|Liberated Theology: God as Life Force, Power as Energy, and Integrity not Morality as the Governing Principle
© 2008 Michele Toomey, PhD
When comparing “liberated” theology to “liberation” theology, we find that “liberation” theology focuses on social issues and institutional oppression, while “liberated” theology addresses the oppression of the self by itself, and then moves to the self’s relationship with others. The difference stems from the fact that “liberation” theology begins with oppression of the self by another, and “liberated” theology begins with the oppression of the self by the self.
Societal oppression that emanates from the traditional dualistic Western world view holds that domination is proof of superiority, and a hostile, hierarchical, and sexist view of opposites justifies the superior strong males conquering the inferior weaker males and females, and once conquered, dominating them. “Liberation” theology addresses the oppression by confronting its inequity and proposing an egalitarian sharing of resources and opportunities. “Liberated” theology adds the dimension of challenging dualism itself and the inequity and oppression it creates within, when one inner paradoxical force oppresses another.
“Liberated” theology provides the self with the philosophical and psychological underpinnings needed for “liberation” theology. To do this, “liberated” theology must first challenge dualism and its role in legitimizing oppression.
Dualism provides the accepted world view of paradox and polarity that permeates western religions, western philosophy and western psychology. To challenge it and propose an alternate view is both presumptuous and daring. Perhaps even foolish, if one wants to be taken seriously.
Nonetheless, liberated theology does just that. To assume God as Life Force, power as energy and integrity not morality as the governing principle, is to make fundamental assumptions about the nature of God, the definition of power, and our relationship to goodness that fly in the face of traditional dualistic thought.
The traditional assumptions of dualism purporting that opposites are hierarchical and antagonistic have far reaching ramifications as they continue to justify an underlying sexism and oppression within psychology, theology, and philosophy. Dualistic thinking provides justification for patriarchy/kyriarchy and all the sexist corollaries that flow from presuming female is the opposite of male, and defining power as strength and the ability to control. Dualism’s assumed antagonistic inequality of opposites establishes male superiority through male dominance. The capacity of males to physically overpower females becomes synonymous with justification for total domination.
Dualism further uses the assumed inequality and antagonism between opposites to label one pole male, desirable and good, and the opposite pole, female, undesirable and evil. It therefore follows, that female power is to be feared, and male power desired.
As long as dualism is accepted as reflecting the “law of nature”, its orientation to polarity and power will be sacrosanct and male superiority assured. There is no greater legitimizer for male domination and oppression of women than God’s law. The pervasiveness of these oppressive beliefs underlying religion is devastatingly evident. Any proposed alternative to dualism must include a redefinition of God’s relationship to us and to power. God as Father and power as control is the very foundation of kyriarchy.
Feminist theologian Kathleen Coyle eloquently captures this phenomenon and its fundamental justification for the church subordinating and oppressing women. She writes: “Western religious and social thought are deeply dualistic. Under the impact of Hellenistic philosophy and culture, the early church was deeply influenced by dualism. The ultimate dualisms of this system are spirit and matter, good and evil, eternal being and nothinginess. The other dualisms in the series -male and female, soul and body, reason and emotion, mastery and slavery, clerical and lay, technology and nature--follow fom these initial polarities in a logical or at least understandable sequence.
“Distinctions of gender, race and class also are seen in the context of this pattern of hierarchical relations of power and value. One group is seen as the dominant group possessing fullnesss of normative humaness; the other is defined as subordinate, deficient in humaness. One side is closer to spirit, mind, God; the other is closer to the body, irrationality, passion and evil. A negative Christian theology of the physical and its outworking in body-despising attitudes and practices are anchored in a mind-body dualism that parallels the cosmic dualism between God and the world.” 1
It is a forbidding task to challenge a dualism that “parallels the cosmic dualism between God and the world”. Seemingly it offers a world view not open for debate.Yet, it is a world view of human design and should be re-evaluated over time. Liberated theology not only rejects the world view put forth by dualism, it offers an entirely new one as well. By offering God defined as Life Force, cosmic relationships are not polarized and hierarchical, they are essential.
