Thursday, May 9, 2013

Julian of Norwich on the Divine Mother: Every Child Needs a Mother and a Father!

At her Jesus in Love blog, Kittredge Cherry reminds us of the significant contributions of English medieval mystic Julian of Norwich to Christian spirituality and theology. Kittredge excerpts several passages from Julian's Revelations of Divine Love on the theme of Jesus as Mother, including this one:

So Jesus Christ who sets good against evil is our real Mother. We owe our being to him--and this is the essence of motherhood! --and all the delightful, loving protection which ever follows. God is as really our Mother as he is our Father.

Jesus Christ is our real Mother, and we owe our being to him--which is the essence of motherhood. 

In his work on the theology of the body, Pope John Paul II argues that there is a necessary and irreducible difference between male and female, and that the muddling of the two sets of distinctives that we define as masculine and feminine creates confusion and social chaos. Conservative Christians who draw on the theology of the body to oppose same-sex marriage have come to insist that every child has a right to both a mother and a father. They claim that same-sex marriage violates the rights of children by snatching away either a mother or a father.

This claim rests on the assumption that men and women have irreducible gender differences and play different roles that are dictated by hard and fast biological rules (what new world?!), and children cannot be adequately raised in homes headed by either a single parent (who models only one set of gender attributes to children) or by parents of the same gender (who ditto).

What happens, though, I wonder, when our real Mother is a he? Julian's willingness to bend gender, and to attribute motherhood to Jesus--since the essence of motherhood is about a generativity that transcends gender--blows the arguments of the Catholic hierarchy and the National Organization for Marriage about the dangers of same-sex marriage out of the water.

It appears that, though Catholics opposing marriage equality claim that they stand squarely on the side of long, long Catholic tradition, big chunks of our tradition have never been so fixated on hard and fast gender distinctions and gender roles as are contemporary "traditionalist" Catholics. Not when Jesus can be celebrated as as the Divine Mother . . . . 

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