"God shows up disguised as your life." - Paula D'Arcy
"A false sense of security is the only kind there is." - Michael Meade
"Jesus is the living icon of this power-shift: God becoming powerless in Jesus." - Richard Rohr
"Move into the larger mind, for the kingdom is at hand." - Jesus (Matthew 3:2)
I picked up a copy of Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale from my local bookstore this week. It was a strange week to read the novel, really. With the historical Dr. Ford and Judge Kavanaugh event, with hundreds of thousands of women marching and crying out #EleNão (#NotHim) as the Brazilian presidential election looms in favour of a far-right misogynist, along with reading this dystopian novel about a future in which women have no power (like... most of history), I couldn't help but sort of freak out a bit.
So I want to talk about power-culture and hopefully, recovery, for this week's Sunday Song and Rumination and am going to share a song called Metanoia. The version you will hear is a live version from a concert.
Earlier this week I shared a meme that's been shared around social media lately, that says "she's someone's wife, mother, daughter, sister", which has been a common slogan to try and humanize a woman or girl who has been sexually assaulted. Only in the case of the meme I shared, the "'s wife, mother, daughter, sister" was scratched out and all that was left was "she's someone". I shared it because I think these basic context shifts are needed on so many levels, gender and race, certainly (especially) included. (As Dulcé Sloan said recently, as covered by Huff Post, "I don't have time to be a woman, I'm too busy being black." I believe you Dulcé.)
I found it compelling that the only men who commented on or shared this meme, were initiated men through Illuman, a men's rites of passage program founded by Fr. Richard Rohr. I have read Fr. Rohr's book Adam's Return, and I know that the men who commented and shared my post have gone through a ritual dying to themselves. In other words, they have found a recovery program, that helps them step down, from the power-culture, in which they were raised.
In many initiation cultures throughout history there has been the practice of what some call the death lodge, which is, going through a ritual process, usually while fasting alone in nature, of dying... before you die. One of Jesus' most famous quotes, comes from an Asia Minor mystery religion initiation practice, in which the young man would take a grain of wheat in his hand and symbolically plant it while out on his rite of passage. Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone, but if it dies it bears much fruit...
Whenever I see the face of someone who is on the path of descent but can't believe it is happening to them, I feel compassion, but I also feel their own internal relief and in that, I champion their relief. That somewhere in there, way deep down past all the "archys" (patriarchy, oligarchy, etc) they want to get caught. To get "crucified". To be liberated from the pretence, maybe. But I think it is more than that. I think it is Mythic. God shows up disguised as your life as Paula D'Arcy so perceptively said... and if you have to face the music... maybe somewhere in there, you are lucky that you had to. More lucky than that schmo who got away with whatever needed to be aired, whatever needed to be apologized for, or confessed. Because here's the thing... this is what Jesus was getting at all along... Jesus in the desert (get behind me patriarchy... I mean... Satan), Jesus with the woman at the well, seated so that he was lower than her (a beautiful political maneuver), Jesus standing with the Samaritan, someone outside of his own circle, Jesus appearing to his female disciples first after the resurrection.
This is the path.
In the case of the person who found themselves not in a position of power, but in a position of disempowerment, it is time for the woman at the well to stand, it is time for the disempowered to rise. Whatever the truth is about the Ford/Kavanaugh case (and as a survivor myself, like so many thousands, I felt like she was speaking for me, and I believe her), this is an opportunity for us to probe our own lives.
There was a simple little page in The Handmaid's Tale that really struck me, and I'd like to share it with you. It speaks to power and disempowerment in such an exigent way - giving the reader the experience of looking out from a place of disempowerment. To set it up for you: the protagonist, along with all the other women in her country, has recently had her bank accounts and credit cards frozen and has lost her job, because she is a woman.
That night, after I'd lost my job, Luke wanted me to make love. Why didn't I want to? Desperation alone should have driven me. But I still felt numbed. I could hardly even feel his hands on me.
What's the matter? he said.
I don't know, I said.
We still have ... he said. But he didn't go on to say what we still had. It occurred to me that he shouldn't be saying we, since nothing that I knew of had been taken away from him.
We still have each other, I said. It was true. Then why did I sound, even to myself, so indifferent?
He kissed me then, as if now I'd said that, things could get back to normal. But something had shifted, some balance. I felt shrunken, so that when he put his arms around me, gathering me up, I was small as a doll. I felt love going forward without me.
He doesn't mind this, I thought. He doesn't mind this at all. Maybe he even likes it. We are not each other's anymore. Instead, I am his. Unworthy, unjust, untrue. But that is what happened.
So Luke: what I'd like to ask you now, what I need to know is, Was I right? Because we never talked about it. By the time I could have done that, I was afraid to. I couldn't afford to lose you.
(Excerpt from The Handmaid's Tale, by Margaret Atwood, page 171)
I chose the song Metanoia, because although it is often translated generally as "repent", it can be more thoroughly translated as "move beyond your small mind" or, "move into the larger mind", which mirrors the grain of wheat passage and the posture Jesus took as a male, born in his time. I thought this was a passage of scripture that could be sung into the juvenile forum we often find ourselves in these days, as the Great Turning feels another whiplash of turbulence from the age that is passing away.
Christ and the Samaritan Woman, by Henryk Slemiradski 1890, Lviv National Art Gallery
Alana Levandoski is a song and chant writer, recording artist and music producer, in the Christian tradition, who lives with her family on an aspiring permaculture farm on the Canadian prairies.