While I was writing a blog a few weeks ago, I was struck by a small bit of sexism in the way that Microsoft Word tried to edit my words.
As most of us know and have experienced, Christianity has often referred to God in strictly male terms. God is most often referred to as he/him/his. And, usually, those words are capitalized in order to honor the fact that we are talking about God.
But I am very uncomfortable with only referring to God in masculine terms. In fact, I never refer to God as “him” at all. I usually stick to neutral terms and really never replace God with any other pronouns. But when I do, I use feminine terms.
Microsoft Word, however, disagreed with the concept of referring to God in the feminine. If you capitalize He or Him in reference to God, Word allows you to continue without a problem. But when you try to use She or Her, that squiggly blue line immediately appears letting you know that Word thinks you’ve made a grammatical error, capitalizing the wrong word.
Basically, Word is uncomfortable with me referring to God in feminine terms.
Unfortunately, Word is just a reflection of the larger Christian culture that we live in. We as Christians, for the most part, are uncomfortable calling God a “she.” People have no problem replacing all of the his/him/he’s with God. But once you replace those with the feminine opposite, people start to squirm and wonder if you’ve made an error in your writing or speech.
What does it say about us Christians that we are uncomfortable and uneasy with referring to God using feminine pronouns?
Is it really because it’s “just the way it’s always been”? Or are we uncomfortable worshipping a woman instead of a man? Is there some deeper gender dynamic happening here?
Our culture has come a long way in its movement toward equality, but there is no denying that America is still sexist and misogynistic. And our churches aren’t helping.
It may seem like such a little thing – calling God “him” – but it’s the little things that often profoundly impact how we think. Especially when those little things are religious. Referring to God strictly in male pronouns affects how we think about men and women. It affects how we think about power dynamics within gender. It affect who we think should be in charge, who we think should lead, and who we think should be submissive.
There is a reason there has never been a female Pope. There is a reason that over 80% of all Protestant pastors are male. There is a reason that male pastors earn more on average than female pastors.
Our churches should be above the gender inequalities of our world because Christianity is supposed to preach love and equality. But instead of being a part of the solution, we have found ourselves deeply embedded in being part of the problem.
Your view of God will directly affect your view of the world.
And a strictly masculine God will lead to a male-dominated church.
We as a church have to begin to acknowledge that we are inherently sexist. Those facts I gave you earlier didn’t happen by chance. They happen because most churches are more comfortable with male leaders rather than female leaders because they are more comfortable with a male God instead of a female.
Besides, how boring is it to only pray to a male God? How bland is our faith that we can only pray to our “father”? Why not try praying to your heavenly mother? What about your creator? Your redeemer, restorer, peace-maker, wisdom, rock, foundation, lover, teacher?
God cannot be confined in the boxes that we have created for God. God is too big and wonderful and awe-inspiring for a box.
So our misogynistic box just won’t cut it anymore.
As our society moves closer and closer to gender equality, the more and more people will distance themselves from people and institutions that push inequality. And the church will not be immune from this phenomenon.
It may not seem like much to many people, but our inability to describe God in something other than male-only terms is hurting the church and hurting the people who have only experienced God in this way.
It’s time we recognize God for who God is – both, many, including, and, all.
God is bigger than sexism. When do we prove that our churches are too?