He or She, or a little bit of each?
March 23, 2014
Then God said, "Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness…" So God created humankind in God's image, in the image of God She created them; male and female He created them. - Genesis 1:26-27
This is a devotional about a devotional.
Every time I write a Daily Devo in which I use a female pronoun for God, I invoke the ire of a certain cross-section of readers, folks who believe that God should only and ever be referenced as He, citing scriptural authority (never mind the inconsistencies, the outright fabrications and the fact that all the canonical Biblical editors were men—and therefore perhaps not completely unbiased).
I remind my correspondents that in Genesis God created human beings, male and female, in the image of God He (sic) created them.
There's a little grammar problem there though—if we really were created in the image of God, male and female—wouldn't that mean that God Herself is male and female? That God holds the fullness of gender in God's own being?
And by the way: in scripture, the way God refers to Godself? Us. Plural. As in "Let us make humankind…" The traditional Hebrew names for God: Adonai, Elohim: also plural. Which may be the single best authoritative scriptural clue we have that God is much bigger than any singular pronoun can handle.
I have a confession to make: though I am as feminist as they come, and invariably use She these days when talking about God from my church's pulpit, in my private devotional life, I relate to God as Father. Maybe this is my early training coming to bear, maybe it is because my dad was (and is) the parent to whom I feel closest—parents being the first god-figure.
Whatever the reason, I rarely use He publicly, because after 2,000 years of almost exclusive He language, seems like it's time to bring a little balance back to the force and fullness of God. I don't need to make God over into my own image, but I do benefit from knowing God has made me in Hers, and that's what pronouns have the power to do: draw us close to a living, loving, personal God.
Or as my 7-year-old daughter put it, without any formal schooling in feminist Christology, "Why do we always call Jesus He? Just because She took a boy's form one time?"
Better yet, why not let God out of the gender box entirely? But that's another devotional, for another day.
God who is Mother, Father, a little bit of each and none of the above, You were You (all of You!) before we were even a twinkle in our parents' eye. May each of us know You in a way that vivifies the human side of divinity, and the divine side of humanity. Amen.
About the Author
Molly Baskette is Senior Minister at First Church Somerville UCC, in Somerville, Massachusetts.
Ms. Christina Villa
Acting Director of Publishing, Identity & Communication
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