Lunch today included lively conversation with three of my dynamic women friends. Amongst all the fascinating differences that stimulate a challenge to listen well, a mighty gem fell in my lap. It came from a professor from Cambridge.
Over the years, I have seen how women who have experienced the horrors of sexual abuse can find the masculine vernacular attributed to God profoundly blocking, unpalatable and suffocating . Imagine being asked to pay reverence to a male figurehead after being raped and repressed by males who were supposed to be in a position of trust; ones who were supposed to be providers, protective, loving and kind. Imagine everything spiritual handed to you in male terms – before, during and after years of painful therapy.
Even those of us who have not experienced sexual abuse can find the male gender in spiritual print tiresome, unfair and assuming.
A couple of years ago, I was in the presence of some males who were commenting, in negative tones, about women making a fuss over God being referred to as “He” or “Him”. I suggested, “Let’s change all the male words to female. Check out how it feels to you.” The subject was changed immediately.
One time after that incident, in a spiritual study with a small group of women, I asked if, when we read aloud, we could change the gender to the feminine. I was amazed at the added depth I was able to glean from those sessions. In the examples, changing the male to female caused me to look at myself instead of focusing on some male to whom it applied brilliantly.
However, the irony for me is that I cannot conceive of God or any divine being having or being any gender! I believe the whole issue is such a non-issue that I hope we can remember to laugh when we are no longer in physical form.
Nevertheless, thinking about those men and their abrupt decline to consider other points of view brought compassion to mind. I actually felt compassion for them. Their fear and rigidity would eventually challenge them in their spiritual practices. We inevitably have to face our conflicts. As Mary Pipher wrote in her book, “Seeking Peace”: “I realized that my tendency to avoid confronting unpleasant reality had to do with my lack of compassion for myself. I couldn’t afford to look too closely at events or I might see my own imperfections.”
Over the years, I have wondered how we will ever be able to change our language in a manner that might eliminate conflict. Would it be possible to find a way that would be acceptable to males and yet put the gender issue to rest?
But what about the gem the professor from Cambridge left in our midst?
One of my lunch mates told of her Rector having been to a conference where this Cambridge professor spoke. Indeed, there may be an answer. Apparently there is evidence that scholars have not been completely accurate in deciphering the Fatherhood aspect of the ancient scrolls. It seems the word ought to have been “kinship”. It was not about Father and Son, it was about kin.
I checked the Internet – “Kinship in Cambridge Theology”. Yes, there are books on the subject, but in order to flip through their pages, I have to be a paid member of the library at Cambridge. That doesn’t stop me from telling my friends who have been agonizing over this matter for most of their lives that there may be hope. Indeed, there is the possibility of Kinship.
I can hardly wait to see how it affects certain prayers. If God becomes the Kin, what will we call Jesus?
Think I’ll keep him as my best friend. That’s kin enough for me.