Essential is primary in a sequence and a sequence is not hierarchical, just sequential, with an order dictated by the nature of the sequence. God is First in the sequence, and First has the power of initiating. The Initiator is not defined by its superiority but rather by its unique power. God is the First and Initial Force. Everything else flows from this initiation. There is no comparable opposite because it is not in a polarity. It is in a sequence.
Therefore, the relationship between God and the world is not seen as dualistic or antagonistic, nor at odds. Preserving the integrity of what is initiated by God involves the confrontation of paradoxical forces. Rather than a war with enemy sides, this task of choosing how to live at one with our paradoxical nature is seen as a confrontation to find the fairness of turns between our opposing needs and desires, so as to decide how to reconcile the dualism, not eliminate it. No force is evil in itself, rather evil occurs when a force is used to violate the integrity of the system.
The part of ourselves that desires to live with integrity and be at one with our paradoxical self and with God as Life Force, need not be at war with that part of ourselves that desires to be self-indulgent and gratify its pleasures. Rather, as we struggle to maintain the integrity and balance between our opposing needs to indulge and to abstain, we can be engaged in a process of explorations that are governed by integrity and characterized by fairness and respect. Each opposing need and desire must have its fair turn, but not all the turns. Sequence is not founded on conquest or dominance but on order, and whose turn it is, is an ordering issue not a power issue. It becomes a power issue only when the integrity of the process is violated, and this abuse of power leads to power struggles that can lead to wars.
Within the “liberated” theology system, as paradoxical beings we are of necessity destined to be engaged in a life long reconciliation process between our paradoxical needs and desires, not a life long war.
Liberated theology assumes intimacy, not conquest, is our primary need. Guided by integrity, the reconciliation process is then for discovery, not dominance, and the search is for understanding and clarity, leading to intimacy and oneness. Engaging in a life long process of trying to live out of integrity by reconciling our paradoxical needs and desires, allows us to be on a journey of living at one with ourselves and therefore with God.
Only by searching for clarity and understanding of ourselves and our complex needs and desires are we able to become intimate with them and, therefore, with God, and with ourselves. Once intimate with God and with ourselves we are available for intimacy with others who are at One. In challenging dualism, the dilemma of opposites, of paradox, becomes a question of whether we choose integrity and oneness or conquest and dominance, truthfulness and wholeness or deception and abuse.
In contrast, dualism’s original and fundamental assumption that opposites are unequal and hostile, sets up antagonism and sexism throughout the entire system. Unfortunately, the staying power of dualism flows from the “cosmic nature of dualism” and the appearance that dualistic thinking captures and describes the natural law of God’s relationship to the world. In liberated theology, God is not assigned a superior pole around which goodness and male are present. Rather, God as the Initial Force is Primary and First in the sequence, not the hierarchy, a monumental shift of orientation and power.
Even though traditional dualistic thinking is questioned by feminists, it has never been replaced and is still prevalent and accepted as true. It permeates the traditional writings and teachings of western philosophy, psychology, and religions and establishes the way polarity is viewed. Liberated theology challenges this acceptance of dualistic thought as we know it and offers an alternative approach.
An Alternative to Dualism: Sequence and Process not Hierarchy and War
Not only does liberated theology reject dualism and the belief that opposites are by nature unequal and antagonistic, it offers an alternative approach to duality, based on sequence not hierarchy. Since fundamental assumptions, such as those of dualism, by their very nature have to be taken on faith, so do the fundamental assumptions of liberated theology. To claim that opposites can just be merely that, opposites, sequentially equal and not antagonistic, has as much legitimacy as dualistic hierarchy.
The sequence image of polarity is of a spiral with a horizontal infinity sign imposed on it where the intersection at the center and Oneness occurs at the core, the soul , rather than dualism’s hierarchical and static linear vertical image of polarity. Exercising power as energy, as movement, is central to the relationships within the spiral and infinity sign, while static dualism assigns immobility to each vertical pole and the relationship between the unequal poles is hostile.
Dualism, as we well know, sees power as the ability to control and dominate, and the goal is to divide and conquer. Intimacy and Godliness are to be won after evil has been conquered. It follows that war is seen as essential for Godliness to be achieved. The battle between good and evil must forever be waged. The war will never be over.2
Liberated theology offers spiralling movement informing infinity movement and sequence determining the turns. Yielding is essential to this process, and it is not seen as defeat. Fairness in turns and moving between mind and body and between one paradoxical need or desire to the other requires yielding to the fairness of turns and circling around, not fighting to stay in the dominant position or accept the subordinate one.
