Although the interviewees showed considerable variety in their responses to questions about their conceptions of God, their responses can be used to sketch the contours of a “grassroots” thealogy, originating from the devotion, reflection and lived experience of CGS women. It is a thealogy that embraces many names and manifestations of the divine, encompassing both
Christian traditional expressions of the female divine (especially Sophia/ Wisdom) and Goddesses from other religious traditions, especially deities who bear some personal significance to individual women. This multiplicity is sometimes expressed in creative reformulations of the trinity, which incorporate the female divine. However, respondents did not confine their experience of the divine to deities, or female personifications of God, but tended to see biblical and non-biblical wo/men (especially Mary Magdalene, Mother Mary and Jesus), nature and the cosmos as divine embodiments. Although not all interviewees regarded Jesus as spiritually significant to them, he was the only male figure mentioned by most participants as personally relevant. However, many conceded that there needed to be “balance” between the female and the male in spirituality.
One area where the CGS women interviewed diverged somewhat from non-Christian Goddess Spirituality was in the emphasis placed on earth-based spirituality, getting in touch with the earth and her natural cycles. As noted above, while a noteworthy proportion of interviewees identified with ecofeminism (41 percent), this amounts to less than half of the sample, which suggests one area in which the CGS perspective seems to be distinctively “Christian.” That is, GGS is somewhat more oriented toward “transcendence” and “external” conceptions of deity than Goddess Spirituality, with its emphasis on the Goddess within women and nature (although most CGS women would profess respect for the earth and ecological concerns to some degree if asked). However, it’s also true that CGS women are more oriented toward the divine within themselves and the cosmos than many other Christians might be comfortable with: immanence and transcendence are not seen as mutually exclusive but as two aspects of the inexhaustible divine.
Contrary to the commonplace perception among Goddess feminists and social scientists that Christianity and Goddess Spirituality are fundamentally antithetical, CGS women tend to see significant affinities between the two: the presence of the female divine/Goddess; basic teachings, values and ethics, especially as taught by Jesus; convergences between pre-Christian and Christian festivals, especially as embodied in the Celtic tradition; and mysticism. However, CGS women did tend to see salient differences between “mainstream” (especially fundamentalist/evangelical) Christianity and CGS spirituality, with the former being criticized for lack of openness and resistance to questioning; patriarchal ecclesial structures; suppression of women and the female divine; the virginal conception; atonement theology, original sin, and ideas of otherworldly salvation; lack of social justice and ecological concern. In Christian terms, participants often mentioned liberal/progressive churches as having the most in common with CGS, and the churchgoers among them tended to gravitate toward liberal denominations.
Author’s Note: This excerpt is from Chapter 6: “Christian Thealogy”, part of a larger study based on interviews with over one hundred women who self-describe as blending Christianity and Goddess Spirituality in their personal spiritual lives.
Christian Goddess Spirituality: Enchanting Christianity Mary Ann Beavis (New York: Routledge, 2015): https://www.routledge.com/products/9781138936881