.Do men approach spirituality differently than women, have different starting places and different symbols? My studied opinion is that we do have quite different entrance points, but nevertheless end up much the same, because the goal is identical -- union, divine union, where we are being guided by One who is neither male nor female, but "all in all" (1 Corinthians 15:28).
.Anthropologists suggest that the majority of male initiation rites were concerned with leading the young male on journeys of powerlessness, whereas female fertility and puberty rites had the exact opposite function: to sign the young girl with emblems of power and dignity. The rites gave them both what they needed to get started, but from opposite starting places. The male could not be trusted with power unless he had made journeys of powerlessness; the female would not even know she had power unless she was taught and encouraged to trust it.
This could seem shocking, but read the four Gospels and note Jesus' consistently distinctive attitude toward the two genders. He is invariably calling the woman upward: "Go your way; your faith has restored you to health!" (Luke 8:48) and "Neither do I condemn you" (John 8:11). To a woman who has just spoken "up" and "back" to Jesus, he says, "Woman you have great faith!" (Matthew 15:28).
Conversely, he is steadily calling the males downward: "Zacchaeus, come down!" (Luke 19:5); "If anyone wants to be first, he must be last" to the Twelve (Mark 9:35); and "Get behind me, Satan" to "the prince of the apostles" who wants to avoid suffering (Mark 8:33). Our selective memory is really rather amazing, that we have not noted this clear pattern in the Scriptures. Could that be what we mean by patriarchy?
This is the unique area of male and female spirituality, as I see it: the differing symbols, stories, images, rituals and metaphors that get us to enter the temple. We must honor the need for action, movement, building, repairing, rescuing and heroic hardship that men love. We must honor the community, relationships, empathy, intimacy, healing and caring that women value. We know, however, that the final spiritual question, and the goal, is to get men and women to love and live both of these.
All things being on course, the genders tend to be much more alike than different by the second half of life. This illustrates much of my lived experience: men start hard and get softer, whereas women start soft and get harder. It can often be a quite difficult dance of missteps, misinterpretation and mutual hurt until we meet somewhere in the middle.
I learned of this from the excellent blog of Len Hjalmarson Next Reformation.