God as the Initiating Energy is at the core, the soul, the intersection of the infinity sign. Information gathering and interdependence is guided by integrity and fairness and God is the center of Oneness. Spiritual intimacy, not limited to sexual intimacy, is the goal. The need for conquest is no longer the driving force. The war is over.
Unlike the static vertical antagonistic poles of female inferiority and male superiority, placement of female and male in the sequential poles of equality is along the horizontal infinity sign and determines the direction of the flow, not the destination. The poles are now semi-circles of an infinity sign and are not labeled female or male, rather they are thoughts and feelings, or mind and emotions, if you will. Thus such traits as vulnerability or the capacity to yield no longer fall into the category of undesirable and a sign of female weakness. Rigidity once sought in dualistic thought, is replaced by flexibility and yielding.
In dualisitic thought, it would be assumed that the sequence of movement for males would be from mind (thoughts), to emotions (feelings), and females would be from emotions (feelings), to mind (thoughts). There is no scientific data to establish this order, however, and anecdotal data suggest the ordering is determined at birth but is not gender determined.
Whether one is a thoughts to feelings person or a feelings to thoughts person, the entire infinity sign must be moved through continually so that either thoughts inform feelings , which become “informed feelings” at one’s core, soul, or feelings inform thoughts and become “felt thoughts” at the core, soul, at One, at God. Either way, they must connect for the self to be at One. Both males and females can be either thoughts to feelings or feelings to thoughts, and the percentage of which gender is predominantly one or the other has not yet been established, but it is a fact that each gender is represented in both sequences.
In sequence and process, the relationship between equally legitimate opposite needs or desires is seen as one of reconciling not dominating. An outgrowth of this reconciliation process is oneness. By beginning with the premise of reconciliation as the nature of the power exchange between equally legitimate opposites, liberated theology provides the framework for being able to live in harmony, at One, with ourselves, with God and with others. This is in keeping with what evolutionary biologist Elisabet Sahtouris writes about every living biological system functioning cooperatively “to negotiate its self-interest within the whole. There is equitable sharing of resources to ensure health at all levels, and the system is aware that any exploitation of some parts by others endangers the whole.” 3
In the reconciliation process between opposites, fairness allows for an equitable outcome in which oneness occurs. No “one” need or desire, or no “one” person, has unlimited turns, only its fair turn as determined by processing our thoughts and feelings with integrity. Defined as “wholeness and oneness”, integrity as a governing principle demands that intimacy, or oneness be the goal, and defined as “honesty and truthfulness” it requires that deception be rejected. Integrity is key in the reconciliation process.
The realization that integrity in and of itself is both honesty and truthfulness, wholeness and Oneness, makes God not only Life Force but also Integrity. God as Integrity reinforces the assumption that integrity needs to be our guiding principle when engaging in the reconciliation process. Only the honesty and truthfulness of integrity could sustain and maintain the paradoxical self’s ability to be whole and at One. Only integrity allows us to be at One with God. Living in the state of grace is then seen as living with Integrity, living in the state of Oneness with God.
The Magnitude of Redefining Power as Energy
Once the relationship between equally legitimate opposites is established as one of reconciling not conquest, the traditional definition of power as dominance and control needs to be addressed. The reconciliation process leads to defining power as energy. Within the inner world of the self’s communication network, it makes perfect sense that power is energy. The brain’s neurotransmitters connect to target cells, transmitting information and activating a response. Electrical energy is the power source for communication occurring within the self. Once personal, psychological power is seen as energy, movement and connection leading to intimacy and Oneness replace dominance and oppression as the goal of exercising power. This is revolutionary. Defining power as energy is the crowning blow to the traditional dualistic orientation of oppressive, antagonistic and hierarchical opposition. As energy, exercising power becomes movement, and intensity is strength of desire. Everything falls into place. Intensity of desire is not gender determined, so strength is not gender determined either. Male and female have equal access to intensity, so gender superiority based on strength does not follow. The power field is level for each gender, and for each genderized trait and capacity.
