Under the Spell of Mother Earth - Chapter 5
Welcoming the Goddess
"Pagans at the Harvard Divinity School. A Goddess-centered ritual at the University of Pennsylvania. A feminist seder in Silver Spring. New moon groups at a rabbinical seminary. Women's spirituality sessions at Appalachian State University, Wesleyan University, Brown .... What on earth is going on?" Judith Weinraub, The Washington Post 
"In the beginning, there was no God. There was the Goddess. She peered into the great void and created the Heaven and the Earth, and in this new domain women ruled. The world was peaceful and both sexes worshiped Her." Sonia L. Nazario, The Wall Street Journal 
"Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name, Your kingdom come, Your will be done." Matthew 6:9-10
LINDA, A STUDENT in elementary education at California State University at Sacramento, had to take a course titled "Curriculum and Methods in Elementary School Social Studies." On the first day of class, her professor drew a large serpent on the chalkboard. "This will protect you against evil forces," he explained. "What kind of a class is this?" wondered Linda. A few weeks later, she wrote the following message to her mother who sent it on to me:
I absolutely hate it! The teacher is wearing a crystal around his neck. If this gives you any idea - here are some of our text titles: When God Was a Woman, Myths to Live By, Return of the Goddess, Cows, Pigs, Wars and Witches, The Once and Future Goddess, etc. If I didn't have to be here, I would have walked out already. I’m so amazed that this is our required class.
Linda was being trained to teach Goddess spirituality. As a Christian, she recognized the deception. But what about her peers? What kind of social studies will they be teaching their students? And if the Goddess is spreading her pagan roots through public education, how are her values influencing the rest of the nation?
The Rise of Goddess Spirituality
During the mid-eighties, I searched local bookstores in vain for information on ancient Canaanite idol worship. I wanted to understand God's prophecy to Abraham concerning the time his descendants would enter the Promised Land. God promised it would happen after 400 years of captivity, when the "sin of the Amorites" reached "its full measure.”3 As always, His timing would be perfect. Israel would not be allowed to possess the land until Canaan’s degrading idolatry made it ripe for judgment.
Suddenly, in early 1990, books about Goddess worship burst into public view with voluptuous illustrations, they described the Babylonian religion that had captivated the Canaanites in earlier days.
Our most popular local bookstore displayed thirty-one books on the Goddess. Some titles, like those on Linda’s reading list, express today's growing fascination with the mythical Earth Mother: The Goddess Returns; The Way of the Goddess - A Manual for Wiccan Initiation; The Serpent and the Goddess - Women, Religions and Power in Celtic Ireland; The Goddess Within, Goddesses in Every Woman, The Sacred Age of the Goddess; The Triple Goddess; The Once and Future Goddess ...
Other titles joined Goddess worship to ecofeminism, feminine spirituality, and witchcraft: Priestesses; Kali, The Feminine Force; The Great Cosmic Mother - Rediscovering the Religions of the Earth; Myth and Sexuality; Drawing Down the Moon - Witches, Druids, Goddess Worshipers and Other Pagans in America Today; The Great Cosmic Mother,, The Holy Book of Women's Mysteries - Feminist Witchcraft, Goddess Rituals, Spellcasting and other Womanly Arts.
Why this outpouring of publicity for the ancient Goddess? Roger Woolger and Jennifer Barker Woolger gave an answer in their article, "'The Wounded Goddesses Within”:
Throughout the world, but most prominently in Westernized countries, we are witnessing a reawakening of the feminine, a profound upheaval within the consciousness of women... Radical commentators have called it figuratively a "return of the Goddess," because it seems to suggest the very antithesis of patriarchal society.4
The myths and practices that beckon seekers resemble those of Deep Ecology. But followers of the Goddess express far more anger toward our male-dominated culture. To save the earth, they plan to ...
Replace the obsolete patriarchal system of a Father God which, they say, is squeezing our planet dry of resources, with the more compassionate culture of the ancient Mother Goddess.
Revive the ancient myths, images, and rituals of the Goddess.
Reclaim the power and sacredness of eroticism.
