A friend has asked me about 'Sophia' as they are struggling with friends who are seeking to redress the 'male dominated theology and language' of Church and society.
I often find myself rather frustrated when certain friends talk of the male domination that is Church especially when they descend into talk or 'rights, positive discrimination and redressing the errors of the past!' One of the biggest issues I encounter is the increasingly 'Pink Church' - that place which, as one clerical colleague put it, 'Seeks to undo all the misogyny of the past two thousand years!' (something for another day)
We need to be affirming all people and to be a truly inclusive entity and yet, as the tide turns, this is not the reality and I think we might be in danger of entering into something that might be somewhat terminal.
But back to the 'Sophia' issue:
Whilst at college I had many conversations with a feminist who asked why she should be expected to be celebrating God as man. Her position (in a nutshell) was: 'I am woman, what does Jesus 'the man' have to do with me and what does he know of my experience?'
She was heavily taken up by three main themes:
i. God as 'She' (but if pressed would retreat to 'He, She or It')
ii. Sophia as a remedy to the 'God is male 'heresy
iii. A female Apostle by the name of Junia (whose name had been diminished by other apostles to oppress women).
It is the Sophia issue that is the focus of today's perambulations - it's an opening shot in the discussion and will be followed by some Bible references and related material later (for I think we often fail to establish concepts and points of agreement before we rush into what is often mere prooftexting):
I know 'Sophia' is Greek for wisdom but rather than being an actual person have seen this to be an anthropomorphic construct. War is male, beauty and wisdom are female - trains, cars and planes are 'she' - you know what I mean I'm sure!
Thinking of the female names we have with such roots: Grace, Chastity, Patience, etc. I find many confuse this, giving it the attribute of personhood and this is what I have found with Sophia. For it appears than many are so keen to have something upon which they can hang their argument and pin their hopes that their theology, and thinking, is rather slipshod and shoddy (now that's an invitation to a fight I'm sure). What makes challenging the views dangerous is the fact that any challenge is often met with the ad hominem that is 'sexist' or 'misogynist' rather than a robust and tight response.
I am of the opinion that the Sophia route is not only fraught with danger but leads those who embrace it into a place where the Wisdom literature is corrupted, bringing into being a new deity and denying the sex of Jesus, the Christ, the incarnate man. It is not a remedy for those who who claim that a male Trinity is offensive, divisive and even cruel for those who struggle with fathers or males but a denial of something important.
I have been challenged by many who bring cases of women who were damaged by men as evidence that we need to rethink God as a women to make the God character acceptable to them. The problem is that this is a wrong position to be taking for the issue is not how to compensate or impart some divine CBT (where coping mechanism and accommodation are sought) but to seek healing and wholeness in person and Church too! One (feminist) lecturer of mine once followed an extremely misandrist comment with the coup de grâce*, 'After all, all men are potential rapists!' Me, being me, and always up for a conversation added, 'And of course, conversely, all women are potential whores!'
Now although I thought that levelled the scores, the head of department cautioned me for 'sexist language' and discounted the lecturers comments with, 'Well that's who she is!' Now tell me that that wasn't a prime example of sexual inequality :-) !!!!
And back on track.
As we look at this area, of which I know absolutely nothing, I'd love people to point me to the bits they know and observations from their own experience and theology. My premise it that God embodies both male and female and that changing the gender to accomodate issues with the male changes neither sex (for gender is not 'sex' - sex is biological, gender is sociological and not transferable, unless you have an agenda!). we need to seek unity, equality and inclusivity and this demands healing, wholeness and orthodox thinking - all else is error.
Looking forward to this (gulp)
* perhaps that should have been coup de main :-)