No one aspect of the body’s network is designed to dominate the other. Each component of the system is needed and together provide the self with necessary and integrating data. I am reminded of the recent discoveries in brain research and the crushing of the myth that cognition, considered an ability of the superior, desirable male pole, lives in the mind, and should be in control of irrational emotions. Emotions, considered inferior biological drives, are designated to the female pole. Rather, neuroscientists are now writing that, “emotions are adaptations, well engineered software modules that work in harmony with the intellect and are indispensable to the functioning of the whole mind.” 4
Each dimension of the brain has its role in completing the capacity of the brain to “know” and “knowing” is not limited to cognition. Emotion adds color and fabric to knowing. Science is supporting the fact that equally legitimate opposites, thoughts and feelings, mind and emotions, working together supply the self with necessary and complex information, thus debunking any inequality and antagonism between them.
Once we define power as energy, movement becomes the outgrowth of exercising power, and strength becomes intensity. The sexist assumption underlying our traditional view of power as the ability to control and dominate, is no longer seen as either essential or sought. Sexism is no longer the basis for our assumptions of superiority or power. Kyriarchy is not a legitimate form of leadership or of exercising power. It is replaced by reflection and processing governed by integrity. A liberated system is in place, as complete as the dualistic one, and it turns the traditional system upside down.
There can be no patriarchy or kyriarchy in this liberated system, only sequence and direction. In the sequence of movement, intimacy must precede protection or intimacy cannot occur, since intimacy requires openness and vulnerability and protection requires us to be closed and guarded when protecting ourselves. In this sequence, first is not superior, however, only the first in the ordering of movement. In this system, intimacy, or oneness, is first in the sequence making it the primary human need and protection its paradoxical other.
When power is movement, sequence and direction are essential. Unlike dualism where the primary need is seen as conquest and submission, liberated theology sees the desired need and direction as intimacy and oneness. Once oneness replaces conquest, traveling the path of integrity, where truth and fairness meet, replaces outsmarting the enemy and oppressing them by our power. In liberated theology, movement is power and power is movement. This is a most non-hostile and non- threatening approach to interacting with ourselves and with others.
Rejecting Conquest and Choosing Reconciliation
Elisabet Sahtouris, states that “About two billion years ago, the Earth’s first inhabitants, the archebacteria, overcame a long phase of hostile creativity (warfare, colonization and competetive technological development) by cooperating to form huge collaborative communities that evolved into all presently existing biological cells other than bacteria, including our own bodies. They literally created “multi-creatured cells” that went on to evolve multi-celled creatures by shifting out of a juvenile competetive phase into a mature cooperative phase as I have pointed out before. This evolutionary pattern has been repeated by countless species, as well as by entire ecosystems, and is now on the agenda for our human species. We will learn to cooperate as a global community or we will live in increasing misery and perhaps go extinct in the not so far distant future” 5
It would seem that our evolutionary selves are being asked to grow into psychological maturity and its cooperative mode that is now available to us. Liberated theology offers us a system of approaching power and opposition in a mature way that allows us to do just that. With the worldview of power as energy and reconciliation of non-hierarchical and non-hostile opposites as our goal, we 21st century conscious human beings are capable of moving out of the survival mentality of warfare into collaboration and reconciliation.
Defining power as energy and opposites as equal and non-hostile allows us to envision how to live out of this agenda. Add to that the vehicles of confrontation and accountability and we also have the tools for living at one with God, ourselves and each other. It is heartening that biologists are telling us cooperation is the direction the species is headed and now is the time. If our evolutionary journey has brought us to this mature phase of human development, we need the psychology/theology to teach us how to make the transition and live out of it, forming connections and community, not alliances and kingdoms.
Reactions are the initial unedited source of our personal relationship with information, but reactions are not meant to be our only source. They initiate the sequence of processing our personal data, but the process that ensues is complex and moves through many stages once it is initiated. The process requires moving beyond just reacting. If exercised, it provides us with a vehicle to move from self-centered reactions to discovering what our reactions are telling us about our relationship to the data, allowing us to decide how we choose to deal with the information. If we process our information with integrity we will be fair, honest and respectful in our responses. Understanding and intimacy are the outgrowth of this process and exchange, whether solely within ourselves or with others.