Ecofeminists envision a world without authority figures or male saviors, "for the saving and sustaining power is in herself.”6 Filled with earth’s psychic energies and wisdom, we would each be free to do our own thing.
But would we? History proves the opposite. More than 4,000 years ago, Goddess worship flourished in Sumeria/Babylonia, present-day Iraq. It spread throughout the Near East, then branched off to North Africa, Asia, and Europe. Its occult practices followed. Those who look behind the mythical facade today will still find the same duster of occult tools: divination, magic, "sacred” sex, various kinds of sacrifices, and spiritism -- along with their corresponding armies of hostile, tormenting spirits. (See charts in chapters 8 and 9.)
Contemporary Goddess spirituality draws inspiration from all the variations of earth-based religions, including Native American Spiritism, which isn't matriarchal at all. It also embraces European nature religions (essentially witchcraft), Westernized Hinduism, Chinese Taoism, Japanese Shintoism, and Buddhism whose quest for self-realization and aversion for logic fits right in. Many differences and contradictions are simply ignored. "A Gaian Buddhism," writes Elizabeth Roberts in Dharma Gaia, "reminds us that we are the Earth.”7 All these influences are merging and multiplying in today's self-seeking, power-hungry, post-Christian Western culture.
Historical Practices of Earth-Centered Religions
Ancient religions in: Trance state Dreams Visions Divination Spiritism Magic Sorcery Human Sacrice Solstice rites Serpent worship Sacred sex Babylon
Most of the above also practiced human sacrifice.
As the pagan religions of the world converge in our midst, the social transformation is accelerating. Look at some testimonials to the rising power of the Goddess:
During exam time at Pennsylvania’s Bryn Mawr women’s college, votive offerings accumulate at the feet of a statue of Athena, the Greek Goddess of wisdom. "Everybody does this to bring good luck,”8 said Emily Cotlier, a sophomore from Connecticut. Sharing Athena's adulation is a large bust of Juno, the Roman Goddess of fertility and celestial light, who supposedly wields power over the climate. According to the New York Times, "Gifts to these Goddesses are signs of a growing interest in pagan traditions."9
In a large room sparkling with crystals, candles, flowers, and witchcraft books, the Christian Association at the University of Pennsylvania gathered hundreds of women (of varying ages, religions, and sexual orientations) for four hours of women's rituals led by Starhawk. Geela Razael Raphael, a rabbinical student, helped organize the event.10
In 1991, more than 160 American colleges and universities were offering majors in Women’s Studies, a fast-growing field that examines and promotes the goals and writings of the feminist movement including feminist history, politics, and psychology, reproductive rights and abortion, lesbianism and sexual relationships, ecofeminism, witchcraft, goddess-spirituality, and other views discussed in this book This movement is not all neopagan, but it has drawn many young women away from the Church toward feminine spirituality.11
A California middle school labeled an entire library section Witchcraft. Another section, titled Religion, contained books on Buddhism, Hinduism, Native American Spiritism, etc., but none on genuine Christianity. Two books showed how witches supposedly saved England from Nazi invasion during World War II: a coven of witches "cast a circle" on the coast, raised a "cone of power” with their thoughts, then projected those thoughts against Hitler.12
The theme of the 1991 World Council of Churches assembly was The Holy Spirit and the Renewal of Creation. But which spirit was guiding keynote speaker Dr. Chung Hyun Kyung of the Korean Presbyterian Church? Surely not God’s! To her, the Holy Spirit was the Korean Goddess of compassion and wisdom. How did church representatives from around the world respond? After summoning the (unholy) spirits of earth, air and water -- and of victims (she listed numerous women including witches) oppressed by Judeo-Christian teachings and other forms of tyranny, Dr. Chung received a standing ovation.13
A statue of the Greek Goddess Athena "represents a symbolic rebirth of Nashville,"14 declared Mayor Bill Boner, as thousands of viewers celebrated the unveiling of the forty-two-foot statue, a magnificent replica of the statue that once dominated Athen’s Parthenon. Like the waxing and waning moon, the eleven snakes on her breastplate symbolize life and renewal to those who love the Goddess. The gift shop teemed with people buying eight inch Athena figurines, demonic-looking masks, T-shirts bearing her likeness, and jewelry shaped like snakes, owls, and goat heads -- popular occult symbols.
