Women will remain unequal to men for as long as major religions ignore the femininity of God.
Christianity is the world’s largest religion, making up about 32% of the world’s population, and Christians hold onto the maleness of God tightly because that’s how the Bible was written. God is our Father, our King, and our Brother.
In the cultures of the Old and New Testaments, it makes sense that God would reveal Himself through the male metaphor because at the time men held almost all power. Men were the ones to be respected, followed and trusted.
Women, on the other hand, were property. They were valued almost exclusively for their sexuality and their ability to bear children. While we have examples of important women in Ruth, Esther and Deborah, these women were still unequal to their male counterparts. And we can find inequality reflected throughout the Old Testament, such as in Deuteronomy chapter 20 when God gives instructions to the Israelite men regarding the spoils of war: “As for the women, the children, the livestock and everything else in the city, you may take these as plunder for yourselves.”
In the next chapter, God lays out the proper procedure for marrying captive women, telling the Israelite men to take and marry any woman they found attractive, but to give her a month to mourn the loss of her family before consummating the marriage. And, if for any reason they were not pleased with her, they had to let her go instead of making her a slave because they had already defiled her.
If this seems barbaric, that’s because it is. We don’t do this anymore, just as we don’t stone women for lying about their virginity or for being raped and not screaming loud enough for help (Deuteronomy 22).
But at the time God gave those rules to the Israelites, they were revolutionary. By telling the Israelite men to wait a month before having sex with their new captive wives, God basically forbade the rape of women at the post-victory after party.
In the New Testament, we find evidence of God’s continued effort to draw people into present truth. The bias against women is still there: the writers of the New Testament are men and all twelve disciples and most main characters are men. Moreover, women are told to be silent in church and to submit to their husbands.
But we also have stories of Jesus treating women as if they hold intrinsic value—caring more for the life of a woman than for the law of Moses (John 8), standing up for a woman in public (Matthew 26)—and we have a of couple verses hinting that women in the early church played keys roles in the expansion and financing of the Gospel.
While it makes perfect sense that we still refer to Jesus as male since He literally has the anatomical parts, it doesn’t make sense that we still only refer to God the Father as male.
In truth, God does not have a gender. God “the Father” does not have the anatomical parts we humans use to differentiate fathers from mothers. But the greater truth is that God is both genders.
Women and men both were made in the image of God. The gender assigned to God in the Bible was done so to help the people of that day comprehend an incomprehensible God. God used the literary tools of metaphor and personification because, as every good writer knows, those literary tools work.
God is our Father and now, in 2015, we should be able to see that God is equally our Mother. The closer we get to truth, the closer we get to paradox.
It’s vitally important that Christians finally acknowledge, accept and celebrate the femininity of God. It’s important that we become as comfortable with referring to God as “She” as we are with “He” because language shapes us.
Stories shape us.
For thousands of years, the Ultimate Authority of the universe has been male, and we have done an outstanding job reflecting that story in our world. But the time has come to move forward, to embrace the truth that yes, God is male, and yes, God is female.
Sarah is a senior studying english.