Gender is Everything

My curiosity peaked, I read a blog post titled: Fatherhood, Faith and Gender Stereotypes.  As often is the case when you talk about gender, the comments went off topic a bit.

What I wrote:

I believe as a female and a feminist, I am not served by God being perceived as (solely) male, but that doesn’t invalidate the role of Father God or human fathers.  I need God to be beyond gender which is why it is so unfortunate that he is male in scripture.  Jesus was male and there’s nothing we can do about it.

One person in particular didn’t like my statement Jesus was male and there is nothing we can do about it.  He was surprised that being male or female could be a bad thing saying, “Without touching issues of headship or roles or responsibility and so on, is gender that much of an issue?”

I was startled by the thought that some people don’t think about how gender affects everything!

How can one live in the current set of realities in and outside the Church and not think about gender and how it might impact one’s relationship with God, with other believers and with the Church?

Perhaps I have been steeped for too long in the belief that gender is everything.

My daughter certainly accuses me of it, often calling me paranoid about women in the church.

But she needs to know that gender is everything when it is your gender that keeps you from being able to do things, to express things, to know things, and carry out certain roles, especially in the Church.  Gender is everything when your perception of love, and mercy, and justice, and your perception of God is colored by him being a Father.  Gender is everything when your human father was an angry, oft times cruel person, who crushed your spirit and controlled your life to the point that you, the YOU that is unique and created in God’s image, died. [At least I thought for a very long time that I had died.  I felt dead.]  Yes, for me gender is everything as I learn to love, or at least like being female in the Church.  And as I learn not to hate a male image of God.

Slowly my perceptions of God have changed as I listened to different voices than the ones I grew up with.  As I hear in the voices of many women (and sometimes in men) the tenderness and gentle grace of Jesus Christ, who is the son of God.  This is not anything like what I have known from my earthly father.

Yes, I bring my experiences to any discussion of God.

On one level it is simple. My perception of God is not enhanced or even helped by God being male. Although I know from scripture that God is not female and I am not trying to make scripture say anything that it doesn’t say I wish God was something “other” than male.

I want to know more fully a God who is not male or female, but greater than anything I might perceive or have experienced here on earth. 

I think that our perceptions of male and female are tarnished by the fall; really everything post-Genesis 1 and 2.  Our conceptualization is broken and damaged (at least in my experience) and so thinking of God as male is (almost) hurtful to me.

A child must know that she is a miracle, that since the beginning of the world there hasn’t been, and until the end of the world there will not be, another child like her.” (Emphasis and gender change mine)

We are each miracles.  Beautiful individuals who have been given each a mind and heart that is different from the next person.  May we each grow up knowing this!

I would love to hear suggestions of further reading and study on the trinity.  In particular, God the “Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit” to figure out what was intended by those names.

The bottom line is that with the fall, with oppression, with the mistreatment of women and girls throughout the ages, there is no easy way to redeem the word Father. At least that is true for me.

— MHH