The Reigning Goddess
"Was a peaceful matriarchal world shattered by patriarchal invaders?"16 The New York Times posed this question in a 1990 article featured in its science section. In the article, "Idyllic Theory of Goddesses Creates Storm," Peter Steinfels reviewed The Language of the Goddess, which built a questionable framework for an explosion of popular Goddess speculations. In the book, archeologist Marija Gimbutas presents a history lesson which delights today's growing force of ecofeminists, environmentalists, and mythologists.
Long ago, explains Dr. Gimbutas, when matriarchal societies worshiped Goddesses, people lived in harmony with one another and with nature. Queen-priestesses ruled clans and shunned war. But, somewhere around 4000 B.C, patriarchal invaders deposed the lifegiving Goddess and shattered the original peace and equality. In Old Europe, she tells us, waves of Indo-European invaders replaced the nurturing matriarchy with a warlike male-centered dominance.
Forced underground, the Goddess religion maintained a cultural foothold through Greek and Roman female deities, the Virgin Mary, and cultural myths, symbols, and fairy tales. Through the centuries, "a substratum of Old Europe survived in harvest customs and peasant beliefs about springs, rocks, trees, and animals, in medieval magic and the practices that Christian authorities persecuted as witchcraft.”17 These practices, Gimbutas tells us, offer a source of ancient wisdom that our present destructive civilization must tap in order to combat our alienation from nature.
Dr. Gimbutas' assumptions are based on the discovery of hundreds of early European female figures. In the absence of facts, speculation runs rampant. Who ruled -- men or women? To pagan feminists who seek to validate their visions of a matriarchal utopia with historical proof, these silent Goddesses speak volumes. Peter Steinfels seems to agree:
"For some time, feminist writers have been seeking nonpatriarchal mythologies and rituals in Jungian psychology, reconstructed notions of witchcraft, or even in pure creations of the imagination. But Dr. Gimbutas gives them something more: the seeming stamp of science and the reassurance of history."18
Dr. Gimbutas' fan club is not limited to women. Joseph Campbell wrote the foreword for her book. Anthropologist Ashley Montague hailed her book as "a benchmark in the history of civilization."19 Environmental theologian Matthew Fox promotes her philosophy in his quarterly magazine on earth-centered spirituality, Creation, and in his lectures to churches and environmental groups across the country. And, speaking for a multitude of men, editor of Healing the Wounds: The Promise of Ecofeminism says, "More and more men are embracing ecofeminism because they... realize that in shedding the privileges of patriarchy they do more than create equal rights for all; that this great effort may actually save the earth and the life it supports."20 (emphasis added)
One Goddess, Many Names
What do the resurging myths of feminine spirituality tell us? Who is this awakening Goddess?
Her names span time and space: Ishtar (Babylon), Asherah or Astarte (Canaan), Artemis and Aphrodite (Greece), Ala (Nigeria), Frigg (Norway). Her personalities range from the loving Venus to the raging, blood-guzzling Kali (India). Yet, behind her many masks, the Goddess represents one basic belief system.
"Every female divinity ... may be regarded as only another aspect of the core concept of a female Supreme Being,” says Barbara Walker in The Woman's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets. She blames male writers for breaking the "the Goddess figure down into innumerable 'goddesses,' using different titles or names she received from different peoples at different times.... Yet, such classification tends to disintegrate under deeper study that reveals the same ... characteristics in nearly all the 'goddesses.' "21
Myths from around the world picture Mother Earth as the universal parent. American Indians recount her emergence from the "womb of the earth."22 Siberian reindeer hunters carved little figurines of Mother Earth to buy her protection. A Hindu priest sent a dead man on his journey with this advice, "Go, seek the earth, that wise kind mother of all."23
To primal cultures, she was the fountain of fertility and the spring of life. Exaggerated breasts, buttocks, and genitals define her as sensuality and sex personified. Some called her the Lady of the Animals and made images that showed part woman, part animal. Others titled her Snake Goddess, Bird Goddess, the Mistress of the Waters, the Pregnant Vegetation Goddess. Each name addressed a deity (and its corresponding demonic spirit) intimately connected to the daily operation of the earth. No wonder the Mother Goddess became the universal replacement for God our Father.
