During my crisis of faith, I never stopped believing that God existed. I never even doubted that Jesus is the Child of God, or that he died on the cross. What I doubted was God’s goodness. That God ultimately had my best interests at heart. That God was safe. And all of these doubts came down to one word:
Or rather, a set of pronouns (he, him, his) that designates the triune Godhead and Creator of all things, simply as male.
My history and lived experiences have instilled within me a certain amount of distrust towards men. Even when thinking about Jesus as 'the Son', I doubt Jesus’ ability to relate to my experiences as a woman. Did he have to worry about walking around alone at night? Does he know what it’s like to have his life upended by sexual abuse? How can he understand my fears, my worries and my pain, when he had the privilege of being male in a patriarchal society?
Truly, I do not know the answers to these questions. But also, I don't think I need to have them.
Until I came to Common Ground, it did not occur to me that God might not be male. Jesus is male. We say “God our Father”, and most fathers are male. This little word, “He,” is sprinkled enough times throughout the whole bible in relation to God that a whole slew of assumptions about God have developed, and when we consider the ways human history have added imagery, male character traits & descriptors and we begin to see how pervasive these assumptions are.
With my lived experiences in mind, these assumptions subconsciously taught me that God is not safe. That “He” might be manipulative, untrustworthy, unsafe. So much so that it even eventually felt scary to pray. Praying felt like being left alone with God, and with God as male, this was dangerous space for me to enter.
Language: it seems like a small thing. He: a little two-letter word. But as we all know, language shapes the way we think and the way we think shapes the way we live. I want to live trusting God. And though I can’t say that this shift in thinking has cured my doubts and fears about God, when God is celebrated for her feminine side or at least gender-neutral, I have less of my own baggage and negative preconceptions as I engage the divine. When we say “He,” we limit the vastness of the divine to what we know to be human male.
God is not male. Thank God.
Sarah is a Brooklyn-based music educator & musician who's always learning new instruments. Originally from Long Island, Sarah came to NYC to study at NYU, then Columbia. She's passionate about equity and access in education, especially arts education, and has worked for numerous non-profits who share this vision. Sarah is excited to join Common Ground and to shape a worship culture for post-Evangelicals that includes everyone in the process.