In God’s Name

| 1/21/2008 5:21:06 PM

God the FatherThe gender-specific words “Father,” “King,” and “Lord” are often used in hymn and liturgy when referring to a Christian God. Feminist theologian Elizabeth Johnson, interviewed in U.S. Catholic magazine, is trying to change that. Johnson objects to more than the perception of God as a male (read: worldly and finite) being. She also takes issue with the paternalistic view of religion that the words instill. According to Johnson, the gendered language reinforces outdated perceptions of God that are straining the vital connection between people and spirituality.

This strain on people's spirituality, according to Johnson, runs through two common yet conflicting views of Christianity. Many Christians believe in God either as as a guiding parental force, or as a mysterious, supreme being. And both views are incomplete. Treating God as a parent or “Father,” with a give-and-take relationship based on maxims and obligations, can give people an accessible view of faith and duty. The problem is, according to Johnson, it reduces God to a mere idol. On the other hand, Johnson believes that worshipping a “theistic” God or “Lord,” whose involvement in our lives is minimal, is equally damaging.

A balanced view is of a God incarnate, who is present in every aspect of the world without being of it. That balance is difficult to find, Johnson concedes, but it’s necessary for a fulfilling religious existence.

Morgan Winters

2/1/2008 3:39:29 PM

I'm also torn on this subject because I have felt the exclusivity that comes with gendered language within the Catholic Church. As a woman it makes me feel like an outsider within my own community. Sure I could identify with Mary and many other female saints, but they are not God, the one and only. So I find it difficult to connect with and support literature that excludes women. But on the other hand, I grew up in the Catholic Church and love many of the traditions and practices. So, what can I do? It's an extremely difficult question that many women face today.

Mathi Lusch_3
1/26/2008 4:51:51 PM

Alana, Your view is more of a vast minority, and very George Lucas. It sounds like the Force and not God, or the other science fiction work known as Dianetics (i.e: scientology). Your view may work with you, however, since Christians, Jewish, and Islams (I refrain from Muslim since it means "followers of God") all believe in the God of Abraham, you are in a minority situation. Most people, even those without degrees in theology will disagree that God is a culmination of energy as it does not go in line with Scriptures (Hebrew Scriptures, NT, Koran, and even the Book of Mormon). If it works for you, good for you! But don't expect many to follow that path.

Anne R. Fitzgerald_1
1/24/2008 11:09:16 AM

After we sing hymns to Lord, God and King, I become aware that it is the communal spirit within us who/which has elevated us, that the nomenclature and antiquated vocabulary must be ignored if the hymn is to work as prayer. God is the immanent consciousness of the universe, to which we open ourselves when we sing/breathe together. I've tried rewriting the Catholic Mass to make it inclusive, and it comes out gobblydegook. Words, any words, just get in the way. In the end words are not important, and it is our longing, our opening ourselves, which does the tranformative work.

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