Saturday, 6 June 2015

Living where 'words mean what we want them to mean' (part the second)

Continuing with this rather contentious and quite popular issue (if the people who want to discuss this are anything to go by) I have to begin, as we always should, by retreating into the Bible with Genesis 1.27 telling us:

'So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.' 

This brings forth some challenging (and interesting) thinking for we too are trinitarian in our own existence. We have some considering us to be body, mind and spirit (soul). Others mike like to consider us in three relational aspects: man (if you'll excuse the gender) to God, man to man, and man to inner man (or traits, characteristics of inner being). The need for Jesus comes through the realisation that in either of the two models described here, the 'man to God' (the spirit or soul) element is fractured and communication is disjointed (but there are still 'Godincidences' which resonate and confirm the existence of something higher and unseen (even with those who calling to be non-theists).

So whilst the convention is that God is traditionally portrayed as male, and that's because when you look at the Bible, that's the sex that He is written in and that's generally been the language used. Not a problem when 'man' also meant 'male and female or  humanity and therefore everyone) but when we find foolish people trying to rename history because of the combination of three letters (IHS*) in the word. It is the misunderstand of the living word (Jesus) that also find a place in this discussion.

The problem we (I?) have is that to change the Bible to say other, or different, to that which it has always done is to change the Bible - obvious and yet people are seeking to do this in so areas and still claim authenticity and authority for the revised editions. Cannot, I am afraid be so. Where errors are created through errors in scholarship there is a case but where the error is that it does not accommodate that which we wish to validate or approve of, that's a non-starter in my book.

To seek to change the Bible to appease one side of a perceived divide is to render that divide wider than it might ever have been. The potential for it to become like a game of rugger where, as the pressure increases, more and more people rush in to get behind the ball and things get rather ugly and confrontational (I know this is as the place where I was most likely to have been sent from the pitch in years gone by!).

I had someone quote Mary Daly to me recently. They portrayed Daly as a reasonable and devout Christian (two traits of hers that weren't obvious in that which I have read - but hey ho, on we go) and quoted her as saying: '

If God is male, then that means that male is God also'

Actually, I had a fuller quote on my system from something I'd studied back in the nineties whilst doing applied theology and the quote, in the context of the section, that I have is:

 DALY, M. 1973. Beyond God the Father. Boston: Beacon Press.

Now this adds some interesting aspects to the discussion I'm sure, but rather than be distracted by this at the moment I'd like to continue the journey and stop the bus and visit 1 John 4 (NIV):

Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.

God, is male and female and therefore it is logical to believe that the person I see before me (male or female) is indeed the image of the invisible God made visible. To use the term 'Him' with the intention to wound or to demand status or position that does not exist would be to deny the 1 John passage. To demand that God is 'He' in a dominant or power seeking manner is to deny the image of God in others and to mar that image in ourselves. The same, I am glad to say, is true in situation where some might use 'She' to describe God also. In fact to see that God actually has no gender in terms of establishing some predominant sexual political sense is to free God to be exactly as He is - male and female. The problem is that we listen for the words that we do not want rather than see past them into the God whom we worship - and herein lies the real issue.

That some women will struggle with God as 'He' is as obvious as the fact that some women will also struggle with God as 'She' also; and the same is true for men as much as women. This is not merely an issue where women are the only people to feature or be affected!

As one who suffered what we now call child sexual abuse I can see how some would be turned away from one of the same sex as those who used their place of power and authority and how God being made in their sex and as a person of power and authority could be hard. But this is, in cases like this, not a place to b change God from He to She (or to retain the 'He' as a panacea for the ills and wounds inflicted) but a place to find healing and coalescence and commitment to open and life-giving engagement and life in the freedom of something far greater.

Some despise Daly and her vitriolic feminist thinking. The criticise her for the bile and rancour, the awful rallying cries against the male, that she represents. Me? I see one for whom a broken and a separation from the very place, and person, where healing was to be found and (as I have done on any occasions) commit her to God's grace, love, care and healing and trust that He (how she'd hate that) will be merciful and compassionate (as He is). 

Romans 8 sums the position up nicely as it places a cherry on the cake for us:

For I am convinced that neither death nor life,
neither angels nor demons,
neither the present nor the future,
nor any powers, 
neither height nor depth, 
nor anything else in all creation, 
will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Amen (or what?)

I don't think this is what women are really trying to say at all - but it is what many in the Church hear!

This is another quick splurge - moments grasped with a cup of tea between the pirouettes of the daily ministerial round. Agree or disagree (and I hope there are both) - this is me (open, honest: warts and all) - I'd love to dialogue with you (for how else will I learn?). Don't talk about me - talk to me so we might be found in a place where God is honoured and healing and unity are ours.


* IHS - a nice coincidence as this of course means 'Jesus' coming as a shortened form of Ichthus (Jesus Christ God's Son Saviour)

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