Babylon's Mysterious Prostitute
The written story of the Goddess began in ancient Sumeria, Mesopotamia, and Babylonia -- three nations nestled between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers. The Sumerians called her Inanna; she was both sister and lover of Shamash, the sun god. But by the year 2000 B.C. when Abraham journeyed through this territory on his way from Ur to Haran, the conquering Amorites had swept through the region, established Babylon as their capital, and renamed the Goddess Ishtar.
Ishtar, Queen of Heaven, represented fertility and victory, and was no stranger to war. For more than a millennium, her "sacred” prostitution cult with its profane sexual practices marked and molded cultures in a multitude of nations. Indeed, "she was the universal Goddess par excellence!"25
"Ecstatic hymns and songs were sung in her temples throughout the Near East," writes Elinor Gadin. Inanna inspired "the world's first love story... tender, erotic, shocking, and compassionate."26
Her horrendous religious practices were opposed to everything God had taught His people. In Canaan as elsewhere, Ishtar's temple worship included astrology, spiritism, sorcery, sexual perversion, prostitution, and ritual murder.
The people of Canaan called the Goddess Asherah and Astarte (and sometimes Anath or Ashtoreth). In early years, Canaanite mythology presented two distinct Goddess personalities, but in practice (and in later myths) they merged into one. In essence, she remained Ishtar, Queen of Heaven -- the Babylonian Goddess garbed in Canaanite costumes.
Today as then, explains Carl Olsen in The Book of the Goddess Past and Present, the Goddess "attracts us with her alluring charms, arouses our curiosity about her powers and tempts us with her pleasureful and unbridled nature." 27
Most Americans today seem oblivious to the claims of the Goddess, yet the world is embracing her values: sexual promiscuity, rampant materialism, quest for pleasure, perversion and other forbidden thrills.
Keep in mind, this transformation doesn't require conscious assent to or even awareness of the Goddess herself -- only a politically correct tolerance for what she represents (Romans 1.21-32). Even Christians may simply follow along with media and classroom promotion of her philosophy and slip into conformity. Current statistics on abortion, AIDS, addictions, and violence reflect the consequences of rejecting God and accepting her unholy standards -- which have always matched the basic inclinations of human nature (Galatians 5:19-25).
Could these ominous trends culminate in a global embrace of Babylonian spirituality? Is there a relationship between the revival of Babylonian spirituality and the prophesied rise of Mystery Babylon? Are these questions even relevant today?
They are. Though God hasn't told us His precise timing of end time events, He repeatedly reminds us to be watchful and alert to coming signs (Matthew 24, Mark 13, Luke 21). He also prompts us to consider the relevancy of the Bible's last revelation - the visions shown to the Apostle John on the Island of Patmos: "Blessed is the one who reads the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear it and take to heart what is written in it” (Revelation 1:3).
Apparently God wants us to be mindful of future events -- even though the long wait tests our patience. For example, Babylonian spirituality has waxed and waned throughout history, tempting us to believe that today's spreading delusion is simply the peak of another curve. After all, evil times and doomsday prophets have come and gone. Why should this time be different from others?
Second Peter 3:3-4 gives us a clue. Notice that this attitude of skepticism will prevail in end times: "In the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, 'Where is this "coming" He promised? Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation" (italics added).
Look again at Babylonian spirituality. You have seen that the universal Goddess is no respecter of gender. Her worldly lures seduce men as well as women, church members as well as cultists. Just as Christ’s bride includes the whole Church, so the spirit of the Babylonian prostitute gathers an all-inclusive, international army of followers. (See Chart 5.)
