of communitarian or intentioneering theories and experiences presented in The Intentioneer’s Bible, the best-known names associated with gifting and sharing lifestyles are Jesus and Marx. In my writing I associate Karl Marx with political-economic theories and systems, and Jesus of Nazareth with religion and family life (see the last section of Part V – Communitarian Mysticism).
Of course, Jesus and Marx approach the idea of a cooperative, collective, communal, sustainable, symbiotic, or solidarity lifestyle from different cultural orientations. While at the time of Jesus of Nazareth the Romans had invented concrete and had built massively impressive structures with it, even the simple technology of the wheel barrow had not yet been invented, and most people lived an agrarian lifestyle with many traditional forms of gifting and sharing. The Industrial Revolution was developing at the time of Karl Marx, with human culture becoming ever more isolated from the natural world and from humanity’s gifting and sharing traditions. Ethical and spiritual lifestyles were not seen to be relevant to competitive industrialism and so those values became increasingly hard to find and live, although never entirely forgotten in at least Western Civilization. In fact, the entire history of competitive Western Civilization has a culture of cooperation running parallel to it, one telling of which I have written in The Intenioneer’s Bible as an alternative history of Western Civilization.
Much has been learned about cooperation in the competitive world, and against all odds people have continually built upon the cooperative and communal theories and practices created before them, from that written in the Acts of the Apostles in the Bible to that of egalitarian-communal cultures, to where now there exist effective solutions to the two primary challenges of communal society, specifically: labor systems and family life.
How humans have organized work and family has changed through the ages. Through much of our prehistory female-centric matriarchal society was the norm, until men decided to turn the tables and create male-centric patriarchal culture. While women are credited with inventing agriculture and the domestic arts of weaving, pottery, food preparation, healthcare, and childcare, men were building buildings and other structures, and making weapons for hunting and for defending the buildings and other property they claimed, usually including their wives, children, and often also slaves. The Judeo-Christian-Islamic patriarch Abraham, who lived sometime between 2000 and 1900 B.C.E., is given credit for establishing the patriarchal tradition in Western Civilization.
While the paleo-anthropologists Richard Leakey and Roger Lewin explain in their book People of the Lake: Mankind and its Beginnings how primitive tribal cultures practicing “reciprocal altruism” in the late Neolithic Age of East Africa were cooperative rather than competitive (Leakey & Lewin, pp. 120, 136-9), and the archeo-mythologist Marija Gimbutas shows in The Living Goddesses that also during and after the late Neolithic era, circa 7000 to 3000 B.C.E. the human society of Southern and Eastern Europe was most likely matriarchal (Gimbutas, 2001, p. 112), the cultural historian and futurist Riane Eisler interprets in her book The Chalice and the Blade: Our History, Our Future the evidence that pre-patriarchal, matriarchal cultures may not have lived a female-dominate gender hierarchy, instead more likely a gender-partnership culture. (Eisler, pp. 24-5)
Social Change and the Culture Wars
Ethical teachings, both within and separate from religion, can serve to orient people to the joy of gifting and sharing lifestyles as opposed to the stress of competition, by identifying, advocating, and celebrating those political-economic-social systems and practices that uphold and advance our highest spiritual ideals and ethical values, whether within or separate from the dominant, competitive culture. Such systems and practices are typically found in the counterculture of alternative institutions, involving: ecological principles and sustainability in energy production, food, housing, etc; participatory forms of governance from consensus to democratic decentralism as practiced in public budgeting, neighborhood-level citizen councils, and intentional communities; commons-management as a political-economic model; credit unions and public banks replacing for-profit private banks; worker ownership and control of businesses; communal time-based, labor-gifting and labor-sharing systems replacing competitive monetary systems for making domestic services, income labor, and all other work that benefits the communal society equal for women and men; and the rejection of patriarchal culture including patriarchal religion, through affirming a gender-equal Partnership Spirituality.
The competitive, dominant culture is not divorced entirely from the gifting-and-sharing-lifestyles counterculture; it appreciates these alternatives at least to the degree that they uphold and perpetuate monetary economics, particularly during recoveries from natural and human-made disasters. Parallel to the dominant culture is always a counterculture creating gifting and sharing alternatives, and expressing values and world-views in ways that contrast with and even challenge the status quo of competitive culture. Essentially, there is a time for quiet organizing and for building cross-cultural, class-harmony coalitions of the dominant and the alternative cultures, and a time for nonviolent resistance to the dominant culture’s destruction of human cultural diversity and the ecological tragedy of species extinction. Whether there is also a time for civil disobedience and violent resistance to the self-destructive aspects of one’s own culture is a question of each person’s ethical limits and breaking points.
