God and Pronouns

I really appreciated everyone who threw their two cents into the ring on the question of what pronouns you use for God and why. There is definitely a diversity of perspectives on the issue, which can be good, when it generates thoughtful dialogue and conversation. This is an important issue to me--both in terms of how we think about God, and about how we think about gender in humanity. So, rather than just jumping into exactly how I choose to refer to God, and why, I will start out by naming a few of the difficulties I see with several of the different options.

1) Using only "He" to refer to God: Yes, Jesus did address God as "Father" which is a masculine title; and Jesus was a man, himself. Using "He" can be supported by these facts, but it neglects some of the other biblical references to God where God is described in female terminology, the fact that in Hebrew and Greek the Holy Spirit is feminine, and the point Rachel brought up (in my other blog) about Genesis 1 and that men and women are both made in the image of God, and that only together can God's image be more fully realized. To me this is a really important point--that God's image is found in both men and women, and when we only use "he" there is a way we are neglecting part of God's very image. And I differ with typhoon5ht, where he said (again, in my other blog) that "In English, "he" is supposed to be used when there is no specificied gender." This was true decades ago, but in the most recent academic literature in every field, he and she are both used when there are no specified genders (because many people realized the inherent masculine preference in only using "he").

2) Using only "She" to refer to God: Again, by choosing one gender preference, we are neglecting something of God. If men and women are both made in God's image, and neither has greater access to being in God's image, neither pronoun should be used exclusively.

3) Not using any pronouns, but always just using "God": This was my preferred method for a while (though it can sound awkward in some phrases). But as I was talking to a close friend about it, she was saying that she felt like it can become impersonal. And I kind of agreed with that. God does seem more personal when we add a gendered pronoun, in a way that I think gives us humans a better sense of God's being close. Not that God is just another human, but when God is always "GOD"....well, it just can seem a little daunting. (which can at times be helpful, but at other times can, I think, be unhelpful.)

4) Switching between the pronouns: Though I think this can be helpful, there is a way that when you switch back and forth too often, instead of adding characteristics and fullness to God, it takes everything related to gender away. It can have some of the repercussions of 3, where some of God's personalness is removed.

Okay, so...more thoughts?


But first...a question.

I was going to go off about my own views on the following matter, but I decided that first I wanted to throw the question out, to see where people are coming from, and just get some other ideas. Though I come from a decidedly Christian perspective, and will be going at the topic from that worldview, everyone is welcome to throw their hat into the ring (Christian or not). The question is this:

What pronoun(s) do you use for God? Why? And does it matter to you?

Here are some answers, feel free to pick from them, or make up one of your own.

1) I always "He" and I feel strongly this should be the case because God is male.
2) I always use "He" but it's more out of habit/culture/community than because I think God is gendered.
3) I always use "She" and I feel strongly this should be the case because God is female.
4) I always use "She" but it's just to piss off those patriarchal bastards who always use "He," because I don't really think God is gendered.
5) I rotate between "He" and "She" because God is not gendered, but I want to use pronouns when referring to God.
6) I avoid the use of all pronouns when referring to God, and always just reuse the word "God."
7) What the hell are you talking about?
8) You [fill-in-the-blanks] are all alike, always getting bogged down in these meaningless issues when there are poor, needy, and unloved people out there to love and befriend! Stop writing xanga entries about pronouns and get out there and love someone!


A Recent Exchange

About a week ago, as some coworkers and I were enjoying some happy hour fun after a long work week, the following exchange took place between a coworker and I:

Coworker: Why did you come back to teaching after finishing seminary?
Me: Oh...it's a long story.
Coworker: So, God's not all He's cracked up to be, is that it?
Me: No, that's not it. God is definitely all She's cracked up to be. I just haven't found my niche in the Church.



As you can see, I have a new picture. No, it's not a drawing of me (tho, the resemblance is uncanny, don't you think? ;)). It's the Syro-Phoenician woman of the Gospels. Gotta love that woman. I decided that if I'm going to write about my new job at all, I better remain anonymous. So, I can't have a picture of myself right next to all my writing!

Anyway, things are off to a very rocky start. After this week, students will be changing periods during the day, which will be better, because I'll have a different group each period. But right now I have the same group all day, and let's just say, they are wonderful people, but a very difficult bunch to teach. And that's the nature of this field, of course; these students just have more extensive needs in terms of learning, socially interacting, and knowing not to hit other students and destroy classroom property. But it can get wearing. It's to the point right now where I'm not even enjoying the job or the students much at all. There have been a few moments where things feel really great, and I enjoy the students, and feel like they are comfortable, and learning, and growing in an awareness of their own beauty and value. So far though, these moments are few and far between. I'm hoping that as I get into the groove (and the students do too), things will go more smoothly and I will feel less like quitting at the end of each day.


How I'm Going to Die

I bought these shoes to go with this cool retro dress I'm wearing to a wedding in a couple weeks. Problem is, I'm not totally secure walking in them. In fact, as I was walking up to my friend Aline's door yesterday (I had just bought them, and she was helping me practice walking in them), I actually lost my balance, fell, and skinned my knee. Now I have to figure out whether I really should wear them to the wedding...because they are so cute, but I'm also singing in the wedding, and I don't really want to fall face first onto the platform. All this in the name of fashion! Sacre bleu!



As I've wandered back into life in L.A., and have started regularly attending my home church again, it has been interesting to come again, and to transition back into the church community after being gone at seminary for three years, and undergoing some spiritual, emotional, and personal transformation during that time.

On one hand there are several things I feel out of synch with -- like that all of the Bible passages are read from the NIV with only masculine language (I am not now, nor will I ever be, a "brother" in Christ to anyone), that often people up front seem to focus only on individual righteousness at the exclusion of communal and public virtue, that "sinners" often seems to refer to those non-Christians that are going to pollute us with all their bad behaviors, that "sin" is only thought of as something you do and not as something we are all in bondage to and needing freedom from, etc. etc. etc.

But there are also lots of things I do like -- a thriving homeless ministry, friends I have known for many years, the support the church gave me through seminary, my own history with the congregation, the great range of diversity (racially, ethnically, economically, socially, etc.) of the congregation, the enthusiastic and vibrant worship singing by the leaders and the congregation, a Sunday school class taught by someone who I look up to as a theological mentor, and an overall feel of laid-backness.

But did you ever notice how you can make a list of all these things about a church, and at the end of the day, it's not necessarily about these things, but about some kind of feeling or impression the Holy Spirit is able to give you through the church? This morning reminded me of that.

As I was sitting in worship, there were so many different people around me, and all of us, in our different ways, were coming together and coming before God to worship. There was a homeless man sitting in front of me with some very strong body odor - but it was also a lovely scent that communicated that we don't have to be clean to come to Jesus. There was a guy behind me who couldn't hold a tune to save his life, but he belted out those praise songs at the top of his lungs. What a sweet sound that was - a sound that communicated passion and freedom to be himself in the community. Then there was the woman in front of me covered in tattoos, who without realizing it greeted me twice during the "give your neighbor a high-five" time, and the man with his young son beside me who was wiggling throughout the whole service.

It was beautiful, and I was reminded why it is that my soul so loves and needs to be a part of this community.