Walking The Long Mile Home
One of the things that New York City residents are used to, along with people singing for their supper on the subways by performing close four part harmony a cappella ("I'm Gonna Let It Shine" being a particular favorite), are groups of young hassidic kids cornering you and asking "are you Jewish?" This has happened to me a number of times and while I'm not offended (I know someone who gets very angry when it happens) I usually am puzzled. Not to deal in stereotypes, but when I look in the mirror, I see Johnny Michael O'Hanlon From the Emerald Isle Don't Ya Know, though to be more honest, lately it's been more Johnny O'Hanlon Lately Gone To Seed If I Say So Myself. Being mistake for a member of The Tribe always gives me pause. Do these kids really think I'm Jewish or are they just playing the numbers game? In any case, my startled "uh, no" always brings forth a polite "okay, sorry to have bothered you" as they rush to question someone else; doubtlessly they're on a quota system. I should ask them if they know about something big going down and should I smear lamb's blood on my doorway just to be safe.
But on the way home tonight, I was stopped by a pre-teen who asked if I knew about God as a female. This gave me the pause you get when you not only formulate an answer but you also analyze the question to make sure you understood it correctly. All my reading about fertility cults, earth mothers, pre-Christian goddesses danced through my head. "You mean God as a female entity rather than a male power?" I asked. Was this kid really asking me, a random person, about...what? Gnostic theories about how the true creative force is female, a mother figure, and the God that organized religion prays to is a male usurper who thinks He created the universe and rules over the world but is mistaken and we on Earth are sort of trapped under His rule until we can transcend and experience Her directly? A nice myth, but as a theory I always thought it was a cake-and-eat-it-too explanation for why we can have a loving God that allows horrible things to happen to us. It's the good "real" Goddess that created and loves us: it's the deluded "false" God that lets bad things happen to us no matter how much we implore Him. It's not too far from the psychological dance abused children do to justify that the parent who loves them is the same one who sometimes hurts them.
Was that what this kid was asking me about? Pre-Nicean Council Mystic Christianity? In Brooklyn?
"You mean God as a female entity rather than a male power?"
"Well, yeah, if you read in the Bible..."
Enough said. "Okay, thanks, but if that's what you're talking about, then you really have to step off." I actually did say "step off" to a kid who was not only two feet smaller than me, but was with an adult who was even shorter than that. I said it as nicely as I could, apologizing and saying I just wasn't interested. The kid said okay and he and his petite adult went on their way. I would have stood there for over an hour discussing arcane Christian theology, but the Bible? No thanks. It's like wanting to discuss more esoteric ideas in film structure and theory and then someone brings up Steven Spielberg.