Cultural creativity generated by individuals and small groups of people to meet their needs or desires has historically been a primary driver of progressive change. This can be done in various ways, including: internal pressure by members of the dominant culture to evolve or subvert the destructive aspects of various institutions, such as by supporting life-affirming political platforms, or through the academic system where innovative instructors use the power of grades and degrees over students to direct their attention to alternatives; by people in the dominant culture appropriating or borrowing, then adapting and diffusing, social innovations developed in the counterculture, which may then become “counter institutions” which meet people’s needs when the dominant culture either cannot or will not; and by the power of the example of model societies which adopt and develop alternatives, whether already in the larger culture or actually originated by innovative, experimental societies, which is a strategy for change sometimes called “pre-figurative politics.”
In many cases, huge leaps from the status quo into the unknown of culture change is not practical, as such personal upheavals can lead to cognitive dissonance, causing unhealthy stress and anxiety when people, now in different circumstances, keep trying to hold on to familiar ways of doing things when those ways are no longer appropriate. In some cases, slow and steady incremental changes in consciousness, moving people only small steps at a time, can be the best way to make progress toward progressive goals. Failure to be sensitive to people’s level of cognitive awareness and emotional status when creating change can lead to counter-productive resistance and conflict, often called “reactionism.”
In other cases, some people may be ready and able to make flying leaps into experimental societies, applying their highest ethical values and spiritual ideals in their chosen lifestyle. The risk is of suffering the loss of idealism, time, and energy if the experiment fails, versus enjoying the most desirable lifestyle that humans can create should the cultural experiment succeed. Often, people leave communal society and other forms of intentional community when their personal needs and wants eclipse their attachment to the idealism that originally brought them to community.
The culture wars in at least America are typically fueled by the rise of cultural alternatives challenging the status quo, while for its part the status quo attempts to hold on to its prerogatives and hegemonic cultural dominance in the face of changing times. To avoid this problem, it can be helpful to encourage communication among people about social change on their own level of understanding or awareness, otherwise they are liable to simply turn their backs on and walk away from and ignore the messenger, or worse.
While it is not likely to be true in every case, reaching cultural conservatives of the Religious Right on their level may require the addressing of issues first on the basis of religious belief, and so building a Partnership Spirituality through the Religious Left becomes the method for the counterculture to express and advocate its egalitarian values in the face of the currently-dominant culture of patriarchal, authoritarian, unified-belief, religious conservatism.
The religious transition of the dominant culture from patriarchy to partnership may be most effectively carried out NOT by creating an entirely new and different awareness and experience of religious-based gender-partnership, instead it may be most effective to evolve the dominant religion toward gender-equality using appropriate aspects of the dominant culture’s established beliefs and practices. This is essentially how aspects of Judaism were spread through non-Jewish, polytheistic cultures like European pagans becoming Christian, and Middle-Eastern pagan Arabs becoming Islamic. While monotheism was likely a big change for pagans, the patriarchal aspects of Greco-Roman culture were not threatened and instead enhanced by the concept of a single male god.
At its origin, and as it grew, the Christian belief system adopted many aspects of other religious and philosophical traditions, including: Judaism, Stoicism, Gnosticism, Persian Dualism, and Paganism. In the same way, a non-Abrahamic, Partnership Spirituality may be created today out of the Judeo-Christian tradition similar to how Christianity grew out of the mixture of Judaism and other religious traditions.
