Friday, 6 July 2018

Acts of Faith: Readers weigh in on the gender of God

Dear Acts of Faith readers,

I asked on Tuesday, after writing about the Episcopal church's debate over whether to revise its prayer book, whether you think God has a gender, and what that gender means to you. So many of you responded with thoughtful perspectives. Here are just a few.

• "I am a Catholic priest....I think the reality is that God is beyond gender, but the traditional practice of referring to God as 'Father' and in masculine terms seems perfectly natural to many people and they don't even notice that there might be a different approach,based on reality. Recently a woman speaker here at our retreat center referred to the Holy Spirit as 'She,' and one person was upset by that and wrote a note to us saying the Holy Spirit is a 'He.' Not necessarily so. And properly, neither 'He' nor 'She' may be correct. But, being human, we have to use words." -- Rev. Tom Zelinski, Washington, Mich.

• "To me as a Trinitarian, an all-encompassing God who is all genders with a person who is male (Jesus Christ) and a person who is female (Holy Spirit) makes intellectual and spiritual sense, though I'm sure that would not pass doctrinal muster with others." -- Rev. Ruth E. Shaver, North Conway, N.H.

• "I'm an initiate in the Firefly House, a tradition of witchcraft and Wicca in Washington, D.C. The religion of my childhood, though, was conservative Judaism. One of the key reasons that I moved away from that faith community was because of the male-gendered terminology used in the synagogue for God in search of the balancing realities of the goddess.... My Pagan path has led me to a better understanding of the divine -- one that both transcends and includes gender -- and myself." -- David Dashifen Kees, Washington, D.C.

• "From a personal perspective, (and yes, I am male), 'we' do not own the right to make changes -- for whatever reason. 'We' did not write the book. I have done a fair amount of translation over the past 40 years, both secular and religious. Never did I take the liberty to change the text of the original document.... With the Bible, if we accept the idea of 'inbreathed' by God, we have to learn to live with the text, end of story. The question as to whether I feel comfortable with it, or whether society has changed - too bad, so sad. I will never have the right to make changes!" -- Rudy Schellekens, Muscatine, Iowa

• "I have never felt completely comfortable with the concept that there was not a female god figure in my religion, and I believe that is why most Catholics, including myself, embrace Mary, mother of Jesus, as our own Mother, and pray to her so fervently." -- Kate Taylor, Mount Olive, N.J.

• "This very issue popped up in a Bible study class I was teaching with first and second graders. The kids liked acting out stories from Genesis and Exodus. The only boy in the class pointed out that since he was a boy, he was the only one who could play the role of God.... My bold response to this was to change the subject. I had no idea where to go with the topic, and I didn't want to offend anyone. In conclusion, though, I see that pronouns matter. The kids had formed an idea of God based on masculine pronouns. If we want to change this, we'd better talk about it early in religious education." -- Linda Worden, Boise, Idaho

• "One pattern among many is taking away God's right to define marriage, gender, life, love, and even Himself....I have no problem with the fact that God has referred to Himself in the masculine gender for over 4,000 years. He is all-knowing and all-powerful and certainly has a reason for doing so. My point is: authority. Who am I to decide that it is time to change His gender?" -- Heather Peterson

Thanks as always for sharing your thoughts. I'm at

Yours truly,
Julie Zauzmer, Religion Reporter

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