Like most people, God has always been ‘he’ in our house. It’s just what we learned, what feels comfortable, and how we’ve always done it. Every once and awhile we give God the ‘it’ pronoun, but we easily slip back into the male pronoun because….well, just because.
But that’s not working for us anymore.
It’s become clear that we need something more to dig ourselves out from underneath the oppression of patriarchy; we have to work a little harder, complain a little louder, march a little farther. And for those of us in the throes of early parenting, it also means adjusting how we raise our children. The media messages are not going to do the job; in fact, we have some serious undoing to do if we want our daughters to demand consent and our boys to always ask for it. For our family, it means being a bit more direct about what we allow Millie to accept; and being a lot more direct about what we let our boys think is acceptable.
In some ways, the church is helping to address this gender imbalance. In the Episcopal church, at least, women are ordained and serve in leadership positions reserved only for men in some denominations and some religions. And as an additional nod toward gender equality, some church leaders have strived to use gender neutral language for God. (It seems some have realized that God needn’t only be referred to as ‘he’ and that maybe, just maybe God isn’t any gender at all.) Even though it’s always rung funny in my ears, I’ll admit that – as of today – I appreciate that little gesture.
But that’s not enough.
Frankly, and unfortunately, I think we’ve missed the chance to slip into gender neutral language to even the scales. It’s clear that we need more. Like, a whole lot more. We need the all-powerful being to be on women’s side for awhile.
I’m not saying it has to be forever. I mean, that would be totally crazy, right? So maybe just until women stop being at risk simply for being women. When we don’t have to rethink our parking plan, how or when we walk on sidewalks, what we wear, where we position our desk chairs, who we look in the eye, how we hold our keys, and the infinite other things that we do just to stay safe.
Patriarchy is tiresome and humiliating at best. And at worst, it is traumatic or fatal. Because even when we go to great lengths to protect ourselves, we are still stalked, harassed, assaulted, abused and killed by men at alarmingly high rates; so high, in fact, that it’s virtually impossible not to have at least one female family member or friend who hasn’t been victimized at the hands or words of men.
All of us have loved ones who have been hurt. And all of us need to work together to make it right, even if it means doing big things like acquiescing some power to empower others. Or littler things like letting God be ‘she’ for awhile.
I had a chance to try it when, our 4-year-old Danny asked, as he does everyday:
Danny: Mom, did God make the trees?
Me: Why yes, she did.
Danny: She?! What do you mean she?! God is a she?!
Me: Well, we don’t know, actually. But why not call God ‘she’ instead of ‘he’?
Danny: Okay, fine. I like she’s! So how did she make the trees?
It turns out this is quite easy for a 4-year-old boy to do. So I believe grownups – even grown-up men – can do it too.
It’s worth a try, at least. And if I’m wrong, in the end, then someone start thinking about a plan B because if we’ve learned anything over the last two weeks, it’s that too many of our political leaders are not only unwilling to protect us, but delight in mocking us. And it’s making the experience of being a woman and the job of being a parent more difficult than ever.