The idea of induced religious evolution is similar to James Davison Hunter’s suggestion, written in his 1991 book, Culture Wars: The Struggle to Define America, that the dominant culture’s affirmation of its conservative moral authority is challenged by progressivism’s efforts, “to resymbolize historic faiths according to the prevailing assumptions of contemporary life.” Notice Hunter’s term, “resymbolize.” Riane Eisler uses a very similar term, “re-mything,” in her 1987 book, The Chalice and the Blade, in which she states that Judaism re-wrote the “sacred stories, along with the rewriting of codes of law [which] was still going on as late as 400 B.C.E., when scholars tell us Hebrew priests last rewrote the Hebrew Bible.” (i.e., The Old Testament of the Bible) In the same way it is now to us to resymbolize and re-myth patriarchal religion for the creation of Partnership Spirituality. (Eisler, p. 85; Hunter, pp. 44-5)
Around the eighth or ninth centuries B.C.E. as Eisler explains, the Elohim school of Hebrew priests in the northern Kingdom of Israel, and the Jahweh school in the southern Kingdom of Judea, had “reworked Babylonian and Canaanite myths, as well as Hebraic history, to suit their purposes.” Among those “purposes” was patriarchy, which was justified through the creation of a male-dominant monotheistic religion. It was the later Priestly school around 400 B.C.E. in Palestine which, as Eisler quotes the biblical scholars who annotated the Dartmouth Bible as saying, that the Jewish priests intended to “translate into reality the blueprint for a theocratic state.” In the same way it is now to us to re-symbolize and re-myth patriarchal religion for the creation of Partnership Spirituality. (Eisler, p. 85; Manuel & Manuel, 1979, p. 35)
N. K. Sandars suggests how the writers of the Torah, which became the Old Testament of the Bible, probably knew of earlier myths and likely adapted them for their design of Judaism. Considering the Great Flood in the Book of Genesis Sandars states, “There has been much controversy on the question of the relationship between the Genesis flood and that of the Assyrian, Babylonian, and Sumerian writers. … the view that it derives directly from a very old and independent history [i.e., independent of Jewish priests] has many supporters. … the Genesis account is probably best seen against a background of many very ancient flood stories, possibly but not necessarily relating to the same disaster …” Sandars notes that “the Sumerians were the first literate inhabitants of Mesopotamia,” and that the ancient stories comprising the Epic of Gilgamesh, including that of a Great Flood, were “probably written down in the first centuries of the second millennium B.C.” This is surprisingly about the same time that Abraham’s family left the City of Ur for the wilderness of Palestine. Sandars continues, “The Gilgamesh Epic must have been widely known in the second millennium B.C., for a version has been found in the archives of the Hittite imperial capital … while a small but important fragment from Megiddo in Palestine points to the existence of a Canaanite or later Palestinian version, and so to the possibility that early Biblical authors were familiar with the story.” (Sandars, pp. 8, 12, 14, 18, 105-10)
Joseph Campbell provides an example of an ancient myth that was later adapted for part of what we know as the Garden of Eden myth. Campbell states in The Power of Myth: Joseph Campbell with Bill Moyers, “We have Sumerian seals from as early as 3500 B.C.E. showing the serpent and the tree and the goddess, with the goddess giving the fruit of life to a visiting male. The old mythology of the goddess is right there.” (Campbell, p. 47)
As Jewish priests re-mythed the earlier matriarchal-culture foundations in their design of patriarchal culture, so can the Religious Left today re-symbolize the Judeo-Christian myths and culture to create egalitarian Partnership Spirituality.
While at present the dominant culture is conservative in religion, politics, and economics, things change as the pendulum-of-culture is always swinging from one extreme to the other. When the desire is to push the cultural pendulum to the left the need is to devise a world-view, a lifestyle, and a cultural paradigm to affirm at least: cooperation, intentional community, commons economics, ecological sustainability, racial justice, and partnership culture. To make such changes, all aspects of society and culture may be brought into play in a way that aligns each toward complimentary cultural goals.
To address cultural change on at least the levels of economics, politics, and religion there are a number of issues to be addressed. Considering these three aspects of culture together recognizes that they are interrelated, and so strategies for creating change simultaneously in each are needed. While there are many people working on political-economic changes toward a cooperative, egalitarian culture, there is not as much focus on creating and living a gender-equal religion to support those values. Thus, there is the need to affirm and build a Partnership Spirituality.
Glossary of Terms and Concepts used in the School of Intentioneering
Methods of Domestic Sharing:
Matriarchy — all or most property is owned by women who are head-of-the-household, inheriting family names and property. Typically, siblings grow up together in large households headed by a matriarch. Upon adulthood each young woman is given a bedroom in the household with one door opening to the outside and one door opening to an interior space or courtyard of the multi-room women’s house. Upon reaching adulthood the men live outside of the women’s household in smaller male-only housing, becoming male partners of any number of women, with children in different women’s households. The women would know their own children; while the men may never know which children are their own. Men run the businesses that support the family or extended family. (See: Goettner-Abendroth, 2009 & 2012).
