In the effort to preserve the subordination of women and prevent the feminization of society, Christian spokesmen make much of the fact that Jesus Christ incarnated as a man. They say his sexual identity confirms the "natural" order of male dominance.
But in reality, Christ taught a way of life designed to end the dominance of the male principle. He told men to be more like women: to demonstrate characteristics of the female principle. He told them to be kind, compassionate, and nonviolent. He said that whoever gave his life in humble service was the greatest among them. Jesus taught men to be more like women so they would be able to regain the male/female integrity that was a reflection of the Godhead.
In spite of enormous difficulties, there are men who, in varying degrees, have given expression to the female principle. Even when ridiculed and ostracized for trying to be caring, nonviolent, human beings, they have not turned back. Despite enormous social and psychic pressures that attempt to coerce them into accepting the gospel of machismo, many have chosen the gospel of Christ.
They do this in the face of overwhelming odds. From earliest childhood boys are taught that the way to become men is to repress all evidence of the female principle. They learn to despise any sign of femininity in themselves or in their peers. The male/female identity that is their birthright is perverted by parents who were also raised to be incomplete beings.
Fathers set the behavioral standards for their sons and because women have surrendered their autonomy--because their "desire" is for male leadership--they defer to their husband's judgment. The mother agrees not to commit the cardinal sin of "feminizing" her son or "emasculating" him by demanding the same loving kindness and nonviolence she expects from her daughter. She accepts the dictum that "boys will be boys" and allows her child to be given weapons for his earliest toys. And when her young son is taught to kill animals for recreation and pleasure, she agrees to call this brutality male bonding. Then, when he comes of age and is taught to kill other women's sons in the endless wars that never bring peace, she says he is serving God and country.
The same women who at great cost to themselves nurture their children--who love and protect them as they journey from infancy to adulthood--allow their sons to be conditioned to violence. They allow them to be carefully taught to become the kind of men in whom compassion and concern have been diminished to the point that they will not interfere with the requirements of a machismo society. And then they teach their daughters that these de-feminized, incomplete human beings represent the true nature of the male.
Women do this because they, too, are incomplete. They must also regain a male/female balance--they must become more like men. They have to overcome the temptation to be dependent, instead of autonomous beings. Women must learn to act in accord with the dictates of their own conscience and not submit to the judgment of their mates. They have to take responsibility for what goes on in the world outside the home as well as being accountable for the family life.
But the pressures that keep women from manifesting the male strengths of action and overcoming are just as strong as those that keep men from manifesting the female strengths of compassion and kindness. As they try to integrate the male and female principles within themselves, women are faced with enormous resistance from society and from their closest circle of family and friends. And until very recently, there was only one time in recorded history that they had any support as they tried to do this.
During the first century A.D., women who converted to Christianity were supported in their choice by the community of believers. Many left home and family for the sake of the gospel, and they could do this only because there was a place for them to go. There was a place for them because Jesus taught that the female, as well as the male, would have to separate herself from those influences that tried to maintain the status quo.
Breaking away from old patterns of behavior was just as much the responsibility of the woman as it was of the man. Each had to overcome the conditioning of parents who had raised them in their own distorted image. The female had to escape the influence of a mother who taught her how to be an incomplete woman, just as the male had to break away from the father who taught him to be an incomplete man.
Jesus said, "I have come to turn a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law--a man's enemies will be the members of his own household." It was this kind of statement, and the fact that so many people did leave their families in order to follow his Way, that gave rise to the pagan accusation that Christianity was trying to destroy the family unit. That charge was repeated for hundreds of years.
When Jesus said he had come to turn family members against each other he was not telling his followers to provoke trouble. He was warning what would happen when their new way of life came into conflict with the old. Those who wanted to be his disciples would have to separate themselves from those who were determined to maintain a repressive status quo. This new way could not be grafted onto the old order. His followers had to be prepared to leave "home or brothers or sisters or mother or father and lands for [his] sake."
