What Happens When God Can be Mother Too?

Masculine-only Language for God and Rape Culture

I will be voting for Hillary Clinton, with excitement at the possibility of witnessing the first woman in history to become an American president. But I do like what Trump has inadvertently done for women lately. He has made public what is often a private and shame-filled event: the invasion of a woman’s body and person, used as an object of gratification and domination. Conversation is happening that is potentially healing for women and enlightening for men.

My husband courageously wrote today on Facebook about his own journey of realizing that sexual aggression toward women is not about his own moral purity, but about the worth and value of women. He was responding to his colleague’s story of verbal sexual aggression–in church–from a man toward her, just two weeks ago.

My husband writes:  “It took me years to realize that such aggression is embedded in the male culture in which I participated daily at school, work and church. I cannot begin here to unravel that culture but I know that we very much need to do it. And I think we can use Trump’s aggression as a point to begin the discussion. We need men to own their culture and the actions it helps to create. We need to call sexism what it is–abhorrent.”

Sexism is multi-faceted, but we can start with the simple integrity of a human being’s body. Human being? Women are human, and the truth and meaning of that fact needs exploration. Having this discussion with men is healthy. Though they may not want to talk about it, men understand masculinity/machismo culture better than women. When they name it and expose it, its power to control men and women, and boys and girls, decreases. And having discussions about sexual assault with Christian men is healthy, too, because sexism is rampant in the church. (See one man’s articulate rant here).

Masculine-only language for God embeds sexism into the pews, and brings into question the worth of girls and women. On any given Sunday morning around the world, women will walk into a church service where Jesus is Bridegroom, God is Father, and “This is my Father’s World.” Virginia Ramey Mollenkott writes about this language rut: “…because God is husband-like, husbands are godlike. Because God is fatherlike, fathers are godlike. The stage is set for exploitation of girls and women.”

But she continues, “The chances for exploitation are severely curtailed if we go further and recognize the biblical images that say God is womanlike and motherlike, so that women and mothers are in turn godlike.”

Then maybe we will all see the imago dei, the image of God, more clearly in women, and yes, in their very bodies. Women reflect God as much as any one with a penis and broad shoulders walking around (Gen. 1:27).

Like Jesus told Saul when he was jailing and murdering early Christians, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” (Acts 9:4), Jesus is also asking sexist men, “Why do you continue to assault, abuse, and treat me like an item on a shelf?”

“But Jesus wasn’t a woman!” you may be thinking. Saul persecuted women as well as men (Acts 8:3). The risen Spirit of Jesus didn’t differentiate between them when he stopped Saul on the road to Damascus.

I wonder why not? Doesn’t gender and gender hierarchy matter to Jesus? Not in my reading of the gospels.

Christian men would do well to emulate Jesus, perhaps the only perfectly secure male in history. He didn’t hesitate to talk about God as a woman who lost a coin (Luke 15:8-10), or to compare himself with a hen longing to gather her chicks under wing (Luke 10:34). He gave the Holy Spirit the role of a birthing woman (John 3:5), and indicated that he saw he and his disciples as experiencing the pains of a woman in labor, as Jesus died on the cross (V. Ramey-Mollenkott; John 16:21, 17:1).

Jesus’ many uplifting interactions with women in a patriarchal culture showed the world throughout history how men should relate to women and think about them: as human beings who look like God as much as men do. So, if Jesus went to church in North America in the 21st century, I think He would freely call God “Mother” as well as “Father,”  to show us that God made women in Her image, too–body and soul.

 

 

2 comments

  1. It takes courage to share our views, especially when going against mainstream. Thank you Susan for sharing so openly. It would be wonderful to have a woman in office, yet if I may say, I have to disagree about this female candidate. And before saying so, let me preface by saying Trump is not a possibility for myself as well.

    When it’s all said and done, both candidates are guilty of the same disregard for women. Trump boldly degrades women, Ms Clinton does the same when she stands by her man who shares Trumps view of women.

    If I may finish by sharing what I see as our only hope for America. Needed in our sacred office, is one of virtue, honor, integrity and loyalty! This will not be fulfilled in this election, but it would be wise that We the People begin first ourselve.
    Men, learn again to respect women, and women, learn again to respect men. Both are made differently but beautifully and when knitted together make a beautiful whole.

    • There is still a lot to learn about Hillary Clinton and her husband. I think, if Hillary is elected, Bill Clinton may be in for a wonderful learning curve as the First Gentleman or whatever we end up calling him.

      My sense is that the good to come from a woman in office will outweigh the choices Hillary Clinton has made to stay loyal to her husband despite his unfaithfulness and dishonesty. We are never dealing (almost never) with perfect choices in politics.

      It may be that, for the moment, Trump is doing more good in stoking flames of past memories of injustice in women, and in these women boldly stating what has happened to them, than Hillary Clinton has done so far for women.

      Sometimes, before respect can happen from another party, we have to learn to respect ourselves and put up boundaries. That’s the process women are engaging and I’m happy to see that. It’s difficult and takes courage.

      Thanks for commenting!

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