To all .25 people who might read this post, I am at my parents’ house right now taking a much needed weekend from the intensity of Drift Creek Camp. I hope all is well, and here is a reflection on some good conversations I had with people this past week.
A strange family works at Drift Creek Camp. They live in a cultish familial community that engages very little with the larger Church and is very skeptical of those outside their own faith circle (imagine Westboro Baptist with less hate speech and funding). They preach the typical fundamentalist line believing they follow the Bible and no one else does. They do not cuss or talk about hot button issues. Moreover, they think the Church has “allowed” too many unsavory people into its realm. What I found out rather quickly at camp is that I fit into their categories of heretical, sinful, and evil, although they might never say as much. Oddly, we have quite a bit in common (no substances and disbelief in government); nevertheless, their style of belief and ministry has set me off. I can hardly stand to be in their presence, and I hate that they get the opportunity to be around the campers. Here is one topic we clashed on this week, and I am sure we will continue to clash on for the rest of the time I am there.
While the camp was at the beach, we were having fun and roasting marshmallows. I raised my voice and asked, “Who invented Graham Crackers and why did she name them that?” I saw, out of the corner of my eye, the man from the aforementioned family flinch, and he retorted, “What makes you think it was a woman who invented Graham Crackers?” To which I responded, “Why would I assume it was a man who invented Graham Crackers?” Honestly, his overt sexism looked about as assholey as his face since we were the only two males sitting around the fire. Quickly, the conversation devolved into an argument over gender roles during which time I kicked the shit out of him (intellectually), and proceeded to yell at him and patriarchy in general.
I am no moderate when it comes to these situations. If anything I am a raging liberal who could give a shit what the moderates have to say. I am so sick of male-dominated systems. When we talk of them, one looming problem looks us all straight in the face: everyone almost always refers to G-d with masculine pronouns. This is an interesting dilemma, and I wish to address it here.
Is G-d a woman? The obvious answer is “Absolutely not.” G-d does not have a sex. G-d transcends such basic human definitions. If G-d did not transcend sex, Genesis 1 would be entirely discredited, and I am not ready to do that. Why then, do we refer to G-d with the gendered “he”? Elizabeth Johnson gives an extensive argument concerning this topic in her book “She Who Is”, but I do not have the time nor the energy to deal with her arguments. Instead, I can say this.
For thousands of years, humanity has lived in a patriarchal system. Women were considered property, sub-human, evil, incompetent, and various others deplorable things. As such, anytime anything intelligent or important occurred, the credit was given to men. Any unknown subject was masculinated since clearly a woman could hardly be credited with accomplishing something worthwhile. Doing this means humans made the masculine normative. That is to say men became the standard by which everything else was measured. G-d received masculine titles because maleness was considered to be higher than femaleness. The masculine was above all else.
This has gone on in our cultural collective consciousness for thousands upon thousands of years. The effect on us is daunting. What we now know, however, is that women are not property. They are as equally as capable as men are at leading churches, corporations, countries, families, non-profits, and other activities. Physically, they have a different shape but are made up of the same tissue and cells that men are. If we know that maleness can no longer be normative since we have found women to be equally as capable as men and therefore equally as able to represent the standard by which humans should be measured, what does that tell us about G-d? No longer are we able to refer to G-d exclusively in the masculine. What is normative has changed. Our theology must change as well. For thousands of years we have called G-d “he”. In order to undo the male-dominance, the belief that the man is the norm, we must begin to refer to G-d as “she”. A gender-neutral phrase is not good enough. It will only excuse patriarchy rather than confront it. We need to hold patriarchy accountable.
By beginning to refer to G-d in the feminine, we look patriarchy in the eye and say, “No more.” This practice actively seeks to liberate the female and male consciousness that has, for thousands of years, subsumed the feminie to a status below the masculine. Hence, even thought G-d is not a woman, we can call Her one as a way to confront and move beyond the pain and sin of patriarchy. I hope you will join me in this work. Peace!