Am I your child too, God?
I hear you are a boy,
but I am not.
I hear you are Father,
but I cannot be.
I hear you are Lord,
but I am told to be a lady.
I hear I am created in your image,
but I do not see it in the mirror.
I hear I am loved by you,
but your Church ignores me.
I am a little girl, God.
Do you hear even me?
Diana Wilcox ⓒ 2010
Words matter. The church must see inclusive language - using both female and male terms for the divine, as a matter of justice. If words didn't matter, than how about we use all female language for the next 2000 years, just to balance things out a bit. Anyone have an objection?
It can seem odd at first to hear it, but after awhile, it becomes odd to hear the all male language. I know, because when I first became part of a Christian community that employed inclusive language I was startled to hear "Our Mother, Our Father, who art in heaven..." But now, whenever I worship elsewhere, the mostly male language is troubling to me, despite the warmth of the congregation and the beauty of the liturgy.
Those opposed to inclusive language like to point to the bible as "proof" that God is Father/He. Yes, those are the predominate pronouns employed by a patriarchal society attempting to describe their faith experience, but we have evolved since then to understand that women are equal to their male counterparts. And, as with most justice issues (and this is a justice issue), the bible can be picked apart to justify any position, with unfortunate consequences at times.
When I asked a group of people how Eve was created they all said "from the rib of Adam." That is one version of the creation story, but in Genesis 1, Adam and Eve were created together.
"So God created humankind in his image,
in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them." (Gen. 1:27, NRSV)
And in Luke, Jesus uses a female metaphor for God in the doublet of lost sheep and lost coin:
"Or what woman having ten silver coins, if she loses one of them, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? When she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, “Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.” (Luke 15:8-9, NRSV)
There are other verses as well, and historians are far more able than I to expound on the many cultures that believed in the divine feminine. So, it has not always been this way, and it is changing. But is it changing fast enough?
We cannot allow ourselves to be more interested in preserving liturgical traditions than in supporting justice for all.
God cannot be boxed into our language for the divine. When we try to say that God is only Father, we are trying to limit God. We are, as Jesus said to Peter "setting [our] mind not on divine things but on human things." (Mark 8:33, see also Matthew)
But, we are not only attempting to limit God, we are doing damage to our neighbor in the process. We must break out of this cycle of exclusivity and open our hearts and language to include all of God's children, male and female. Because, "God created humankind in God's image, in the image of God they were created; male and female God created them." (Gen. 1:27, changed to inclusive language)
So, in the name of all that is holy, in the name of the Creator, Redeemer and Sanctifier, let us all open our doors to everyone. Let us remember that we are all created in God's image. Let us not allow a human made thing like language deny through silence any of God's beloved children.
It is a matter of justice.
So this week, try using all female images for God. And should you feel odd when saying She and Mother, remember how it must feel to never hear a reflection of your identity in God Talk. Carry that discomfort with you like a pebble in your shoe, and then go out and live into a life of inclusive worship.
It can be done. It has been done.
As with any justice issue, it takes a heart open to embracing all of God's children fully, and a willingness to be a little uncomfortable in the process.
Will you hear the call for change? Somewhere, a little girl like the one talking above is hoping that you do.
Blessings to you all in the year to come.