This past Sunday I responded to these questions (pictured above) by sharing the following story: THE BLIND MEN AND THE ELEPHANT
To me this story is another way of saying this: “For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.” (1 Corinthians 13:12) In other words, when we set out to know or describe Truth/God, we do so based on so many factors (context, background, age, sexuality, life experiences, social location, demographics, etc.) We might see/describe part of the whole, but we also have blindspots. As I told the children on Sunday, sometimes we need others to help us fill out who God is/isn’t. What Dale Graham heard me say is this:
“I think I got it, Ruth. God is an elephant and we are all blind.”
I’m glad (I think) that adults are listening during the time with children.
Now to the question about God’s gender. I was asked recently what pronouns I use when referring to God. I’ll be brave and give my off-the-cuff response which was recorded verbatim:
“I do not use “he.” I also do not use “she” typically. I try to get more creative than that, recognizing that my views of God are way beyond just a gender or even a physical being. I love looking through hymnals and finding the variety of words given to the Divine. Words that are so much richer than “he” or “she” could ever be. I think of mystics like Hildegard of Bingham who provide a whole treasure trove of words for the divine such as “Root of Life,” “Creator.”
When I baptize I say, “Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer.” “Divine One.” “Holy One.” I often use “Holy One.” “Shepherd,” of course. “Mother Hen.” We have such impoverished names for God. We just use default names without ever really thinking about what else is possible. I make a deliberate choice to stay clear altogether of gender-bound pronouns for God.
If you want to do some additional reading on inclusive language for God, here are a few quotes from a worksheet that was given to me at seminary. I’m afraid I don’t know who authored it, but I think it’s an excellent piece. Here are just a few quotes from it:
“Why do I try to use inclusive language consistently?…In a nutshell: it is because I am aware that all language concerning God is metaphorical language (that is, analogical, only partially and modestly appropriate to name or to refer to the Holy One); noninclusive language is inherently restrictive and reductive, at least to the extent that it is considered as the norm.
“If I can learn to use more inclusive language in reference to God then I also can [and I should] learn to use inclusive language in other significant areas which call for inclusive language…that is, I can [and should] develop a habitus for welcoming inclusiveness.
“Human language cannot comprehend the unfathomable mystery of God…I must be careful not to assume that my/our ways of naming and talking about God are comprehensive enough and sufficient (that is, I am always subject to correction and enrichment in this area)….
“We need each other and especially those different from us to get further glimpses of the reality of God and to discover and practice alternative and appropriate ways of talking about such a reality.
“Our knowledge of God is precarious, paradoxical, and prayerful, so I need to be open to corrections and to more truthful alternatives.
“When all is said and done, the key question is not whether I am theologically (or politically) correct concerning language for God; the question is whether my language reflects and contributes to growth in the knowledge and the love of God, both in myself and also in others; that is the heart of the matter!