God, She's Hot

If there was no Goddess Temple of Orange County, someone would have to invent one

Goddesses are so hot right now.

Conservators at the Michael C. Carlos Museum at Emory University in Atlanta are in the process of reuniting a Roman marble statue of "Goddess of Love" Venus (or Aphrodite, to you Greeks) with—for possibly the first time in 170 years—her head. The High Court in the East Indian city of Calcutta has quashed a case against leading Bengali writer Sunil Gangopadhyay for allegedly defiling a Hindu goddess, Saraswati. Gangopadhyay testified that he was joking when he said he kissed an idol of the "Goddess of Learning" to satisfy his desire. An Ipswich, Massachusetts, toymaker has released The Goddess Dolls, which "symbolize the positive and empowering aspects of the Goddess tradition, such as love, wisdom and compassion."

There's more: Jim Eagles penned a loving piece in a recent New Zealand Herald about his relationship with Konohana Sakuya Hime, the goddess of Japan's iconic Mount Fuji. Closer to home, the 20th annual Long Beach WomanSpirit Summer Solstice Fair at the Unitarian Universalist Church June 10 drew, as its co-founder recently told Long Beach's Beachcomber newspaper, vendors and people "who are supportive of the feminine and goddess movement."

And then there is this: Mariah Carey has earned the Gillette Venus Award, not for her latest album, which has gone platinum six times, but for her shapely legs.

With apologies to Jan Brady: Goddess, Goddess, Goddess!

All this goddess palaver naturally forces one to turn inward, to his/Her own place of being, in this case Orange County, in this case the Goddess Temple of Orange County. But this intrepid reporter cannot attend holy services on these holy grounds—inside a nondescript Irvine business park—because my penis keeps getting in the way. Except during certain gatherings, the Goddess Temple of Orange County is for ladies only.

Fortunately, the temple's Reverend Ava—who longtime readers will remember as Ava Park, former head of Orange County People for Animals who was deemed Orange County Citizen of the Year by this very publication—did agree to share why goddesses are all the rage. Turns out they have been for tens of thousands of years.

"Thirty thousand years ago, pretty much everyone on the planet had the idea that God was female, and women everywhere were the natural spiritual authority, serving as shamans and spiritual leaders of tribes and clans," the Rev. Ava explained. "Five, six, seven thousand years ago, patriarchy or 'rule of the father' arose and demoted women, throwing them out of positions of power in religious institutions, turning them into chattel, and, on top of that, blaming them for all the bad stuff! Think Eve in the Garden of Eden."

She and her followers believe that the world has suffered terribly in the ensuing years because the balance of women's spirituality is out of whack.

"When our only God is a scary, punitive, remote Father in the Sky, it's hard for people to feel the nurturing, protective, compassionate aspect of the divine, and to show that loving face to one another. Even though the more recent New Testament/Christian God is often referred to as compassionate and loving, the actual underpinning of our overall societal beliefs about God seems still to be the Old Testament God of punishment, wrath and fear. And he's way up there in the sky somehow, far away, transcendent, not inside, not part of us."

The notion of God as male, as the He/Him of the Bible and elsewhere, naturally makes females feel as if they are "the other," and that impedes them from feeling holy and sacred, the Rev. Ava maintained.

"In our church, everything is holy and sacred, every aspect of reality, every woman, every man, every child, every animal, every plant, every bug—yes, bugs!—everything. And when we know ourselves as holy and sacred, we act like it. . . . When women don't feel holy and sacred, their self-esteem is shot and they start to allow all sorts of bad things to be done to them. They accept abuse, oppression and mistreatment as their natural due. It is not."

But she also contends "this Judeo-Christian Father God is also ultimately very hard on men." Patriarchy operates under the dominator model, setting itself up as being strong and all followers as weak. According to the Rev. Ava, "This model of behavior sets the stage for everything that is wrong with our world: wars, aggression, violence, trashing Mother Earth, child abuse, sex slavery, racism, classism, factory farming, puppy mills, global warming, high gas prices, Humvees, homophobia, bad plastic surgery and the common cold—okay, well, maybe not that last one."

Further, she says men actually want women who are goddesses—"The Real Goddess. Not those fake, impossible, air-brushed, implanted Barbie-doll goddesses," the Rev. said.

"Men are constantly looking for The Goddess in all the ways they know how, some of them fumbling and funny. Every day, wary-looking men from 20 to 80 step hesitantly through the temple doors. They look around at the beautiful altars lit with candles and, dazed and confused, they bravely forge ahead in their search. 'Ummm . . . can I get a . . . a massage?' Yes, they are looking for The Goddess! Or at least, a goddess. Online earlier that day, they Googled 'goddess temple' and guess what? Up popped 1,000 porn sites and massage parlors. No wonder they see our sign, 'The Goddess Temple of Orange County,' on Red Hill in Irvine and think what they think. How sad that this is what the world thinks a goddess is. Men are indeed looking for The Goddess . . . just not in quite the way we'd prefer."

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