As the West joins the East in loving the Goddess philosophy and adopting her practices, it becomes increasingly blind and hostile to God and His truth. America’s centuries of freedom from persecution -- unusual in the span of world history -- could be ending, unless God intervenes. Legal, educational, political, and social injustices toward Christians indicate that the age-old pagan hatred toward Jesus Christ which has smoldered underground for centuries can quickly be fanned into a fiery assault on God’s followers. Revelation 17:4-6 reminds us that it will happen, perhaps soon:
"The woman was dressed in purple and scarlet, and was glittering with gold, precious stones and pearls. She held a golden cup in her hand, filled with abominable things and the filth of her adulteries. This title was written on her forehead: MYSTERY BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF PROSTITUTES AND OF THE ABOMNATIONS OF THE EARTH.
"I saw that the woman was drunk with the blood of the saints, the blood of those who bore testimony to Jesus."
Christian persecution has been a sobering fact of life in different parts of the world since the crucifixion of Christ. But the end-time persecution will be world wide. The United Nations has already paved the way with international treaties that sets standards for "mental health" and "human rights" that clash with God's wise and loving guidelines. In other words, it's time to count the cost and get ready to stand against compromise. One part of our preparation is simply knowing what God has told us about future events, so that we won’t be surprised.
"You know well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night," wrote Paul. "But you ... are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief... So then let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be alert and self-controlled” (1 Thessalonians 5.2-6).
The Book of Revelation offers some fascinating glimpses into the future. Revelation 13 previews the rise of the world ruler some call the Antichrist, the consequent persecution of Christians, and the coming world government which will require everyone to worship Satan’s puppet ruler and to bear his mark, 666. He will win global acclaim because he wears the scar of a fatal wound, proof to the masses that he died and returned to life.
Revelation 17 takes us back to pre-Antichrist days. Here we see the prosperous, popular and pompous Babylonian prostitute riding into power on the back of the ten-horned beast "who once was, now is not, and yet will come" (Notice that the "will come" is fulfilled in Rev. 13). The lustful Babylonian spirit is seducing a world that is ripe for all kinds of seductive enticement that appeal to the cravings of untamed human nature. Blinded by her charms, all nations fall victim to a global delusion (also prophesied in 1 Thessalonians 2:9-10) and enter the first stage of Satan's final onslaught. Yet, there seems to be little harmony between the licentious prostitute and the tyrannical world leader -- two warring sides of Satan’s dark kingdom.
"The angel said to me; "Why are you astonished? I will explain to you the mystery of the woman and of the beast she rides.... The beast, which you saw, once was, now is not, and will come up out of the Abyss and go to his destruction. The inhabitants of the earth whose names have not been written in the book of life from the creation of the world will be astonished when they see the beast....
"The waters you saw, where the prostitute sits, are peoples, multitudes, nations and languages. The beast ... will hate the prostitute. They will bring her to ruin and leave her naked; they will eat her flesh and burn her with fire. For God has put it into their hearts to accomplish his purpose by agreeing to give the beast their power to rule, until God’s words are fulfilled. The woman you saw is the great city that rules over the kings of the earth” (Revelation 17:7-8, 15-18).
Do you see God’s sovereignty in the midst of evil? The Babylonian spirit will draw people and nations around the world into her licentious and violent lifestyle. Then, with the rise of the Antichrist, there will be a bloody (but welcome) transfer from wild immorality to oppressive order. Yet, the evil intentions of Satan’s last puppet will accomplish God’s purpose: to crush the corrupting practices of the Babylonian prostitute (Daniel 11:37-38, KJV).
Revelation 13 gives the details. There we see the Antichrist rising out of the Abyss to exalt himself as the sole object of worship. His demonically empowered image will desecrate the temple, and all who refuse to bow to him will be persecuted - until Christ returns to receive those who trusted Him.
WHAT CAN FAMILIES DO?
Discuss (based on truth and facts, not feelings) ...