As we have seen, evolutionary theorists support this assumption, suggesting that originally natural selection promoted selfishness for survival, but currently we have evolved to a cooperative stage, if we choose to exercise that ability. Processing information with integrity and fairness leads to the ability to live cooperatively. Since fear is the primary impetus for choosing selfish violation of others for our own end, living out of liberated theology/psychology demands not only living on a more sophisticated level, but also not living motivated by fear.
The Integrity of Fairness and Oneness Confronts Original Sin
Assuming the presence of an innate integrity and sense of fairness and honesty within the self led me next to consider the question of original sin. Healthy organisms have integrity. Why would the human organism be any different? Our ability to participate in the processing of data with integrity is a fact. Our ability to violate the integrity of that process and thereby violate ourselves and another, is also a fact. Whether we are more inclined to violate our integrity than live guided by it is not a fact. It is an assumption.
However, if we believe in original sin, we are set up to fear our evil desires and to wage war on our own naturally sinful tendencies, without trusting in our own integrity. If we distrust our very nature, we will not be interacting with ourselves or others with openness. Our fear will cultivate suspicion and defensiveness and that sets the stage for assuming enemies and antagonistic hierarchical sides that leads to one seeking to conquer and, therefore, oppress the other.
“ The doctrine of original sin is the theory developed by Western Christianity, from Paul through Augustine and beyond, to cope with the problem of evil.”6 Explaining evil is still seen as one of the most difficult problems for theological scholars today, and the doctrine of original sin is its most significant explanation.
Original sin as described in evolutionary terms is defined as ,”the need for salvation by Christ that is universal to all human beings and acquired through natural generation” 7 Rather than assuming the universality of sin descends from a common human ancestor, evolutionists hold that the ancestor is from the origin of life itself. The fact that survival of the species sets up all living things to have the tendency to act selfishly and that sins are an outgrowth of selfishness makes selfishness and sin universal. Only humans actually sin, however, because only humans can choose whether to be fair or selfish.
Theologian Kathleen Coyle explores original sin not as some primal crime, but as a developmental pattern of alienation and sin passed on from parents and society to children. Using Freudian psychoanalytic theory and other personality theories, Coyle traces the ways maladjusted children become alienated from God, themselves and society as they mature. Just as Eve’s role was central in the primal crime, so the role of mother is central in the psychoanalytical interpretation of alienation. As the primary parent, mothers are seen as passing on sinful patterns to their children. Society’s evil structures and exploitations are perpetuated by the next generation of alienated victims, so the effect of original sin is arrested development that interferes with our growth and our ability to be at one.
This approach relies on the belief that we have evil within us and need Christ to help save us from ourselves and through the grace of God we can heal ourselves. It also proposes that through God’s grace we can “refuse to be carriers of evil; we can forgive our enemies and accept the hurts of life, without passing them on.”8 This theology of redemption offers God’s grace as the empowering force that allows us to live at one and be “capable of enjoying divine status,” 9 as children of God.
In contrast, by assuming that grace is integrity and Integrity is God, then being born with integrity and living with integrity allows us to live at one and be “capable of enjoying divine status” without the necessity of original sin. Rather than a theology of redemption we have a theology of fulfillment. Christ, as God Incarnate, is the epitome of living with Integrity, so following Christ’s teachings is still the desirable path, but needing to be redeemed is set aside.
Obviously, the existence of evil poses a dilemma that continues to haunt us, and assuming an innate evil force within offers one explanation. Nonetheless, original sin legitimizes the orientation of trying to conquer evil and therefore being at war within one’s self, pitting our good and evil forces against ourselves and each other. This has led to our striving to be “good enough”, and then judging whether or not we were successful in defeating the evil forces within us and, therefore, being “good enough”.
The traditional western world view believes that since we have demons within we must always be on guard against them and we should fear our own nature. Having an enemy within makes us assume we also have enemies without, and are set up to live in a protective mode, protecting ourselves from ourselves and from each other. Fear of failure or defeat, and engaging in battle to assure victory and dominance, are assumed to provide the primary impetus for choosing protection. Belief in original sin, therefore, calls forth protectiveness and distrust, hostility and warfare, not cooperation and collaboration, intimacy and oneness.
