Much More Complex

GafneyFrom Dr. Wil Gafney, the author of Womanist Midrash (2017), in her podcast interview with Peter Enns and Jared Byas:

If you take seriously that women have heard throughout the centuries that what is masculine in some context is more closely identified with God, that what is feminine is other, and we even go back into church fathers like Tertullian for whom women were the devil’s gateway. I mean, there’s a whole lot of theological work that’s heavily invested in God being male and exclusively male. In fact, there’s a text that says men are the image of God and women are the image of man or something. That sets up a whole world of church and theology that marginalizes women. Yet for people who come out of the community that I did–the black church–for whom it really matters, what does the Bible say? It matters that the biblical text says repeatedly that God’s gender identity is complex. Binary language is used because the Hebrew Bible has two options. Masculine and feminine. But God is presented in a much more complex way. And that matters when we’re talking about people and hierarchy, particularly when those earthly hierarchies are entrenched in gender which is then claimed to be based on God and the Bible.

3 thoughts on “Much More Complex

  1. Brynn

    Thank you for your words! I struggle constantly with this limiting conception of a male God. It is ubiquitous in Anglican prayer, requiring me to constantly work at changing it in my mind and with my words when praying aloud. We are way past time for more widespread change and mindfulness on this.

  2. Oscar (Oz) Cole-Arnal

    Thank you Sister Gafny & Brynn:

    1. Over the years it has grown easier when praying aloud, singing aloud or reading scripture aloud; even in praying the Lord’s Prayer & reciting either the Apostles’ or Nicene Creed. The only problem occurs if I’m leading the liturgy. This demands fair warning to the congregation. I cite one example where I give no warning, re: public reading of Scripture (a text I want read at my funeral–Rev. 21:31a-“Behold the home of God is among mortals. [God] will dwell with them and embrace them and will wipe away every tear from their eyes, etc., etc. As for hymns, prayers & creeds done collectively, I do not shove changes in people’s faces—for example in reciting the creeds, I just leave out the offensive patriarchal stuff, & in some cases I use a male pronoun & in the parallel line use female pronouns. The joyous thing about this is, that after a few years it becomes second nature (part of the liturgical flow, et. al.)

    2. You cite Tertullian, who comes across as one of the worst “male chauvanist piglets”, in the first two centuries of the Jesus Movement. A most interesting historical turn of events: This brilliant & scholarly paragon of orthodoxy, especially in his views concerning women, was later condemned as a heretic when he joined a prophetic movement called Montanism where he followed with deep devotion the to prophets Prisca & Maximilla. Yes, indeed, women prophets. It seems that God has a sense of humor. SHE certainly does.

    Your 78 year old (& 54 yr. old ordained) bro in Christ,

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