Much of the writing that I have read that speaks to a more “balanced” vision of God falls into the familiar trap of reference to characteristics, masculine and feminine. The accusation goes something like this: Christendom has historically majored on the masculine aspects of God (father, disciplinarian, powerful, cerebral) as if to say that expressing these characteristics is only possible if one were male. Richard Rohr has wonderfully addressed a key issue that has plagued the expression of Christianity for most of its history, but he speaks of it as having missed out on half the gospel, half the knowledge of God, etc. And, on it goes. For the “western” mind, reasoning is, well, reasoned—there are clear categories and either/or dichotomies. But to classify as such only highlights the problem. To assert that powerful is relegated to the masculine category is to say a woman is flawed if she displays power in her communication with others (over others). When a man cries easily, we say he is channeling his “femininity” and regard him as lacking something of his manhood. But, are these not merely characteristics of people who wield power over another (masculine) and submit to the one (feminine)? Are they not messages that have been given to one gender over the other from birth due to the curse from the fall (you shall work the land and it will be very hard, have pain in childbirth, hunger still for your husband, etc.)? Do they not merely expose the imbalance of power, inequalities among peoples, the exploitation of recovery time from childbirth?
I do appreciate that Richard Rohr quotes from Galatians 3:38, that “in Christ there is neither male nor female”—no distinction between genders. It is not: both feminine and masculine are equally valid and necessary to understand God and each other. Rather, there is no distinction. Nada. Julian of Norwich, whom he also blessedly quotes, gets much closer by expressing who Jesus is to us by using “feminine” language, yet in a different manner: “Jesus is our true Mother in whom we are endlessly carried and out of whom we will never come.” By calling Jesus, Mother, she is merely referring to the only function women might do that men cannot—give birth. There is no reference to emotion or leadership style or communication technique. When we begin to see one another without attaching a value on a scale of masculine to feminine, will we be free to recognize the other as who that person is—truly, at the core. Only then, may we assist one another to the freedom to be that person without the nagging question of “will someone think I am too weak because I cry easily?” or “will I come across as too aggressive if I step in and lead where I have the expertise and experience to do so?” And, how much more will love be available when we are free from jealousy or disdain or insecurity or arrogance? When we see the other for who that person is—except that to do so one must first see the self, as is. Ah, and that is the crux of the matter. Time in solitude and silence with the One who made us as we are. Time with the Person that birthed us into being and breathed life into us to sustain and strengthen and give courage to be. just. that. Me. Nicole Suzanne Oliver Snyder. I am a leader, and I can cry; I have given birth (3 times!), and I am much stronger than I look. But, I am also insecure and arrogant, and absolutely must retreat still more and more to the center, my interior castle where Christ dwells in me—the true me. Christ, my true Mother in whom I am endlessly carried and out of whom I will never come, dwells in me. It’s mystery!
I must use my favorite word again: provocative. But don’t you just love mystery? It’s been my favorite discovery since my move to the Anglican tradition.
Amen, y Amen 🙂 Thanks, for reading AND commenting!
Awesome! Right on! And I can cry too – and I like to cry! And you’re good with power tools – so there! Right on with this: “And, how much more will love be available when we are free from jealousy or disdain or insecurity or arrogance?” Yes! And just be who we are and try to be free from being put in a box or expectations. Makes me think of this beautiful song: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o9fzWq-d8jU
Though some might be offended by that song or the title of your blog – but that shows the crux of the problem. If there is neither male nor female and if God displays aspects of both, why should one be offended by either.
Oh, how you bless me….Thank you, for your comments and affirmation. And, wow, on that song. Yes, I think we more easily take offense at the wrong things….
Yeah, isn’t that song amazing! Love it. You’re welcome, love.
When he says, “neither Jew nor Greek…neither male nor female”, he is talking about inheritance. He is not saying there is no inherent difference between Jews and Greeks, slaves and freedmen, men and women. Our differences are what make us great. I agree with, “celebrate diversity”. Not that we should celebrate or tolerate sin, but that we should celebrate our differences as well as our similarities. If every flower were red, that would be very dull. Men and women are different. By nature. Different. To say that a man is stronger than a woman doesn’t degrade a woman. There are surely different types of strength. There are just as surely characteristics that God put ino men that He didn’t put into women, and vice versa. And these are good differences. (I am not by any stretch the strongest man I know, but I have never met nor even heard of a woman who is physically stronger than me. She may exist, but it would be extraordinarily rare.) Jesus came as a man, died and rose as a man, forever lives, a man. He always called God, “Father”. Never otherwise. To claim, “anything you can do, I can do better” (anything a man can do, so can a woman) simply isn’t true. Throughout the Bible, God has shown that He created us male and female, with different strengths and weaknesses unique to our respective genders. Crying doesn’t make a man feminine, and leading well doesn’t make a woman masculine. You are strong in your strengths as a woman, womanly. And I am tender in my tenderness as a man, manly.
I only argue this point because I see the great danger in blurring lines that God has clearly established. We often make the mistake of exalting one over the other where God has not done so, but that doesn’t mean that the differences should cease to exist. The other point I am arguing here is that God, every time, refers to Himself in the masculine. He has a reason for that. Very true, He created us male and female, in His image. As one flesh, we most aptly reflect His image. Male and female together. Not without differences. Me bringing my strengths, Rachel bringing hers, we more adequately reflect the image of God. Gender roles are not something created by man or society, but by God. (e.g. Deut. 22:5) We shouldn’t call “bad” something that God has called “good”. (Gen. 1:27, 31)
You are beautiful and strong and feminine. There are characteristics besides child-bearing that are unique to women, and that you have because you are a woman. These are great, and God-ordained. He has done well. You are a spectacular woman, fearfully and wonderfully made, feminine and lovely, strong and intelligent, a great leader and teacher and mother and wife. And the best sister I have! I love you!
Thank you, for your thoughtful and well-considered reply, my dear, brother. Your words are beautifully put and obviously from heart and spirit, and certainly from your great faith and much prayer. I do not agree with all that you have said, but I also know that you respect that of me. I write what I do out of deep conviction and a strong sense that God is calling me to do so. It is important. Please know that I am grateful to you, for your taking the time to even read what I have written, and then to so graciously construct a respectful response. I so love that we can know God, but only in part, and that as we know each other, we can understand God still more–since we are all created in God’s image, while each unique. Peace be on you and your family this day!