(This is part of my December Experiment series)
After a week and a half, one of the realities that has set in is that I simply don’t refer to God often enough to even warrant frequent use of pronouns. One area that most church going folks do reference God is in our singing. So, on our drive home after Thanksgiving, Mindy and I sang a few songs, racking our brains for ones that use pronouns. It’s amazing how much difference a single letter can make. Read, or sing, the words to this rather popular praise song:
Is an awesome God
From Heaven above
Power and love
Is an awesome God
We sang a bunch of other songs, but this one sticks out and is a good case study in the impact of this experiment. I’ll just run through some of my thoughts as we sang and thought about God.
The Attributes of God
It’s quite obvious from a song like this, the impact a “gendered” God has both on our perception of God and our perception of genders. We commonly attribute these attributes “awesome” (as in powerful, but probably also in our 90’s slang use as well), “reigns”, “wisdom”, “Power” as being masculine characteristics. In turn, we further see God as being more “masculine” (for clarification, I’m not suggesting this is a proper definition of “masculine”), and a terrible cycle of gender roles and gendered god is built.
Sing that “She reigns” completely transformed the song for me. I did not have some clear female vision of God, but thinking of God in Her wisdom, Her power, Her love, Her awesomeness brought to life those attributes in a way I hadn’t thought of God before.
Neither Male Nor Female, yet Both
Here’s the odd thing about God not being Male nor Female: I think She’s thus best described as both. The vary nature of God is that She is Super-natural, beyond nature and thus unexplainable in natural, human terms. God is Spirit, and thus gendered terms limit our understanding of God. However, I’m not sure the answer is to remove gender when referring to God (I’m open to other opinions). You see, singing of and acknowledging God’s “feminine” attributes helps provide us with an even more full picture of who God is. For example, take God’s power. We often think of these, often subconsciously, in terms of male power, as to be expected since we refer to God as “He” so often. Regardless of how liberal or conservative your gender stereotypes are, your view or perception of God’s power is limited. When I sing “She reigns, with wisdom, power and love,” my eyes are opened to another perspective on the power of God that I hadn’t seen before. (I hope that’s making sense)
A Thought Experiment
Write down the ten most powerful people that you know of. It’s no secret that our perceptions are based on our experiences. The list of people you wrote, undoubtedly influences your perception of God’s Power. Now, on looking at your list, how many are male and how many are female? If your list is unbalanced (more male then female, or vis versa), then balance it out, so that you have an equal number of men and women on your list.
My feeling is that when you draw your perception of “Power” from this new list, your perception of God’s Power will be made more full and complete. (don’t forget to post your list below!)
One Final Thought
I plan on devoting a full post to this later, but I wanted to note that I think our ideas and perceptions of gender roles have had a terrible impact on us as a society (particularly in the church) and our relationship and connection to God. I fear our societal pressures have had a most oppressive impact on women, and also children. For a great post on the topic, read Erin’s recent blog post or for a more concise thought, read this poster we have hanging in our living room.