1. The myth of prehistoric harmony under the Goddess.
2. Relevant prophecies concerning Babylon.
3. Babylon’s seductive spirituality.
4. The consequences of loving the Goddess.
5. Helping others turn to God.
1. THE MYTH OF PREHISTORIC HARMONY UNDER THE GODDESS. Did a prehistoric earth once enjoy perfect harmony under feminine leadership? This feminist myth, often presented as fact, has no factual basis. Only under God's kind reign before the Fall, did the earth ever enjoy perfect peace, but it lasted only a moment in time. When Adam and Eve followed their human nature rather than their Creator, everything changed. While a remnant of pre-flood believers walked with God, most people turned away. God’s heart ached as He saw "how great man's wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil” (Genesis 6.-5). To rescue His creation from total corruption, He sent the Flood.
Human nature has not changed. Since the beginning of time, man has sought fulfillment in earth-based spirituality. Without God’s truth as our foundation, we are just as vulnerable today to spiritual deception and its consequent corruption.
2. PROPHECIES CONCERNING BABYLONLAN SPIRITUALITIY. The following Scriptures offer insights concerning paganism and its consequences. Read and discuss these verses. (One or two per day may be enough.) What basic elements of paganism do you see in each? Genesis 3:1-13; Exodus 32:1-8; 1 Kings 11:5-9, 14; 2 Chronicles 33:1-9; Psalm 106; Proverbs 1:29-33; Isaiah 1:1-4, 29-30; Romans 1:21-32; Revelation 17.
3. BABYLON'S SEDUCTIVE SPIRITUALITY. Who is this mysterious Babylonian prostitute? We can uncover some of her secrets by tracing her nature and influence through the millennia. From the beginning, Babylon flaunted her characteristic pride and the idolatry of earth-centered spirituality. The two fit together
Around 2230 B.C., Noah’s great-grandson, Nimrod, ruled the people living in the fertile Babylonian/Sumerian valley. Living up to his name, which meant "Let us rebel;” he steered his people away from God. Within a few generations, the people were worshiping gods and goddesses linked to the "host of heaven” (the sun, moon, stars, and planets). The astrological zodiac with its occult divination had supplanted God’s loving guidance.
Dr. Henry Morris, founder of the Institute of Creation Research, underscores the monumental influence of Babylon’s original idolatry.
"How much of this new system of religion came by direct communication with Satan himself we do not know, but there is abundant evidence that all forms of paganism have come originally from the ancient Babylonian region. The essential identity of the various gods and goddess of Rome, Greece, India, Egypt, and other nations with the original pantheon of the Babylonians is well established. These pagan deities were also identified with the stars and planets, "the host Of heaven”... This system was formalized in the zodiac."29
Through the years, God watched the people of Babel pursue their own arrogant goals. But when they determined to build a tower up into heaven "to make a name for themselves," He intervened (Genesis 11:4). They were using their God-given potential to exalt themselves rather than their Creator, thus isolating themselves further from the only One who could meet their deepest needs. To prove the futility of their grandiose schemes and perhaps draw some back to Himself, He confused their languages. The people scattered and abandoned the symbol of their counterfeit unity.
God’s warning fits our times, "If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them” (Genesis 11:6). Now as then, we are building a unified world based on a humanistic illusion: that mankind can muster the wisdom and power to control natural forces, reach into highest space, and create global unity. Let us not forget what God has shown us: that a united world under a presumptuous leader, who refuses to submit to the Master, would bring terror and tyranny.
The Babel fiasco didn’t end human self-seeking. The next few centuries witnessed the rise and spreading influence of the Babylonian Goddess. Apparently, the Goddess was designed to be a feminine imitation of God -- an alluring usurper of His authority over man and nature. Surely Satan, playing puppeteer behind the scenes, inspired her insolent boast:
"In the brilliant heavens, to give omens in abundance, I appear, I appear in perfection. With exultation in my supremacy, with exultation do I, a Goddess, walk supreme. Ishtar, the Goddess of evening am I. Ishtar the Goddess of mornings am I. Ishtar, who opens the portals of heaven in my supremacy.30
Like Isis of Egypt and Persephone of Greece, Ishtar descended into the underworld each winter to release and unite with her beloved. She always returned pregnant bringing the promise of a bountiful harvest.
