Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Masculine language for God


I have always thought myself pretty sensitive to the issue of masculine language for God. But lately, I have been reading Morning Prayer with Emma, Emmanuel's foster daughter. With a female in the house (no matter how young), I have been even more sensitive to this issue. For the past few days the Psalms have been filled with masculine pronouns for God. While I though I was always sensitive to it, I have discovered that I never fully comprehended how absolutely overwhelming it is. And I suspect as a male, even reading with little Emma there I'm still not fully grasping it all. I have found myself changing the pronouns so Emma can hear of a God who is not simply a male figure, and it is hard work to keep up.

I can't help but worry about how it will affect Emma to grow up hearing God referred to as a "he" so often. For my own part, I'm going to work hard to fight against that stream.

5 comments:

Deborah O'Hara said...

Good point Robert. For me, the masculine pronouns have never really presented a problem. Simply changing them to female pronouns doesn't sound right to me and doesn't acheive a more fitting description for God. Our language is inherently limiting and can't successfully explain the limitless. Maybe we should use Hebrew pronouns or some other words that allow for a certain amount of uncertainty.

Robert said...

Well said Deborah. I appreciate the idea of uncertainty in understanding God!


Robert

Robert said...

Deborah, I was re-thinking your comments more and I fear that the reason for me that masculine pronouns were never a problem (besides me being male of course!) is that it is what I'm used to. And likewise my level of discomfort with substituting the female pronouns has to do with being comfortable as well. So I'm going to continue to force myself to be uncomfortable for a season and continue to substitute female pronouns for now and see how it goes. I would do "it" but that makes me even more uncomfortable!

Robert

Kathy said...

Of course I have to weigh in on this. For me, thinking of God as "He" creates a vision of a white bearded elderly gentlemen who is never quite pleased with my "humaness." (The result of summer Bible Camp as a child) When you have referred to God as a "She" in your sermons, it has helped me to break that image and consciously create a new image-of "spirit God". I like the imagery in the Old Testament of the "Wind" God.
I appreciate that you acknowledge the female gender and it particularly warms my heart that little Ms Emma is hearing the evening prayers in the feminine!

Robert said...

Thank you Kathy. It is always great to hear input from people. It has been a very interesting exercise to read the Psalms with feminine references to God,and it is been interesting and illuminating. I encourage everyone to give it a shot. And trust me, it takes more than a few days to get used to it, so keep trying!


Robert