I wonder how we would see God if we were never told that he was a man.
God is not tied by our gender binary; our toxic masculinity. But over time, I fear we’ve bound him in our own definitions. We call God a man and we have given him all the baggage that has come with being a man. We wanted it to be known that our God was powerful; so we painted him as a white man; the pinnacle of our society. We had no idea how much of a disservice we have done.
I take it seriously when God declared man and woman made in the image of God. I believe God meant humans, people, were all made in the image of God; man, woman, nonbinary, genderfluid, gender-nonconforming; imago dei. Its simple. I don’t argue semantics. I could sit here and pick apart exactly what the bible meant when it said men and women, or I could take it from the big picture; people matter. God made people like themself. All people.
But we are not taught that God’s reflection occurs in all creation. We have trapped God in a box by calling him a man. We have tried to define God’s nature by assigning him male characteristics and denying his female attributes. As a result, what we get is a half-baked picture of God, only a fraction of what they intended; we see a God who is violent, aggressive, and stoic. In America, we talk about God the way we would talk about a star athlete; we want one that will win, that will be strong enough to overcome the challenges, and we want one that is Manly. Theology rarely has time for the picture of the weeping Jesus at the tomb of Lazarus. The sobbing in the garden of Gethsemane.
Our view of God is tied to toxic masculinity and I don’t know how to get him out. It has been generations of being told that God is a man; when I close my eyes, I picture a man with crossed arms and a stern expression. This is the God they tell me about. He is the one who will bring justice and mercy; he will do anything, hurt anyone, destroy anything, to get to his beloved.
But the more I ask God to show me her face, the more I see a different face.
Violence, strength, and power are not the traits my God associates with. At least, not in the way I was taught.
God does not look down on you with a male gaze. She is not stuck by the rules of masculinity; she knows that power is not found in violence, but in mercy and forgiveness. The need for power and dominance is rooted in our American and masculine understanding of the world, not in the teaching of Jesus.
I’ve been struggling to believe lately, because the process of separating Jesus from some man I don’t know has been work. Theology has been run by the same people for too long. When we exclusively have a bunch of white men writing books about God, we end up with a lot of books about straight white men and not a lot of material about God. It’s only when we open the conversation to everyone will we be able to see that God has made herself known in the world, and we are ignoring the voices of those she has spoken to. Historically, God made it a point to speak to people of color, to women, to whores, to poor people, to no one’s; why the hell are we surprised she’s doing the same thing now?
The only reason I didn’t leave my faith was the realization that God is not a man. Thank God that she is not a man.
God does not look like the white men in the business suits with money; she looks like the homeless veterans who wear shirts three sizes too big. She looks like the lesbian in your bible study. She looks like Black man that was killed by the police. She looks like the children in the Southside who have been survivors of gun violence. She resembles the single working mother who is trying her best.
My life changed when I started expecting to hear God’s voice in the least likely places. Jesus spent some time in synagogues, but he mostly drank with his friends and found holy moments to heal in them. Jesus wasn’t powerful. He didn’t have a great reputation with some people. He didn’t subscribe to strict gender roles. Jesus was soft. Jesus embraced his femininity. God declared in the bold statement, “men and women were made in my image.”
When we talk about God, must we always remember this statement.
Men and women and non-binary people and gender-fluid people, and trans people and queer people. And our theology is so much better for having these voices to contribute. The longer they are silenced, the longer we go with an incomplete picture of God; one who is relentlessly tied to toxic masculinity. It’s time to let her go.