Each New Year, the sexual rites of Ishtar's harlotpriestesses celebrated her mythical reunion with Tammuz or Dumuzi, her consort. (Some myths present Tammuz as her son, a counterfeit infant savior on the lap of his mother). Human sacrifices and other bloody rituals included in the ceremony suggest that the Goddess was a cruel lover "'who refreshed the earth's fertility with [her consort’s] blood."31
Eventually, the incredible moral corruption compelled God to act. First, He used Babylon to discipline His own Israel who had copied Babylon's religious system. Then He dealt with Babylon for its spiritual prostitution and cruelty to His beloved people.
Earth-based religions, led by demonic forces, always hate those who love God. Today Babylon's fire of hatred has flared again and awaits the completion of God’s irrevocable judgment
4. THE CONSEQUENCES OF LOVING THE GODDESS. Longing to provide His best for His people, God told Israel to shun the practices of its pagan neighbors. But Israel didn’t listen. Like a willful child who refuses to hold his father's hand, it rushed into the pagan traffic - and was crushed.
The "natural” lifestyle of the Goddess was simply too tempting for mankind. Women adored Asherah the Queen Of Heaven, men prostituted themselves for her, and families worshiped her at home, on hilltops, and under the trees. Heartbroken, God withdrew His protection and allowed Israel’s enemies to occupy the land. The Northern Kingdom fell first in 722 B.C.
"Shalmaneser king of Assyria ... captured Samaria and deported the Israelites to Assyria.... All this took place because the Israelites had sinned against the LORD their God.... They set up sacred stones and Asherah poles on every high hill and under every spreading tree. At every high place they burned incense.... They imitated the nations around them although the LORD had ordered them, 'Do not do as they do.'
"...They bowed down to all the starry hosts, and they worshiped Baal. They sacrificed their sons and daughters in the fire. They practiced divination and sorcery and sold themselves to do evil." (2 Kings 17.3, 6-7, 10-11, 15-17).
In the Southern Kingdom of Judah, kings like Jehoshaphat and Josiah tried to abolish temple prostitution, ban pagan priests, burn all the Asherah poles, and return to God. But the few periods of peace under God’s loving protection never lasted long. The pagan influences had become like a cancer on the land. Again and again God's prophets brought warnings of coming ruin, but the people refused to listen.
"Then all the men who knew that their wives were burning incense to other gods... said to Jeremiah, 'We will not listen to the message you have spoken to us in the name of the LORD! We will certainly do everything we said we would: We will burn incense to the Queen of Heaven and will pour out drink offerings to her.'" (Jeremiah 44:15-17).
Sometimes the innocent die in the cross-fires of rampant evil, and we wonder how a sovereign God who allows suffering can be good. We forget that our limited vision cannot possibly see all of God’s plan anymore than a baby can understand why his parents permit the painful sting of an inoculation.
God’s purpose reaches far beyond this life. His justice is carried out in eternity, not in the brief span we call time. Hear God’s wisdom through Isaiah's kind but sad words:
"The righteous perish, and no one ponders it in his heart; devout men are taken away, and no one understands that the righteous are taken away to be spared from evil. Those who walk uprightly enter into peace; they find rest as they lie in death” (Isaiah 57.11-2).
5. HELPING OTHERS TURN TO GOD. God is both sovereign and just. He rules nations and controls climates. He has shown us which kinds of lifestyles lead to health and happiness and which lead to destruction. He wants us to know Him as He is - our caring Father who sees the dangers ahead and longs to lead us to safety.
"There is no God apart from Me," He tells us, "a righteous God and a Savior; there is none but Me. Turn to Me and be saved, all you ends of earth” (Isaiah 45.21-22).
Notice the key difference between our God and all others: None of the world’s gods or goddesses offer people a personal, caring relationship. Unlike our Shepherd who gave His life for us, the fearful, angry gods and goddesses of nature religions demand sacrifices and self-mortification (cutting oneself to gain divine sympathy was common to Babylonian as well as Baal priests, to Asian as well as Sioux Indians). Fear, not love, impelled worship.
