What Happens When God Can be Mother Too?

Archive Tag:Lauren Winner

Why Gender-Neutral Language Is Not Enough

God is spirit, Jesus told Photina, the woman at the well, in John 4:24. I’ve been reading snippets of Near Death Experiences, and consistently, people agree that God is spirit, electric with light and love. Not human, not male, not female. So why do we need to call God Mother? Why not just do away with Father and all the other masculine language for God, including masculine pronouns, and call God, “God”?

“I Hear The Word ‘God’…as Male”

Lauren Winner, author of the excellent Wearing God: Clothing, Laughter, Fire, and Other Overlooked Ways of Meeting God, addresses the masculine-God-language problem by mostly avoiding gendered pronouns and nouns. She writes: “About four years ago, I made a conscious decision to try to set aside third-person singular pronouns for God, except when they appeared in prayers and hymns written by someone else or scripture translated by someone else.” That “except” would mean she would not be setting masculine pronouns aside very often.

However, she says this small act of curbing her own speech heightened her awareness of how her “community’s prayers, hymns, and sermons are saturated with masculine language.” She also noticed that “I tend to hear the word ‘God’ not as somehow beyond gender or as betokening the diversity of divine life; rather, I hear it as male.”

Winner almost thinks out loud in her book, as she suggests that the “antidote to this formation is…to sometimes use feminine pronouns and sometimes masculine pronouns.” It’s uncomfortable for her, she admits, but she tries it out now and again in her book, because she believes “the uncomforting is holy and blessed.” Good for her! Enduring the discomfort is the first step in changing the male God image to become female, too.

Like Winner’s gradual and subtle conclusion to her “Short Note on Gender and Language for God,” I, too, think there are good reasons for why we humans can’t keep God unbound by gender, despite the fact that She is a spirit.

The Personhood of the Trinity

First, God is a person. For example, my Sunday School theology tells me not to call the Spirit an It, but rather a He, though it’s tempting because the Spirit seems neuter. And the basic reason we use a personal pronoun is that God is a person not a thing. And persons have a sexual distinction.

It’s true that language around gender is changing, thanks to the insights given by the LGBTQ community. However, we don’t really have a way to relate to a person who is a Spirit without also referring to that person with a gendered pronoun. (We could call Her “They” but that would evoke all kinds of theological broohaha). And even if we manage to say God and Godself several times in a row instead of saying He or Him, the echo of the masculine pronouns we have always used speaks of an ancient man behind the scenes, like the Wizard of Oz behind the big voice and curtain.

We Reflect God

Secondly, sexed people reflect God. (And I am differentiating here between having a sex, which is the mechanics of being a woman or man that lead to differences, and having gender, which is all the societal stuff we take on making all girls like pink and fluffy stuff and all boys prefer blue and mud.) The author of Genesis (1:27) tells us that men and women alike are made in God’s image. God didn’t have to create a man and a woman. She could have found another way. The two sexes inform us of Her very being.

Bringing Down a False God

Third, we’ve already made God thoroughly male (and white, but that’s another post). It’s simply too late to neutralize the word, God. Thousands of years, and most religions, give God a basic masculine identity. It’s time to chip away at that false image, that false God. We have simply got it wrong about God. Jesus’ appearance on the scene was, in part, supposed to enlighten us to the feminine within God, but we didn’t get it.

It’s only taking the uncomfortable, unpopular yet Biblically-rooted stand that God can be She, God can be Mother, or any number of feminine metaphors, that will begin to pull down our false male God and put up the True One before us, the one who is represented well by both female and male.

Mother God Disguised as a Child

I called on three Athena-like prayer warriors via email, after Marshall’s PTSD symptoms re-emerged with bunny Acorn’s death.

Soon after, Marshall was peaceful again, happy with being mayor of Animal Crossing on his Nintendo.

Yesterday, he went to hippotherapy and music therapy. He learned to groom a horse and got a piano lesson. The therapies are creative, life-giving, healing, an ointment from Mother God our Creator-Healer.

Marshall’s told me more stories lately, while rocking on the rocking chair and resting his face on the back cushion. How all of S.’s ToonTastic characters (Pin, Fiery, Plummy, etc.) would meet a Marshall character she created and call him a jerk and other names. How S.’s posse on the playground circled him one time while S. kicked him, and how a tall boy said to him, “This group is for brutes only; wimps can’t join.”

And how there was a group of kind girls who invited him to their club. And there were gentle boys too who befriended him who weren’t a part of S.’s group. He felt protected when he was in the group of girls.

Where were the grown-ups? Where was Mother God? Where was I, his mother?

I have wondered lately if Mother God feels the pain I do, over what happened to Marshall.

Lauren Winner writes about rarely considered metaphors for God. In her chapter about God as a laboring woman, she writes, “In their darkest hour, the exiles wondered, ‘God, where are you?’ In His final hour Jesus cried out, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ In the image of the laboring woman we see that God does not respond with silence. God groans, gasps, and pants–making a new way for exiles, breathing life into the whole of creation, offering God’s body to be broken open for the sake of the world God created.”

It makes sense that God is capable of a great range of emotions like Her creation, and able to express those feelings. How odd it would be for a Spock-like God to make beings with a capacity for feelings, when She had none! I think we all intuit that though feelings do indeed lead us to unwise decisions, they lead us to all our decisions, ultimately.

Feelings are our spiritual life blood, from the Spirit Herself.

So, surely God does suffer over our traumas. Jesus has felt all our weaknesses, our temptations, and feelings, as humans (Heb. 4:15). And Jesus was bullied, too.

Mother God, unlike me, the human mother, was with Marshall each moment he felt trapped and abused by the bully. Mother God was at work to rescue Marshall. Human adults weren’t listening, but some children were.

Mother God was present in the girls who invited Marshall to join their club, and in the boys who played with Marshall without questioning what class he was in.

Part of listening is also seeing: She comes disguised as the child who says, Yes, to love.