It is difficult for any human being to fulfill the gospel requirements of compassion, love, and service, but women have an advantage over men. They have been trained to value these characteristics in themselves. Men have not. The teachings of Christ are in sharp conflict with the way men are socialized. They are conditioned to believe that war is noble and that it is na´ve and impractical to be compassionate and kind in the marketplace.
Even in church, men are at a terrible disadvantage. The same religious leaders who teach them that the life and death of Jesus Christ provide the only path to salvation also praise men for doing things that contradict the gospel message. Priests and ministers honor them as patriots when they kill other men, and pronounce them god-blessed when they have amassed much money and power.
A woman's religious training does not conflict with the socialization process she undergoes. In church, as everywhere else, she is encouraged to demonstrate the characteristics of the female principle. Because their religious leaders never tell women to do anything, or be anything, that conflicts with a stereotypical femaleness, women outnumber men in attendance at both Catholic and Protestant churches. They find comfort in hearing that Jesus taught and manifested the same qualities that are demanded of them: nurturance, compassion, and service. But they have been lulled into a sinful complacency by their church leaders.
These leaders never remind women that Jesus also manifested the power, strength, and activity of the male principle. Christ did not come only to teach men to manifest the female principle. Women, also, must manifest the qualities they have been taught to repress: they must be more like men. Jesus came to demonstrate to both sexes the nature of a person in whom the male and female principles were perfectly integrated.
But instead of encouraging either men or women to regain their integrity, human beings have maintained a system of gender division in which the female counters the activity and destructiveness of the male power principle by being passive and nurturing. If women did not play this traditional role, the status quo of a machismo world could not be maintained. It would self-destruct.
In spite of the determination to preserve the rule of the male principle, its power is being eroded. For almost 2,000 years the female principle that Jesus embodied and taught others to manifest, has been permeating western civilization. Pacifism, the equality of women, justice for the poor and powerless, and respect for all forms of life are influencing our Judeo-Christian culture as never before. No longer the province of heretics, eccentrics, or geniuses, these concepts have entered the mainstream and changed the political and social life of our civilization.
Because these societal changes represent a spiritual evolution, their manifestation has been a long, slow process. Like any evolutionary process, its essence is gradual--and individual--development.
Today that process continues in the women's movement. In spite of the excesses and abuses committed in its name, and in spite of the attempt by a materialistic society to develop a feminism that serves its own purposes, it is a spiritual movement. The journey that began with Sarah and Abraham took a giant leap forward in the teachings of the Latter Prophets and led to the ministry of Jesus. Now that journey reaches another milestone as women begin to understand that they, like their male counterparts, must be willing to manifest the qualities they have been told are characteristics of the opposite sex.
As women try to do this, there is a massive backlash from a society desperately trying to maintain the old order and the old gods. But in spite of the countless ways in which a doomed system tries to block the feminization of society, the process continues. And as both women and men strive to regain the male/female integrity that is their divine heritage, their efforts form a new foundation on which society can build a future that is different from the past.
It is hard to envision what that society will be like, but we do know from the life of Christ and from the teachings of the Latter Prophets, what some of its characteristics will be. It will be a caring, compassionate, and nonviolent world in which regenerated human beings will no longer exploit each other or any other creature. In such a world "The wolf will live with the lamb...the cow shall feed with the bear...the lion will eat straw like the ox and a little child will lead them....There shall be neither harm nor destruction...for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea."
We have been given a promise and a choice. The promise of a Presence that can guide us and help us to live in such a way that we are part of a spiritual evolution that will be manifested in the kind of world described by the prophets. And though we do not live in that millennial world, its purpose and its blessings can be realized in our own lives.
If we choose to follow the Way of love, service, and nonviolence that Jesus taught, our lives on earth will have been a process of spiritual growth that prepares us for life on a higher plane of existence. And that is the greatest blessing that even a millennial world can bring: the opportunity to grow in the knowledge and understanding that God is our life, our destiny, and our home.