Our God doesn't demand sacrifices from us. He became the sacrifice that frees those who trust Him from two kinds of oppression: bondage to sin and the penalty of sin. He calls everyone to come and receive - not through our work, talents, or human effort -- but by faith alone. To those who come, He gives His resurrection life: the assurance of peace in the midst of turmoil, wisdom in our confusion, strength in our weakness. But remember the difference: What God promises to those who trust and follow Him, Satan falsely offers to everybody. Be sure you know the Shepherd's voice from the counterfeit. Study John 10:1-18.
Remember, people turn away from God. He doesn’t turn from them. Humans may accuse Him of being exclusive, but His inclusiveness invites all people to come and receive from His abundance. He waits with open arms for anyone to come – no matter how decadent, broken or wounded. All they need to do is to confess their sins, acknowledge their need, trust in His love, and receive His life. He will embrace and welcome them into His family.
How then do you persuade the deceived to come to Jesus? Tell them about your relationship with Him. Most people who are trapped in deception will resist your biblical arguments, but they may be longing for such a relationship. Remember, a capricious goddess or an impersonal force does not love its subjects. So tell -- and show by your example -- the exciting message: God loves you! Share what He is doing in your life from day to day. Explain that Jesus Himself is the way to peace and victory. "If you confess with your mouth, 'Jesus is Lord,' and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9).
Your love, 0 LORD, reaches to the heavens,
Your faithfulness to the skies.
Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains,
Your justice like the great deep ...
How priceless is Your unfailing love!
Endnotes:1. Judith Weinraub, "The New Theology - Sheology, The Washington Post, 28 April 1991.
2. Sonia L. Nazario, "Is Goddess Worship Finally Going to Put Men in Their Place?" The Wall Street Journal, 7 June 1990.
3. Genesis 15:13-16.
Jennifer Barker Woolger and Roger J. Woolger, "The Wounded Goddesses Within," New Realities (March/April 1990): 11.
Ynestra King, "The Ecology of Feminism and the Feminism of Ecology, Healing the Wounds (Santa Cruz, Calif.: New Society Publishers, 1989), 19.
6. Carol P. Christ, "Why Women Need the Goddess: Phenomenological, Psychological, and Political Reflections," Heresies (Spring 1978): 277.
7. Elizabettt Roberts, Dharma Gaia (Berkeley: Parallax Press, 1990), 153.
8. "Invoking Ancient Gods for Modem Studies," The New York Times, 19 December 1990.
11. Peterson’s Guide to Four Year Colleges 1991 (Princeton, NJ: Peterson’s guides, 1991), 254.
12. Jacynth Hope-Sirnpson, Cavalcade of Witches (New York: H.Z. Walck, 1967) and Mildred Boyd, Man, Myth and Magic (New York: Criterion Books, 1969).
13. Steven Erlanger, "Women Challenge Church Council Assembly," The New York Times, 2 February 1991.
14. Ellen Dahnke, "Athena Home at Last," The Tennessean, 21 May 1990.
15. Christine R. Downing, "The Mother Goddess among the Greeks," The Book of the Goddess Past and Present (New York: The Crossroad Publishing Company, 1989), 49.
16. Peter Steinfels, "Idyllic Theory of Goddesses Creates Storm, The New York Times, 13 February 1990.
20. Judith Plant, Healing the Wounds (Santa Cruz: New Society Publishers, 1989), 3.
21. Barbara G. Walker, The Woman's Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1983), 346.
22. Ibid., 263.
23. Ibid., 264.
24. Joseph Campbell, The Power of Myth (New York: Doubleday, 1988),99.
25. Encyclopaedia Britannica XII (Chicago: William Benton), 661.
26. Elinor Gadon, The Once and Future Goddess (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1989), 115.
27. Carl Olsen, The Book of the Goddess Past and Present (New York: Crossroad, 1989), 1.
28. Otto Baab, The Theology of the Old Testament (New York: Abingdon--Cokesbury, 1949), 105, 110. Cited by Paul C. Vitz, Psychology As Religion (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1988), 93.
29. Henry Morris, The Genesis Record (San Diego: Creation-Life Publishers, 1976), 264.
30. Walker, 451.
31. Ibid., 452.