When evolutionary theorists suggest that we have matured beyond the selfish survival stage of natural selection into a cooperative stage, it would seem that original sin and its accompanying motivation for fear, should be transformed as we move to this next level of maturity. However, Freudian based psychology that emanates from dualistic thinking, holds that we have an evil side, concluding that maturity will still be plagued by our natural alienation as we go through our developmental stages. Liberated theology disagrees with this Freudian approach.
Original Sin and the Sequence of Needing Intimacy and Protection
Intimacy or oneness with God, ourselves and others is hampered by the fear engendered by belief in original sin. Fear sets up protection as our foremost need and reverses the natural order of the sequence, that is intimacy precedes protection. Once the need for protection precedes our need for intimacy, openness to our need for intimacy is difficult or even impossible to attain. Instead, we seek to conquer before being conquered.
The integrity of our system dictates that intimacy precede protection in this sequence, because the vulnerability and openness that intimacy requires cannot occur if protective guardedness or hostile aggession are in place. When our world view and belief system is based on fear of ourselves and each other, the need for protection precedes our need for intimacy, violating the natural order of our system.
Born with integrity, whole and at one, life’s journey of learning how to live with integrity without violating it, replaces the war between our good and evil forces. At this time in the evolution of humankind, our maturity allows us to reconcile our paradoxical needs and desires guided by integrity. Grace, as integrity, is the gift that guides us to and on this path. Rather than choosing selfishness and self-indulgent gratification as a way of life, we are capable of living out of integrity, choosing to be fair, caring and respectful.
However, the traditional orientation toward original sin that begins with fearing our nature and our dysfunctional patterns, will always put us at odds with ourselves relative to intimacy or oneness. Living from fear is oppressive and makes it more difficult to live at one with God, without expecting God to protect us from ourselves and others.
Intimacy with ourselves living out of integrity and Oneness with God as Life Force, is an awesome state, the state of Grace. Once the awesome sacredness of Oneness becomes our primary draw, protection is called forth only as needed. The ordering of the sequence is automatically the need for intimacy preceding the need for protection, and the reconciliation of our paradoxical needs and desires provides the process for Oneness.
Just as there is no proof offered for the existence of original sin, there is no proof offered for not accepting it as a given. So, rather than thinking we are destined to fight our evil demons we were born with, liberated theology assumes we are free to be engaged in preserving the integrity of our paradoxical nature that is our birth right.
God as Life Force: the Ultimate Oneness, the Ultimate Power
From a psychological orientation of reconciling paradox and redefining power as energy that leads to intimacy and oneness, God emerges as the Ultimate Oneness, and as Life Force, the Ultimate Power. As the Initiating Life Force, God is within every living thing and when we live out of our integrity and are at one with ourselves, and with the cosmos, we are One with God.
E.O. Wilson’s writings of consilience and the unity of knowledge reinforce these concepts. “Could Holy Writ be just the first literate attempt to explain the universe and make ourselves significant within it? Perhaps science is a continuation on new and better tested ground to attain the same end. If so, then in that sense science is religion liberated and writ large...it aims to save the spirit, not by surrender but by liberation of the human mind. Its central tenet, as Einstein knew, is the unification of knowledge. When we have unified enough certain knowledge, we will understand who we are and why we are here.”10
The search for oneness and the scientific justification for belief in it is circulating on many fronts. It is a place for science and religion to join in our pursuit of Oneness. Elizabet Sahtouris, as evolutionary biologist, writes,“Our age-old religious quest for reconnection with origins has been the search not only for our origins, but for our Creator as an inspirational source of guidance and security that would lead us to a better life. In the early childhood of human civilization we imaged this source in sacred nature itself, symbolized by the Great Mother. Then we shifted our attention and loyalty to a Father God, casting him in human image, making him a mathematician when we invented mathematics and an engineer when we invented machinery. In our adolescent cheek, science rejected the father God, believing there was nothing greater or more intelligent in the entire universe than ourselves...(but we find ourselves) part of a far greater being, a Conscious Cosmos.”11
God as Life Force fits the image of “a Conscious Cosmos”, so the assumption that God is Male or the opposing assumption that God is Female is irrelevant. Thinking of God as a Father may be comforting or fear provoking, but it most assuredly locks the hierarchy of male superiority in place. Replacing Father with Mother as God’s gender, introduces the arbitrary nature of assigning gender to God, and other than this exposure, achieves very little.
