Wednesday, May 10, 2006

rebirthing the divine feminine...

In my Women and the Bible class at State, we finished our semester with some articles by women who have written about feminine images of the divine--one who has rejected established religion as hopelessly patriarchal, and one who wants to challenge us to be a truly monotheistic religion. (This, she says, would require our letting-go of exclusively male-human images of God...)

So, since then, I've been thinking about some of the feminine aspects of God in Christianity. And, tonight, reading a communion liturgy at Vespers, it struck me how so much of our liturgical language is feminine. We say that God/Christ "gave birth to the church," "delivered us from captivity," and allowed us to be "born again" by water and the spirit. So much birthing! You would think it would be more common for God to be pictured with womb.

How have we gotten away with all this very feminine, birth language, AND YET still imagine God as an old white man with a white beard when we draw cartoons or paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel?

Just a question...

8 comments:

karen said...

I miss Vespers.

Today, as I awoke from a nap, I had this equation in my mind from a dream:

Divine Feminine (Divided By) Infinite =

It was only that half of the equation, but I think the other half of the equation was the question I went to sleep pondering...

Who/what is God.

Marian said...

Not to mention all of that mother hen stuff Jesus says about gathering us up under his wings... that's not exactly a macho man thing to say. :)

David said...

If we want to be truly monotheistic, why stop at switching God from old white man to a woman? Why does God need to have gender at all?

There are lots of life forms that reproduce asexually, and biologists say that gender/sexuality is a risk for any species (it costs time and energy to find a mate), though it pays off in genetic variety.

I guess it's because we are supposed to be created in God's image, and we humans have gender, so we see God as being a human form.

Still, though, if you're already taking the leap away from scripture (IE: igonoring all the He and Him references to "God the Father" in the Bible) in order to see God as female, why not see God as genderless altogether, like the angels are supposed to be?

Sorry to intrude on your blog, just a thought from a lowly agnostic. It's an interesting discussion topic.

molly said...

Perhaps something like snails--aren't they hermaphroditic?

I'm with you, David: I just think a feminized version of God is helpful in destabilizing the rather rigidly set rule that "old man with robe and long white beard=God."

Though I do think you lose something if God is strictly genderless--there's something to be said about how envisioning God, at least at times, in the physical form of particular men and women keeps our religion from being about ideas and forces us to live it. That is, if God lives love in real ways, cradling us in her or his arms, maybe we can, too.

I am, however, having fun imagining how difficult it is for God to find a mate. It's a good thing God doesn't need to reproduce...imagine trying to DATE someone who not only thought they were God, but actually WERE God. Wow. ;)

Marian said...

I agree with David and Molly. :)

I think that God is much bigger than socially perscribe gender boxes...and it is only limitations in our language and culture that cause us to try to put everything (including God!) into a box that we can lable and understand. The boxes our language allows (so say the linguists of the world, anyhow), on some level probably influence what we are able to conceptualize. We have gendered pronouns... and that does influence us.

I think that one trick is to move beyond the limitations of gender that we put on ourselves... and then we will have less need to project them onto God. :)

And I think another trick is to embrace the goodness in what it is to be "man/male" and "woman/female" and to recognize that the goodness around us is a manifestation of a loving God.

For example, I'm a big feminist. While I do think that gender is all a big socially contrived game... its true that most everyone still plays and people who play women or are seen as women get the short end of the stick... a lot.

That being said, when I was getting back in touch with my father with whom I'd had a rocky relationship... it was amazingly powerful to say the "Our Father" and be able to feel the profound and powerful love that can be associated with maleness.

So, in short, God is big, it is only our conceptions of God that are small. I think that imagining God differently than we have before, including as a feminine energy, can be nothing but helpful. It's like the book says:

(1 Corinthians 13) "For now we see in a mirror, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know fully even as also I was fully known".

molly said...

Hey: check it out! Marian's bustin' out the Bible on us! :) Amen, and amen.

Marian said...

the what?

A. Lin said...

I have tried to be so intentional about teaching my 3 year old to view God as God (not male or female). He has a book that uses the masculine pronoun for God, and I always just use the word God in its place.

I have a feeling that it won't help much in the long run, as too many use "he" when describing God. But I hope that what I do will have an effect on his perceptions down the road.