Ashes to Ashes: Gender Equality for a More Sustainable Tomorrow

Posted by on Mar 11, 2022

Sophia [Wisdom] shouts in the streets.

She cries out in the public square.

Proverbs 1:20 NLT

Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. I am writing this on Ash Wednesday, a somber beginning to the season of Lent when Christians wear ashes on their forehead to remember that all living things will end up as dust. Death is a natural part of life, but Mother Nature does not get any credit for all the unnatural death and suffering we inflict upon ourselves. As I am writing this, Ukraine is fighting for its life against an onslaught of bombs and tanks. Buildings, museums, universities, cultural landmarks, and democratic institutions leveled to the ground in just a matter of days. Ashes to ashes. Everything we build as humans can be brought to its knees.

 As the world reels from the violence and inhumanity of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, countries all over the world unite on March 8th to observe International Women’s Day, a day that honors the intergenerational legacy of women working tirelessly to give the next generation a more gender-balanced and equal world. Although this day is not about war per se, at the heart of the movement this day celebrates is an unabashed challenge to the patriarchal norms of war, conquest, and subjugation which built modern civilization as we know it and which Putin is playing out before our eyes. The theme for International Women’s Day this year is: 

“Gender equality today for a sustainable tomorrow.”

That is a more positive way to say patriarchy is killing and maiming the human family and the planet we call home. As Carla Goldstein, president of the Omega Institute and Co-Founder of Omega’s Women and Leadership Center, so poignantly describes, “Patriarchy is contraindicated for life” and is a condition of war, conquest, and subjugation that men created some 10,000 years ago that has left us in a warlike state against ourselves and the natural world even in times of “peace.” Women are by no means perfect, but if you look at the egoic, militaristic mindset of Putin in his unabashed desire for expansion and conquest of neighboring countries, you see the classic hallmarks of patriarchy. As the International Women’s Day theme expresses, more gender-balanced societies are more peaceful, less bent on war and conquest, and more ecologically sustainable.

Since International Day of the Girl in October last year, the Girl Child Long Walk project commenced on a reading journey with 164 participants to walk back and better understand and lament the oldest oppression—which normalized war, conquest, and the subjugation of the female half of the human family and became normalized within the trajectory of civilization itself including virtually all of our world’s faith traditions. We have together been undergoing a deep and intensive unearthing of the patriarchal artifacts in our minds and hearts, our religious traditions, and the societal structures which continue to scapegoat females as the cause of evil in the world and stigmatize our bodies as unclean and shameful. Our quest on this journey is discerning what we each can do to liberate our minds, our hearts, and our religious traditions from the patriarchy which long ago turned the beauty and interdependence of gender relations into one of hierarchy and one gender subjugating the other in the name of a patriarchal, warlike God. Thankfully change has been happening as brave women and men in every century have been listening in to their inner knowing and standing up to this oldest lie in our history and religious books.

“In Ukraine, Mother Zarro Cried as She Said Goodbye to Her Son.” ATN News, February 28, 2022.
Feb. 28, 2022. (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka)

As you walk through Lent, if this is a tradition you observe, let the images of brave mothers kissing their children, weeping in the streets, and bravely protecting their country be a human face of the Sophia Wisdom. She is a feminine conception of divinity found within many traditions that lives as a redemptive Presence within the natural world itself inviting us to continually lay down all of our cultural and religious artifacts that are contraindicated to life itself to return to the soil of life and participate in the perennial rebirth that we see happening every Spring and which we celebrate in all of our faith traditions. 

What needs to fall into the ground and die so life can be reborn and return to the natural and perennial rhythms of life?

As we have explored together in the Girl Child Long Walk reading journey, “The natural world, with its ongoing cycle of birth, death, and rebirth, is humankind’s teacher, modeling how we, too, can be part of the ongoing process of growth and transformation that is at the heart of all creation.” We cannot do this without unearthing all the patriarchal artifacts of war, conquest, and subjugation that we have been passing down for too many millennia which have created an intergenerational legacy of scapegoating, stigmatizing, shaming, and banishing the female image of God in our collective consciousness.

 Freedom is indeed a long walk, but we have clues all around us for how we can return to a more gender-balanced, sustainable, and natural way of being human in our world and repent from civilization’s patriarchal legacy of war and conquest which every tribe, nation, and religion is complicit. 

The Universe has our back and is crying out in the streets for us to return to and co-create with Her the conditions that are conducive to life. It’s never too late to try.

Chernov, Mstyslav. “Ukrainian Maternity Ward Moves to Basement for Shelter.” AP NEWS. Associated Press, March 2, 2022.

“Human beings are still in our infancy and we have time for learning and course corrections.”

Carla Goldstein