Theologian Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza explores genderized religion and religious studies and their powerful role in sustaining the inferiority and domination of women. “ If feminist religious studies are not to perpetuate women’s religious self-alienation and theological silencing, we must develop approaches and knowledges that enable women and disenfranchised men to critically analyse and explore their own experiences of oppression and liberation, victimisation and agency.”12 Liberated theology attempts to address the theological silencing of women.
God as Life Force gives the deity a spiritual identity without gender but with power, and allows God to be with us without our becoming children. As Life Force, God is within us and when we are at one with ourselves, our integrity is intact and we are One with God and the cosmos. Gender is irrelevant on every level. Whether to live with integrity is everyone’s choice.
Psychology rather than theology can provide the insight into understanding psychological maturity and why some choose evil and some choose integrity, but choice is key. The processing of our reactions and our relationship to data as the basis for our choices, is also a psychological dilemma.Responding to the desire for oneness with God within and oneness with the universe, requires a depth and maturity of process that psychology should teach and religions should cultivate.
God as Life Force, and the sacred journey inward is ours to choose to make, but we need direction and guidance on the manner and the path that will take us there. Only through living with integrity and the fairness of the process that it evokes will we discover the way to Oneness. Spirituality is cultivated by processing that leads to intimacy and Oneness.
Connection not conquest is the goal of those who desire to be at one. God is not seen as the punisher or the enforcer, rather, God is the Ultimate Uniter. We are given the ability to be drawn to Goodness and Oneness and the capacity to experience the sacredness of It, but we are not forced to seek It or to treasure It. We can choose Oneness or not. Spirituality is uniquely a human state and a human option.
The Limitations Of Morality Compared To Integrity
Another significant ramification of liberated theology is the contrast between living life guided intrinsically by integrity or living life in compliance to the extrinsic values of morality. Integrity requires complex processing and reflective thought, while morality requires obedience and compliance to an established moral code. Morality emanating from dualistic thinking often cultivates arrogance and righteousness among the morally right, and the hierarchy and hostility cultivate violence and division, not oneness. Religious wars come to mind.
Integrity demands a discovery process to arrive at clarity and understanding of what is fair and what is not, and then resolving the conflict in a way that is respectul, honest and fair to all. Needless to say, integrity overlaps with the moral code in many ways. However, there is no superiority afforded those who live guided by integrity, and when someone slips up and violates either themselves or another, they are called to accountability. If everyone involved is accountable, the process and the outcome are egalitarian, and lead to understanding and intimacy.
The punishment aspect of the morally right is permeated with anger and righteousness that justifies abuse and harming the sinner/enemy. This is by far the greatest difference between integrity and morality. Integrity never justifies abuse. It violates integrity when moralists assume those who disagree with them are enemies. Enemies are feared, often hated, and doing an enemy harm is seen as justified. War is waged against enemies. Unity is achieved by conquest.
This mentality has justified religious holy wars throughout history. Morality does not foster spiritual maturity, it fosters alliances and childlike compliance. We are all in jeopardy when morality justifies violation and abuse.”Liberated” theology will never foster enemy mentality and will never approve of engaging in war except to defend one’s self.
When integrity governs our inner world, we are able to take positions not sides, and process our paradoxical thoughts, feelings and desires to discover what they are telling us, not what is right and wrong about them. Rather than conformity to a moral code in order to keep our evil tendencies in check, our natural integrity, if intact, protects our boundaries, governs our processing, and keeps it and us, honest and fair.
So Where Does This Leave Us?
Without the assumption of original sin and innate evil forces, we become travelers on a journey instead of sinners on trial or warriors in a moral battle. For a traveler doing life as a journey not a test or a war, gathering information is for discovery not for proof or conquest. Conversations rather than arguments yield clarity and understanding, not superiority and righteousness or victory. Information is a tool not a weapon. We are capable of knowing and being known. Once again, we are reminded that we are directed toward intimacy, Oneness, as our desired state.
Power defined as energy13 provides us with the capacity to move, and integrity as the governing force directs our movement with honesty toward intimacy and wholeness. We are free to discover how to be intimate with God, ourselves and others without fear or guilt. With wholeness and oneness as the essential desire, and integrity as the governing principle, religious or not, God as Life Force is available as our guiding force, if we choose to live at One with our integrity.
