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Friday, March 21, 2014

God is Genderqueer

I'm tired of the issue of gender and God, probably because I have been fighting it for at least fifteen years. It doesn't seem to want to go away, and the reason is that people don't want to let go of it. That being the case, I thought I would weigh in again.

God has no gender, yet for generations God was referred to as male. It was wrong, but since we cannot change the past we cannot change the fact that it happened. Somewhere around the 1960s, Americans started questioning the maleness of God. Some people started referring to God as female,
and with the rise of Neo-Paganism the term Goddess came into vogue. Then there is the grammatically horrific God(dess), which is reminiscent of s/he - an obnoxious attempt at gender inclusive pronouns used both within and without religious circles. Anything with a parentheses or "/" is a reading nightmare, a horrible and pointless distraction to a well constructed sentence. Worst of all, it's completely pointless because God is spirit and spirit doesn't have gender.

Well meaning feminists often insist that because they have been oppressed for generations by the assignment of male gender to God they should be able to refer to God as Goddess to settle the score. Whatever one wants to do in their own devotional practice is perfectly fine, but we shouldn't deceive ourselves by thinking that Goddess solves the problem of unsatisfactory images of God. There are two reasons for this. The first is that science has shown that gender is not a binary system, which means that the only choices for arbitrarily assigning a gender to a genderless God are not male and female.

More significantly, there are a huge number of people who have been abused. One of the reasons many women struggle with God as male is because they have had unsatisfactory relationships with men. As someone who was abused by his father, I absolutely understand the reluctance of women to have God named as male. It's also a great argument for avoiding parental images of God. Unfortunately, men don't have the abuse market cornered. As someone who was also abused by his mother, you might imagine I am less than thrilled with Goddess images.

The gymnastics around God and gender extend beyond male and female, however. The first church I pastored had changed the language in the Lord's Prayer so that it began, "Our Father/Mother..." In terms of unsatisfactory God language, that doubled my fun by inadvertently attaching two abuser identities. If only they could have found a way to add the name of my crabby childhood neighbor lady to the list we could have had a Trinity of lousy God images at the front end of the Lord's Prayer. We couldn't just begin, "Our God?"

Beyond all of that hodgepodge of imprecise attempts to set the record straight by rotating it one hundred eighty degrees in a three dimensional gender circle lies the perhaps uncomfortable truth that any theologian worth their salt and every mystic will tell you that God simply doesn't have gender. That means we are left with much ado about nothing! Feelings get hurt, one side says they aren't going to stop using their preferred gender assignment until the other side stops using theirs, while nobody gives a damn about the non-dual gender folks. It's not exactly Christianity's finest hour.

I for one am done putting up with it. I have been calling for, and will continue to call for, gender neutral language around God. It's accurate, and more importantly it doesn't leave anyone feeling excluded from God discussions. That doesn't mean everyone is going to jump on board right away, and that's fine. As one called to use prophetic voice and to reform what remains of the listing ship that was once Christianity, I am not engaged in a popularity contest, not do I expect the battle to be anything less than uphill. Nevertheless, this is what I am called to do. I can do no other.

1 comment:

  1. I totally agree with this, and am grateful for sharing our journey, and your ministry.
    So glad you are 'called' to do this.