Yesterday we called on the wisdom of Julian of Norwich to assist us in the current debate with the Supreme Court about abortion, citing her understanding of evil as “whatever interferes with peace and love.”
Today we continue to explore Julian’s wisdom that is so appropriate in this on-going debate and action that calls us to stand up to evil.
Seven hundred years ago, we could not understand Julian and the creation spirituality lineage she carries with her. Today, with a women’s movement, women active in scholarship and leadership, a Black Lives Matter movement, and an ecology and extinction rebellion movement—we can! And with matricide and misogyny and rising institutional violence against women staring us in the face, we must.
What, after all, is patriarchy if not the killing of the mother? How many women will be killed or their lives turned to chaos (the opposite of peace) if the religious zealots on the Supreme Court have their way in dominating women’s bodies? And roping in a punitive Father God to enlist divine sanction and approval?
Julian is a herald of the Return of the Mother principles of creativity and caring, compassion, justice, and strength. Maybe Julian is to the twenty-first century what Karl Marx (and Charles Dickens) were to the nineteenth. Just as Marx, tapping into his Jewish prophetic heritage, sounded a trumpet to expose the unethical shadow lurking in the façade of economic and industrial “progress,” and just as Dickens shouted through characters suffering from the shadow side of capitalism, so, too, does Julian take on the privilege and dangers of patriarchy by deconstructing it.
Instead of a punitive Father God, she presents us with a loving, Mother God. Instead of exalting survival for the few, she declares a democracy of justice and caring. Instead of a dualism of body vs. soul, masculine vs. feminine, human vs. nature, she proclaims unity. Instead of fear, trust. Instead of leading with the reptilian brain, she thinks with the mammal, co-operative brain. Instead of raping and plundering Mother Earth, she honors the divine in nature and the “web of creation” that Hildegard wrote about.
Instead of human egoism and narcissism, she issues a new invitation to celebrate and to share. And instead of self-pity and self-aggrandizement, she models a healthy self-love that leads toward service to others.
Julian clearly gifts us with a paradigm shift for religion, from an ideology of original sin to a consciousness of original goodness or original blessing. From guilt to gratitude. From the question that has dominated religion from Julian’s day to our own, what the great biblical scholar Krister Stendahl described as the “neurotic question not found in the Bible”—that is, “Am I saved?”—to a question of gratitude and grace: “How do we give thanks and give back to mother earth and the cosmos and all the blessings our species has inherited?”
Rabbi Heschel teaches that a prophet’s primary task is to interfere. Julian, by calling us to interfere with patriarchy and heal the wounds that it has wracked upon human history and the human soul and the earth, beckons us from folly to wisdom. Are we listening?
Adapted from See Matthew Fox, Julian of Norwich: Wisdom in a Time of Pandemic—and Beyond, pp. 41-43, 123f.
To read the transcript of Matthew Fox’s video teaching, click HERE.
Banner Image: Winter Solstice Treaty Action 2021 at the gates of the Chevron Refinery in Richmond, CA
From the organizers at Idle No More SF Bay, Indigenous Women of the Americas Defending Mother Earth Treaty and Climate Justice Street Mural Arts Project. Photo by Peg Hunter on Flickr.
Queries for Contemplation
Do you see Patriarchy deep at work in the Supreme Court’s efforts to abort the power to choose? Are you standing with Julian in offering a saner option to Patriarchy, one that serves women, men and the Earth more deliberately?
Julian of Norwich: Wisdom in a Time of Pandemic–and Beyond
Julian of Norwich lived through the dreadful bubonic plague that killed close to 50% of Europeans. Being an anchoress, she ‘sheltered in place’ and developed a deep wisdom that she shared in her book, Showings, which was the first book in English by a woman. A theologian way ahead of her time, Julian develops a feminist understanding of God as mother at the heart of nature’s goodness. Fox shares her teachings in this powerful and timely and inspiring book.
“What an utterly magnificent book. The work of Julian of Norwich, lovingly supported by the genius of Matthew Fox, is a roadmap into the heart of the eco-spiritual truth that all life breathes together.” –Caroline Myss
Now also available as an audiobook HERE.