I was thinking today about how our image of God (if you have one) colors who we are and how we think. If anthropology tells us correctly the images of God dug up from very old civilizations were mostly feminine. Women with bulbous breasts and often pregnant. The idea that women created life brought about ideas of their sacredness.
I don’t know that I have ever read any study that gives a step by step progression of how and why that image changed. Might be fun to look that up but I suspect it had to do with the shift from a hunter-gatherer society to a less mobile farming one. As civilization progressed roles continued to be defined and somehow the God as woman shifted. In many cultures there were multiple Gods connected with the perception that Gods controlled the vagaries of the earth and could be appealed to to bring good outcomes.
As God, melded into a single entity in several cultures that entity was primarily male. Our Christian beginnings, linked to the Jewish culture, were firmly entrenched in a male image.
All this being said how does this affect how we think? If we see a male, patriarchal God we will expect a male dominated society. Our society has had this aspect for quite a long time. If we believe in a God we have to learn to see God as more. God as feminine, God as neutral, God as gay, transgender or whatever allows us to feel connected with the divine. This idea can be offensive to some but the point is we connect with a God who is like us for right or wrong. That is why some people have had a difficult time with images of god. The image we have definitely colors our thinking. It is time we espouse a very broad image. After all, we can’t possibly grasp the infinite. Don’t put God in a box.
The news today continues to follow the sexual harassment scandals. This is all so sad. It is sad for the women who are coming forward…..they have held these things inside for so long. I am sad for the people who are being accused…life has changed for them. I am not sure that life hasn’t changed for all of us.
This seems to be the next phase of female emancipation. For many years since women entered the work force there seems to have been an unwritten rule that some men in power could use that power to their advantage without fear of repercussions. In my young adult years I knew that many actresses had to sleep their way to the screen. It seemed to be the norm. The women seemed to accept it as a way of life. I am sure that some women took advantage as well.
That time has come to an end. The veil has been lifted and the actions are coming home to roost. The trouble is when people are talking about things that happened years ago there is no way to get at “truth.” Memories can be faulty and it is possible to push away those things we don’t want to see in ourselves.
I think since Pandora’s box has been opened we will see many more disclosures about abuse. This will be a major shake up for communication in the work place. We will be discovering new ways of relating to each other and hopefully things will be better. It may take a while to work this out and bring about another change in male perspective.
Anyone, male or female, who is in power can use that power for good or ill. Power can be a heady thing. Power is one of those things that we think will fill that hole that only God can fill. It has been sought instead of God since time began. Putting our priorities in the right place and seeking God first will move power to its rightful place. “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and its righteousness and all good things will be given unto you.” (from the song)
I have been pondering images of God. How do we see God? If asked I am sure many people would see Charlton Heston (too old for most of you) coming down the mountain with the ten commandments. Some might say the softer image of Jesus in the garden. Our image as children usually changes as we become adults.
There have been interesting books written about this in recent times. In the past I read Models of God by Sallie McFague a theologian who was at Vanderbilt University. She offers some different images than what we normally think about: God as friend; God as lover; God as mother. She says that if we can’t move away from the masculine patriarchal God as our ONLY image that we will never have peace in the world.
Today I read some thoughts from Richard Rohr, A Franciscan who writes many thought provoking meditations. He wanted us also to think of God as mother. He quoted Marcus Borg, a controversial theologian who died just recently.
“Marcus Borg points out many other good reasons to identify and honor the female (as well as non-gendered) images of God throughout the Bible:
- Male images for God are often associated with power, authority, and judgment. When used exclusively, they most often create an image of a punitive God. God must be appeased or else.
- Male images for God most often go with patriarchy—with male primacy and domination in society and the family.
- Male images of God most often go with domination over nature. Nature is often imaged as female (“mother earth”) and domination over women extends to a rapacious use of nature.
Female images of God suggest something different. God is the one who gave birth to us and all that is. God wills our well-being, as a mother wills the well-being of the children of her womb. God is attached to us with a love that is tender and that will not let us go. And like a mother who sees the children of her womb threatened and oppressed, God can become fierce.”
I think Borg has some thought provoking ideas about embracing more than one image of God. We have to expand our thinking and stop putting God in the “masculine” box. God is so much more than that. God is much more than we can ever understand