Growing up Pentecostal, I read the bible a lot as a kid. One thing that baffled me was the continuing backsliding and apostasy of the Hebrew people. There they were, having lived through Egyptian plagues and the destruction of Pharaoh’s army in the Red Sea, with Moses on a mountain top getting direct orders from God, and there they were, building and worshiping a golden calf. What was up with that?
How could they, I asked, keep searching when they had already found the one true god? Later the answer became clear to me: they had not, and I had not.
Many people have not. There is and has always been something lacking in the three largest monotheisms—Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.
The text of Jeremiah 7:18 inadvertently answers the question of why. Here’s the text:
The children gather wood, the fathers kindle fire, and the women knead dough, to make cakes for the queen of heaven; and they pour out drink offerings to other gods, to provoke me to anger. (NRSV)
This is a family affair—fathers, kids, mom. Sounds like fun. The patriarchal god of monotheism does not answer some basic questions nor meet some basic needs.
The God of the ancient Hebrews did not answer all the needs of the people. The religion had a patriarchy problem. Judaism, Christianity, and Islam still do.
There’s lots of yang but no yin.
The ancient Hebrews saw that their neighbors were having more fun. The “Queen of Heaven” was almost certainly a fertility god and was probably some version of Ashtoreth (Astarte in Greek), Ishtar, or Anat.
The psychologist Carl Jung pointed out that Roman Catholicism somewhat filled the void with the Virgin Mary, though a bit of research shows that she has been a problematic figure for the patriarchal hierarchy.
Protestant Christianity, Judaism, and Islam still haven’t answered the need.
As a result, feminist spirituality practitioner Shirley Ann Ranck wrote an extremely popular curriculum for religious liberals called Cakes for the Queen of Heaven: An Exploration of Women’s Power Past, Present and Future. Clearly, there’s a crying need.
And now in the United States, just as in ancient Judah, the patriarchy-ridden can see that some of their neighbors are having a lot more fun.
Is a female and male principle both required for a balanced religious practice? I’m no psychologist. My best guess is: Perhaps not, provided that there isn’t one without the other. But the monotheisms have definitely got the guy thing going on.
Nowadays, that over-balance of testosterone is called “toxic masculinity.” Some of those smitten ancient Hebrews might have agreed. In Jeremiah chapter 44, we see the aftermath of God’s wrath. To sum up the chapter: “I told you I would.” According to scripture, He had indeed. He wiped out the kingdom of Judah and sent the Hebrew people into exile. “I told you I would.”
A heavy cost to pay for baking some cakes. I’m tempted to conclude, “But that’s how guys are.”