Yesterday I was determined to finish Dostoevsky’s Idiot, and as such had been sitting in Tealuxe way too long, long past my rightful dinnertime. I had gotten rather far in, and was approaching the meeting between Radomsky, Myshkin, Aglaya Epanchin and Nastasya Fedorovna, but the scandal in old Princess Belokonsky’s house still resonated sharply in the minds of the characters as in my own. In that scene, Myshkin goes into an epileptic fit, but not before decrying the Catholic church as preacher of the Antichrist, distorter of the true faith, and a main reason for atheism in Europe. He attributes spiritual desperation and depravity to the manipulation of the true faith, touching deep to the heart of many criticisms, and then… and then he knocks over a china vase in fulfilment of Aglaya’s “prophesy.”
But that’s neither here nor there. While I was reading, intensely wrapped up in these questions of humanity, of faith, of equity, a woman approaches me, asking about the female incarnation of God in the Bible. I didn’t hear where she was from, but she was conducting a survey and wanted to know if I could think of a place where God had a female form in the Bible. Can you imagine? My mind was in its own religious fervor, I couldn’t help but play the game. “Well, Genesis says God created male and female in his own image and likeness.” Hooked. Sophia, this nicely dressed young woman from Jersey, came and sat down next to me. “So, if God created man in his image and woman, then that means there is a female God.” Logic does not compute. I say, “Well, that means to me at least that the Judeo-Christian God transcends male and female nature, and we could attribute male or female characteristics. That is, if you believe in a Judeo-Christian God.”
At which point I realize I’m not talking to a Prince Myshkin with grand ideas, no prophet, but someone who has a series of buzz-words which she doesn’t entirely understand herself. “Judeo-Christian? Well, we believe that Christ came to save, and the Bible is our book, and yes, Moses was the book of the Jews, but then the new Testament,” rattles out of her mouth in a less than coherent manner. I want to get back to the female God business – I’m used to the usual “Jesus saves” story, but female God? Dualistic God? That sounds delightfully pagan to me. Or at least cult-freaky. I start hoping she’ll talk about mother damp earth, or something equally fun, but instead it turns out that her Church is based on a reading of Revelation, which refers to the Heavenly Jerusalem and the Bride of the Lamb. Apparently this means that the second coming is a woman, who has come. Eh. Not as much fun. My attention peters out at about the point where she claims to be using the Bible as an authoritative literal source, but then trash-talks theologians because they’re unable to get beyond the letter of the Bible and see the inferences. I take a small bit of satisfaction in having her admit that many people have interpreted the Bible in many ways over the course of history, many of which “erroneously”. Thus, she shouldn’t take offense when I have no choice but see her reading as just another interpretation out of many, even though she swears her interpretation (no, not her interpretation, she was quick to correct, although she never mentioned exactly whose interpretation it was she was spouting) is the right one.
I was really hoping for a revelatory experience. I truly do dig the Heavenly Jerusalem stuff (mostly from an architectural perspective, and not an eschatological one, I’ll admit), but Sophia, don’t trash-talk theologians and act surprised when someone knows the ins and outs of the Bible without believing a word of it…this is Cambridge, Massachusetts.
p.s. the church she was preaching for is the World Mission Society Church of God. She’s been a member for 5 years, and in her normal life teaches preschool in New York. She seemed like a good person, except when her eyes bugged out and she foamed at the mouth, in forced laughter/rapture. Fanaticism is a fascinating thing.
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