When making choices, the integrity of our system requires we follow its natural sequence and follow the rules of honesty, fairness, caring and respect when processing data and being accountable. A model built from the integrity of a system reflects that integrity and preserves its natural order. Learning how to make decisions that allow us to live out of integrity is our greatest challenge.
Choosing To Be At Peace Not Waging War
Since being at war with ourselves is no longer assumed, and fighting against our evil desires is no longer our quest, we are freed to choose whether to be vigilant in keeping ourselves on the path of integrity and confrontive of ourselves if we violate it. By assuming innate goodness, intimacy is our desired goal and spiritual Oneness is a natural way of life.
Every force within us becomes legitimate and the relevant measure is integrity and how the forces interact and how their power is used. The only evil is violating our natural order and our integrity. As paradoxical beings, reconciling not controlling our paradoxical forces is the means of dealing with our inner tension and conflict. Through self- reflection and discipline, and guided by integrity as we process our thoughts and feelings, we can find the fair resolution of their conflicting needs.
Defining intensity as the measure of strength and desire as its source, directs our attention to our own desires and the intensity with which we experience them. Desire, seen as the source of our energy is no longer viewed as a force to fear. Evil desires are relegated to the category of abuse of desire, confronted and called into account.
Integrity exacts the discipline to live out of truth and fairness, caring and respect for each of our paradoxical forces and for each other. It demands accountability of any of our forces. If we over indulge one and allow it to dominate or devastate another, we are being asked to confront ourselves and guided by the principles of integrity, exact accountability.
Replacing Fear With Desire For Oneness
The radical ethics of liberated theology is established. Its principles are not derived from observed practices or societal context, but discovered as present in the essence of the self. These principles are not imposed, but discovered. They are fundamental to the self’s origin, its essential nature.
As a result of these assumed principles, we no longer need fear ourselves or our desires, nor define power as jurisdiction and control, and no longer look at opposites as hostile, hierarchical and sexist. Religion no longer is looked at as a way to protect us from ourselves or from each other. Theology guided by integrity leads us to inner oneness and Oneness with God and each other. It is a spiritual world view of peace and Oneness. If integrity is valued, we will have a peaceful revolution.
Religion based on liberated theology would not teach an antagonistic hierarchical approach to gender, race, class or power. Feminist scholars would not get caught in ivory tower postures that may alienate them from women of other classes, races or nations. A horizontal gaze allows a horizontal worldview of egalitarianism to evolve.
Tradition’s Grip On Our Belief System
I propose that a theology that teaches God as Life Force, power as energy, and integrity not morality as the governing principle, is a pacifist’s dream. Having as our ultimate goal intimacy with God as a Life Force, leads us to the ultimate liberation, Oneness, with God, and the cosmos. An awesome state that is both liberating and exhilarating!
However, tradition is not easily challenged or changed. There is a righteousness that accompanies tradition. For many, it needs no other qualification than the fact that it is tradition, making it right and non-refutable. Liberated theology upends traditional religious beliefs at their very essence, by rejecting its underlying dualistic assumptions.
Underlying assumptions are just that, assumptions on which other assumptions are made and from which conclusions are drawn. If underlying assumptions are erroneous, the rest of the system that is built on them has error at its core. Dualistic thinking makes erroneous assumptions, so traditional religion based on dualism has error at its core.
As feminists, it would seem that the idea of God without gender and without the characteristics of a parent with feared authority over us has an appeal. The reconciliation process also seems more in line with our feminist philosophy of collegiality than battles for dominance. Liberated theology is not only a pacifist’s dream, it is a feminist’s dream as well.
Since integrity is a principle that is both an accepted secular and religious principle, the demarcation of believers would not be such an issue. Integrity is an American value as is fairness or respect. God as a Life Force and Integrity allows us to invite all to Godliness without demanding a religious commitment from them.
Spirituality is not the exclusive domain of religion, and when God is seen as Life Force and Integrity, spirituality becomes a shared value of all who are at One, uniting secular and religious in an awesome state of Oneness. God may not be named by all, but if God is informing all, we are all One.