The Common Good

Dear Red-Headed God?

There has been a fair amount of conversation at House for All Sinners and Saints recently about the use of inclusive language for God. Now in all fairness I should say that I have really no problem with using "In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen" in liturgy. It feels solid and ancient and beautiful. I use "Creator, Redeemer and Sustainer" as well, but it kind of clumsily reduces God to a job description.

Having said that, I must admit that I do, however, have a problem with the exclusive use of the male pronoun when speaking of the Almighty. I have the same problem with the exclusive use of the female pronoun when speaking of the Almighty. Here's why: while we as humans are limited in our ability to understand and speak of God, I think we might do well to admit that how we speak of God impacts how we speak of each other. In other words, we naturally are going to use anthropomorphized images; it's almost unavoidable to conceive of God as having human attributes.

But there are several dangers with this. One, we tend to make God in our own image by projecting human attributes like control, vengeance, and power-over onto God and then we worship our projection. Pete Rollins in his book How (Not) To Speak Of God puts a fine point on this by calling it "conceptual idolatry." By taking some aspects of being human, blowing them up really big, and calling that God, we in turn attribute Godlikeness to humans with those same characteristics. I believe it was Mary Daly who said, "If God is male then male is God."

This is all pretty boiler-plate feminism and not in any way original to me (and honestly I'm kind of a lousy feminist). But here's what really got me thinking recently -- in certain Christian circles prayers so often go like this, "Father God, we just praise you for being our Father. We just thank you for being such an awesome Father God

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