The abuse and unequal treatment of women, and the abuse and unequal treatment of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people, is rooted in sexism, and sexism is rooted in our faith. I have been preaching this for six years at Virginia-Highland Church, and for decades before that, but we are so conditioned that I think we still don’t get it.
As long as God is only “Father,” then fathers remain the gods of our faith and culture. This is not a peripheral issue to standing against the pernicious evil of sexism. Women never will be treated equally if we keep praying to a God who is only “he” or “him,” the “Heavenly Father,” or “Man upstairs.” We are so programmed that we don’t even notice our language; it is simply an unconscious way of talking about God or to God.
Which is why, after 40 years of scars, I still fight the battle of using inclusive language. It is all the worse that we unconsciously use only male imagery because it tells the truth about what we really believe deep down. I know changing the language in scriptures, familiar hymns and songs, and in how we pray drives everyone around me crazy. I can’t tell you how many choir fights I have started, but if we won’t use racist language about God, why is it okay to use sexist language for God? Both are the roots of evil.
There isn’t a single member of the Ku Klux Klan who wouldn’t describe God in white/male terms. That isn’t us, though. We use inclusive language about God because of what the Bible teaches.
If only we will look, we will find feminine images of God throughout the Bible. The first is in the creation story that reveals God is BOTH male and female. If we read scripture in the original language we see that the Holy Spirit is a feminine expression of God. If we experience God only as male we have embraced only half of the truth about God, and my mother taught me that a half-truth is a lie.
Let me be clear: We are not called to rise up for women on this issue; it is just as important for men. Men must rise up, not just for the sake of women, but for our own humanity’s sake.
It isn’t that God created us male and female, boys and girls; God created all of us BOTH male and female. Until we can embrace that we will never live into what it means to be made in the image and likeness of God who is both.
Rev. Michael Piazza