Wednesday, April 26, 2006

'God" vs. "He'

"Is God Transgendered?" is a thought-provoking article examination of the United Methodist trend to encourage gender-neutral expressions of God. The result is sometimes such stilted and unnatural language structures as , "May God add God's blessing to the reading of God's Word". Yet many of the same pastors who use these awkward phrasings have no problem saying, "Our Father who art in Heaven". It seems a bit schizophrenic [the Greek schizo (split, divide) + phrenos (mind) = shattered mind]. And if pastors are confusingly schizophrenic about the use of "His" or "Him" when talking about God, does this negatively affect members of the congregation?

Let's all grant that the Bible was written in a strongly patriarchal society. But let's also never forget that Jesus addressed God as Abba (Father) and that we hold God to be the reason Mary got pregnant. That does seem a tad male-like to me.

One key aspect that seems to go unaddressed in this personal pronoun issue is that churches have less men than women. Why would we want to deliberately structure language in a way that will be a turn-off to at least some men? Are we focusing on the wrong gender in our congregations when we jump on the gender-neutral bandwagon? Will that have a net result of reducing male attendance at United Methodist churches even more?

Personally, I assume that when we treat God as male-like it's more so that we can get a better grasp of the unknowable, coupled with the comfort of tradition. God may well be neither male nor female, in our meager understanding of human gender. I really don't care. God is God. I just cringe at stilted, unnatural phrases in my worship and Sunday School.

Pastors that have some need to avoid using personal pronouns for God have an obligation to those to whom they will speak to deliberately construct and then use more natural phrasings. How about, "May God bless this reading of the Word" for example. What would God think about that phrasing? I'm sure She'd be happy with it.

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