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The Christa

christa3Several years ago I made the acquaintance of an artist named Edwina Sandys. She is the grand-daughter of Winston Churchill, and she graciously hosted a fundraiser for us in her loft in Manhattan.

A few of you are old enough that you may remember Edwina’s most famous and controversial work. It was installed in the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in 1984 to a great deal of controversy. “Time” magazine called it “vexing,” and the “New York Times” called the reaction “apoplectic.” You see Edwina dared to create a sculpture of Christ as a woman. So challenging was the image that when I saw it years later it was hanging in her loft because no one was willing to give it a permanent home.

The problem is, as my friend theologian Mary Daly said, “When God is male the male is God.” I’m convinced that the enduring power of sexism in the 21st century is rooted in our still imaging God as “Him.”

That is why our commitment at Virginia-Highland Church to using inclusive language in worship is sacred. If we cannot know God as feminine then the feminine in us all can never be integrated as divine.

In response to Edwina Sandys sculpture, poet and theologian Nicola Slee posed and answered the poetic question, “Who is the Christa?”:

Every woman forced to have sex who didn’t want it
Every girl trafficked out of her own home country
trapped in some anonymous bedsit in someone else’s city
working all the hours men want to have her body
making a fast buck for her pimp

The woman you meet in the street with bruises all up her arm
which you don’t see because she covers them up in long sleeved blouses
and thick sweaters
(Harder to hide the gash on her face but make-up has its uses)
Every woman who is too frightened to go out alone because of what has happened to her in the past or what she imagines might happen to her

The woman sleeping in the underpass
in her makeshift room of cardboard
who wards off the unwanted attentions from the drunk two streets up

The smart young graduate climbing the career ladder
who can’t get through the day without shooting up
The anorexic teenager starving her young body
that is strange to her and she cannot seem to love
The classrooms of self-harming girls

The nine-year old orphan caring for three siblings all under five
in a shanty town in any African city
Her parents dead from AIDS

Every street girl and boy scavenging on rubbish tips
Every child working in sweatshops making cheap tee-shirts for Primark
All the women raped in war or, worse, forced to watch their daughters raped
Husbands shot in front of their eyes

Women who walk a thousand miles through a war-zone
with babies on their hips and children dragging along beside them
Desperate to make it to a refugee camp
where they might find food and shelter

Christa, our sister,
have mercy
Christa, God’s beloved,
show us your face
where we have not wanted to see it
where we resist your presence among us

My brothers and sisters, sexism is a pernicious evil that will not be defeated until we enlarge our image and understanding and experience of God. Girls will be treated as less than if God is a boy. Women will be inferiorized if God is a “man,” our “Father,” or always “He/Him.”


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Rev. Michael Piazza


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