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Some people get irritated when you refer to God as a Father. They claim this is patriarchal and a cultural construct designed by misogynist imperialists to oppress women. Others are equally fussy if you address God as Mother, as in Mother Earth, Spirit Mother or even more provocative, Our Mother who art in Heaven. This could cause a revolt at the dinner table or risk excommunication, depending on where you happen to be praying.
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Oddly, enough, some of the same people who object to the forced use of gender pronouns in society, also get hot under the collar if God is not addressed with the proper pronouns. They claim, God is male because God created man first and then woman out of Adam’s rib. Therefore, the natural order of things is a male hierarchy, and we all just have to accept this and stop rocking the gender boat.
Should we judge God’s gender?
To explore further, God in Christianity is a trinity of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, so shouldn’t we refer to God as they/them? In the book of Genesis, the Hebrew word for God is Elohim, and it is plural and means gods. Eloi is singular and means god in Hebrew.
To complicate things even more, Genesis says,
This is the book of the generations of Adam. In the day that God created man, He made him in His own likeness. Male and female He created them, and He blessed them. And in the day they were created, He called them man. (Adam)
~ Genesis 5:1-3
Adam appears to mean man and woman together. If God made man in his image and they are man and woman together, does that imply God is both male and female?
Eastern religions seem less fixated on the subject:
I am Father and Mother of the world.
~ Hinduism. Bhagavad Gita
Thou art Father, Mother, Friend, Brother.
With Thee as helper in all places, what fear have I?
~ Sikhism. Adi Granth
Heaven and Earth are the father and mother of the ten thousand things. Men are the sensibility of the ten thousand things.
~ Confucianism. Book of History
All ye under the heaven! Regard heaven as your father, earth as your mother, and all things as your brothers and sisters.
~ Shinto. Oracle of the Kami of Atsuta
The Bible was written at a very different time in history. In Jewish culture, at the time of Jesus of Nazareth, women were not allowed in the main sanctuary of the synagogues but had to sit in the women’s gallery, separate from the men who were undisputed leaders of the community. Women could not be priests, scribes or a member of the ruling Sanhedrin. Roman and Greek culture was not that much different. Women could not own property, nor could they participate in government. Early Greek and Roman democracy did not include women, slaves or barbarians.
Women were not allowed to vote in Canada until approximately 1922, after decades of activism, protest and struggle by women suffragettes. This only applied to white and black women, however, Asian and indigenous women did not get the vote until 1940. Modern men and women cherish equality, although many have forgotten how difficult it was to gain these equal rights and freedoms.
Gender has become a hot button topic in recent years. What used to be a non-question has become a confusing and often highly divisive subject. Biological gender and gender identify have opened up a confusing can of worms for many. For others, gender has been politicised and used as a weapon to advance social engineering agendas. Gender is considered a spectrum by many health professionals:
Though we digress, gender mania has affected the religious community as well. Many denominations now encourage gender-neutral language when referring to God. The Methodist Church of UK addresses God as Mother in their services. The 2021 language guide of the American Presbyterian Church recommends titles such as “Mother,” “I Am,” “Hen” and “Woman.” In 2018, the Episcopal Church opted to revise the 1979 Book of Common Prayer to replace “he” and “him” pronouns with gender-neutral language for God, to slowly come into effect by 2030. And more casually across mainline Protestantism, it’s not uncommon to hear God, and especially the Holy Spirit, referred to as “she.” God is often expressed in gender neutral terms: Creator, guardian, Holy Spirit, comforter and counsellor.
The Bible itself is replete with language referring to God in feminine or motherly terms:
As one whom his mother comforts, so I will comfort you; you shall be comforted in Jerusalem.
~ Isaiah 66:13
“Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you.
~ Isaiah 49:15
“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!
~ Matthew 23:37
Recent surveys have shown the general population sees God as either non-gender or male. Women are more likely to see God as male, however, in a recent survey of 2250 adults in USA, 34% of women said God was male, compared to 28% of men. The low support for a female God is interesting though, despite the changes in attitudes over the last one hundred years. Only 1% believe God is female.
We are in an excessively difficult period in history where people need stability and a place of refuge from the storm. It may help people to know that, even though our attitudes and expressions of the character of God may change, God does not change. It may be that to us mere mortals, God seems fatherly, a protective parent and a nurturing mother. God is also a constant source of inspiration, guidance, hope and security. Maybe he or she doesn’t mind if you call him (or her) mother or father, or just friend.
Perhaps, we are like children of the universe, brothers and sisters, part of a great universal family. And perhaps, this moment in time is just the intense labour pains of a new world, struggling to be born. It may well be that what looks like despair, suffering and destruction is only the end of a long dying age, and the new and better world is upon us.
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