Patriarchy — all or most property is owned by men who are head-of-the-household, inheriting family names and property. Typically, women leave their families to marry and live with their husband’s family, called patrilocal marriage. Monogamous marriage, serial-monogamy, blended families, polygamous families, and extended families, may all be headed by a patriarch. In some patriarchal cultures men essentially own women and girls like with all other property. In many patriarchal cultures women have to win and maintain their right to own property, own businesses, participate in governance, and lead religious institutions.
Partnership — property is owned by women, by men, or in common. Gender-equality is practiced in governance, business, and domestic home-life. Gender-equal or egalitarian marriage, serial-marriage, polyamory, or cofamily may be practiced.
Polyamorous families — women and/or men have two or more intimate partners, whether all of the involved adults live together or separately. The pleasure in seeing one’s partner enjoying being with their plural partners is called “compersion,” a term coined by the polyfidelitous Kerista Commune in 1970s San Francisco.
Cofamilies — three-to-nine, non-related people, with or without children, living in community. Women and men in cofamilies may or may not have polyamorous multiple intimate partners within the group. When a cofamily forms within or joins a larger intentional community, whether communal, cohousing, land trust, ecovillage, cooperative, etc, they are called a “nested cofamily.”
Cohousing — involves the sharing of privately-owned property with no or minimal commonly-owned property. The “common house” in cohousing is not owned-in-common, it is legally a form of private ownership called “undivided interest,” and is surrounded by the privately-owned housing units. The community is typically structured as a condominium or housing cooperative. Gender-equality is typically practiced in the governance structure of the cohousing community.
Ecovillage — a traditional village or an intentional community, either minimizing its impact on the natural world or enhancing the symbiosis of human and nonhuman living things, by incorporating ecological and sustainable features and practices, often called “permaculture.”
Methods of Sharing the Means-of-Production:
Communal—although this term has various dictionary definitions, in the School of Intentioneering it is used exclusively to refer to the common ownership of property and wealth, whether the governance structure is authoritarian or participatory.
Democratic decentralism—participatory governance for large numbers of people like towns divided into neighborhoods, with each having separate decision-making bodies, all sending representatives to a central coordinating body. This is basically how the Federation or FEC is organized, although those communities are not contiguous and instead are some distance from each other, while the largest communal societies tend toward subdividing in this way as well. Representatives of neighborhoods or communities may be delegated the authority to make decisions as they think is best for their constituents in delegate assemblies, or may be limited to only casting votes in representative assemblies according to instructions received from their constituents. Although they all mean the same thing, the term “democratic decentralism” is used in the School of Intentioneering in part to differentiate from the terms with the same meaning used by the Institute for Social Ecology, including: “confederal municipalism,” “democratic confederalism,” and the French meaning of “commune.”
Egalitarian Communalism — the furthest expression of gender partnership in which all property is owned and controlled in common by women and men, including the means-of-production. Community-ownership or common-ownership, with women and men sharing all domestic and other labor, and facilitating gender-equality in governance, is the most egalitarian social structure. Communal members may or may not form families, cofamiles, or polyamorous relationships within the communal society.
Worker-Ownership — the means-of-production, or capital, is owned in common and profits are shared. Shared governance with open bookkeeping or transparent accounting is usually practiced.
Land Commons — “the commons” is the natural and cultural resources shared by all. In traditional societies this may be practically everything, while for the present private-property system legal designs have been created to protect various forms of commons, from land, to the electro-magnetic spectrum, to open-source knowledge. The land commons may be protected: by governments, such as for maintaining parks and waterways, or by taxing for the public good via the land-value tax (LVT) that portion of land value created not by the land owner, instead by society through population density and government services; or by private organizations called conservation land trusts for keeping land wild; or by community land trusts (CLT) for housing, schools, businesses, self-reliant homesteads, etc.
Class-Harmony Community — the means-of-production and usually most property is owned by an individual or small-group, while others rent property from the (hopefully) benevolent owners. Tenants may be individuals, families, or cofamilies.
**End of Part 1 of 5**
Portions of this article were previously published in the author’s 2016 e-book The Intentioneer’s Bible
(see: Amazon.com), and other portions are to appear in the author’s forthcoming book.
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