dead metaphors make strong idols: re-gendering the divine

Elizabeth Johnson CSJ, a feminist theologian, wrote

“As a remedy some scholars and liturgist today take the option of always addressing God as simply “God.” This has the positive result of relieving the hard androcentrism of ruling male images and pronouns for the divine. Nevertheless, this practice, if it is the only corrective engaged in, is not ultimately satisfactory…It prevents the insight into holy mystery that might occur were female symbols set free to give rise to thought. Most serious of all, it papers over the problem of the implied inadequacy of women’s reality to represent God.” (44/45, She Who Is)

Since 2007, I made the habit of writing/saying “God” without pronouns. Reading Scripture in front a congregation, I usually de-gender pronouns to either “One” or just “God.” I felt proud of myself, that in my circle of Christian friends that I am self conscious of how I express the divine.

Last week, I made a zine for a new friend, which outlined the theology for an anarcha-feminist. With this project, I too felt proud. I explained the importance of queering theology and tradition. That if one were to follow in these footsteps, one must read history/tradition through the lens of the marginalized, especially women.

After giving my friend this gift, I re-read She Who Is. Usually I read books while on public transportation, so that may a conversation may happen and an event of transformation of thought and habit take place. (This happened once for me, perhaps it will happen again.) Anyway, the opening quote struck at my heart the most. I truly thought that I was above the game with not using “He,” but just as the campaigns this year seem to be only about negativity about other candidate, it does not cause change to the system or the heart. “Structural change and linguistic change go hand-in-hand” (40 She Who Is). If we want a society that declares equality, then our language too much be more inclusive.

From now on, I will, when appropriate use God/She. This will, hopefully, help me as well as those who read this blog to re-think our ideas of the divine.


Dina Cormick painted this piece titled “Creator God most beautiful”

Published by brother timothie

I am a graduate of Union Theological Seminary in New York City. My interests include constructive theologies, liberation theologies, documentaries, far-left politics, homelessness ministries, creative liturgies, poetry, and pop culture.

2 thoughts on “dead metaphors make strong idols: re-gendering the divine

  1. This is an excellent point raised here. Because the word “God” has been imaged as masculine for so long, it is hard to hear it without immediately imagining the masculine God of Judaeo-Christian religions. I wonder what would happen if we started using the word “Good” for God: would it still conjure up masculine imagery?

    1. Sharon, thanks for your kind words. For me, using “Good” for God would be an decent alternative. I would be hesitant in only wanting to name one attribute for God, but I think it works in your case.

      Thank you and may Good bless you! 🙂

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